WWPW FM 96.1 — branded Power 96-1 — is a commercial top-40 (CHR) radio station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia. Owned by iHeartMedia, the station serves the Atlanta metropolitan area. Besides a standard analog transmission, WWPW broadcasts over three HD Radio channels, and is available online via iHeartRadio. The station operates from studios located at the Peachtree Palisades building in the Brookwood Hills district of Atlanta.
The station transmits from the west tower at the North Druid Hills site along Briarcliff Road, just west of Emory University and Clifton Road. According to FCC records for coordinates and height, it shares its main radio antenna with WUBL FM 94.9, and WWPW's low-power backup antenna about 25 meters (82 ft) lower is also the backup for WYAY FM 106.7. The main WWPW/WUBL antenna has a permit to move to the east tower. There are also several other stations on these towers.
The 96.1 frequency was originally WGAA-FM in Cedartown, Georgia, the FM counterpart to WGAA AM 1340. WKLS's callsign stands for the initials of the founding owners: Don Kennedy, James Lathom, and Arthur Swan ("K", "L", and "S"). They formed the station in 1960 with a $25,000 investment, selling it ten years later for $750,000.
In its first 12 years or so, the station played an easy listening format; in its first five or six years, all voice-tracking was recorded by Kennedy (who now hosts and syndicates "Big Band Jump" nationwide). By 1972, WKLS was more of a then-AM-style middle of the road outlet with live DJs; its main slogan by then was "WKLS...That's 'Klass'". WKLS changed to a rock music format in 1974 and was renamed "96 Rock", the branding it retained until November 2006.
WKLS also had an AM daytimer from 1977 well into the mid-1980s, on the station that is now WNIV AM 970. While that station was WKLS, the FM side had callsign WKLS-FM until May 1988. The following year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) database shows it as having callsign WEOA for a month from November to December, however this may be a mistake.
Between 1974 and 2012, WKLS featured rock music, though the focus had changed somewhat over time. In the 1970s, the station played what was then known as album-oriented rock (AOR); songs from that period are known in the radio business as classic rock today. For a time in 1977, disc jockey "Skinny" Bobby Harper, who was the inspiration for Dr. Johnny Fever of the television sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, graced WKLS.
In the early 1980s, 96 Rock cultivated a somewhat macho image. The station often mocked competing stations which played top 40 hits as "wimp rock". WKLS began to play more and more heavy metal, which was increasing in popularity, especially among teenaged boys. However, a backlash began to develop among the station's more mature listeners. In 1985, the station modified its playlist to a mix of older and new rock.
96 Rock continued to play a mixture of classic rock and new rock for the next 19 years. WKLS finally became exclusively a classic rock station in 2004. The 2004 change occurred when competing Atlanta station Z-93 (WZGC FM 92.9) became "Dave FM", switching from classic rock to a broader rock-pop-alternative format. This did not cause a dramatic change in 96 Rock's playlist, however. Even before officially declaring itself a classic rock station, most of its songs in fact fit that category already; only a few new songs were played an hour.
WKLS's longevity as 96 Rock allowed it to claim to have the longest-running format on an FM station in the Atlanta media market. The station has honored its history and tradition on several occasions. In 1984, the station recognized its 10th anniversary by airing a Labor Day countdown of the top 296 songs from 1974 to 1984. The station's 30th anniversary was recognized in 2004 with several promotions; one such promotion encouraged listeners to write to the station and reminisce about events in their lives, in which 96 Rock played a memorable role. Some of this correspondence was read on the air and posted on the station's website.
In April 2004, long-time morning show hosts the Regular Guys (Larry Wachs and Eric Von Haessler) were fired for airing graphic sexual language with porn star Devin Lane as the content bled through a Honda commercial. That content, which aired the previous month, was intended to be played backwards, to mock the FCC indecency crackdown, when they came back from the break. Regular Guys sidekick "Southside" Steve Rickman and former midday host Tim Rhodes took the morning time slot temporarily. A permanent replacement came in the form of the syndicated Bob & Tom Show, as Rhodes and Rickman moved to the afternoon slot. However, WKLS rehired the Regular Guys, who returned to the airwaves on March 21, 2005 and came back to 96 Rock in May, after a brief stint on sister AM talk station WGST.
On October 23, 2006, however, station owners iHeartMedia (then known as Clear Channel Communications) terminated the Regular Guys for good following an incident in which Wachs recorded bathroom conversations between the two morning show hosts on WWVA-FM (Viva 105.7, part of the same station group), while all three men were using the bathroom. The recording was played on the air a couple of days later. The WWVA hosts (known as "Yogi and Panda") complained to management and subsequently sued Clear Channel and The Regular Guys. Wachs said, "A case of a humorous prank has turned into a culture clash, a suppression of First Amendment rights, and a ridiculous smear campaign against me as well as termination of my income without due process."
On November 17, 2006, at 9 AM, Clear Channel dropped the station's 32-year "96 Rock" branding in favor of "Project 9-6-1", and shifted to more of an active rock format. This action made WVEE FM 103.3 the new longest-running format in the city. At the same time, 105.3 The Buzz (WBZY-FM) ceased independent operations and began simulcasting the new format for several days, until a regional Mexican music format began. The new format was intended to be somewhat of a merger between 96 Rock and The Buzz, although more personalities from The Buzz were on the new station than ones from 96 Rock.
On July 7, 2007, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that the new morning show host for Project 9-6-1 would be "Giant" Brian Carothers, morning producer and sidekick for John DeBella at WMGK in Philadelphia. Carothers was joined by co-host Shaffee, former radio personality from WRIF in Detroit and The Giant Show debuted on October 1, 2007.
On October 2, 2009, it was announced that "Giant" Brian Carothers would no longer be a part of the morning show and The Giant Show would be replaced by a show hosted by Shaffee and El Jefe (who would later be replaced by Klinger).
On May 21, 2011, it was revealed that Shaffee and Klinger would no longer be a part of the morning show. Kidd Chris announced on May 24, 2011, that he would be joining the morning show, of which he hosted until the station's discontinuation.
On August 29, 2012, at 7 PM, without warning, 96.1 ended almost 4 decades as a rock station, as Project signed off following a farewell message from program director Chris "The OC" Williams, who ended the station's 38-year rock history with "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd in homage to 96 Rock. The old rock format would move to its HD2 channel. After stunting with an hour of jockless pop songs and the opening chorus to "Ready or Not" by The Fugees, the station flipped to Top 40, branded as "Power 96.1." The station launched the new format with 9,600 songs commercial free. The first song on "Power" was "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO.
On September 11, 2012, WKLS changed call letters to WWPW to match their new "Power" branding.
The nationally syndicated program Elvis Duran and the Morning Show aired on WWPW from September 2012 until February 11, 2014. Just after Elvis Duran's departure, Power 96.1 warned listeners about the change and told listeners that the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show will not be heard on Atlanta radio, but can be heard on the current iHeartRadio website and smartphone app. The station lasted over a month without a morning show, playing music only in the morning (known as 'Most New Hit Music In The Morning') until the station debuted a new local morning show on March 17, 2014 with Scotty K, Riley Couture and Bret Mega.
On February 29, 2016, it was officially announced that 'Power Morning Show' hosts Scotty K and Bret Mega were let go from the station. This came as a surprise to many as the local morning show, and the station as a whole had been gaining traction in the ratings. Some speculations have been made about Power mornings returning to a more music-intensive show. Word of their replacement was announced on March 19, when PK, formerly host of the nationally syndicated "Playhouse" morning show from Portland, Oregon and KKHH in Houston, would host mornings along with his wife DK and Terry J beginning March 21.
Along with playing a mixture of Top 40 including pop, hip hop and rock, Power 96.1 also focuses heavily on an energetic mix of electronic dance music (EDM) including progressive house, trance music, dubstep and trap music, heard primarily during weekend mixshows.
WWPW broadcasts in IBOC digital radio, using the HD Radio system from iBiquity. On January 30, 2006, the station added a separate digital subchannel, known under the branding "The Incubator", which featured an adult album alternative format. It had changed names to "The Alternative Project" or "Project 9-6-1". Following the format change to "Power 96.1", the "Project 9-6-1" rock format moved to WWPW's HD2 channel as "Project 9-6-2". However, following WWVA/WWLG (now WRDA/WRDG)'s format change from Rhythmic CHR as "Wild 105.7/96.7" to Alternative as "Radio 105.7", ironically in response to WWPW dropping rock and low ratings caused by the launch of Power, the old Rhythmic CHR format of 105.7/96.7 moved to 96.1 HD2 as "Wild 96.1 HD2" just a few hours following the flip of 105.7/96.7 on March 28, 2013.
In June 2013, WWPW activated a third digital sub-channel, and began airing ESPN Deportes programming. The format was also carried on translator W222AF FM 92.3. On October 2, 2015, W222AF/WWPW-HD3 flipped to Contemporary Spanish Hits, branded as "Mia 92.3."
In late March 2010, low-power digital TV station WANN-LD (also located in Atlanta), started carrying the audio of WKLS on one of its multiplexed, audio-only digital subchannels. Originally on virtual channel 32.13, it was then moved to 32.103, with 32.101 to 32.106 reserved for other iHeartMedia, Inc. stations in Atlanta. As of 7 April 2010[update], it was on 32.23, with "Project 9-6-1" on 32.25, which has since been changed.
The HD2 channel now carries Christian music similar to WFSH-FM 104.7, while the HD3 channel simulcasts WRDG as "92.3 & 96.7 The Beat", providing a legal fiction for translator station 92.3 W222AF to circumvent prohibitions on both the excessive concentration of media ownership in the media market and on translator stations originating their own programming. The FCC has allowed this loophole despite translators being defined as a service that is only intended to fill-in areas where the main FM analog signal is blocked.
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