|City of license||Fort Lee, Virginia|
|Broadcast area||Richmond, Virginia
|Branding||Classic Rock 96.5|
|Slogan||"Richmond's Home for Classic Rock"|
|First air date||July 29, 1963 (as WBCI-FM)|
|HAAT||138 meters (453 ft)|
|Former callsigns||WBCI-FM (1963-1974)
|Affiliations||John Boy and Billy|
|Sister stations||W291CL, WHTI, WKHK, WURV|
WKLR (96.5 FM) is an American radio station licensed to serve the community of Fort Lee, Virginia. The station is owned by SummitMedia, LLC, through licensee SM-WKLR, LLC. WKLR broadcasts a classic rock format branded as "Classic Rock 96.5" to the greater Richmond/Petersburg, Virginia area.
The station's beginnings can be traced back to July 1963, when the station signed on as WBCI-FM, licensed to, located in, and serving Williamsburg, Virginia, partially simulcasting a middle of the road music format with sister station WBCI. WBCI later changed calls to WMBG, when the AM went Top 40 and the FM became an automated beautiful music format. In 1977, the station switched to an automated adult contemporary format.
In 1980, the station became a live adult contemporary format. Popular Norfolk-based talk show host Tony Macrini's first radio job in Virginia was mornings at WBCI. In 1981, the station went to a syndicated adult contemporary format. Some of the other personalities on WBCI's Live AC format were Tim Grogan, Jim Payne, Tony Michaels and Chris Dennell.
In 1982, the station was purchased by African-American owned Northeastern Mutual Insurance Company and became a CHR/Urban hybrid station called WQKS ("Kiss 96"), and attempted to serve both the Richmond and Norfolk markets. Kiss 96 did a little better in Richmond than in Norfolk and almost overtook established Urban WPLZ in the ratings. In late October 1984, the station was knocked off the air for several weeks due to a hunter running into one of the station guy wires with his SUV and snapping the guy wire and toppling the transmitter tower. The station was at partial power for a long period after it signed on, with equipment donated by various competitors. The popularity of the station faltered following the incident.
By early 1985, the Churban format on Kiss 96 was rapidly losing listeners and the owners decided to sell. In mid-1985, the station was purchased by a group of investors that included radio executive Don Cuthrall, who decided that the station should only target the Richmond market, and in the summer of 1985, the station changed formats to beautiful music as WQSF ("Soft 96"). In 1988, WTVR-FM returned to its former beautiful music format, which prompted WQSF to adjust their own format to a soft adult contemporary format as "Soft Rock 96". Notable air personalities included long-time WRVA announcer Chris Dennison on afternoons, WRNL and WDYL personality Denis Reidy on mid-days, and former WRNL Program Director Dick Grant in the morning drive. Later on-air personalities included Doug Langston, Don Sebara, Pat Henry and Jay Carneal.
Soft Rock 96 and 96.5 The Duck
By 1988, the station had sold AM sister WMBG, and moved the FM's tower to a closer location in Lanexa, Virginia, and the studios and offices to a small strip mall in Quinton, Virginia, just off I-64 in New Kent County. In 1989, the station was sold to Keymarket Communications, who continued the Soft Rock format but in 1990 changed to an oldies format as WDCK ("The Duck").
Keymarket attempted to upgrade the station's signal by requesting a change in the city of license from Williamsburg to Fort Lee, just 25 miles from Richmond. Unable to get approval for the change due to legal challenges from the other broadcasters in Richmond, they sold the station to Benchmark Communications, who already owned AAA WVGO, in 1992. In 1993 the station's studios and offices were moved into the Boulders Office Complex in Richmond with WVGO.
In early 1995, the station switched to an all 1970s format as WLEE-FM, adopting the call letters of once popular AM Top 40 station WLEE, brought back popular former WLEE personality Shane into morning drive. But the 1970s format was unsuccessful and the station eventually evolved into a classic rock format, and Shane was replaced by the syndicated "John Boy & Billy Show" several months later. Mike Rivers, formerly of WRVQ-FM, was also a DJ at 96.5 during this period. Dick Hungate returned to the Richmond airwaves as a weekender, later Middays, after being off the air for a few years around this same time. Prior to coming to Richmond, Hungate had created the nation's first classic rock station at WYSP in Philadelphia.
In June 1995, both WVGO & WLEE-FM were sold to Richmond-based ABS Communications, who already owned Country leader WKHK, and Alternative WBZU. The call letters were later changed to WKLR and the station became known as "96.5 The Planet". Best remembered DJs at The Planet over the years have included Dick Hungate, Lark Logan, Gary Micheals, and Sheri Blanks.
In 1996, ABS merged with SFX Broadcasting. The company underwent two mergers in the next four years, first as Capstar, then finally AMFM.
New Richmond signal
In 1999, the station's last link to its beginnings as a local Williamsburg station were severed, when the long-held request for a change of city of license to Fort Lee was approved and the station began broadcasting from a tower formerly used by WKHK in Chester, Virginia. That same year, all of the AMFM-owned stations were moved to the Moorefield Office Complex in Midlothian where WMXB had been since 1985.
In early 2000, the station made some unexpected headlines when part-time jock, former Norfolk "shock" Morning jock Henry "The Bull" Del Toro, in what some[who?] have said was a malfunctioning EAS (Emergency Action Notification) alerting device, during a local ice storm, issued a series of false "evacuation notices" that had local police descending on the station a short time later. Del Toro was later terminated for the incident.
Cox Radio era
In 2000, AMFM merged with Clear Channel Communications. To satisfy local ownership limitations, several stations owned by both Clear Channel and AMFM had to be divested. Cox Radio ended up purchasing not only WKLR, but also WKHK, WMXB, and Clear Channel-owned WTVR.
In 2005, the station let go ten-year veteran Dick Hungate due to budget cuts.
In 2008, the station changed its positioner from "96.5 The Planet" to "96.5 KLR, The Planet". Since August 31, 2008, the station completely dropped "The Planet" and referred to itself as "96.5 KLR" or just "KLR".
On September 16, 2012, at 6am, WKLR rebranded as "Rock 96.5", and added 1990s rock songs.
SummitMedia era, Classic rock returns
In May 2013, SummitMedia, LLC purchased Cox Radio's Richmond properties as part of Cox's divestiture of "non-core" assets.
On September 9, 2013, just a week from its 1st anniversary of its format expansion, WKLR again expanded its playlist to include more 70s/80s rock and greatly rolled back its 90s rock to a handful of tracks. As part of the playlist expansion that basically turned it back to a classic rock station, the station rebranded as Classic Rock 96.5.
- "Directory of AM and FM Radio Stations in the U.S.". 1965 Broadcasting Yearbook. Washington, DC: Broadcasting Publications, Inc. 1965. p. B-165.
- "Call Sign History". CDBS Public Access Database. FCC Media Bureau. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
- "WKLR Facility Record". Federal Communications Commission, audio division.
- "Station Information Profile". Arbitron. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
- "Directory of Radio Stations in the United States and Canada". The Broadcasting Yearbook 1991. Washington, DC: Broadcasting Publications, Inc. 1990. p. B=350.
- WKLR official website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WKLR
- Radio-Locator information on WKLR
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WKLR