WLAV-FM (96.9 FM) is a radio station broadcasting a classic rock music format in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is the dominant classic rock-formatted radio station in the market and is generally a top ten performer in the Grand Rapids ratings. WLAV-AM went on the air in 1940. In 1949, WLAV-TV 7 signed on, later becoming WOOD-TV 8.
WLAV-FM began broadcasting by 1948. The station was a simulcast of WLAV 1340 in its early days, but began to break the simulcast in the early 1970s to play AOR music at night. Also for a time in the early 1970s WLAV-FM played oldies under the tag line "Grand Rapids' Goldmine." In 1974, it became western Michigan's first full-time AOR station and was an instant success.
The success lasted for a while, but in the mid-1980s, WLAV began to fall apart. The station was sued for the death of two people and the injury of two people at its popular raft race event. To make matters worse, many of WLAV's top D.J.s began to leave. Morning host Laurie DeYoung left for Baltimore, because she thought it was time to move on. Tony Gates also left, in 1984, after he ran into some trouble.[clarification needed] In 1986 popular morning personality Kevin Matthews left to work in St. Louis.
By the early 1990s, WLAV-FM had begun to tank in the ratings, thanks to increased competition from nascent album rocker WKLQ and classic rocker WJFM. In the spring 1991 Arbitron report, WLAV, which had been a top five station just a year before and had been the #1 station 12+ as recently as fall 1987, fell completely out of the top ten stations 12+, its role as Grand Rapids' top album-rocker having been usurped by WKLQ. On Memorial Day, 1991, the station changed to a modern rock-based format, since it felt that modern rock was the direction that progressive rock was heading in. However, there was a considerable backlash and numerous complaints were received to the radio station because they eradicated a heritage format. By the fall of 1992, WLAV switched back to a more classic rock-driven format and continued refining the format during the 1990s, to success in the ratings. Grand Rapids did get a modern rock station a few years later when WGRD-FM tweaked its format from Top 40 to modern rock.