WLAY (AM)

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WLAY
WLAY-AM logo.png
City of license Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Broadcast area Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Area
Branding 1450 and 92.3 The Sound
Slogan "The Sound of Muscle Shoals"
Frequency 1450 kHz AM
92.3 MHz FM (translator)
First air date 1933[1]
Format Muscle Shoals-based music
Power 1,000 watts
Class C
Facility ID 60611
Transmitter coordinates 34°45′23″N 87°41′08″W / 34.75639°N 87.68556°W / 34.75639; -87.68556
Former callsigns WNRA, WMSD
Owner URBan Radio Broadcasting
Sister stations WLAY-FM, WVNA (AM), WVNA-FM, WMXV, WMSR-FM
Website wlaythesound.com

WLAY is a radio station serving the Florence/Muscle Shoals, Alabama, market and is heard at 1450 AM and on a translator at 92.3 on the FM band; it is licensed to the city of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. WLAY is owned by URBan Radio Broadcasting and is part of a six-station cluster operated by URBan in northwestern Alabama and southern central Tennessee.

WLAY is one of the oldest broadcast radio stations in Alabama and the Southern United States. It presently airs only music written and recorded in Muscle Shoals. In addition, the station broadcasts live concerts in the area and highlights area charitable events. Its program/music director and curator is Brian Rickman.

History[edit]

The station signed on in 1933 as WNRA, an experimental radio station, and has since secured its place in American music history thanks to its contribution to what is now commonly referred to as "The Muscle Shoals Sound". Originating its broadcast as a "variety format", WLAY was significant in its early years as a rare frequency that would broadcast both Southern Gospel and Country music and "race music" or music by African American artists. In the American Deep South, this was certainly unique. A number of bluegrass and delta blues musicians made regular live appearances on the radio station including Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Sonny Boy Williamson and Son House.

Cultural influence[edit]

In the 1950s, the WLAY balanced both country music and Rock and Roll music on its playlist. Sam Phillips, future founder of Sun Records, worked as a disc jockey at the radio station in his formative years and frequently cited the station's "open playlist" as the inspiration for what would become Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, blending both country and blues music to form Rock and Roll.

In the early 1960s, Muscle Shoals began to develop as a popular music capital in the United States and WLAY played an important role in this growth. Following the success of local resident Arthur Alexander (and his hit single "You Better Move On"; later covered by the Rolling Stones), the area quickly saw the rise of numerous recording studios. With this, WLAY became a meeting place for numerous Muscle Shoals musicians and songwriters as they would frequent the studios with new recordings. Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" was recorded at Norala Sound Studio by WLAY disc jockey Quin Ivy and WLAY Chief Engineer Paul Kelley. Kelley built Norala with equipment borrowed from WLAY's studios.

With the establishment of Rick Hall's FAME Studios, WLAY would often play recordings as they were completed at the legendary studio. The WLAY audience would frequently choose the "single" by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, and several others to be shipped nationwide after having heard the entire, completed session on the air.

Ownership changes[edit]

Former logo

The station's independent owners sold the station and it has changed hands many times since. Following the development of WLAY-FM, the AM frequency altered its format a number of times. It has been a Sports station and Oldies station in addition to a Country formatted station. When the frequency was purchased by URBan Radio Broadcasting, the format was changed to reflect the station's history. It now plays only local music recorded or written in Muscle Shoals.

Memorials[edit]

The original sound board for WLAY-AM is now permanently housed in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. The radio station is also regarded as a Historic Landmark by the Alabama Historical Society. In 2007, 2010 and 2012 WLAY-AM was nominated for Radio Station of the Year by the Alabama Broadcasters Association.

FM translator[edit]

It was announced in October 2007, that WLAY had received permission from the Federal Communications Commission to re-broadcast its programming on the FM band at 92.3. The rebroadcast began on October 31, 2007. This move significantly increased the radio station's reach in the market.

Call sign Frequency
(MHz)
City of license ERP
W
Class FCC info
W222AV 92.3 FM Muscle Shoals, Alabama 225 D FCC

The station celebrated the FM launch with a two-day marathon, broadcasting live from two of the city’s most celebrated recording studios. FAME Studios, where legendary recordings by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, the Allman Brothers Band, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Solomon Burke, George Jones and Otis Redding have been recorded, played host to WLAY on Day One of the launch. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, with an equally impressive pedigree of artists to its credit including Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, The Staple Singers, Cher, Boz Scaggs, Cat Stevens, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker and Traffic, was the site of the second day’s broadcast.

During the launch, WLAY played host to a virtual who’s who of Muscle Shoals music luminaries. Rare on-air interviews were conducted with FAME Studios owner Rick Hall and Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section members (and former owners of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios) David Hood and Jimmy Johnson. Additionally, the station spent hours sharing stories with famed area songwriters Donnie Fritts ("Breakfast in Bed", "We Had It All"), Earl "Peanut" Montgomery ("We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds", "What’s Your Mama’s Name, Child?"), Mark Narmore ("What I Love About Sunday"), Gary Baker ("I Swear") as well as legendary session players and contemporary Muscle Shoals-based artists including John Paul White, Jason Isbell, The Drive-By Truckers, Sons of Roswell, Dillon Hodges, Byron Green, Heartland, and The Shoals.

After the addition of the FM translator, WLAY began referring to itself as "1450 and 92.3 The Sound" (in reference to the "Muscle Shoals Sound"). The station still identifies itself as "The Legendary WLAY-AM" in its Legal ID at the top of the hour. Further, WLAY began playing an increased amount of new local music in addition to the "classic" Muscle Shoals titles it had become known for. This made the station one of the few commercial radio stations in the United States playing unsigned, local artists in regular "current" rotation.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Directory for the AM and FM radio stations of the United States". 1953 Broadcasting Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Broadcasting Publications, Inc. 1953. p. 71. 

External links[edit]