|City of license||Hickory, North Carolina|
|Broadcast area||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Branding||102.9 The Lake|
|Slogan||We Play Anything|
|First air date||1959 (as WHKY-FM)|
|Callsign meaning||W LaKe O|
|Former callsigns||WHKY-FM (1959-1987)
|Owner||Clear Channel Communications|
|Sister stations||WEND, WHQC, WKKT, WRFX, WKQC, WVBZ, WOSF, WSOC-FM, WBAV, WDAV|
WLKO (102.9 FM, "The Lake") is an adult hits music station serving the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Although licensed to Hickory, NC, the main studios are located at 801 Woodridge Center Drive, just off the Billy Graham Parkway near Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. The station is owned and operated by Clear Channel Communications. A transmitter site is located north of Stanley.
The station's history in Charlotte began in 1987 with a signal boost and a move from Hickory, North Carolina (where it was WHKY-FM). Prior to the move, "Y-102.9" had played Top 40 with a heavy emphasis on album-oriented rock, a format that made people notice at a time when rock radio was in decline. Before that, WHKY-FM had aired Christian programming since 1959.
WRLX "Relax 102.9", a beautiful music station, promoted itself with images of a pair of retirement-age punk rockers, intended to humorously illustrate how the competition apparently viewed the station's target audience. In 1989, the station changed its call letters to WEZC (after the 104.7 frequency gave up those letters) and its name to "EZ 102.9", gradually adding more vocals during the summer to make the transition from beautiful music to MOR. Some of the early announcers include Bob Brandon, Jim Davenport, Catherine Lane, Jon Robinson and Todd Edwards. In 1993, the name changed again to Lite 102.9 as the station moved from Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow to soft adult contemporary (Phil Collins, Elton John and Billy Joel), and the call letters switched to WLYT in 1995. Over the years, as the definition of soft adult contemporary changed, WLYT evolved. The station played pop and lite rock music from the 1970s to present, with an occasional 1960s song. Delilah After Dark aired in the evenings.
Lite 102.9 had featured a "70's Flashback Weekend" every weekend since late 2004 through 2005, but discontinued this tradition after the slogan changed from "Continuous Lite Favorites" to "The Best Variety of Yesterday and Today". The station played Christmas music annually, with 'preview weekends' from early November through Thanksgiving, then a 24-hour Christmas format from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. WLYT's main competitor was CBS Radio's WKQC, K104.7. Lite 102.9 had changed its slogan from The Best Variety of Yesterday and Today to The Bright New Sound of Lite 102.9 to go with Lite 102.9.
In late January 2008, WLYT changed its morning show to more closely resemble the Today show on NBC, with more talk geared toward women 25 to 54. During the first hour, the talk was more hard news, becoming lighter as the morning show progressed and adding more music during work hours. The program schedule was altered as well.
The show was discontinued in early 2010 with morning hosts Jim Shafer (who had moved to the station from WWMG in 2004) and Jen Byrum (morning host since 1999) being released. On April 13, 2010, Valentine in the Morning, a syndicated show from Clear Channel, made its debut. A local host was planned for local segments of the show.
On July 2, 2012, at midnight, WLYT changed their format to adult hits, branded as "102.9 The Lake". The final song on "Lite" was "Far Away" by Nickelback, while the first song on the "Lake" was "Father of Mine" by Everclear. Steve Geofferies, operations manager for Clear Channel’s Charlotte stations, said, "If it was a hit song, we’re going to play it," explaining that the format was based on The Arch in St. Louis, and more "tempo-oriented" than nearby WSMW. The name "Lake" meant "fun, unique, connecting with friends and families. That’s life on the lake," specifically Lake Norman and Lake Wylie. The playlist was 4000 songs compared to 400 for a typical station. Also, the station would not have DJs, meaning morning host Heather Flynn and Phil Harris lost their jobs. On July 9, 2012, WLYT changed their call letters to WLKO to go with the "Lake" branding.
The format change delivered immediate results. While WLYT ranked 15th with 3 percent of the total audience in its final ratings report, WLKO was seventh with five percent in its first.
- Jeff Borden, "Relax: Beautiful Music Is Back," The Charlotte Observer, June 29, 1987.
- Mark Washburn, "Olympic anchor dreading London drenching," The Charlotte Observer, July 21, 2012.
- Mark Washburn, "Morning hosts will double up with afternoon gig," The Charlotte Observer, Jan. 26, 2008.
- Mark Washburn, "Jen Byrum and Jim Shafer ponder life without WLYT-FM," The Charlotte Observer, April 10, 2010.
- Venta, Lance (July 2, 2012). "Lite 102.9 Charlotte Drowns In The Lake". radioinsight.com. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
- Mark Washburn, "Station dumps 'Lite' in favor of 'Lake'," The Charlotte Observer, Jul. 14, 2012.
- Mark Washburn, "Ratings update: Big surge at 'Lake' radio," The Charlotte Observer, August 8, 2012.
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WLKO
- Radio-Locator information on WLKO
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WLKO