|Broadcast area||Los Angeles, California|
|Branding||"Radio FREE 102.3 KJLH"
(stylized as "kJLh")
|Slogan||Total Music Expression|
|First air date||1965|
|Format||Urban Adult Contemporary|
|Callsign meaning||Kindness, Joy, Love & Happiness (On-air)
John Lamar Hill, owner of Angelus Funeral Home (original owner)
|Owner||Taxi Productions (Stevie Wonder)|
|Webcast||MP3 stream (64 Kb)
AAC stream (64 Kb)
KJLH (102.3 FM) is an Urban Adult Contemporary radio station serving the Los Angeles area. It plays R&B and classic soul music under the format, and occasionally plays some Hip-Hop, Gospel and Smooth Jazz tracks. Licensed to the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, California, the station is owned by Taxi Productions, which in turn is owned by Stevie Wonder. It operates with an effective radiated power of 5.6 kW from a transmitter site in a portion of unincorporated Los Angeles County in View Park-Windsor Hills, and operates from its studios in Downtown Inglewood.
In 1965, African American businessman John Lamar Hill, then-owner of the Angelus Funeral Home based in South Los Angeles, bought KFOX-FM from the previous owners. It was relaunched as KJLH with a Black radio format consisting of smooth R&B, soul, jazz and MOR music. Not long after Hill took ownership, KJLH's tramsitter was moved from Long Beach to its present-location to better serve the growing African American community in Los Angeles (as well as Compton and Inglewood), and the city of license was relocated to Compton. For years, the station's original studios were based in the Crenshaw district, just north of present-day Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall.
In 1979, after 14 years of ownership, Hill sold KJLH to R&B/pop/soul musician Stevie Wonder for more than $2 million. In fact, Wonder created Taxi Productions for the sole purpose of purchasing the station. Under this change of ownership, Wonder gave KJLH its on-air slogan to match the call letters: "Kindness, Joy, Love & Happiness." It also transitioned its format to urban contemporary at the time. To date, even in spite of two different ownership phases, KJLH is the oldest African American-owned radio station in the West Coast.
During its first eight years, KJLH enjoyed modest success as a R&B/Urban station and a great familiarity with the African-American community. But it was hampered by the fact that the station was on a Class-A FM signal. It only broadcast at 2,250 watts, limiting the signal to the central and southern portions of Los Angeles County (including Downtown and South Central Los Angeles), while in other areas like the San Fernando Valley the signal would either fade out or be scratchy, depending on where the station can be picked up with a strong antenna. (KJLH received a signal upgrade to 5,600 watts in 2000.) They were also (at the time, from the late 1970s up to the late 1980s) one of five R&B/Urban stations in the market who targeted the African-American community during its tenure, along with AMs KGFJ and KDAY, and FMs KACE and KUTE. Of the four that since flipped formats, only the KDAY calls have since been revived, but on the FM dial, and like KJLH, they also have limited signal coverage.
In 1986, KJLH would pick up an unlikely competitor that would deal them their first major blow: KPWR. When that station debuted Wonder retaliated by cutting new imaging and liners in the hopes of retaining their listener base, but that tactic backfired as they began to see its audience going over to the full-powered Power 106 and would never recover. Its second setback would be the 1990 debut of KKBT, whose evolution to a R&B/soul/Hip-Hop direction would result in KJLH going into a more Mainstream Urban direction in 1992 under the programing of Frankie Ross (who was terminated from the station in late 2003), and renamed the station "KJLH Rhythm 102.3", but that tactic backfired also. KJLH went through a great deal of turmoil as it struggled with poor ratings during 1993-95. In November 1995, former morning jock Cliff Winston was appointed to PD and bought KJLH into its current urban AC direction and increased its playlist with urban smooth jazz crossovers, R&B oldies, current R&B and gospel crossovers, and was one of urban stations in L.A. to embrace the growing neo-soul music genre at the time.
They would get more competition by 2001, when KCMG dropped rhythmic oldies to become KHHT. That move would lead to rumors that KJLH would flip to an all-gospel music format, but the station decided not to make a format change. But the rumors came back once again, as in 2006, more competition awaited KJLH as KKBT dropped their R&B/hip-hop direction to go adult R&B (and six months later change their calls to KRBV with a new branding), giving the market three stations with the same format, thus once again more speculation of KJLH abandoning Urban AC for Gospel Music, which did not occur.
Despite the setbacks, KJLH has maintained serving the community in addition to its longtime listenership audience. It has an extensive lineup of religious programming, including gospel music weekday mornings and all day Sundays. KJLH is also the only adult R&B station with a continuous live and local air staff. In addition, most of KJLH's on air staff has been with KJLH longer than former rivals KHHT and especially KRBV, which has seen multiple turnovers. Both KHHT and KRBV long abandoned the format in the late 2000s with KHHT going more rhythmic (it is now hip-hop driven urban KRRL) and KRBV changing ownership and formats (now as KSWD).
KJLH became the third overall urban radio station in Los Angeles to carry the Steve Harvey Morning Show on August 10, 2009; this comes after KDAY eliminated the show. The former KKBT was the original home of the Steve Harvey Morning Show when it started out as a local show.
As of 2009, when KDAY flipped to classic hip-hop, KJLH added more hip-hop in the playlist, still classifying the station as urban adult contemporary. Even Mediabase & Nielsen BDS still list the station as urban adult contemporary. KJLH has tweaked towards a rhythmic-leaning urban AC direction in August 2009 for a brief period, dropped a majority of the Urban Jazz content that they used to focus on for much of the 1990s and early 2000s to satisfy the younger end of its listener base. KJLH has also briefly added hip hop artists such as J. Cole, Drake, Lil' Wayne, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj to its playlist to fill a void to urban hip hop audiences, as KPWR has long since refocused its audience target to Latinos with its rhythmic format; it later on scaled back on most hip hop titles with KRRL's debut in 2015. Also of November 2013, KJLH faces new competition with KTWV, which has evolved from smooth jazz to a pop-driven urban AC direction.
KJLH has celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015.
- Station website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for KJLH
- Radio-Locator information on KJLH
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for KJLH