The station signed on in 1978 as WJBM-FM with a full service Country format targeting the more Northern areas of the St. Louis metropolitan area, as well as the Metro East area, with its city of license being Jerseyville. The station's transmitter at the time was located north of the city (near Jerseyville), which was a partial hindrance to any chance for success in the market for the next 2 1/2 decades, despite moving to a tower on Douglas Road in Florissant. They began targeting St. Louis in 1985 as Country music station WKKX, "Kix 104 FM", and owned by Shelly Davis' Gateway Radio Partners. Zimmer Broadcasting bought the station out of bankruptcy in July 1991. In January 1994, they would switch frequencies with WKBQ and its Top 40 format (from 106.5).Emmis Communications bought the station in November 1996.
On January 24, 1997, the Top 40 format was dropped for Modern AC as "Alice 104.1" WALC. On June 25, 1998, at 3 PM, WALC flipped to active rock as "Extreme Radio 104.1" and the WXTM-FM call letters (adopted July 15). WXTM was the original St. Louis affiliate of The Howard Stern Show. On September 24, 2000, at 2 PM, after playing "Fade to Black" by Metallica, and after Emmis purchased KPNT (and moved Stern to that station), WXTM flipped to All-80s Hits as "The Mall" (WMLL-FM), which gradually evolved to an 80s/90s hits format. That too would also go away on November 1, 2003, when the station started stunting with Christmas music until December 25, which then changed stunts to a "wheel of formats" by playing music from any given genre.
At Noon on January 8, 2004, the stunting stopped and the station flipped to an Adult Standards format as WRDA, "Red @ 104.1". The station specialized in "Music with Class" as they called it, playing classic standards singers such as Frank Sinatra and more modern 'crooners' such as Rod Stewart and Michael Buble. After 18 months of subpar ratings and low advertising revenues, Emmis Communications sold WRDA to Radio One, for $20 million in September 2005. The station flipped to its current format on October 1, 2005 at Midnight. The first song on "Hot" was "Play" by David Banner. The call letters would change to WHHL after their slogan/motto (Where Hip Hop Lives!) to match the "Hot 104.1" handle. Radio One would take full possession of the station in 2006 after running it under an LMA (Local marketing agreement). The station's signal problems were finally solved in 2008, when it changed its city of license to Hazelwood and relocated its transmitter to a site on DeBalleviere Avenue in the city of St. Louis, giving the station full market coverage.