|Frequency||102.1 FM MHz|
|First air date||September 1960|
|Callsign meaning||We Love YoU, Milwaukee|
|Former callsigns||WMKE (1960-1964)
|Owner||Milwaukee Radio Alliance
(Milwaukee Radio Alliance, LLC)
|Sister stations||WLDB, WZTI|
WLUM-FM (102.1 MHz) is a commercial radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The station airs an Alternative rock music format branded as "FM 102.1". Its studios are located in Menomonee Falls and the transmitter site is in Milwaukee's North Side at Lincoln Park.
The station is owned by former Green Bay Packer Willie Davis and his company, All-Pro Broadcasting. All-Pro has owned the station since 1979. WLUM is run as a partnership with co-owned WZTI and Shamrock Broadcasting's WLDB as a group called the Milwaukee Radio Alliance.
This frequency is one of the oldest FM stations in Milwaukee. The owner of the Milwaukee Journal was an early pioneer of FM broadcasting. Experimental station W9XAO went on the air in early 1940. By 1942, the station had become W55M, with programming separate from sister AM station WTMJ and with its own 50 kW transmitter site in Richfield northwest of the city. The station made the transition to the 88-108 Mc. band after the war (at 102.1 FM) but struggled for many years, especially as the company had begun focusing on their new television station. WTMJ-FM signed off the air in 1950, but later returned to the air at 94.5 FM in 1959.
WMKE (102.1 FM) launched in September 1960, broadcasting from studios located on North Avenue in Milwaukee with a format consisting primarily of Broadway show tunes. The owners boasted that they were the nation's first "all-tape radio station", meaning that all programming would originate from reel-to-reel tape or other tape formats, rather than phonograph records, as they believed tape delivered higher quality.
The station was later sold and became WAWA-FM in 1964. The new format featured black gospel music and also simulcast the rhythm and blues format of then-sister station WAWA (1590 AM) throughout the 1960s and most of the 1970s.
Former Packer legend Willie Davis purchased and split the programming of the two stations on February 14, 1979, switching WAWA-FM to WLUM (short for We Love YoU Milwaukee!), and giving 102.1 FM its own distinct format focusing on disco music. At the time that WAWA-FM became WLUM, they also became the second station in Milwaukee to adopt the Disco format, as WNUW had already beat them to it in October 1978, even though their success would be short lived by August 1979.
The daytime-only 1590 AM, still WAWA, later picked up the WLUM call letters. The AM station was long hampered by a weak signal, and when All Pro Broadcasting purchased stronger station WMVP (1290 AM), the format and programming moved there. As a result, 1590 AM went dark in 1988, and its broadcast license turned in to the FCC.
The "Hot 102" era
WLUM has gone through many changes and tweaks over the years since its debut in 1979. In all incarnations since, they have carried the WLUM call sign. In the beginning, WLUM played Disco and Soul hits, though a different format than its AM sister station. In 1982, the station began adding more Urban music, and by the summer of 1983, the station's format morphed into a Rhythmic Contemporary Hits presentation with the slogan "WLUM FM 102", "WLUM 102 Milwaukee's Hot FM", "Club 102 WLUM", "Power 102 WLUM", "WLUM 102 FM", and then following later as "Hot 102 WLUM" as they aired a mix of dance music (including Freestyle, House and Club Imports) and Top 40 hits (including Rock and Modern/Alternative tracks). By 1989, WLUM was featuring shows like "Casey's Top 40" and "American Dance Traxx" as it began to shift further towards a Dance-leaning direction that was loosely patterned after Power 106 in Los Angeles under the guidance of veteran Rhythmic PD and future consultant Rick Thomas before moving on to launch XHITZ/San Diego's Rhythmic format in April 1990. It was also during this period that Bubba the Love Sponge briefly did an airshift at Hot 102.
By late 1991, Hot 102 evolved into a straightforward CHR presentation. More hip-hop was added to the playlist by the following year, to better compete with upstart rival V100.7 for the urban audience. But by late 1993, it began shifting back to a Dance-leaning direction, billing themselves as "Hot 102 WLUM, Milwaukee's Party Station!". This lasted until the Summer of 1994, when it shifted back to Top 40. Airchecks of WLUM's "Hot 102" days, including clips from a 1991 television program that they co-produced with WCGV-TV, can be found on YouTube.
"102ONE" and various rock incarnations
By 1994, WLUM began tweaking their on-air presentation. Hip-hop was slowly being phased out and more modern rock was added to the playlist, allegedly due to Davis' desire to distance his station from the violent image of most rap and hip-hop music, this after finding out that the station had begun to carry a nightly hour of uncensored music after the FCC's "safe harbor" regulations were not in effect (a record homicide count in Milwaukee and several area violent crimes also played into the re-shift). The modern rock music was well received by listeners, and by October of that year, the station adopted modern rock full-time, as "New Rock 102ONE".
Over the years, the format underwent much tweaking. After adding more classic rock tracks to the playlist, the station began a brief run with an adult album alternative format on June 23, 1998. The move was unsuccessful, so in December, WLUM switched to hard rock with the syndicated Mancow Muller in the morning. They initially avoided much of the then-popular nu metal music that WLZR played, but added a great deal to the playlist by 2001. Nonetheless, they were consistently a distant second to market leader WLZR.
"Independent. Alternative. Radio."
As a straight-ahead rock station, WLUM was consistently trounced by WLZR and experienced some of its lowest ratings levels ever, with the bottom coming after the September 11 attacks, which caused many rock stations to shift quickly from hard rock tracks inappropriate for play in the aftermath and change away from aggressive formats. In March 2002, WLUM began making more changes. Mancow's morning show was dropped, along with most of the hard rock music on the playlist, and modern rock music returned to the playlist. By September, the station was once again a full-time reporter to alternative rock airplay charts for radio industry trade magazines. The station still experienced low ratings, as it worked to shake its male-oriented hard rock image. The station made heavy use of consultants who crafted a rather tight playlist. In March 2003, the Indianapolis-based Bob and Tom was syndicated for the station's morning lineup to compete against Bob & Brian up the dial on WLZR, but its older target audience was wholly incompatible for the rest of WLUM's younger-skewing broadcast day.
The Bob and Tom agreement ran out in 2005, and a locally oriented morning show, "Kramp and Adler", debuted on St. Patrick's Day. This was a sign of more changes to come. On July 10, 2006, WLUM began stunting as "Quick 102" and started playing five second song clips back-to-back. At the same time, via on-air promos, they poked fun at themselves and their many failed on-air tweaks and changes over the years. At 5:00 PM the next day, the modern rock format was relaunched with a new programming and on-air staff in place. The station admitted past mistakes, then announced their "independence", stating they were now free from corporate practices and radio consultants, and pledged a stronger dedication to their listeners and the local community. As part of the new direction, Program Director Jacent Jackson rolled out a modified alternative rock format with a more diverse playlist, featuring, among other things, more indie rock. The first song after the relaunch was "Guerrilla Radio" by Rage Against the Machine. Jackson also added new DJs to the airstaff such as Michelle Rutkowski from WKQX in Chicago, and changed the name of the station to "FM 102.1" with the slogan, 'Independent. Alternative. Radio.' The station also removed their last remaining syndicated show, Loveline, vowing to be 100% local in their on-air presentation. Later, the station sponsored a contest to name a new alternative rock festival on the Summerfest grounds that took place in June 2010. It became known as the "Verge Music Festival".
Current specialty shows consist of "Smells Like the 90's Lunch", and "Indie Soundcheck" with Ryan Miller. Current full-time line-up includes, Jacent Jackson, Michelle Rutkowski, Ian McCain, and John Schroeder. Current part-time line-up includes Nate Imig, Jack Strebel, Susanne Sanbo, Dan Gonzalez, and Mike Ruby.
Slogans and Timeline
- 1960-1964: Adult standards, Showtunes (as WMKE)
- 1964-1979: Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Jazz (as WAWA-FM)
- 1979-1982: "WLUM Stereo 102, The Station With A Heart" (Jazz/Disco/Soul)
- 1982-1983: "LOVE 102 WLUM Stereo" (Urban Contemporary)
- 1983-1988: "WLUM FM 102, Milwaukee's Hot FM" (CHUrban)
- 1988-1991: "More Music, Better Variety, WLUM Power 102 FM" (CHUrban)
- 1991-1992: "The All New Hot 102 WLUM" (CHR)
- 1992-1994: "Hot 102 WLUM" (CHUrban)
- Mid-1994: "Hot 102 WLUM, Milwaukee's Party Station" (CHR)
- September 1994-June 1998: "New Rock 102ONE" (Modern Rock)
- June 1998-December 1998: "102ONE WLUM" ("Great Rock, Real Variety") (Adult Album Alternative)
- December 1998 - August 2001: "ROCK 102ONE" (Album-oriented rock)
- August 2001 - June 2002: "ROCK 102ONE" (Active Rock)
- June 2002 to April 2005: "ROCK 102ONE" ("Milwaukee's Rock Alternative") (alternative rock)
- April 2005 - July 10, 2006: "102ONE" ("Milwaukee's Alternative Station") (alternative rock)
- July 11, 2006 – present: "FM 102.1" ("Independent. Alternative. Radio.") (alternative rock)
WLUM gained international acclaim in July 2003 in the wake of Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon hitting one of the famous Miller Park racing sausages with a bat. WLUM held an event called "Whack Randall Back -- Nobody Beats Our Meat But Us." Once a listener put a bumper sticker on their car, they were given the opportunity to swing a bat at a pinata that was painted in Pittsburgh colors and adorned with an image of Simon on the face. The pinata was filled with candy, BuzzBand CDs and concert tickets. Promotion director Nate Roth was the brainchild behind the event and assistant promotions director Paul Oren executed the event. The event went viral when radio stations from multiple countries called to interview Oren about the event.
- "A selection from a decade of visits to tower and studio sites in the Northeast and beyond". www.fybush.com. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
- Inc, Nielsen Business Media (1971-03-13). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.
- Inc, Nielsen Business Media (1961-06-19). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.
- The Hits Just Keep On Comin': Top 5: Steppin' Up in Class
- 1290 WMCS
- Inc., Cavell, Mertz & Associates,. "FCCInfo Results". www.fccinfo.com. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
- "Hot 102:Unedited (1993)" DJ Ernie's Blog (posted May 1, 2009)
- JS Online: Chicago jock 'Mancow' ends three-year run
- "WELCOME TO WLUM ONLINE". 1998-12-12. Archived from the original on December 12, 1998. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
- "WLUM introduces new format at 5 p.m.". OnMilwaukee.com. Retrieved 2016-05-09.
- Official Website
- Hot 102 Online
- Former program director Tommy Wilde's website
- Former PD Alex Cosper's experience at WLUM
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WLUM
- Radio-Locator information on WLUM
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WLUM