In April/May 1975, two stations became the first large- or medium-market Top 40 FMs to crack double digits. One was WRBQ (Q105) Tampa, with a 10.4 share. The other was WMC-FM (FM100) Memphis, which had an 11.0. 

FM100 and Q105 were also two of the first FMs to reach those heights with a format other than Easy Listening. (The other one in that ratings period was WSIX Nashville, which was then doing a Soft Country format that put it adjacent to Easy Listening.) 

After a brief first run with Top 40, FM100 first came to prominence in 1967 as progressive AOR and, based on this 1975 playlist, still retained some of that flavor, but 1979-81  PD Gary Guthrie remembers it as very much Mainstream Top 40 by late-’70s/early-’80s standards. (When owner Scripps-Howard launched WBSB (B104) Baltimore in 1980, FM100 was an influence, and B104 leaned rock as well.) 

By the mid-’80s, FM100 had a more adult lean. In fall 1983, it was No. 1 in the market for the first time, with a 9.6. (All numbers are courtesy of ratings historian Chris Huff.) You can hear FM100’s adult lean on the 1987 aircheck of Memphis radio veteran Henry Nelson featured in a recent article. In 1992, it would go Hot AC outright.

Q105 was finally felled by a hotter CHR competitor. FM100 was able to remain ahead of those attempts as both a CHR and Adult Top 40. In late 1985, WZXR (Z103) managed a 7.7 in its first book. In spring ’86, it got as close as an 8.3 to FM100’s 9.2. Shortly thereafter, it was gone; it’s now Classic Rock WEGR (Rock 103).  

Flinn Broadcasting’s WHBQ-FM made two runs at Top 40. The first was during the 1997 CHR rebound as Kiss 107.5, doing a dance-leaning CHR similar to WWZZ (Z104) Washington, D.C. In 2003, it returned as Q107.5, until switching to Classic Hits in 2020. The CHR format is now on a translator as WOWW (B97.7). iHeart also has a CHR in the market, the move-in KWNW (Kiss FM). Both are low-rated (0.5 and 0.9 respectively).

In a 2004 R&R article, longtime FM100 p.m. driver Tom Prestigiacomo described the list of FM100 OMs and PDs as “like a visiting-professor program at a radio college.” The 1979-04 list was Gary Guthrie, Garry Wall, Robert John, Randy Lane, Smokey Rivers, Steve Conley, Chuck Morgan, Russ Morley, Steve Kelley, Chris Taylor, and Danny Ocean. That later came to include Lance Ballance, the late John Roberts, and current OM Chris Michaels, who also oversees FM100’s sister stations.

For the last two years (and much of its history overall), FM100 has effectively been both CHR and Adult Top 40 for the market. Soon, it will be Country WLFP (The Wolf). Audacy is selling WLFP’s current frequency to Christian AC K-Love owner EMF. WLFP is moving to FM100’s 300,000-watt signal — one of only a few that still exist – and hoping that will tip the balance in a longtime battle with Cumulus’s heritage WGKX (Kix 106).

Cluster synergy figured into this choice. Audacy owns Mainstream AC WRVR, leading it to opt for an AC/Country combo over AC/Hot AC. (Former FM100 morning hosts Ron Olson and Karen Perrin–two thirds of a team that also included Conley–are already there.) But the move is happening when there’s a little more optimism about Country’s current musical fortunes vs. those of today’s hit music. In a market where CHR struggled, now there is the specter of Hot AC disappearing as well. 

Radioinsight’s Lance Venta speculates that Cumulus’s WKIM (News Talk 98.9), currently not showing at all in the ratings, would be a logical candidate to fill one of the holes. Venta also notes that iHR’s Kiss has a comparable signal to WLFP’s current 94.1, meaning it could benefit from the changes.

In the meantime, I took a final listen to FM100 as well as the market’s two CHRs. Then I added some reminiscences below from former FM100 PDs. I also hope to come back to Memphis and the Country battle soon.

Here’s “Today’s Best Mix” FM100 with Jill Bucco at 10 a.m., April 12. Bucco was the former APD/MD/middayer of the station. She returned to middays several years ago, based out of the morning show at WOCL Orlando.

  • 24kGoldn f/Iann Dior, “Mood”
  • Meghan Trainor, “Make You Look”
  • Twenty One Pilots, “Stressed Out”
  • Jax, “Victoria’s Secret”
  • Shawn Mendes, “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back”
  • Post Malone f/Doja Cat, “I Like You”
  • The Kid Laroi f/Justin Bieber, “Stay”
  • Chainsmokers f/Halsey, “Closer”
  • Taylor Swift, “Anti-Hero”
  • Evanescence, “Bring Me to Life”
  • Metro Boomin’ w/the Weeknd & 21 Savage, “Creepin’”
  • Ed Sheeran, “Bad Habits”
  • Maroon 5, “Beautiful Mistake”
  • Justin Bieber, “Sorry”
  • SZA, “Kill Bill”

101.9 Kiss-FM KWNW Memphis

Here’s “Memphis’s New Hit Music,” Kiss FM, at 10 a.m. with Ryan Seacrest:

  • The Kid Laroi, “Love Again”
  • Rema & Selena Gomez, “Calm Down”
  • Taylor Swift, “Lavender Haze”
  • The Weeknd, “Die for You”
  • Miley Cyrus, “River”
  • Raye f/070 Shake, “Escapism”
  • B.O.B. f/Bruno Mars, “Nothin’ on You”
  • Coi Leray, “Players”
  • David Guetta & Bebe Rexha, “I’m Good (Blue)”
  • Toosii, “Favorite Song”
  • Post Malone f/Doja Cat, “I Like You”
  • Sabrina Carpenter, “Nonsense”
  • Miguel, “Sure Thing”

B97.7 B96.3 WHBQ-HD2 Memphis

Since its post-WHBQ relaunch, Flinn’s CHR format has been more musically aggressive under PD Chris Taylor than many CHRs, willing to take a shot on a variety of types of songs, including playing more Hip-Hop than similar stations. Here’s B97.7 at 9 a.m., during the syndicated Tino Cochino morning show:

  • Miley Cyrus, “Flowers”
  • Latto f/Lu Kala, “Lottery”
  • Omah Lay & Justin Bieber, “Attention”
  • Lizzo, “Special” 
  • Ed Sheeran, “Shivers”
  • American Authors, “We Happy” — an interpolation/flip of “Don’t Worry Be Happy”
  • Metro Boomin’ f/the Weeknd & 21 Savage, “Creepin’”
  • Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello, “Senorita”
  • Morgan Wallen, “Last Night”
  • Doja Cat, “Get Into It (Yuh!)
  • Niall Horan, “Heaven”
  • Miguel, “Sure Thing”
  • Eminem & Rihanna, “The Monster”
  • Glass Animals, “Heat Waves”
  • Rema & Selena Gomez, “Calm Down”

I began this story as a look at the market landscape and what it said about today’s music, but I also wanted to let some of the station’s former programmers speak. Many of their comments come down to the people. (I’ll add more comments as people respond to this article.)

Randy Lane: “The thing I remember most about FM100 is the amazing lineup of talent in every daypart.”

Smokey Rivers: “GM Don Meyers was an outstanding leader. He assembled an all-star staff with winners at every position. Marketing manager Cindy (Horton) Debardelaben, GSM Sid Mendelson, CE Mike Schwartz, Ron Olson, Steve Conley, Tom Prestigiacomo, Henry Nelson, Will Pendarvis, and Karen Perrin on air. [Lane adds news personality David Page.] They made magic moments. Up Top Tuesdays on the Peabody Hotel roof with A-list artists. Conley’s 30-minute live interview with Paul McCartney . . . New Year’s Eve Live on Beale Street on WMC-TV. Memorable local stuff done well.”

Danny Ocean: “Although my time at FM100 was short, I had the good fortune to work with Ron Olson, Karen Perrin, Steve Conley, Jill Bucco, and Tom Prestigiacomo and that made my time in Memphis memorable and special. They are all great humans and terrific broadcasters. I felt lucky to have the experience.”

Lance Ballance: “Memphis has its share of legendary radio brands, such as WDIA, WHBQ, and WMPS. However, you can’t fully tell the history of Memphis or Memphis radio without WMC-FM. FM100 was a station that defined the times from its AOR history, to the dominant Top 40 on FM, and its final chapter as one of the best Hot ACs on the planet. The one constant that kept FM100 at the top for so long were the on-air talents who put their heart and soul into creating such an amazing product. I was a very small player in the legacy of FM100. However, I feel blessed that I was allowed to join their party.”

Chris Taylor: “I programmed the station from 2001-03. The morning show at the time [Olson, Conley, and Perrin] was very involved in Make A Wish. We had a kid whose wish was to meet the Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter. We got Nick to come to town and bust in on the morning show as he was telling his story on the air.” Taylor’s staff also included the late Melody Meadows “who passed away two weeks ago” and Toni St. James.

Jon Scott was MD/nights of FM100 in its early years as progressive AOR. With the station’s monster signal, “I got calls from Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, etc. . . . My competition at night was Scott Shannon. I kicked his butt.” FM100 had nightly music meetings and tried to be first on imports. “I was granted the first interview with David Bowie as he explained what the Ziggy album was all about.” Scott left for the record business around the time of FM100’s move to Top 40. At ABC, he championed an artist who was about to be dropped, a relationship he now chronicles in Tom Petty and Me..

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