WALR-FM is an urban adult contemporary-formatted radio station based in Atlanta, Georgia. Utilizing the "Kiss FM" brand (technically as "Kiss 104"), it is owned by Cox Media Group and the designated flagship urban contemporary station under its ownership. WALR-FM is licensed to Greenville and broadcasts on a class C0 100-kilowatt signal on the 104.1 megahertz (MHz) frequency near Newnan, although its radio transmitter was originally located in LaGrange, also the location for a construction permit for a broadcast translator of sister station WSB-TV). In late 2004, after WALR switched to the new tower, it also began broadcasting in IBOC digital radio, using the HD Radio system from iBiquity. WALR has studios co-located with its radio partners and WSB-TV in midtown. It is the Atlanta affiliate for The Tom Joyner Morning Show.
The station runs a digital subchannel (on "HD-2") of dance music. Its analog and HD-1 channel is also simulcast on sister station WSRV FM 97.1 HD-3 on the opposite (northeast) side of the metro area, providing a legal fiction for it to circumvent the restriction which prohibits commercial radio stations from having broadcast translators outside of their assigned and expected broadcast range. The allows (with conflicting legality) the station to extend its range by in turn using W228CA FM 93.5 near Suwanee, Georgia to simulcast WALR's main channel.
The FM station licensed to 104.1 in LaGrange, Georgia (well southwest of Atlanta) signed on the air on September 1, 1947 as WLAG-FM and carried a country music format in the 1970s. The station changed their call letters to WWCG in 1977 and continued with a country format. In the mid 1980s, the station broadcast Al Ham's syndicated "Music Of Your Life" nostalgia format with the WJYF and WJYA-FM call letters. It was a simulcast partner with WJYA AM 1080 (now Korean language WFTD AM). In 1987, the station became urban contemporary-formatted, WEKS, "Urban Kiss 104". In 1989, WEKS changed to a country music station WYAI (Y104), simulcasting with WYAY FM (Y107) on the other side of Atlanta, when it was acquired by NewCity Communications. In 1994, the simulcast ended, and 104.1 switched to a contemporary jazz format, as WJZF "Jazz Flavors 104.1".
Cox Enterprises, owner of WSB-AM, WSB-FM, WSB-TV and two newspapers, had a local marketing agreement with WJZF and tried to buy the station in 1995. However, the FCC denied the request when challenged by Jacor Broadcasting, even though Cox intended to make changes to the WJZF signal "to avoid cross-ownership conflicts."
As WALR "Kiss 104"
The station that would later migrate to this frequency began in the mid-1990s as "Kiss 104.7", an urban contemporary station that was licensed to serve Athens, Georgia. (This new "Kiss" on 104.7 was a resurrection of the previous incarnation from WEKS mentioned above, although this was an Atlanta rimshot to the east.)
On August 30, 2000, "Kiss 104.7" migrated from the 104.7 frequency to the 104.1 frequency, when Cox and Salem Communications swapped properties. The former WALR-FM at 104.7 became "104.7 the Fish" WFSH-FM and the 104.1 frequency became hot urban AC "Kiss 104.1", taking the WALR callsign with it too. The move displaced the smooth jazz format here but was picked up the year after by WJZZ (now WAMJ). Also, the AM simulcast on what is now WIFN ceased shortly after the switch although it continued to carry the WALR callsign under a changed format for sometime. In Atlanta, the rights to the "Kiss FM" brand has been grandfathered, thus Clear Channel, which trademarked the brand for its top 40 pop stations, did not attempt to take legal action against Cox.
On February 21, 2003, "Kiss 104.1" gravitated its hot urban AC format to an urban oldies format to protect its sister station WFOX (now WSRV) when that station experimented with a hot urban format consisting of R&B, hip hop and rap from the 1980s to present. Also with this format modification the longtime slogan changed from "Atlanta's R&B Station" to "Atlanta's Old School R&B Station" to signify the new format.
WALR-FM became the last remaining urban station owned by Cox Radio in Atlanta when sister station WBTS flipped from rhythmic contemporary to news-talk as a simulcast of WSB-AM on August 16, 2010. Another station was WFOX-FM (now classic hits as WSRV), which was urban contemporary 97-1 Jamz until 2006. Even so, WALR did not return its format back to urban AC until June 2011. At that time, it added more contemporary R&B music after spending eight years being a classic and gold-based R&B and soul format. This allowed for the station to restrengthen itself as a competitive radio force in Atlanta, especially against longtime rival WVEE and direct format rival WAMJ/WUMJ. The station's logo and slogan was modified as well from "Atlanta's Old School R&B Station" to "Atlanta's R&B," plus the branding was shortened to simply "Kiss 104", omitting the ".1". Also, with the format phasing, WALR no longer airs any weekend mix shows; it has expanded its nighttime slow jams show in the vein of major R&B stations elsewhere. As of February 2012, the station has not been listed on the Mediabase urban AC add board.