AM Technical Profile: WLAY

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Classic Rock, Classic Soul

Transmitter Location:
[map] [street view] Near where Milk Springs Road and New Cut Road meet, just west of Old US Highway 43.
Power (ERP):
Day: 1 kW
Night: 1 kW

1 tower

Other Information:
0.5 mV/m Daytime Groundwave Service Contour from the FCC's Public Files



[Studio] Street View imagery of the Singing River Media studios on East 2nd Street in Muscle Shoals. Note the classic neon sign for WLAY out front and the original WLAY tower, visible in the background.

Owned by
Singing River Media Group
// W286DP Florence

This station was put on the air by Kathryn Jones in 1933 as WNRA, on 1420 kHz. It switched frequencies in the early 1940's to 1450 and became WMSD. The WLAY calls began in the mid 40's and had originally belonged to the very first radio station in Alaska, which started in 1922 at Fairbanks.
As WLAY, the station was the Shoals' rock n' roll home. The studios were located on East 2nd Street at Highway 72, with the antenna tower "out back" right off of Kelsey Avenue.   Some important figures in early popular music were disc jockeys here: Sam Phillips, the "Father of Rock and Roll" and founder of Sun Records, began his music industry career here. Clayton Ivey was a jock here when he "discovered" Percy Sledge. FAME Recording Studios of Muscle Shoals owner Rick Hall was a jock here, as well. FAME has an extensive history in rock music; artists like The Tams, Joe Tex, Etta James, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin either recorded at FAME or were produced there by Rick Hall. Their website has good reading on the history of the studio.
WLAY spawned an FM outlet (WLAY-FM) which had a country format. As with all AM music stations, FM eventually began taking its toll, and the AM drifted to a MoR (Middle of the Road) format. In the 90's the station was acquired by Citadel, then later Clear Channel. They tried various formats through the 2000's, including Sports, satellite-fed Oldies and then finally Classic Country.
In 2005 the station was bought by URBan Broadcasting. They retooled things to focus on the station's heritage. A translator, W266AU on 101.1 MHz, was supposed to be paired with the station, but it appears this never happened.  After several weeks of stunting, the station debuted its new format, on Halloween 2005: music only written or recorded in Muscle Shoals! In late 2007 or early 2008 the station acquired an  FM translator at 92.3, with 225 watts.
In late June 2010 WLAY and Shoals-area WVNA lost the lease on their combined transmitter site.  The stations are off the air until a new site can be located and facilities built.  The station was reported back on around 24 June 2011 with very low power.  The AM is operating from the STL (studio to transmitter link tower) at the WLAY studios under a special temporary authority.  In December 2011 owners Urban Radio turned in the license for the translator that had been carrying the station on FM, along with one for Florence-area AC WMXV, licensed to Saint Joesph, Tennessee.  This station was transferred from URBan Radio to Kevin Wagner in January 2013, although it appears Wagner is a shell for URBan Radio Licenses, LLC..  The station was put on the FCC's silent list in December of 2014.
On 7 December 2015 Kevin Wagner-led URBan Radio filed a pleading with the FCC to keep the license for this station and WVNA active, claiming to have found a buyer for both stations, which was granted on 15 December.  The stations collectively will have been off for exactly a year on the 16th, which normally means they are automatically deleted by the FCC.  As part of the request, URBan wants to return WLAY to the air with 60 watts from a longwire installed behind the URBan Radio studios on Main Street in Tuscumbia.  That authorization came on by the 16th with country music and WLAY-FM liners, although it is not a direct simulcast.  The STA was granted and they kept stringing along on STA's into 2017, when they finally filed an application to permanently move the station's transmitter site to the WLAY-FM tower off New Cut Road, south of Tuscumbia.  That permit was granted in late April 2017.
On 5 July 2017, Tuscumbia Utilities disconnected the power to the studios in town, causing all the stations to lose their programming feeds.  The stations fell silent (but remained on with dead air).  The station returned to the air on 12 July 2017.

In September 2018, the station received a construction permit for a new FM translator companion on 105.1 MHz in Florence.

The station was sold, along with the other URBan Radio group of stations, to Singing River Media Group in October 2018, for $1.275 million.  Singing River Media Group is headed by James Michael Self, whose father (D. Mitchell Self) was the former owner of WLAY AM and FM.

As of the start of 2020, the station was reported to be simulcasting WLAY-FM's Country Hits format.  In November 2020, the construction permit to move south of town was updated to boost power to 1,000 watts day and night.  The station was reported silent towards the end of November, while the translator remained on air.

In late 2022 the station was reported back on air, with a short playlist of Classic Rock and Classic Soul songs.

The station filed a resumption of operations in January 2023.  In February 2023 began using the moniker "Rock 'n Roll Gold 104.7, AM 1450", with an expanded playlist of Classic Rock and Classic Soul songs. The license to cover was granted in July 2023.