|City of license||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Broadcast area||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Branding||The New 94-5 Lake FM|
|Slogan||What Will We Play Next?|
|Frequency||94.5 MHz FM|
|First air date||1959|
|Format||Adult hits / "JACK-like"|
|Callsign meaning||The calls suggest "LaKe Michigan" or even "MiLWauKee"|
|Former callsigns||WTMJ-FM (1959-1974)
(Journal Broadcast Corporation)
|Sister stations||WTMJ (AM), WTMJ-TV|
WLWK-FM is a radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin broadasting at 94.5 FM. The station is owned by the Milwaukee-based Journal Communications (who also own the city's WTMJ AM and TV and the Journal Sentinel), and broadcasts an adult hits format as "The New 94.5 Lake FM."
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 WTMJ and with its own 50 kW transmitter site in Richfield. The station, later becoming WTMJ-FM, made the transition to the 88-108 MHz 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. It returned to the air in 1959 at 94.5 FM, and ran automated programming for many years.
In 1974, the station changed to a stand-alone automated Top 40 format with the nickname of "I-94" (after the main east-west interstate highway that runs through Milwaukee). Correspondingly, management wanted to change the Call sign from WTMJ-FM to a pattern of "W??I", but couldn't agree on the middle two letters. Then station manager Jack Lee wanted WWWI, but the DJ's didn't like the idea of saying those tongue-twisting calls on-air. Finally, a sales manager suggested two letters in the name of his wife, Katie, and with that the calls changed to WKTI (for "KaTIe").
I-94 called itself "nonstop stereo rock," and was automated until 1981, when live air personalities were brought aboard. In 1982, WKTI's morning show was originally anchored by Bob Reitman until being paired with Gene Mueller by Dallas Cole in mid 1982. Lips LaBelle joined a bit later as afternoon DJ and promotions director, Danny Clayton joined at the end of 1982 for nights and music director. This nucleus was together at the station for the next 15+ years. Program director Dallas Cole left in 1985 for WLS-FM but later returned as general manager at the age of 25. From WKTI Dallas Cole (now known by his real name, Jeff Rowe) went to VH1, NBC, AOL, and now Vuze.
The station saw steady ratings and growth for many years until about 1999, when WXSS-FM (103.7) began to compete for WKTI's audience of mostly women with music from younger artists. Due to a morning show which had been on the air for fifteen years and longtime familiarity with the airstaff by listeners a full-blown reset of the station was impossible. Slow adjustments of the playlists towards "Hot AC" were made instead to attract new and younger listeners, including contests and a Friday playlist called Flashback Friday which featured mostly 80s music.
Starting in late 2005, WKTI slowly began evolving into a more current-based "Adult Top 40" format which competed with WXSS (103.7), though they continued to play the music of several of the station's heritage artists. In September 2006 the station no longer voiced out the "W" and the branding was changed to 94-5 'KTI, Milwaukee's Hit Music Channel.
Bob Reitman of "Reitman, Mueller, and Amy Taylor too" retired at the end of 2006, and currently does an evening music program for public radio station WUWM-FM (89.7). Gene Mueller then briefly partnered with Amy Taylor and Gino Salamone as "Gene, Amy and Gino", until Taylor resigned in April 2007.
On May 15, 2007, WKTI and sister station WTMJ shifted their morning staff around, moving Gene Mueller to co-host WTMJ's Wisconsin Morning News. The new show Mathew Blades in the Morning launched on the WKTI, with Blades, Erin Austin, and AJ.
The station's evening lineup was also in flux, with Cindy Huber being the host for two years, and then leaving the station in a reshuffling and moving to WLDB (93.3). The station then chose to air syndicated programming after 7pm, airing John Tesh's Intelligence for Your Life show, which had a WKTI-programmed playlist between Tesh giving out facts and tidbits between songs.
In September 2008, WKTI became the secondary home of radio play-by-play for teams on WTMJ which have their broadcasts displaced by radio coverage of another sport; in this case Milwaukee Brewers broadcasts moved over to WKTI to allow Green Bay Packers radio play-by-play to air on WTMJ, which has the top priority of all of WTMJ's rights. This is the first time radio coverage of professional or college sports has aired in Milwaukee on the FM band; usually WTMJ and Journal Communications sub-contracts the broadcasts to other AM stations in the market, such as WSSP and WAUK. The AM has continued with Wisconsin Badgers sports and Milwaukee Bucks basketball.
For the first time in Milwaukee radio history, the station aired a Green Bay Packers game on FM on September 28, 2008 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, due to the higher priority of the Brewers wild card clinching game for the 2008 NLDS . The Packers aired on WLWK the following Sunday, October 5, 2008, due to a Brewers playoff game.
At 12:12 p.m. on November 6, 2008, the Sophie B. Hawkins song "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" faded down to give way to "Hello, Goodbye" by The Beatles , after which Journal Broadcast Group general manager Steve Wexler stepped in to introduce listeners to a new adult hits format branded as "The New 94.5 Lake FM," with Chicago's "Beginnings" as the first song played on "Lake FM". Since the flip, the station ran without DJs until December 29, 2008, when the DJ lineup included new station program director J. Pat Miller in the morning and Matthew Blades, WKTI's last morning host, in the afternoon. The remainder of the on-air staff was let go , although Lips Labelle's relationship with the Journal stations continues through voiceover work for, among others, WTMJ-TV and Green Bay sister television station WGBA (along with voiceover work for CNN and other stations throughout the country such as Los Angeles's KTTV). John Tesh's show and The Retro Pop Reunion also no longer on the station, with Tesh eventually landing on crosstown WLDB (93.3), who has a format similar to the old WKTI.
One week after the flip, on November 13, 2008, the FCC approved the station's call letter change from WKTI-FM to WLWK-FM, with Journal warehousing the WKTI calls on their adult standards station in the Knoxville, Tennessee market (the former WQBB).
On July 8, 2009, Lake FM received a television compliment, as WTMJ-TV picked up a digital subchannel network, TheCoolTV for WTMJ-DT3, which can be customized for each market and station's specifications, and fits with WLWK's random playlist. In that case the new channel is marketed as TheCoolTV, powered by 94-5 Lake FM; however the playlists for the television and radio stations remain completely different.