When I started at WMLI in 1993 the frequency was 96.3FM. We said 96FM for short on the air. Originally the frequency was 96.7 FM when the station was physically located in Sauk City. This changed in 1987 to 96.3 FM when the station moved to the Pyare Square building on University Avenue.
The move to Madison also brought a change to the station call letters from WSEY to WMLI. The station was originally WVLR in the 1970’s for many years.
WMLI was “Lite 96” from the 1987 move to Madison until shortly before I arrived in 1993. We were branded as “Madison’s Music Island” and faced an uphill battle “shutting off the lite” as we put it.
If you didn’t hear the format then, the best way I can describe it was a good mix of familiar songs and artists plus ones that deserved more airplay. Little by little we switched out overplayed lite/love songs (other than in our Lovelight request show) for “special songs to make the music island unique”.
Our ratings went up every quarter the year I was there. John Anderson taught me a mountain of things about programming music and we poured a lot of time and thought into the format. We had a great team of air staff that cared about the music and doing their best.
Unfortunately in radio, hard work and dedication isn’t always enough. I left for AM 1310 WIBA in the early summer of 1994 and the station was sold not long afterward. I heard it was coming ahead of time and jumped rather than take a chance at being pushed out the door. The Music Island became Mix 96 WMXF – “Mucks” as I not so affectionately called it.
96FM went through at least four format changes after the Music Island before going to country in 2005 – and remaining with that format to this day.