|City of license||Nashville, Tennessee|
|Broadcast area||Nashville, Tennessee|
"Nashville's Home for 103-minute Music Marathons"
|First air date||April 18, 1962 (as WNFO-FM); January 1, 1967 (as WKDA-FM/WKDF)|
|Sister stations||WGFX, WSM-FM, WWTN|
The first station to occupy the 103.3 FM frequency was WNFO-FM, founded in 1962 and operated by Hickory Broadcasting Corporation.[contradictory] Despite several FM stations already operating in Nashville at the time, receivers were not yet in widespread use, and the relatively few listeners were not enough to attract advertisers. It left the air sometime around 1965, with WKDA-AM, then one of the two Top 40-formatted stations in the market, taking over and restarting it on January 1, 1967 as WKDA-FM. WKDA-FM/WKDF was located for many years with its sister station in the downtown Stahlman Building, where its large neon sign remains mounted. The station was later moved to Rutledge Hill on Second Avenue South, to a property once occupied by the home of Captain Thomas G. Ryman (of Ryman Auditorium/Grand Ole Opry fame). In 2012, the station was moved to Nashville's Music Row.
In January 1970, WKDA-FM began playing album-oriented rock, aimed especially at Nashville's large college student population, first at night only, and, then, beginning in March concurrent with a format change of the AM to country, full-time, for about a year and a half. Afterward, in the daytime, the station employed a mix of rock and Top 40 music, while switching to hard and progressive rock at night, during most of the 1970s and early 1980s. As the FM format grew, it soon became the dominant station of the two, which eventually separated. For some years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "KDF" (as it was popularly known after its callsign officially changed to WKDF in 1976) was the dominant station as determined by the number of listeners reported by Arbitron, in the Nashville market, due, again, to its vast popularity among younger listeners. The only true competition the station had in the rock market was the Vanderbilt University student station, WRVU, which played alternative and college forms of rock not considered commercially acceptable in that day and time (WRVU has since discontinued broadcasting on a terrestrial radio signal).
Although the station, like most 1970s-era album rock outlets, underwent some ratings decline during the early 1980s due to changing tastes among its adolescent listeners (e.g., "New Wave", techno pop), WKDF proved resilient to the point of being able to capitalize on the backlash against MTV-influenced artists later in the decade. By the early 1990s, the station shifted its playlist somewhat to reflect the then-rising grunge and alternative rock scenes, leaving other FMs in the area to pick up the oldies from its early days; in recent times, WNRQ-FM has served as Nashville's "classic" (oldies) rock outlet.
After nearly 30 years of programming rock, however, WKDF reformatted to country music on April 1, 1999, after continued ratings losses to competitor FM outlets. Originally going by the moniker "Music City 103.3", it reverted to using its call letters in branding beginning in 2001. In recent years, the playlist has featured a mixture of contemporary and classic country.
In September 2011, WKDF came under Cumulus ownership (as a result of the Cumulus acquisition of Citadel), and thus, is now a sister station to fellow Nashville country outlet WSM-FM. To date, no changes to the format of either station have occurred as a result of the merger.
Notable former disc jockeys from the station include:
The Nashville Tapes aired on KDF Sunday nights, featuring rock music from Nashville and the surrounding area. Hosts included (but were not limited to): Kidd Redd, Joe Elvis, Tommy Womack, Morgan, Leslie Hermsdorfer, Brent Fox, and Aljon Go. Go later founded the directly-inspired Local Buzz program on WBUZ, Nashville.
On The Dick Van Dyke Show episode titled "Ray Murdock's X-Ray," which originally aired on January 23, 1963, the call letters of the television station broadcasting the fictitious "Ray Murdock X-Ray Show" are WKDF.
In a mid-1990s episode of COPS (TV Series) on the Fox television network, Metro Nashville police answer a domestic disturbance call. Upon arriving at the residence, they are directed down a hallway to the locked door of a male teen who had allegedly been 'huffing' spray paint or glue and who had now barricaded himself in his room. When the police officers get to the teen's door, the viewer can clearly see a black and yellow KDF 'bullet' sticker affixed to the door at eye level.
Nashville based Country Music songwriter/singer Phil Vassar released his debut album in 2000 with an up-tempo song that broke into the Top 5 on the Billboard country singles chart called "Carlene" In the video, the iconic WKDF neon sign and Nashville skyline is seen in the first 10 seconds.
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