WKQI is an FM radio station serving Detroit, Michigan. Owned by iHeartMedia, it broadcasts a rhythmic-leaning Top 40/CHR format branded as Channel 955 (pronounced "nine-five-five"). WKQI transmits its signal with an effective radiated power of 100,000 watts from an antenna 430 feet in height located at the intersection of Greenfield Road and 10 Mile Road in suburban Oak Park in Oakland County, and has studios in Farmington Hills.
WKQI began in February 1949 as an unaffiliated classical outlet, WLDM. Although a few Andre Kostelanetz, Morton Gould, and Percy Faith light music recordings were played, it was not until the station took up storecasting in 1951 that those and other popular orchestras were heard regularly, along with light classical and some classical music, as "albums in high-fidelity". Evenings were devoted to concert works. An audience of non-client listeners developed slowly, but when owner Lincoln Broadcasting Company moved the storecast to its subcarrier in late 1957 and rededicated the main channel solely to classical recordings, enough of an outcry arose that a substantial amount of daytime popular music was eventually restored. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the station enjoyed prestige as the area's premier purveyor of 'good music', adding Broadway showtunes selections from original cast albums, folk music, and other 'hi-fi' recordings, and later spoken-word and dramatic presentations. In 1961, WLDM increased its power and started broadcasting in stereo. Three years later, most of the classical shows were dropped in favor of beautiful music, a move that led to high ratings and greatly increased revenue for the remainder of the 1960s, but declined throughout the 1970s. WLDM was also an industry leader with technical improvements such as vertical signal polarization to improve reception on portable and car radios, and referred to itself as "America's Foremost FM Station".
From WLDM to WCZY
By the mid-1970s, Detroit had a glut of beautiful music stations, with WWJ-FM, WJR-FM, WNIC, and WOMC all competing with WLDM for the easy listening audience. After being sold to Combined Communications (which later sold to Gannett Broadcasting in 1981), WLDM changed its call letters to WCZY-FM ("Cozy FM") in 1976.
WCZY-FM's format, under Robert Gaskins, was a steady performer in Detroit's Arbitron ratings during the late 1970s, with popular personalities including Paul Bryon (mornings), Bob Martin (middays) and Al Gaige (afternoons). The station's ratings peak came in the spring of 1980, with WCZY registering a fourth-place showing in the overall 12+ ratings and consistently ranking the highest of Detroit's three beautiful music stations (its competitors at the time were WJR-FM and WWJ-FM, as WNIC and WOMC had evolved into adult contemporary formats by then). During this time WCZY used the services of syndicators Churchill and Schulke (the latter's Schulke II package) for its beautiful music format, but unlike its competitors WJR-FM and WWJ-FM, the station was not fully automated and made use of live announcers.
In 1978, former country station WDEE-AM (1500) was acquired and its call letters changed to WCZY-AM with a similar format. Even though several top rated disc jockeys like Bob Martin were moved to the AM, the poor signal of the station hindered the station from producing the successful ratings the FM station enjoyed. Bob Martin was then moved back to the FM, and WCZY-AM changed to WLQV-AM (Love Radio) with a Christian religious format put in place.
In 1981, the Combined Communications chain was purchased by the Gannett newspaper chain. Gannett, not satisfied with the revenue the station was already generating, moved WCZY into an adult contemporary format that year in hopes of attracting younger listeners and thus increasing ad revenue; the entire on-air staff was let go, and Dick Purtan was brought in from CKLW to host the station's morning show at the start of 1983. During 1983, the station's music became more and more contemporary; by the end of the year, the format was CHR for all intents and purposes, despite continuing to use the "Cozy FM" moniker. The station's final transformation into "Z95.5" was complete by the fall of 1984. Purtan's morning show kept WCZY high in the overall ratings during this transition period, but advertising revenues did not meet expectations.
All Hits Z95.5
"Z95.5" enjoyed a fair amount of ratings success with its CHR format, usually rated in Detroit's top ten Arbitron ratings 12+, though arguably much of the station's high ratings came from Purtan's show. In an attempt to be more palatable to adult listeners, WCZY was more of an Adult CHR, avoiding most rap, dance and hard rock songs unless they were successful pop crossovers. Although WCZY's overall 12+ ratings were often better than WHYT's, WHYT was much more popular with teenage and young adult listeners.
For a time, WCZY also simulcast its programming again on AM 1500 (WLQV-AM, which once again changed its calls to WCZY-AM, with the station IDing as "Z95.5 and AM 1500") as part of a ploy to "return Dick Purtan to the AM dial." It lasted only a few years before AM 1500 returned to its previous religious format as WLQV.
Despite Z95.5's high ratings, the station still wanted to attract more older listeners in the hope of attracting more advertising dollars, and so on July 20, 1989, WCZY changed its calls and moniker to WKQI, "Q95," dropped hard rock and rap product from its playlist, and added more gold from the 1970s and 1980s. Detroit based AC radio consultant Gary Berkowitz was the original Q95 program director, which also included (in addition to Dick Purtan) air personalities Kevin O'Neill and Michael Waite (formerly of rival WHYT).
Q95 started as an Adult CHR, but by late 1990, had shifted to mainstream adult contemporary to challenge incumbent AC outlets WNIC and WLTI (who would later flip to Top 40 and become WKQI's CHR arch-rival as WDRQ). The station's ratings continued to be respectable throughout the 1990s. Dick Purtan was an investor in the new station and stayed on as Q95's morning host until March 1996, when he left for WOMC.
Following Purtan's departure, WKQI became "Q95-5, Detroit's Continuous Hit Music Station," hired former Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce as the morning show host, and shifted back to an Adult CHR presentation, adding alternative-pop artists such as Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Joan Osborne, Live, and The BoDeans, which the station had not played previously. For most of the late 1990s, WKQI was a heavily dayparted station, being a fairly conservative Hot AC during the day but taking more of a CHR approach at night, while still shying away from most urban music and rap except for artists with mainstream pop appeal such as Will Smith, Toni Braxton, and Ghost Town DJs.
Top 40 wars: WKQI vs. WDRQ
Danny Bonaduce kept WKQI's morning ratings high, but after he departed in January 1998, the station began to falter. ABC/Disney-owned rhythmic-based rival WDRQ took advantage of WKQI's weak spots by moving to a more mainstream Top 40 format with a hotter, more energetic presentation than WKQI. WDRQ also gained an advantage on WKQI, which remained a fairly conservative station musically, by emphasizing the then-hot teen-pop movement and stars like Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, and *NSYNC. By the summer of 2000, Q95-5 had sunk to fourteenth place in the ratings, while WDRQ had charged into the top ten (though WKQI still outbilled 'DRQ by a fair margin).
By 2000, the station was owned by AMFM; Clear Channel took control of the station that year when it merged with AMFM. In February 2000, Clear Channel formed a new morning show called Mojo In The Morning and began to target a younger audience demographic. WDRQ continued to win the CHR battle against WKQI for a few more years.
On February 4, 2002, at 10 AM, Clear Channel re-launched WKQI as "Channel 9-5-5" (later stylized as "Channel 955") and began to move the station in a more rhythmic direction to compete more directly with WDRQ. WKQI soon took the ratings lead over WDRQ. WDRQ's falling ratings culminated in its format switch to "Variety Hits" as "Doug-FM" on April 1, 2005, which left WKQI to have the CHR market to itself in Detroit. Subsequently, WKQI reclaimed its top 10 showing in Detroit's Arbitron ratings.
Channel 9-5-5 currently ranks at #13 (3.6) in the Detroit market according to the November 2012 PPM ratings release.
In 2008, WKQI's HD2 subchannel began carrying the Dance Top 40 Club Phusion format, which is part of Clear Channel's Format Lab. It previously had aired a "New CHR" format. WKQI billed Club Phusion as "Bomb Squad Radio" (named after its own stable of club DJs). The station later switched to an alternate dance mix-show format from Clear Channel's iHeartRadio on its HD-2 signal, known as Spin Cycle Radio, which features continuous mix-show programming from a nationwide stable of club DJs. WKQI also formerly offered Clear Channel's Pride Radio format, featuring a mix of mostly dance music oriented toward the LGBT audience, on an HD3 subchannel. As of October 2015, WKQI-HD2 now carries another iHeartRadio format called "Feel tha Funk," featuring classic funk and soul music.
On-Air Staff & Programming
The current lineup is as follows:
- Morning Show (5 am-10 am): Mojo In The Morning
- Mid-Days (10 am-3 pm): Emily Brooke
- Afternoon Drive (3 pm-7 pm): Nick Wize
- Nighttime (7 pm-12 am): The Joe Show - Joe Carballo
- Overnights (12 am-5 am): Joey Namou
- Friday Night (10 pm-1 am): Lve From V-Night Club - Christopher "Slim" Arafat & DJ Whip
- Sunday Morning (8 am-12 pm): American Top 40 - Ryan Seacrest
- Weekend's/Fill-ins: Arielle “Arie” Hill, Sam “Stick” Day, Abdul “Ace” Montaser & Julia Q.
- The Bomb Squad: DJ David Boji, DJ Paul Martindale, DJ Shortstop & DJ Whip
- Station Voice: Dr. Dave "Deep Voice Guy" Ferguson
- Program Director: Tony Travatto
- Assistant PD: Nick "Stylz" Wize
- Music Director: Sam "Stick" Day