WQAL (104.1 FM) – branded Q104 – is a commercial hot adult contemporary radio station licensed to Cleveland, Ohio. Owned by Entercom, the station serves Greater Cleveland and much of surrounding Northeast Ohio. The WQAL studios are located at the Halle Building in Downtown Cleveland, while the station transmitter resides in the Cleveland suburb of North Royalton. Besides a standard analog transmission, WQAL broadcasts over two HD Radio channels, and is available online.
WQAL began in April 1948 as WJW-FM as the FM sister station to WJW (850 AM). The new FM station went on the air just as the Cleveland Indians began their world championship season. WJW was the flagship of a six-station Ohio network that carried the games in 1947 and 1948. However, the full games were often carried on WJW-FM, since the AM outlet did not have available air time due to its ABC network commitments. As a result, Cleveland became an FM hot bed, and more FM radio sets sold in Cleveland than in any other market in the country in 1948.
Storer Broadcasting sold off WJW-FM sometime in the mid-1960s. Following the sale, the station changed its callsign to WCJW.
WCJW changed its callsign to WQAL on May 12, 1971 after 106.1 FM in Philadelphia gave it up. The WQAL calls also had an unrelated history on an early AM radio station in Mattoon, Illinois, which signed on in 1921 and shut down one year later. The meaning for the Cleveland call letters – "Quality Music" or "Quality Listening" – was carried over from the Philadelphia station.
WQAL's format throughout the 1970s and 1980s was beautiful music as "Easy 104 WQAL" with some of Cleveland radio's best-known personalities, including "Tall" Ted Hallaman, James "Jay Lynn" Threatt, Ed Fisher, Al James, Frank Micale, and David Mark. Kevin Coan did news reports and co-hosted early mornings with Larry Morrow. Chris "Daniels" Eicher hosted middays, while Margo Johnson hosted evenings. This was until the decline of the format lead to a shift toward an adult contemporary approach similar to WDOK in 1990 as "Soft Hits 104." After that brief approach failed, the station then moved to a Hot AC approach as "The New Q104" in February 1991. The name soon changed to "Cleveland's Q104" before eventually becoming just "Q104." Although their playlist has evolved over the years, WQAL has maintained their Hot AC format to this day.
Through most of the 1990s, after the switch to "Q104," the station had a solid line-up with Larry Morrow and Sally Spitz on morning drive, Johnny Williams on middays, Dan Deely on afternoon drive, Jon Russell on evenings, and Jay Lynn and "The Midnight Express" on overnights. Weekends have included Rick Allen (now at WONE-FM), Bill Ryan, Kelly Cannon, and Chuck Costanzo among other on-air hosts. Popular shows back then have included "Friday Night '80s," "Saturday Night Fever" featuring disco songs from the 1970s and early 1980s, and syndicated countdown shows hosted by Casey Kasem and Rick Dees. The shows and personalities would eventually leave WQAL, but the station has managed to maintain a roster of local personalities and syndicated programming to continue serving the Greater Cleveland listening area.
Long locally owned by Win Communications Inc., WQAL was sold off to Chancellor Media in January 1999, joining WDOK, WJMO, WRMR, WZAK and WZJM under the Chancellor umbrella via simultaneous buyouts for $275 million. It was, at the time, the largest radio station sale in Cleveland broadcasting history. On July 13, 1999, Chancellor Media merged with Capstar Broadcasting – which owned WKNR 1220-AM – to form AMFM Inc., at that time the nation's largest radio-station owner with 465 stations. When AMFM, Inc. merged with Clear Channel Communications in August 2000, Clear Channel was forced to sell off WQAL along with the other Cleveland AMFM properties to comply with market ownership restrictions. WZJM, WDOK and WQAL were sold to Infinity Broadcasting, which is today CBS Radio.
WQAL moved to new studios at One Radio Lane, paired with WDOK, in December 2001. Ironically, current WQAL program director Dave Popovich held like duties at WDOK from 1999 to 2000 – and also worked at then-"Lite Rock 106½" WLTF, whose studios were at One Radio Lane in the late 1980s. In recent years, WQAL has been leaning more Top 40 in order to attract some of the younger 18- to 25-year-old audience.
On November 13, 2012, WQAL moved from its longtime studio home at One Radio Lane, off East Saint Clair Avenue in Downtown Cleveland, to the Halle Building on Euclid Avenue, also downtown. Sister station WDOK joined WQAL in the move; as a result, all four Cleveland CBS Radio stations are now located in the same building.
WQAL personalities Jeremiah Widmer and Jeff Kurkjian who host "The Jeremiah & Jeff Show" weekday mornings. Other WQAL personalities include "Aly Tanner" (middays), Kelly McMann (afternoons), and Terence J. known as "T.J." (evenings). The HD2 digital subchannel airs a new CHR format under the brand The New Music Channel. The HD2 channel plays new music releases and invites listeners to give feedback on the Q104 website on whether they would like to see the tracks added to the regular Q104 playlist.