|Branding||102.9 W4 Country|
|WLBY, WQKL, WTKA|
First air date
|March 1, 1962 (as WOIA)|
Former call signs
Call sign meaning
|W 4 times|
WWWW-FM (W4 Country), is a country music radio station based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, broadcasting on 102.9 MHz. Owned by Cumulus Media, WWWW-FM has a transmitter at its studios off of South Wagner Road to the northwest of downtown Ann Arbor.
The 102.9 frequency began operations in or on March 1, 1962 as WOIA and is co-owned with WOIB in Saline, Michigan. Originally, WOIA and WOIB simulcast a middle of the road music format with some Top 40 music played on weekends. The format changed to full-time Top 40 in 1967. WOIA personalities during this time included John Records Landecker, later to become a legend in Chicago radio, and Art Vuolo Jr., later to become known as "Radio's Best Friend."
In 1970, the stations became WNRS AM/WNRZ FM "Ann Arbor's Winners." The "Winners" airstaff included a young Arthur Penhallow, who later became a fixture at WRIF in Detroit for nearly 40 years; at WNRS/WNRZ, his air name was "Cicero Grimes." "Winners" took advantage of Ann Arbor's status as a breakout market for songs that later went on to success in the Detroit market, proclaiming: "Winners Plays... Detroit Watches."
The WNRS/WNRZ format remained Top 40 at first, but the two stations soon separated programming, with WNRS adopting a country format and WNRZ becoming a full-time 24-hour free-form progressive rock station. Former WABX personalities Jerry Goodwin and Ann Christ worked at WNRZ in 1972, and John Sinclair also hosted a Sunday-evening show. The station built up a loyal following in Ann Arbor's "hippie" community, but was financially unsuccessful, leading then-owner Thomas Boodell to change the station to a simulcast of WNRS's country programming and change the locks at the station to keep the former progressive-rock hosts out of the studio. After a petition to restore the progressive programming generated 10,000 signatures, Boodell threw progressive-rock listeners a bone by reinstating progressive rock on the station nightly from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. This split format continued until November 1974, when the station became again temporarily a full-time simulcast of WNRS as preparations were made for the stations' sale to Rochester, New York-based Community Music Services and the FM station's facilities were upgraded.
WNRZ-FM was a pioneer in the many radio aspects of the industry, most notably improvements to the quadraphonic FM stereo system invented in 1969 by Louis Dorren and improved upon by station chief engineer Brian Brown. The station participated in the National Quadraphonic Radio Committee field trials for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). WNRZ-FM was actually the first FM station to transmit program audio in quadraphonic sound. Brown also designed and built one of the first combination audio equalizer/compressors, which was used to enhance the poor audio quality of the Collins (now Rockwell Collins) AM radio transmitter at WNRZ. A second device was installed to process the quadraphonic FM program audio. These units literally caused the audio to "leap out" of the radio,[full citation needed] according to industry pundits.
Community Music Services took over control of WNRZ in December 1974 and four months later, after a brief stunting period proclaiming "Something BIG is coming to 103 FM," changed the station's format back to progressive rock music (this time, however, without free-form elements and with an approved station playlist) under the new call letters WIQB, with a call sign which designated the number "103" (the letters I-Q-B were chosen because of their resemblance to the numbers 1-0-3). The first record played on the new W-103 was "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by the Rolling Stones. WIQB heavily promoted its quadraphonic sound, identifying on-air as QuadRock 103 during the 1970s. (Meanwhile, 1290 AM has since been through a multitude of format changes and is now WLBY, a business-talk station). In 1979, the progressive rock radio's personality lineup consisted of John Christian, Randy Z, Jim Dulzo, Chuck Horn and others.
As the 1980s dawned, WIQB, under new owner Ernie Winn, modified its format from progressive rock to a Top 40/album rock mixture. During the '80s, Rock 103 was usually the highest-rated local station in the Ann Arbor market (jingles of the period touted the fact they were "Ann Arbor's Number One!"). In 1987, the station boosted power to 50,000 watts, dramatically increasing its coverage area to the west (toward Jackson) and north (toward Fenton), although the station's eastward signal remained impeded by 102.7 FM in Mount Clemens (then WKSG).
The station went through numerous ownership changes from 1974 onward. During the mid-1990s, WIQB became an adult album alternative station under the ownership of Arbor Radio, LP. In late 1997, Cumulus Broadcasting took control of the station and switched WIQB's format to active rock. As an active rock station, Rock 103, then owned by Cumulus Broadcasting, subsequently crashed in the ratings and was regularly defeated in its own market by Detroit's WRIF. The station was an afterthought of then-GM Ray Nelson, who along with the sales managers proceeded to change the format to country.
The WWWW calls were originally used for 106.7 FM (and later 1130 AM) in Detroit, Michigan. Many Detroit-area radio listeners of the 1970s remember WWWW-FM as a rock station with a slightly progressive bent, and one which would offer unique programming, such as the "All-Night Album Replay," wherein several full rock LPs would be played consecutively during a given evening. Print advertising for the station occasionally featured images of Godzilla, the mythical character seen in the Toho-produced Japanese series of feature films. That format would not extend into the 1980s, however. The change to the country format (nicknamed "W4 Country") alienated many former listeners, as reflected in initial ratings changes, and soon acquired an entirely new audience, though a rare few individuals (such as on-air personality Chuck Santoni, who is now at WSAQ-FM in Port Huron) remained with the station. In reality, the station maintained its country format much longer than the previous rock format. In October 2000 "Alice 106.7" finally changed their call letters to "WLLC-FM" (not to be confused with yet another previous Detroit FM rock station, WLLZ-FM (98.7, now known as WDZH and not to be confused with the current WLLZ on 106.7), as later emphasized when the call letters were spoken) and the "WWWW" call letters were moved to 102.9 FM in Ann Arbor to relaunch "W4 Country" on September 29, 2000.
The new "W4 Country" soon became a ratings success in Ann Arbor. Arbitron often rates WWWW-FM as the top-rated music station in the market 12+; it is usually second place overall, behind only Detroit's WJR. Among local stations in Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County, W4 is the highest-rated commercial station, although it has been reported that if non-commercial stations were counted, NPR station WUOM would come out on top.
W4's signal into metropolitan Detroit is impeded by WDKL in Mount Clemens in Macomb County, but it still frequently shows up toward the bottom of the Detroit ratings. W4's signal is much stronger toward the south, west and north of Ann Arbor, and the station gets a listenable signal as far away as Flint, Lansing, and Toledo
On the top of every hour, the station still uses its W4 jingles from 106.7 in the late 90s.
On July 24, 2006, the call letters for 102.9 FM in Ann Arbor were temporarily changed to WFOR-FM (there is a CBS-owned TV station in Miami, Florida with the WFOR call letters), as Clear Channel moved the "WWWW" call letters to the 1310 AM facility in Detroit. One week later, on July 31, 102.9 switched to WWWW-FM, different in only the "-FM" suffix. On September 15, 2006, the WDTW call letters returned to 1310 AM, and WDTW-FM would change its callsign to WLLZ in 2019.
This sequences of moves of the WWWW call letters were likely due to a swap of the Clear Channel Ann Arbor cluster to Cumulus Broadcasting, which was still pending in late December 2007.
WWWW has been used as the call letters of fictional and satirical radio stations in media from time to time:
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