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This month marks 45 years since WLVQ-FM 96 signed on. For local classic rock fans, Feb. 14, 1977 heralded an exciting new format that would become a power player and mainstay on Columbus radio.
The first song after the station switchover at noon that Monday was “New Kid in Town” by the Eagles. The 96.3 frequency on the dial had been home to WTVN-FM, a “beautiful music” station, i.e., what used to be called “dentist office music.”
The switchover was part of a nationwide trend to use the FM dial for music-heavy formats that would appeal to younger listeners, a trend that would be the basis for the popular CBS TV comedy series "WKRP in Cincinnati," which began airing the following year.
Q-FM was different from other local stations broadcasting at the time. It played album-oriented rock and not necessarily current singles. Its two main competitors were WNCI, which played Top 40 hits, and WCOL-FM, more of a progressive rock station where disc jockeys programmed their own music.
The Q-FM playlist of “iconic rock” has remained mostly static over the years — Billy Squier, Boston, AC/DC and ZZ Top were (and still are) a winning combination for a demographic that has aged right along with the music.
A hugely popular early effort by the station was its “Hometown Album Project,” which compiled local rock artists’ original songs onto a series of vinyl records. Nine were produced, and in 2021, a tenth was made after a 32-year break. The station’s “House Band Contest” continues to raise the profile of local musicians.
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Listeners could once hear five or six albums played in their entirety overnight on the weekend during the “All-Night Album Replay” show.
There have also been thousands of gags, celebrity interviews, Breakfast Clubs and wacky promotions to entice listeners, including “yodel-offs” at Oktoberfest and a Best Legs in Columbus contest on the Statehouse lawn. In 1985, the station awarded a luxury condo in a dream home giveaway, and in 1990, it held a “Push, Pull or Drag” contest, where Paul McCartney tickets were gifted to the owner of the “worst car pushed, pulled or dragged in to trade” at Chrysler Plymouth East on South Hamilton Road.
Longtime listeners have tuned in to Q-FM to hear top-notch talent over the years: Pat Still, Mark “Daddy Wags” Wagner, J.J. Jeffries, Mike Eiland, Beth Kepple, Russell Carey’s “Psychedelic Sunday,” Jo Robinson, Wendy Steele, Dan Orr, Officer Al, Joe Show, Mark “Munch” Bishop, Arch Madness and many other notable personalities.
Jerry Elliott, Scott “Torg” Torgerson and Kristie Kemper are the current morning jocks.
Contributor Linda Deitch was a Dispatch librarian for 25 years.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus classic rock station Q-FM 96 celebrates 45 years on air