WGPR is an FM radio station in Detroit, Michigan brodacasting a Mainstream Urban format. Owned by the International Free and Accepted Modern Masons and operated under local marketing agreement by Radio One, the station operates on 107.5 MHz. Its studios along with those of WCHB, WPZR and WDMK are on Detroit's lower eastside. Their transmitter is located on atop the Maccabees Building on the campus of Wayne State University.
WGPR was founded on December 6, 1961, by broadcaster Ross Mulholland, who had worked at WJR and several other area stations. The original construction permit for the station bore the call letters WQTI (similar to Mulholland's easy listening-formatted AM station, 560 WQTE (now WRDT)), but the station was never on the air with those calls. Initially, WGPR featured programming similar to that of WQTE. The station was purchased in 1964 by its current owner, the International Free and Accepted Modern Masons (d/b/a WGPR, Inc.), led by William V. Banks, who would serve as president and general manager of WGPR and its sister TV station (founded in 1975) until his death in 1985. Under the ownership of the Masons, WGPR would transition to chiefly African-American-oriented programming of urban contemporary, R&B, soul, and gospel music, with some ethnic programs in Spanish, Italian, Greek, and other languages, which would remain a part of the station's broadcast schedule into the 1990s.
It is reported that the station's callsign meant Where God's Presence Radiates, but the original meaning was Grosse Pointe Radio, as the station was originally based out of a studio on Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe Woods when it went on the air in 1961 (the original building still stands and houses a real estate agent). The current studios are located on East Jefferson in Detroit.
The Electrifyin' Mojo was heard on WGPR-FM during the early 1980s. In 1982, during Mojo's tenure at WGPR, the station scored its highest ratings, landing in the Top 10 on several occasions. By the mid-1980s, the station had once again fallen into the lower echelons of the ratings and would remain so for the next quarter-century. WGPR was by the end of its run in October 2011 the lowest-rated of Detroit's three urban AC stations, trailing WMXD and WDMK. Nevertheless, the station had a devoted audience, and its ratings were not largely adversely affected by Detroit's switching from Arbitron's diary system to the Portable People Meter PPM.
The station was co-owned with WGPR-TV channel 62, which the Freemason group established in 1975. On September 29, 1975, Amyre Porter, Doug Morrison and Sharon Crews became the nation's first African-American primetime news team. This station, which would adopt the CBS affiliation in 1994 following WJBK's switch from CBS to Fox, was sold to CBS in 1995 and re-called WWJ-TV.
Jazzy 107.5/The Rhythm/The New WGPR
Until October 2011, WGPR featured a mix of Urban Adult Contemporary hits and Urban Oldies. Before June 2008, the station was known as "The Rhythm 107-5" or "The Jazzy 107-5", and for several years featured Smooth Jazz mixed in with its current format. On June 20, 2008, the station reverted to the straight Urban AC format it had aired prior to the introduction of the R&B/jazz hybrid in the early 2000s.
Saturdays were "Old School" Saturdays, featuring a wide variety of R&B, soul and dance-oriented oldies. Genres played on OSS included disco, funk, 1980s electronic music, dance music, Motown Sound, urban oldies, and 1970s R&B. This program was prone to technical errors. These errors included skipping CDs, varying volume levels between tracks, a song ending midway through and sometimes accidental but simultaneous mix-in of multiple song tracks. Sundays were devoted mostly to gospel programming.
According to the September 2011 PPM Ratings release, WGPR ranked #20 (2.1) in the Detroit market.
On October 21, 2011, Radio One, which locally owns WCHB 1200 AM, WDMK 105.9 FM and WHTD 102.7 FM, announced that they will operate WGPR effective immediately, under a local marketing agreement filed with the Masons group, bringing an end to the Masons group's broadcasting endeavors after 47 years. Radio One also announced they would discard the Urban AC format on WGPR in preparation to move the Urban Contemporary and "Hot" branding from WHTD, which was to adopt an Urban Gospel format and "Praise 102.7" branding. The last song played during regular programming on WGPR (at 5:57 a.m. on October 23) was Jill Scott's "Golden" (this was followed by WGPR's Sunday morning gospel show and specialty programming). At Midnight on October 24, 2011, following Alexander Zonjic's Sunday-night smooth jazz show, WGPR began playing "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Boyz II Men continuously interspersed with announcements directing WGPR listeners to WDMK.
On October 26, 2011, at 5 PM, WGPR became "The New Hot 107.5", with WIZF alum Big Greg (also known as Buckie Naked) being the first DJ on air, followed by future 106 & Park host Shorty Da Prince on nights and Paigion on mid-days. The WHTD call letters did not move with the frequency shift; those call letters now belong to an AM radio station in Toccoa, Georgia, repeating non-commercial Christian station WRAF. The station featured the syndicated Rickey Smiley morning show until October 2014, when it was replaced with The Morning Heat, a local show with Big Greg, Foolish, and Deelishis.
The current WGPR format as "Hot 107-5" is in its third incarnation. It originated in 1996 on 105.9 as WCHB-FM (later WDTJ) before moving to 102.7 in 2005 as WHTD until 2011.
In the December 2013 Detroit PPM ratings report, WGPR ranked 14th 6+ among subscribing stations, with a 3.6 rating to rival WJLB's 4.2.
There has been severe outrage from the local Detroit community over the Freemasons decision to turn over WGPR to Radio-One, which is based in the Washington, DC suburb of Lanham, MD. Most of their Urban stations sound similar and carry voicetracked personalities, found on stations such as WMMJ and WZAK. WGPR was the last local music station which had an extensive playlist and all local DJs, including John Mason, who has been a local Detroit personality for over 20 years, and also the Detroit Pistons announcer. Even though Radio One owns WDMK, which has encouraged WGPR listeners to move over to their station, most of their line-up is syndicated, and their playlist is very restricted.
The Oasis, The Bone, and La Jefa
On April 20, 2011, WGPR launched its HD2 and HD3 digital subchannels with a smooth jazz format on WGPR-HD2 as The Oasis, and modern rock on WGPR-HD3 as The Bone—these subchannels are programmed by the Martz Communications Group. Martz owns the low-powered translators (through licensee Radio Power, Inc.) that rebroadcast the HD Radio signals for those without an HD Radio receiver—104.7 FM W284BQ rebroadcasts The Oasis, while 94.3 FM W232CA rebroadcasts The Bone. The Oasis programming came from Broadcast Architecture's Smooth Jazz Network, featuring Kenny G as morning show host with Detroit radio veteran Sandy Kovach (formerly of the late smooth jazz V98.7) as co-host. As of May 1, 2011, the station had added an HD-4 channel with regional Mexican programming branded as La Jefa, but as of July of that year, the HD-4 was no longer on air and "La Jefa" is available only as an Internet stream.
Martz's operation of WGPR's HD subchannels was not affected by the LMA agreement with Radio One.
On January 31, 2012, Martz Communications ceased operations of The Oasis and The Bone, forcing them both off the air. Financial and signal difficulties were the primary reasons for the closure of the two HD subchannels.
The Oasis vs. WIOT
In March 2011, Martz filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to relocate the frequency of W284BQ, from 104.7 MHz to 93.9 MHz. The application was approved in August 2011. If built, the transmitter will interfere with Windsor, Ontario station CIDR-FM in much of the Greater Detroit area, though the licensee contends that the transmitter will be directional, as to not interfere with CIDR-FM on the Canadian side of the border.
In May 2011, Toledo station WIOT, which also broadcasts on 104.7 MHz, filed a complaint with the FCC, saying that W284BQ interferes with WIOT in the Michigan portion of their broadcast area. WIOT had also solicited comments and reception reports from listeners in the affected area.
Martz would soon after establish a website, , which explains the station's position on the issue, stating that WIOT should not get special treatment on the grounds that it was an Ohio radio station that served no part of Detroit (though the statement was not exactly true, as the station is interfering with listeners inside WIOT's protected signal contour) and that Clear Channel's motive was to try to remove competition, as Clear Channel owns two of the heritage adult-oriented radio stations in Detroit, WMXD and WNIC. The Oasis' web site mentioned that they and Clear Channel planned to undergo mutual testing in order to alleviate the interference problems, but in June 2011, The Oasis claimed that Clear Channel had broken the commitment to work together for a resolution.
On October 18, 2011, the FCC ordered W284BQ to cease operation immediately. Oasis programming continued in the interim over WGPR HD-2 and 1047theoasis.com, until both the HD2 and the website were shut down. The translator filed to move to 93.5 FM; however, a K-LOVE repeater also applied to use this frequency and was granted permission.
On January 9, 2012, Martz applied to return The Oasis to the airwaves, this time via a translator on 92.7 FM. However, any relaunch on 92.7 was negated by Martz's suspension of operations of its Detroit HD Radio operations, as FCC regulations require the translators to repeat an existing station. The 92.7 translator has since been taken over by Salem Communications-owned talk station WDTK and is used to relay that station. Meanwhile, smooth jazz programming returned to the Detroit airwaves during the late evening and overnight hours via Radio One's WCHB-AM and its FM translator.