WPZR (102.7 FM, "Praise 102.7") is an urban gospel formatted radio station licensed to Mount Clemens, Michigan, and serving the Detroit metropolitan area. The station broadcasts with 50,000 watts of power from an antenna located near the intersection of Gratiot Avenue and Fourteen Mile Road in Clinton Township, Macomb County, Michigan, and directs its signal mainly toward the north and east to avoid interfering with WWWW-FM 102.9 in Ann Arbor.
What is now WPZR began life on November 6, 1960, as WBRB-FM, the FM simulcast side of WBRB/1430, also licensed to Mount Clemens and owned by Malrite Communications. For years, WBRB ("The Voice of Macomb County") was a full-service radio station targeting Macomb County with local and ABC Information Network news, weather and information and middle-of-the-road music. During non-simulcast dayparts, WBRB-FM aired Beautiful Music programming and some country music as well. It was truly a very local station, reporting news from local police blotters, politics and the county school districts. Even local obituaries were read every Sunday morning on the AM side.
In the 1970s, Charlie Park was the station manager and owner of the station. Those who worked there at the time included Marv Welch, John Swickla, Mark Andrews, Roseanne Cerra and Dave Wagner.
Eventually, ownership of the AM and FM portions of WBRB was separated, and Gilda Radner and her brother Michael took control of the AM station. WBRB briefly became WWHK with an adult standards format in the 1980s, then fell silent for a time and returned to the air in 1985 with another attempt at its original full service Adult Contemporary/Oldies format. The second try at a full-service format ultimately failed and the station was sold and became a Motivational Talk outlet before falling silent for good in January 1990. The WBRB transmitter was moved to Garden City and pressed into service at WCAR 1090 AM, which had been a Malrite-owned sister station of WBRB/WBRB-FM in the 1960s first as WERB and then as WTAK. The original WBRB studio and transmitter location on Gratiot Avenue in Clinton Township are now occupied by a Salvation Army thrift store.
In the spring of 1979, WBRB was sold to Inner City Broadcasting, owners of New York's legendary WBLS, and switched to a disco format, and changed its calls to WLBS as "102.7 WLBS" (complete with a logo similar to that of WBLS). WLBS during its disco phase was programmed by WBLS' Frankie Crocker. The station evolved into urban contemporary by 1981, but success was limited due to the plethora of urban competitors such as WJLB AM 1400 and the up-and-coming WCHB in the market. The station changed to a "Rock of the '80s"-style new wave music format in 1983. During the "new wave" format, WLBS air personalities included now legendary San Diego radio man Mike "Happy" Halloran, Jason Slaughter, Sergio Dean (of WBLS/New York), Tim Dugan, Francis Tinsley, Gerald McBride and Terri McCormick.
In August 1984, WLBS flipped from new wave to CHR/Top 40 using a format co-developed by consultant Lee Abrams. The station was a weak competitor of hit-music format leaders WCZY and WHYT, and so after only three months, the station changed its call letters and moniker to WKSG, "Kiss 102.7", and adopted a 1950s-1970s oldies format called "Kiss of Gold" developed by veteran Detroit programmer Paul Christy. With broadcasters such as Christy, Johnny Molson, and Detroit radio legend Lee Alan (who hosted a syndicated show called Back in the '60s Again), and despite competition in the format from WHND-AM (560), WMTG-AM (1310), and CKLW-FM (93.9) in the late 1980s, WKSG did well until WOMC (104.3) changed its format from Adult Contemporary to Oldies in 1989.
In April 1991, WKSG became WXCD, "CD102.7, Detroit's Smooth Sounds," with a new age/smooth jazz format, which returned the format to the Detroit airwaves after WVAE had changed to become WMXD in late 1989. The new age format barely registered at all in the ratings, and less than a year later, in March 1992, WXCD became WDZR, airing ABC Radio's satellite-fed Z-Rock format of hard rock and heavy metal. With a playlist that rocked harder than more established AOR outlets WRIF and WLLZ, WDZR achieved decent ratings for a time, but in 1996, ABC, having acquired the assets of Satellite Music Network, discontinued the Z-Rock format.
102.7 The Bear
In November 1996, WDZR changed its calls to WWBR, "102.7 The Bear, Detroit's Rock Animal," keeping the hard-rock format but transitioning to a local air staff with Ted Nugent as morning personality. "The Bear" eventually evolved into a "Classic Rock That Really Rocks" outlet to compete with softer-edged classic-rock competitor WCSX.
The end of "The Bear" came on January 16, 1999, following the station's sale from Allur Detroit to Radio One. At 6:33 p.m., after playing The Doors' "When The Music's Over" (the same song that ended the legendary WABX rock format in 1984), the station went silent for nearly 20 minutes and then emerged as an Adult Contemporary station.
The first song played was "Just Another Day" by Jon Secada. They also revived the "Kiss-FM" brand name as "The New 102.7 Kiss FM, with the Best Variety of Light Rock from the 80's, 90's and Today". The station also picked up Delilah Rene's syndicated nightly request program. The station requested the new calls WKSK, but went with WDMK ("Detroit Michigan's Kiss") after failing to secure its first choice. Then, on August 28, 1999, WDMK shifted to an Urban Adult Contemporary format to compete with powerhouse WMXD, retaining the "Kiss" name. The fact that the mainstream AC format lasted only eight months led some to believe that Radio One had always planned to shift the station's format in an R&B direction and used the AC format as a smokescreen to catch WMXD off guard.
As "Kiss 102.7, Detroit's Adult R&B Station," WDMK remained low in the ratings until October 2002, when the station shifted its format to Rhythmic Oldies and hired away longtime WJLB personality and Detroit Pistons announcer John Mason to do the morning show. The change brought 102.7 its highest ratings in years, and listeners also welcomed the musical shift to more "old school" R&B as opposed to current hits by neo-soul artists which could already be heard on other stations in the market.
On June 25, 2005, at 3 AM, Radio One swapped the formats of WDMK and its mainstream urban-formatted sister station WDTJ "105.9 Jamz." The WDMK calls and "old school" format were moved to 105.9, with the "old school" format evolving into a very gold-based Urban AC. Also making the switch was John Mason, who was switched to afternoon drive at the new "105.9 Kiss-FM" as the popular syndicated Tom Joyner morning show also moved to 105.9 from WMXD. 102.7 took on the mainstream urban format and the new calls WHTD and moniker "Hot 102-7."
On April 19, 2007, HOT 102-7 re-branded itself as HOT1027Detroit.com (now HotHipHopDetroit.com) while re-launching its website to focus merging newer interactive technologies with traditional radio. They, along with KBXX, were Radio One's first stations to re-brand themselves with a new corporate initiative. The station was among the first in Detroit to use text messaging for radio contests (text-to-win instead of call-in-to-win). They also added podcasting features, instant messaging to the on-air personality, live chats and other features to the website. Ratings remained roughly the same, but website traffic grew close to those of its competitors.
For a brief period in 2007, the station carried the syndicated afternoon show The Wendy Williams Experience, and Wendy hosted her first Dons & Divas Party outside of New York City in Detroit that same year.
In April 2009, WHTD dropped the "Detroit.com" portion of their moniker, and reverted to just "Hot 102-7."
On October 21, 2011, Radio One announced that they will operate WGPR, a station owned by a local Freemasons group, effective immediately, under a local marketing agreement. On October 24, 2011, at Midnight, Radio One discarded the Urban AC format on WGPR. Two days later, Radio One moved the Urban Contemporary and "Hot" branding from WHTD to WGPR. WHTD became Urban gospel as "Praise 102.7" on October 31, 2011 at Midnight.
The call letters on 102.7 changed from WHTD to WPZR at the same time as the format switch. The WHTD calls are now located at an AM station in Toccoa, Georgia.
Since 1997, the "Beat" and later "Hot" hip-hop franchise (first WCHB-FM 105.9, then WHTD 102.7, and now WGPR 107.5) has hosted Detroit's signature annual hip hop/R&B summer concert called Summer Jamz. At its peak as a free event during the first eight years, Summer Jamz attracted crowds of 20-30,000 people while located at Detroit's Hart Plaza. As a ticketed event in 2006, the event attracted over 15,000 at the Michigan State Fair. The 10th anniversary show in 2007, the station hosted Summer Jamz in Pontiac, MI's, much smaller amphitheatre and played to a seated capacity crowd of nearly 4,000. The event, now in the hands of Hot 107-5 WGPR, is expected to return to Michigan State Fair's larger capacity venue for future shows.