WAXQ (104.3 FM, "Q-104.3") is a classic rock-formatted radio station located in New York City. WAXQ is owned by iHeartMedia and broadcasts from studios in the AT&T Building in the Tribeca district of Manhattan; its transmitter is located at the Empire State Building.
The 104.3 frequency originally signed on in 1949 as WFDR, a non-profit station owned by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. However, like most early FM stations, WFDR lost money, and the station ceased operations in 1952.
The callsign WNCN was first issued by the Federal Radio Commission (precursor to the FCC in 1934) to a Great Lakes passenger steamer City of Detroit III and shows up on a list of maritime calls published in 1931. In those days, the three and four letter callsigns were used by ships, broadcast stations, and police departments.
The FM station first took to the air on December 1, 1956 as WFMX, and within a year adopted the call letters WNCN (for New York Concert Network). As such, it was a part of a group of classical music stations in the northeastern United States, the Concert Network, programmed from WBCN in Boston and carried by affiliates including WXCN in Providence, Rhode Island; WHCN in Hartford, Connecticut and WRCN-FM in Riverhead, New York. Later, WNCN was acquired by the National Science Network, which added daily medical news reports to the schedule since it was believed that Classical Music was the choice of the medical and dental professions. It also moved the antenna from the Hotel Pierre to the Empire State Building, increasing the station's coverage. National Science sold the station to Starr Broadcast Group in 1974. The station would retain a classical music format for many years, except for a short period during 1974–1975 when it took up a rock format with the call letters WQIV. During the brief run of WQIV, the station's progressive album-oriented rock appealed to long-time WNEW-FM listeners and included some veteran 70s FM rock DJs (Rosko, Carol Miller...). This brief period also saw deployment of a short-lived technology as unintentionally brief as the format change itself: WQIV broadcast in 4 channel quadraphonic (a precursor to "Surround Sound") as indicated by the new call letters "Q" (quadraphonic) "IV" (Roman numeral 4). This choice of call letters was a constant reminder to audiences of this technical innovation, although history shows that the free market quickly abandoned quad. The station's ownership history can be found at .
From 1971-1994, David Dubal served as Music Director of WNCN-FM. In 1976, he hosted a regular program of comparative performances titled A Musical Offering, and more than a hundred of these programs have been archived at YouTube. WNCN's influence continues at WQXR-FM where Dubal, Annie Bergen, Paul Cavalconte, Clayelle Dalferes, and Elliott Forrest host.
The WQIV era was during ownership by Starr Broadcast Group, of which William F. Buckley was Chairman. The announcement that the station was changing to rock music was read by Mr. Buckley himself and repeated frequently on the air. Two groups, the WNCN Listeners Guild and Classical Radio for Connecticut, were formed, and petitioned the FCC to forbid the change. A last minute stay by a Supreme Court Justice delayed the scheduled changeover, but that was lifted and WNCN became WQIV. The first selection played on the air after the changeover was Electric Light Orchestra's "Roll Over Beethoven". William Buckley admitted he loved classical music, but had a responsibility to Starr shareholders to maximize returns. The Listeners Guild continued its fight, and eventually forced a change back to classical music when an application was filed for the frequency by a new group headed by William Benton of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Starr relented, and in a negotiated settlement, sold the station to GAF Broadcasting. Q104 then signed off with "Funeral for a Friend" by Elton John. The station then played the last 2 notes of the last classical song on the original WNCN that were cut off, then said "sorry for the interruption". The first selection played on the air after the change back was from Bach's B-minor Mass, "Et resurrexit".
On December 18, 1993, at Midnight, WNCN signed off for good with Joseph Hadyn's Symphony No. 45 (also known as the "Farewell Symphony") as the station adopted a hard rock format, as they took the call letters WAXQ and the nickname "Q104.3". The first on-air staff was Trent Tyler and Christine Nagy in morning drive; Heidi Hess in middays; Mark Razz in afternoon drive; Candy Martin (Candice Agree) in nights and Lark Logan, overnights. The station's first PD was Bob Elliot, who was replaced by Ron Valeri. The APD/MD for Q 104.3's entire existence as a hard rock station was Vinny Marino. The playlist was split into 5-song blocks that focused on current hard rock favorites, but also mixed in classic rock tunes and cuts from bands not typically thought of as radio friendly (Type O Negative, Anthrax). However, ratings were low, as this format was not ideal during a time in which more people were listening to alternative rock than to heavy metal. Also, during the mid-1990s, other New York City radio stations were playing alternative rock music, as WXRK went from classic rock to alternative rock, and WNEW-FM was trying to go after a younger audience.
In 1996, thanks to a deal involving a swapping of various broadcast stations, Viacom would acquire WAXQ. After initial consideration was given for the station to turn to a country format, management decided that there was a need for a full-time classic rock station in New York City. As a result, the station went to its current format on July 1, 1996, at 5 AM. Research indicated that if WNEW were to revert to an all-classic rock format, listeners would not return there due to the distrust for that station. As it turned out, WNEW would unsuccessfully go back to a classic rock format in January 1997.
That same year, Viacom sold off its entire radio division (before its merger with CBS and Infinity) to Chancellor Media. Chancellor in turn merged with Capstar Broadcasting to form AM/FM, and that company was then purchased by Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia).
WAXQ's airstaff includes several disc jockeys who were well-known from other New York City radio stations, such as morning show host Jim Kerr, Carol Miller, and Eddie Trunk. Legendary disc jockey Scott Muni also worked at the station, hosting a noon-hour show from late 1998 until his death in 2004. The Sopranos often featured the station as the radio station Tony Soprano would set on his alarm clock. In sharp contrast to their respective tenures on other NYC area radio stations, the DJs now have little creative input into what music gets played, as is common nowadays at most major-market radio stations. The playlist is narrower than that of classic rock radio stations of the past, due to results from audience research, and songs that were once staples of classic rock radio, such as "Eight Miles High" by The Byrds, are now only played during infrequent segments devoted to "Deep Classics". WAXQ is also known to go outside the genre of strictly classic rock, sometimes playing more modern rock, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as some classic pop music.
Notable weekday programming includes The Jim Kerr Rock and Roll Morning Show with Shelli Sonstein, middays with Maria Milito (who was previously the announcer on Make the Grade, and was the American Idol Princess on Countdown with Keith Olbermann), afternoons with Ken Dashow and Carol Miller on evenings. As with a number of other Clear Channel Classic Rock stations, Doc Reno from WBGG-FM "Big 105.9" in Miami is voicetracked overnights.
Specialty programming on Friday includes Friday Rock and Roll Road Show with Gerry Martire on late afternoons and Friday Night Rocks with Eddie Trunk from 11 pm to 2 am.
Notable Saturday programming includes Ralph Tortora on mornings, a midday show that alternates hosts Maria Milito and Ian O'Malley on a weekly basis. and Gerry Martire on afternoons. Marc "The Cope" Coppola does The Saturday Night "Party Night", followed by BMan John Beaulieu on the overnight.
Notable Sunday programming includes Ken Dashow on mornings followed by an hour and 45 minutes Breakfast With The Beatles show. Other Sunday programming includes Ian O'Malley's Sunday morning/afternoon session of Rock and Roll. Gerry Martire finishes off Sunday afternoon before Jonathan Clarke takes over on evenings with his hour-long show Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke. Clarke features the best in local bands and new music Sunday Nights at 9 pm. Little Steven's Underground Garage with Steven Van Zandt airs Sunday night from 10 pm – 12 am, with Ronnie Wood's new show taking over from midnight to 1am. Doc Reno takes over the overnight until 5am.
- "Breakfast with the Beatles": Sundays 8:00am–9:45am; all The Beatles music, together or solo, by fan request, often with emotional stories behind the chosen songs. The show is hosted by Ken Dashow.
- "Twelve O'clock Beatles Block": Weekdays 12:00pm–12:20pm; "Keeping Scott's Promise to New York", Scott Muni, a disc jockey until his death in 2004, who after John Lennon's death promised to start his segments with a Lennon or Beatles song; Maria Milito plays Beatles, together or solo, songs in a row, some chosen by listeners.
- "Workforce Blocks": Weekdays 12:20pm–12:52pm; listeners go online to enter suggestions for a set of songs by an artist to be played in one of the three fifteen-minute time periods. Winners, chosen by Maria Milito (perhaps weeks after entry) have their music played and receive a prize. On Fridays, the block is formally called "Free For All Friday", where the station chooses the artists, and the listeners chose the songs for the blocks, voting online in real time.
- "Live at Five": Monday - Thursday 5:00pm; Ken Dashow plays live tracks from various artists.
- "Music Room Monday": On Mondays listeners choose one song out of four to be played on the air, every hour by voting online in real time.
- "Two-fer Tuesday": On Tuesdays they will play two songs from each artist that plays in a row. In 2010, WAXQ started a new version of "Two-fer Tuesdays", called "You-fers" where they pick a song, and the listeners pick the second song out of three from the same artist online every hour in real time.
- "Get the Led Out": Weeknights 8:00pm; At the start of 8 o'clock hour, Carol Miller reviews a past moment in Led Zeppelin history and also playing Led Zeppelin songs. Up to two to three songs are played and often includes live tracks. As of January 2009, to mark the 40th anniversary of the release of the first Led Zeppelin album, the Monday night edition has been extended to a full hour, entitled "Get the Led Out XL" ("XL" standing for "Extra Led"), with music and clips of interviews being played in the hour. Prior to September 2015, a morning edition of the segment was also played at 8:00am, with one song being played, except for "Two-fer Tuesdays" where two songs were played.
- "Three at 3": Weekdays 3:00pm; contest where the first fan to call in with the connection between three songs chosen by disc jockey wins a prize.
- "Top 1,043 Classic Rock Songs of All Time": Thanksgiving Wednesday 1:00pm-Sunday night; fans vote for their favorite songs in the preceding weeks, then the top 1,043 picks are revealed in the order of a countdown to number one, with only occasional interruptions. The most notable interruption is on Thanksgiving Day at noon for "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie. The top 104 songs of the countdown are repeated on New Year's Eve. "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin has been the number one song on the countdown since its inception in 2001.
Like other Clear Channel stations, Q104.3 began multicasting in the late winter of 2006. On WAXQ HD1, the Classic Rock format could be heard on the original analog station while WAXQ HD2 played a blend of Deep Classic Rock Hits including some more hard rock and current releases by Classic Rock artists. HD stations can only be received with an HD Radio. HD Radios receive both the primary analog station, the duplicate HD Feed and the multicasting feeds. Stations can put as many as three sets of HD programming on one dial position plus their original analog broadcast. With the demise of active rock 92.3 K-Rock (WXRK), the HD2 Channel began airing "Rock Nation" to satisfy the fans of K-Rock's active rock. On July 16, 2011, one day after alternative station 101.9 RXP stopped running, the HD2 channel became "The Alternative Project" to somewhat fill the gap of Alternative Music. As of August 2011, the HD2 Channel played a mix of mostly active rock, mixed with 90's alternative hard rock. Although the station ID at the top of the hour stated "The Alternative Project", it was neither airing "Rock Nation" nor "The Alternative Project". Two weeks later (mid August 2011), "The Alternative Project" feed returned. On October 1, 2015, HD2 became "iHeart Country" with a country music format.