WERQ-FM is a commercial radio station located in Baltimore, Maryland. It features an Urban music format and is known by its listeners as, 92Q. It is operated by Radio One of Lanham, Maryland, which operates 53 radio stations in 16 metropolitan areas in the United States and is the largest broadcasting company serving African American audiences in the United States. 92Q is one of the few Radio One Urban music stations which uses the on-the-air slogan "The People's Station". It also uses the slogan, "92Q Jams the Most Hip-Hop and R&B". The WERQ transmitter is located in the Park Heights section of Baltimore, and its studios are located in Woodlawn (they were previously located at Cathy Hughes Plaza in downtown Baltimore).
History: as WSID-FM
WERQ signed-on in the 1960s as WSID-FM, on the FCC-allocated frequency of 92.3 MHz (the FM counterpart of WSID-AM). During its first few years, WSID-FM duplicated ("simulcasted") much of WSID's daytime-only Urban Contemporary programing in mono, and signed-off at midnight.
By September, 1968, WSID-FM would break-away from the AM programs for several hours each day for a separate Underground Rock format, which was gradually expanded to full-time by the end of the year.
The call letters for the station under the new format became WLPL in the process. The WLPL call-sign was an acronym, meaning, "L"and of "P"leasant "L"istening. In 1969, WLPL expanded its operating hours to full-time, while shifting toward a mixture of Top-40 and Album Rock musical selections.
By 1972, the station had made a transition to a full-time Top 40 format and began broadcasting in stereo. WLPL was a very popular Top 40 station in the Baltimore radio listening market while under the management of its founder, United Broadcasting Company (UBC) of Bethesda, Maryland. In 1977, WLPL-FM Program Director, Bill Parris, was named, "Major Market Top 40 Program Director of The Year", by the Billboard magazine, largely due to his work at WLPL.
Notable personalities during this period were: Kris Earl Phillips, The "Smoker", Casey Jones, Hal Martin & Michael St. John (John Moen).
However, audience ratings deteriorated when WBSB-FM signed-on in 1980 as, "B104", with a similar Top 40 format. WLPL was forced to operate under reduced transmitter power during this period, due to a fire in the station's broadcast tower equipment.
WLPL terminated its Top 40 format in the Summer of 1981, becoming WYST-FM, with an Oldies-based Adult Contemporary format under the name, "92 Star". Initially, ratings were very favorable for WYST, but began slipping shortly thereafter. In February, 1991, WYST shifted its format to a Hot Adult Contemporary approach. The strategy failed, primary because Baltimore already had a popular station in the "Hot AC" format, WWMX-FM. WYST's audience ratings, which had been struggling for several years, declined precipitously. By mid-1991, WYST was among Baltimore's lowest-rated radio stations.
The history of "92Q" began in August, 1991. WYST's parent company, UBC, retired the "Hot AC" format for a CHUrban approach, under the nickname, "The New 92Q" and the WERQ call-letters gained FCC approval one month later. The original concept for The New 92Q was formulated by UBC's Vice-President of Programming, William Parris, who had an extensive background in the Top 40 radio format. The startup Program Director of The New 92Q was Jeffrey Ballentine.
Steven Kingston (Program Director of the leading Top 40 station in the United States, WHTZ-FM, a.k.a. "Z-100", New York) and David Tate (of Rantel Research, Inc., of Laurel, Maryland) were the principal subject-matter consultants on this risky new venture. Ironically, both Kingston and Tate were former employees of United Broadcasting Company during the 1970s and later, they were both competitors against UBC's WYST, while serving together at WBSB-FM, during the 1980s.
After the introduction of The New 92Q, WERQ's audience ratings increased rapidly, at the expense of WBSB's Top 40 format (WBSB changed to a Hot AC format, as WVRY, in 1992) and longtime (1977-1997) Urban station, "V-103" WXYV (which abandoned the format for Top 40 in 1997). Initially, 92Q was more Dance music-oriented, with a handful of Pop records in its musical mixture, but the format would gradually shift toward "CHUrban" (a hybrid of Top 40 and Urban Contemporary) by the end of 1991. The programming strategists at United Broadcasting were systematically evolving 92Q to a pure Urban Contemporary sound.
In the Fall of 1993, United Broadcasting Company began divesting its holdings in radio stations, after the death of its founder, Richard Eaton, and sold WERQ-FM to Radio One. By 1995, WERQ would be classified as a full-fledged Mainstream Urban station, by the Radio & Records industry newspaper.
Current WERQ management
Since 1996, under the management of the Radio One company, WERQ has consistently been one of the highest-rated stations in the radio listening audience of the Baltimore, Maryland metropolitan area, according to the Arbitron ratings company.