WKRQ signed on the air in 1947 as WCTS which aired a classical format. WCTS would change its call letters to WKRC-FM in 1950 and for 20 years. WKRC-FM would air a classical music format. In 1970, WKRC-FM would become a top 40 station as "Stereo 102" as an automated Drake-Chenault station. In 1972, WKRC-FM became WKRQ and became a live DJ Top 40 station using "102 KRQ" as its primary logo and "Q102" and "the Q" as secondary logos. The station adopted "Q102" as its primary logo in 1975. WKRQ switched to an AOR format briefly for approximately 6 months between June 1973 and December 1973. WKRQ's CHR format has been in place since 1974, making Q102 one of the longest-running currently broadcasting Top 40 stations in the United States, despite its shift towards an adult top 40 format most recently, leaving rival Top 40 WKFS to take the younger audience by default. Even though it is more top 40 than most adult top 40s, WKRQ is reported by Mediabase & Nielsen BDS as a hot adult contemporary station.
In 1980, 16-year-old Mary Buchanan won the first one-million-dollar prize ever awarded by any radio or TV station in the United States in a joint contest with sister station WKRC-AM. The feat earned her and the station a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
WKRQ was owned by CBS Radio until 2006, when it was sold to Entercom. Entercom, in turn, announced in January 2007 that it would be swapping its entire Cincinnati cluster, including WKRQ, to Bonneville International together with three radio stations in Seattle, Washington, for all three of Bonneville's FM radio stations in San Francisco, California, and $1 million cash. In May 2007, the station launched an online stream from its website at www.wkrq.com. Also that month, Bonneville officially took over the operations of Entercom's former Cincinnati radio cluster through a local marketing agreement. Entercom officially closed on its acquisition of the stations on November 30. The sale of the Cincinnati cluster to Bonneville was conditionally approved in November 2007, with the remainder of the deal finally approved in March 2008. The official transfer of the Cincinnati stations to Bonneville took place on March 14.
Because the call letters (and format) are similar, some have wondered if the TV series WKRP in Cincinnati is based on anything that happened at WKRQ. Creator Hugh Wilson has said that most of the episodes are based on his real-life experiences at an Atlanta radio station.