|City||Kansas City, Missouri|
|Broadcast area||Kansas City Metropolitan Area|
|Slogan||"#1 For New Country"|
|Frequency||104.3 MHz (also on HD Radio)
104.3 HD-2 for Classic 80's CHR
|First air date||1960 (as KBEY)
August 15, 1973 (as KBEQ)
|Callsign meaning||KBE = KBEY and KBEA
Q = used in Q-104 branding
|Former callsigns||KBEY (1960–1973)|
|Owner||Steel City Media
(MGTF Media Company, LLC)
KBEQ-FM (104.3 FM, "Q-104") is a country radio station that broadcasts in the Kansas City media market. Prior to adopting its "young country" format in 1993, KBEQ was Kansas City's sole Top-40 station. It also broadcasts in HD Radio. The station's studios are located at Westport Center in Midtown Kansas City, and the transmitter site is in the city's East Side.
Like many FM stations in the 1960s, KBEQ served as a counterpart to Mission, Kansas AM station KBEA (1480 AM). Starting in 1960, KBEY (as it was called at that time) played big band and easy listening music, running a no-announcer automation system. In August 1970, the format switched to "underground" rock, playing exclusively album cuts including blues, folk, some classical, and jazz. Previously, KUDL's FM station KCJC had ended its underground format, and one of its longtime DJs, "Little Willie," was part of the first KBEY air staff. KBEY's "rock" format began with 20 hours of music played on the old automation system, and 4 hours live each evening with Bill Scott, until the air staff could be assembled. Unfortunately, Bill's previous job was as "Robert W. Walker" ("El Walkero") on KUDL and he had a non-compete contract. He assumed his restriction was for the character, KUDL assumed it was for him, personally, and as a settlement within a few weeks he was forced to leave the job. In 1971 KBEY devoted the midnight to 6 a.m. time slot to jazz, hosted by Bobby Kline, which developed a huge following over the next couple of years.
On August 15, 1973, with the growing popularity of FM radio, KBEY retired its format (and air staff, under friendly terms) and debuted their long-running CHR format (developed in San Diego and sweeping the country at the time) as "Super-Q, Q-104", changing the call letters to KBEQ, and gradually chipped away at AM powerhouse WHB's longtime popularity with the slogan "Super-Q plays favorites." Under the ownership of Mark and Connie Wodlinger, public service announcements were called "Q Tips."
A Super-Q contest which had been so popular in San Diego that it tied up the city's phone network (a dangerous problem they publicized wildly) was replicated on a smaller scale in Kansas City. The vast numbers of people hurriedly dialing the station's number for the contest would create many wrong numbers, and Southwestern Bell in Kansas City responded in the same way as other cities, by creating a new phone exchange just for radio/TV and other entities that might get large numbers of calls suddenly, one which would not lead to any other exchange by mis-dialing any one of the digits, so there would be few or no wrong numbers. KBEQ jammed up the lines so much with the Treasure Hunt contest that the station was assigned Kansas City's first 576-7xxx number. It was 816 576 7104, but the 576-7xxx system worked in the 913 area code, too, covering Missouri and Kansas stations in the metro area.
KBEQ rode to popularity during a short period in the mid 70s where the long-unappreciated FM band suddenly owned the majority of radio listeners. During the 50s, the only way many radio station owners could make the FM side profitable was to lease ten percent of the signal out for an SCA channel. Muzak was a huge customer, using FM stations to broadcast "elevator music" to banks and grocery stores. Mark Wodlinger recognized the value of this service, and brought AgReports to Kansas City, using the 103.3 subcarrier of KPRS by contract. Up to 80 miles away, a grain elevator would hoist an antenna to the roof and pick up a constant stream of up-to-the minute commodity prices. At first, reports came by voice on a McMartin SCA table radio, with formatted note pads included to jot prices on. Soon, the stream went digital and the output was aTV screen full of scrolling prices. Then Mark brought in a medical radio network, free to doctors, with ad-supported medical talk radio all day, broadcast on KBEQ's own SCA channel, and picked up by McMartin radios (the plastic-cabinet TRE-6 radio was developed for this network).
After about five years, Mark and Connie sold KBEQ, and purchased a Leavenworth FM station at 98.9, moved the transmitter to Connie's father's nursery property in Basehor and raised the power so it would cover the Kansas City area, and hired Johnny Rowlands to format a new hard rock station, which remains virtually unchanged so far.
Many of Kansas City's most popular deejays would take their turn playing hits at Q-104's KCK (55th and Metropolitan), River Quay, PennTower (31st and Broadway) and Country Club Plaza studios, including Pat McKay, Mike O'Brien, Steve Garrett, (Rockin') Johnny Rowlands, Bobby Ocean, (Young) Bobby Day, Chuck Nasty (known as Charmin' Chuck Harmon), Johnny Dare, Doug Billings, Randy Miller, and Daniel "Dancin' Danny" Wright. Many came from other cities for the job and stayed in KC. Former KBEY "jocks" Bobby Kline and Art Hadley (Arthur Lee) eventually joined the airstaff. Fending off other FM upstarts, KBEQ achieved Top-40 dominance in Kansas City when WHB turned to an oldies format in 1985. By the end of the decade, KBEQ was Kansas City's only Top-40 station.
However, country music's popularity increased in Kansas City and throughout the nation in the early 1990s, while the Top 40 format was in a state of decline. On February 1, 1993, KBEQ began running a promotion called "20 years in 20 days", playing music that was popular in their Top 40 heyday. At 5 PM on February 19, after playing "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men, KBEQ abruptly flipped the station to a younger-emphasizing country music format as "Young Country 104" with the first song being "Young Country" by Hank Williams, Jr.. This left the area without a full city-grade Top-40 station until 1994, when future-sister station KMXV flipped from AC to Top 40. By July 1996, the station rebranded as "Young Country Q 104", in a nod to their Top 40 legacy. In 2001, the station dropped the "Young Country" portion of their branding and rebranded as "Q 104". The station also changed their logo to one mirroring their former Top 40 logo.
KBEQ compliments fellow Steel City Media station KFKF, and competes against Entercom's WDAF-FM. Its studios were a fixture in the Plaza area until November 2007, when the station moved to Westport Center to join their sister stations in one building.
On June 12, 2014, Wilks announced that it is selling its Kansas City cluster (including KBEQ) to Pittsburgh-based Steel City Media. The sale was approved on September 26, 2014, and was consummated on September 30.
- "Steel City Media Acquires Wilks' Kansas City" from Radio Insight (June 12, 2014)
- Young Country Q-104's Website
- Frequency history of 104.3 MHz in Kansas City
- Query the FCC's FM station database for KBEQ
- Radio-Locator information on KBEQ
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for KBEQ
- KBEQ audio clip from 1985
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