W4 is the name Detroiters commonly use for the Detroit
radio station WWWW. W4 has an interesting, bitter place in Detroit radio history. In the ‘70s and early ‘80s, there was no cooler AOR
(rock) station than W4. Howard Stern
was their morning guy. They broadcast in SQ-4 Quadraphonic
sound. They put acts like Bob Seger
and Mitch Ryder
on the map. DJs joked that no radio station could have more perfect call letters. Even if stoned, it was easy to remember who you worked for when you were on air.
You weren’t fashionably dressed in Detroit unless you had a W4 t-shirt on (noted for its distinctive big orange
disk with “W4” set in a lightning
font in the middle).
And then the sky fell. With no warning, with no hints, one dark morning in 1982 W4 switched from rock to country
. People were aghast. Country music. In Detroit? A silent protest movement spontaneously emerged. People took their treasured W4 t-shirts, the ones with the W4 logo in the middle of an orange disk, and they put a black slash, making it appear like W4 was (in Ghostbusters
fashion) in a “no entry
” traffic sign.
Stern packed up within days. Detroit rock fans could at least take solace that Detroit had two cool back up rock stations, WRIF
(WABX itself later would change formats much to horror of fans who enjoyed one of America’s last true free-form progressive rock station).
Curiously, the country format proved highly profitable for W4 for a couple decades. However W4’s rating eventually slipped when it didn’t jack into the, errr, “new country
” sound quickly enough. By the end of the Summer of ’99, W4 switched back to the format it abandoned in ’82 and became a rock station.