For 35 years, this Q has been rocking

It once ruled the local radio market with absolute authority, sporting an inventive morning show format that was loved, hated and imitated with equal zeal. These days, WRBQ-FM — better known as Q105 — is just another station competing for the attention of Tampa Bay's fickle adult audience. But as the station prepares to celebrate its 35th anniversary in the marketplace this weekend, it's tempting to look back at the heydays when WRBQ was the titan of Tampa Bay radio. Compiled by Times staff

Let there be rock

WRBQ got its license in December 1973 and became Tampa Bay's first stereo rock 'n' roll station. Chances are that means local listeners got their fill of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, the Allman Brothers' Ramblin' Man and Wings' Live and Let Die — three of the biggest rock hits of '73. But does this coming birthday make WRBQ the senior citizen here in Tampa Bay? Though AM stations have been around since the '20s, among FM stations, only WQYK is older — by a mere three years.

No taming the zoo

In February 1981, morning hosts Cleveland Wheeler and Scott Shannon decided to create a morning show that would be a combination of hit music, outrageous humor and unabashed social commentary. The result of their brainstorming session was the Q Morning Zoo, an appropriate name for the daily dose of insanity that hooked listeners. Shannon would leave in '83 to start a new Zoo at WHTZ-FM outside New York City, but Terrence McKeever stepped in and the Zoo was full of animals again.

Sizzling sense of humor

Sometimes the Morning Zoo stunts leaned closer to juvenile than humorous. After executions in Florida's electric chair, the show would play Eddy Grant's Electric Avenue. One day, the two co-hosts read off a list of slang words for breasts and once even offered $150 to a female reporter to bare hers. (Sounds tame today, in an era of Merry Breastmas contests.)

Tales of Tanequah

The biggest criticism of the Q Morning Zoo's content came with its "Tales of Tanequah" feature, which chronicled the fictional adventures of a young black woman named Tanequah Washington. "Shoot! I already be two hours late for work," she says during one skit where she's stuck in bridge traffic. "I swear, if I get canned, I's goin' sue dat Howard Frankenstein dude!" Zoo hosts defended Tanequah, pointing out it was a black woman who recorded the voice. The local NAACP branch, the Greater Tampa Urban League and fellow broadcasters respectfully disagreed.

The Mason Dixon line

Though the Zoo ruled the morning, the afternoon belonged to deejay Mason Dixon — a name Memphis-bred Jimmie Crawford adopted 40 years ago. Dixon joined WRBQ in 1978 and, with his "Friday Festivities" segments during drive time, turned each end of the work week into a party. Dixon left in '89 in a contract dispute but returned this decade as program director and morning host.

The Gene machine

In 1989, WRBQ hired Gene Deckerhoff — the "Voice of the Florida State Seminoles" — to head up radio coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio network, of which the station was then the flagship. Rounding out the station's team was local TV sportscaster Al Keck and a former pro wrestler and future Minnesota governor by the name of Jessie "The Body" Ventura, whose beefy commentary was only slightly more irritating than coach Ray Perkins' offense.

Power to the pig

Q105's long reign at the top of the market started to unravel in 1989. First, WYNF-FM's morning duo of Ron Bennington and Ron Diaz began to match the Zoo's ratings. And then feisty newcomer "The Power Pig" (WFLZ-FM) taunted the king of the hill with popular "Screw the Q" T-shirts, which had the Q105 logo with a big screw through it. A month later, the Pig was sitting pretty on top of the ratings, starting a four-year war. Hostilities ended in 1993, when Q105 played Garth Brooks' hit song Friends in Low Places — a subtle tip o' the cap to their Pig peers? — and switched from Top 40 to country.

Starting over

Times have certainly changed. An oldies station since 2002, WRBQ is tied for 11th in the market, according to the spring 2008 ratings from Arbitron for the coveted 25- to 54-year-old market. The new heavyweight in Tampa Bay? WHPT-FM (The Bone 102.5), home of shock-jock Bubba the Love Sponge.

.If you go

35th anniversary celebration

WRBQ's daylong party is Saturday at Clearwater's Coachman Park. The gates open at 11:30 a.m. Admission is free. Here is the concert lineup:

1 p.m.: Invasion

2:30 p.m.: Ron Dante-Archies,

Andy Kim

4 p.m.: Maxine Nightingale

5:30 p.m.: Felix Cavaliere Rascals

7:15 p.m.: Grand Funk Railroad

9 p.m.: The Village People

For 35 years, this Q has been rocking 10/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2008 10:19pm]

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