WGRD-FM is the flagship station of The Free Beer and Hot Wings Show, a comedy/talk program, on weekday mornings. It consists of five members: Greg “Free Beer” Daniels, Chris “Hot Wings” Michels, Eric (Zeitunian) Zane, Joe “Producer Joe” Gasmann, Jr, and Steve McKiernan. The show is now syndicated in 16 markets throughout the eastern United States.
WGRD has a ERP of 13,000 watts @ 591 feet which is south of Grand Rapids. WGRD reaches as far as Battle Creek but the farther you travel East on I-94 it begins to mix with 97.9 WJLB in Detroit, as you travel west it starts to mix with WLUP 97.9 in Chicago. The northwest part of the signal serves Muskegon.
WGRD-FM began as WXTO. The station was owned by the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids and operated by Aquinas College, but the owners of Top 40 music stations WGRD-AM 1410 in Grand Rapids and WTRU-AM 1600 Muskegon (Regional Broadcasters, Inc.) took full control of the station in 1971 and changed its call letters to WGRD-FM. The station’s transmitter would remain on the Aquinas College campus until 1974. During the mid 1970s, WGRD was frequently the #1 station (12+) in the Grand Rapids market. In the 1979 Fall Arbitron, WGRD dominated the market with a 19 share. By 1985, the station was known as “98ROCKFM, WGRD.” WGRD earned a 12.2 share (12+) in the Summer 1986 Arbitron ratings.
WGRD-AM 1410 (which had had a Top 40 music format in place since 1959) was struggling in the ratings at the time against pop-rock competitors WLAV-AM 1340 and WZZM-FM 95.7 (then known as “Z96”, now WLHT). WGRD thus moved its struggling Top 40 format onto its new FM station, making the stereo FM station the primary frequency while having the AM continue to simulcast. The revamped WGRD quickly became the dominant Top 40 station in the market and continued to be for over two decades.
In the Summer of 1993 the station moniker was “Grand Rapids #1 Hit music Station “98WGRD” . By 1994, however, the station had lost significant market share to Muskegon’s 104.5 Sunny-FM WSNX, which had flipped from AC to TOP-40, programmed by former WGRD music director JJ Duling. WGRD switched that year from CHR to the then-emerging and rapidly growing modern rock format, which it has had ever since.
The original WGRD, AM 1410, is now WNWZ with a Regional Mexican format. The call letters “GRD” stood for “Grand Rapids Daytime,” since WGRD-AM was originally licensed to air only during daytime hours. During the early 1980s, AM-1410 operated as WXQT, with a big-band “MUSIC OF YOUR LIFE” format. WXQT became oldies “GREAT GOLD 14K” for several years (later known at WKTH). In August 2010 a reunion of more than 60 former WGRD staff members was held in Grand Rapids, which included market legend Bruce Grant, the original program director from 1948, and dozens of other personalities from the AM 1410/97.9 history. As of 2010, WGRD began shifting its format direction to active rock.
WGRD’s target demographic is men ages 18–34 and a secondary of Men 25-54 (Arbitron demographics). Its main competitor in the Grand Rapids market was Citadel Broadcasting‘ former active rock station WKLQ.
Here is a recording of a WLAV radio broadcast from 1958, courtesy of Frank Russo: