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Is Q101 Back?

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on May 17, 2012 3:40PM

2011_07_q101logo.jpg Kinnnnnd of, sorrrrrt of … but not really.

Last June Merlin Media, a group headed by former Chicago Tribune CEO Randy Michaels, purchased WKQX-FM 101.1 (Q101), WLUP-FM 97.9 (The Loop) in Chicago and WRXP-FM 101.9 in New York from Emmis Communications in a deal worth between $110 million and $130 million.

On air Q101, the alternative rock station with an entrenched community of Chicago fans, was converted to an FM News Talk format. Off the air, the Q101 brand name, logos, and web site were bought by Broadcast Barter Radio Networks, a group led by Mike Noonan and Matt Dubiel. began streaming alternative music online as well as on the iPad/iPod/iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.

Last Sunday, after almost a year of the Chicago airwaves’ being devoid of alternative music, two stations playing the genre emerged simultaneously.

Here’s where it gets a little bit confusing: Q101—the brand purchased by Broadcast Barter—began simulcasting on WJJG-AM 1530. That same day, Merlin Media—the company that bought Q101’s frequency—launched UndergroundQ on 87.7FM under the former Q101’s WKQX call letters. Will the real Q101 please stand up?

Despite the same call letters, UndergroundQ’s operations manager Jim Richards is careful to distinguish that there is no affiliation: “We have nothing to do with Q101,” Richards says. “There is no relationship between me, Merlin, Q87.7 or otherwise with Q101.”

UndergroundQ 87.7, whose frequency is unavailable on some radios, is also streaming online.

Joel Lozada, founder of the QCrew, a group of several hundred friends that used to frequent station events, is happy that UndergroundQ is on the air. “I’m glad that there’s alternative music back in Chicago,” Lozado says, noting that he’d like to see the station develop more local color as it evolves. “The whole personality is missed on the Chicago airwaves right now.”

Lozada is hoping for regular roles—or even cameos—from old Q101 personalities, especially Steve Tingle, Brian Sherman, Tim Virgin, and Electra.

Brian Sherman, who hosted Q101’s morning show along with Steve Tingle, currently does weekends for 102.1-FM WLUM in Milwaukee, fills in occasionally on 95.1-FM FYIL (Will Rock), and has voiceover gigs across the country. “I was blown away with how many people were excited for me to be back on the air in the Chicago area,” Sherman says, appreciating the reaction to his recent fill-in role at Will Rock. “It was a very great feeling and I was touched by all the people that reached out.”

Sherman has submitted an application to UndergroundQ but has not yet heard back: “I have no problem with that and wish them the best of luck,” he says.

So, will Lozada get his wish for some of the old Q101 personalities on UndergroundQ?

According to Richards, “It depends on the sound or availability of that individual,” noting that he has been in contact with several former Q101 employees—as well as other applicants—but avoids naming anybody specifically. “I’ll be going through the various submissions later this week to begin the process.”

Ryan Glasspiegel writes Sports Rapport. Follow him on Twitter.