Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Steinberg, Martha Jean "The Queen"

A larger-than-life figure on the air and in the black community, Martha Jean Steinberg was a charismatic Detroit media icon who leveraged her radio presence to influence and inspire the public. A pioneering R&B disc jockey, civic activist, spiritual leader and trailblazing station owner, Steinberg cultivated a 46-year career and is a member of the Black Radio Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Born Martha Jean Jones in Memphis, Tennessee on September 9, 1930, she worked as a nurse to support her three children after divorcing jazz musician Luther Steinberg. She entered a contest to win an on-air job at WDIA – reportedly the first white owned station with an all black staff – and earned a weekend shift on the male-dominated airwaves. It was there she was dubbed “the Queen” by a fellow disc jockey.

Steinberg was brought to Inkster in 1963 by the owners of WCHB-AM and became an overnight sensation. Three years later she moved to WJLB-FM, where her on-air persona broadened, focusing less on R&B and more on gospel and social commentary. During Detroit’s 1967 civil disturbance she remained on-air for 48 straight hours, imploring listeners to stay off the streets. That event evolved into a regular call-in show with the city’s police commissioners called “Buzz the Fuzz.”

In 1972, Steinberg became an ordained minister and founded a church called the Home of Love. Her shows became even more spiritual in nature, tagged by her sign-off, “God loves you and I love you.” In 1982, Steinberg and several partners bought a Detroit AM station, changed its format to gospel and talk, and changed the call letters to WQBH (which many say stood for “Queen Broadcasts Here”). She bought the station outright in 1997 and remained its star broadcaster until her death three years later. Her impact on the station and its listeners was so profound that WQBH continued airing daily recordings of the Queen’s programs for years after her death. The station was sold in 2004 to Salem Broadcasting and is now a conservative talk station, WDTK.

Martha Jean “the Queen” died on January 29, 2000 and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.

 


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