Category Archives: Radio News & Commentary

104.1 FM Ames/Des Moines Resurrects “EZ” as KOEZ

October 18, 2019

My friend Jon Ellis reports on Northpine this morning that Saga Communications’ KMYR has changed call letters to KOEZ. This corresponds with a positioning change from “More 104.1” to “104.1 EZ FM.” Ironically enough, this brings 104.1 back to the 1980s when they were KEZT “EZ104”, playing a Beautiful Music format, aka “A Softer Place to Be.”

I’m curious as to why Saga didn’t just resurrect the KEZT call letters? Because they were used for so many years in the Ames/Des Moines market, I’m guessing there would be immediate name recognition. In any case, 104.1 has come full circle as KOEZ, now playing lighter music for easier listening.

By the way, the KOEZ call letters were last used by 92.3 Newton/Wichita, Kansas. They gave up the calls in 2000 after flipping to Adult Contemporary as KMXW “Mix 92.3”

WFLI AM-1070 Chattanooga “The Big Jet FLI”

July 16, 2019

As most of my regular readers know, I am a HUGE fan of the Classic Top 40 format. It’s what I grew up with, listening to radio as a kid in the 1970s and early 80s. The roots of this format trace back to the early 1990s when select stations began playing “The Greatest Hits of the Seventies.” A few years later, “and Eighties” was added to their positioning statement. In some cases, they didn’t want to mention the 80s. Instead, their tag line became “Seventies and More” with “more” signifying the addition of 80s music. Later still, most of these evolved into “Classic Hits” stations. Some were great, others were okay, and some were just plain awful. The latest and greatest entry into the genre is Chattanooga’s WFLI-AM 1070 aka “The Big Jet FLI.”

Back in the 1990s, I worked for with several stations that did variations of the Classic Hits/Classic Top 40/70s Oldies format. Each had some of the necessary elements, but none had the full package.

One of these stations was Star 104.7 (WSSS-FM) in Charlotte. We had a full 100,000 watt FM signal, great facilities, and some very talented people. Unfortunately, our hands were tied by corporate ownership, consultants, and focus groups. The same “carefully selected and researched” 300 songs were played over and over again. Very little personality was allowed beyond the liner cards. After the first few books, the ratings tanked. No surprise.

In Orlando, we had the opposite problem. WOTS-AM 1220 did an authentic recreation of 1970s AM Top 40 radio. Terry Mason (my boss) was a big believer in personality radio. He gave us the freedom to have fun on the air. The problem was that we were licensed for just 1,000 watts days and a ridiculous 110 watts at night. If you were more than a few miles from the WOTS transmitter, XEB in Mexico City would clobber us with their 100,000 watts!

When I jocked in Minneapolis, I hosted a Saturday night 70s show on WTCX-FM 105.1. This was 1993, just as the 70s format was starting to catch hold. At this time, nobody else in the market was playing those songs. It worked! We had callers. We had sponsors. Just as it was taking off, our owner decided to sell the place. Everyone got the boot and the frequency became home to Alternative REV 105 aka Revolution Radio. Game over.

Licensed to Lookout Mountain, WFLI has the whole enchilada. They use their original calls. They operate on their original frequency. They even broadcast from the original building where it all began in February, 1961! I love their sweepers which include actual aircheck clips from the original FLI jocks! One of these talented folks is still there today, doing afternoons. Congratulations, Gene Lovin! It’s obvious from the first listen that these guys absolutely LOVE what they do! In an age of satellite delivery and voice-tracked stations, you just don’t hear this very often anymore.

The Big Jet FLI’s music is dead-on. All hits. No filler. Not the same burned out songs that everyone else plays. Their processing is perfect for this format. When you listen to the online stream, you get the actual AM air signal. Not a lifeless, hollow sound from the output of a computer. Their engineers have done an amazing job recreating that authentic Top 40 “sound” of the era. To anyone who doesn’t believe AM radio can sound great, lend your ears to this station’s feed!

Of course, having a 50,000 watt signal doesn’t hurt, either! In recent months, WFLI has added FM translator W249BR on 97.7 which covers the immediate Chattanooga metro area.

If that’s not enough, they have turned the entire facility into a museum! The National Top 40 Hall of Fame & Radio Museum offers tours to the public on a regular basis. It’s a great way to get the full experience of how Tennessee radio was back in the golden age of Top 40.

WFLI has become my go-to station, owning the first preset on my phone. If you own or manage an automated jukebox, this should be your inspiration. It is the best example around of what a great Classic Top 40 station can and should sound like. Give them a listen on TuneIn when you have a chance. Thank you, Big Jet FLI, for doing justice to this format!

Happy 72nd Birthday to KXXX in Colby, Kansas

July 13, 2019

Drew’s Radio Site would like to wish a Happy 72nd Birthday to KXXX-AM 790 in Colby, Kansas. KXXX was the original radio station in northwest Kansas, signing on for the first time July 13, 1947. KXXX-FM 100.3 (later KQLS and then KRDQ) was added in 1970. Both stations are currently owned by Rocking M Media, LLC.

KXXX enjoys a huge daytime coverage area. I have personally received them on my car radio in Colorado Springs, Wichita, Topeka, and Lincoln. Those 5,000 watts on 790 travel a long way because the tower is anchored in some of the most conductive soil in the world! Country music, farm news, and agricultural information has been their format for as long as I can remember. “The Mighty 7-90” is one of few remaining heritage AM stations that’s still playing music and making money in 2019. Happy Birthday, KXXX!

The First Radio Firing & Unemployment Benefits

June 17, 2019

One of my radio friends contacted me yesterday. She had just been fired and needed advice as to what she should do next. Those of us who are seasoned vets know that being fired is just a regular part of the business. As one of my favorite PDs in Iowa told me, “You ain’t no real broadcaster until you’ve been fired at least 3 times!” My friend is new to this business, however. She’s only been in radio for a few years. This is her first termination. Naturally, she’s panicked, emotional, and wondering what she did wrong.

Because this is radio, the station is contesting her eligibility for unemployment benefits. This also comes with the territory. Out of all the times I was fired in radio (there were several), I can only think of two times when management didn’t attempt to deny my claim. In one case, the station had been sold and the entire airstaff was let go. There were zero grounds for contention there, especially since the owner apparently failed to pay state unemployment taxes on my behalf. I learned about this when I went to apply for benefits. That was a fun day. In the other case, management didn’t bother to contest because the program director who had fired me was himself terminated for cause shortly thereafter. Trying to explain that to the Division of Labor might have become a bit messy.

In every other instance, the station attempted to deny my benefits. Some would stretch the truth while others would outright lie in order to stop me from collecting what was rightfully mine. My favorite was a Florida entity which claimed “theft of station equipment” as grounds for my dismissal. The item in question was a frequency spectrum analyzer which the chief engineer had reported missing. It was later returned, but damaged. I had no use for this piece of equipment. However, our weekend jock who just happened to be operating a pirate FM station in his spare time found it a very useful tool in the calibration of his illicit transmitter. It was my word against theirs. My benefits were denied.

Why do radio station owners/managers routinely contest legitimate unemployment benefit claims by their former employees? The first reason is money. In most states, the employer’s unemployment insurance premium is determined in part by their claims history. The more claims, the more they pay. So there is an incentive to contest all claims against the station, valid or otherwise. The other reason is ego. The radio industry is full of egomaniacs. Some of them eventually end up in the GM chair. If the disgruntled former employee has an axe to grind, it becomes a grudge match. Management/ownership knows the unemployment benefit process better than the average jock who has just been terminated. Within the state system, there are a limited number of appeals available for denial of benefits. Once the appeals process is exhausted, the ex-employee has 2 options: drop their claim or hire an attorney and pursue civil litigation against the company. How many unemployed radio folks have the resources to do this? Very few. Management/ownership knows this, so they use the process to their advantage.

Back to my newly-fired friend: I told her to hang in there. “It’s not you, it’s the business.” She’s quite talented as well as extremely good at asserting and promoting herself. Despite the extremely tight job market for air talent today, I don’t think she’ll have any problem finding another job. Consider it a blessing to be out of a bad situation. I’ve always said “Why would you want to work for someone who doesn’t want you working for them?” She’ll be fine. If you’re reading this and happen to be in the same situation, things will work out for you also. Again, “It’s not you. It’s the business.”

R.I.P., 95.5 PLJ: WPLJ New York City 1971-2019

May 31, 2019

As I write this, I am listening to the final hours of PLJ. At 7:00PM local time, this institution of New York radio will fall silent. Over the past 48 years, it has been known under many different monikers to millions of listeners: 95 WPLJ, 95.5 WPLJ, WPLJ 95.5, Power 95, and of course, “Mojo Radio.”

Because I’m not a New Yorker, it is not possible for me to appreciate PLJ as I would if I were a local. However, as a 16 year radio broadcaster, I certainly feel a great loss as this heritage station goes dark. I felt the same way on May 10, 1982 when WABC Musicradio 77 stopped the music and transitioned to a Talk format. Ironically, WPLJ is WABC’s AM station. From 1953 until 1971, 95.5 was WABC-FM.

Tomorrow, this frequency will become New York City’s home to Educational Media Foundation’s K-Love, a contemporary Christian station. As the final hours wind down on 95.5, be sure to give them a listen. This is truly radio history in the making. Enjoy it while it lasts.

R.I.P., PLJ. It was good knowin’ ya.