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RossOnRadioInsight: First Listen KLIV “Country Gold 1590” San Jose

Country Gold 1590 KLIV San Jose NewsI’ve always liked “Country 95.3” KRTY San Jose.

For the last 25 years, they’ve cheerfully done their own thing, often impervious to bad times elsewhere in the Country format, and regardless of whether there’s a country station in nearby San Francisco. Musically, they’ve always been assertively current, and they’ve always been unapologetically country. KRTY is one of a half-dozen stations where Eric Paslay’s “She Don’t Love You,” not a big enough hit elsewhere, is still in recurrent. And why shouldn’t it be?

So I was excited when KRTY owner Empire Broadcasting announced that it was planning to switch News/Talk AM KLIV to classic country after the California Primary. I understood the dismay of some listeners over losing a low-rated outlet for local news and information, but I personally wanted to hear what KRTY did with country gold on a new station (it has done a country gold stream in the past). And because KRTY was so unapologetically country, I was expecting something older and more traditional.

On its launch at least, Country Gold 1590 is anything but. The bulk of the music I’ve heard today has been mid-‘90s through early ‘00s. There’s some music from the Garth Brooks-era early ‘90s, but there’s also a lot of 1996-2004 (and, so far, not much ‘80s). It’s an era that cuts off just before most contemporary country stations pick up; (although some are a lot newer than that). It’s also a lot of music from a period that was considered a down time for the format although, again, the late ‘90s/early ‘00s sounded better on KRTY than elsewhere.

Classic Country was once the most niche of formats. Now there seems to be a new one signing on several times a month, if mostly in small markets. For years, the relatively small number of listeners who grew up with country before the early ‘80s kept the potential audience’s age prohibitively old for many broadcasters. But being able to play the ‘90s changed things. And even the early 2000s are now missing from the radio, as evidenced by the launch of Sirius XM’s “Y2Kountry.”

If you’re looking for ‘70s/early ‘80s country, there’s “Classic Country 1370” KSOP (Classic Country 1370) Salt Lake City, the AM counterpart to “Z104” KSOP-FM. Those stations are also operated by a heritage, standalone country operator. The music is different, but the stations are good for the reason that the San Jose stations are good. As I write KSOP-AM is playing “Paradise Tonight” by Charly McClain & Mickey Gilley, the most rockin’ country song of summer 1983. KLIV is playing Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”

But I’m enjoying Country Gold 1590 today. There’s “oh wow” value in both sets of music, and Empire brings a lot of resources and enthusiasm to the station. For some owners, classic country is an automated afterthought. Country Gold 1590 has jingles, and the midday shift I’ve been listening to today is hosted. (If you’ve been operating a locally programmed News/Talk AM, doing classic country right is still a manageable expense.) There’s also a giveaway of Kenny Rogers/Nitty Gritty Dirt Band tickets.

Here’s Country Gold 1590 just before 11 a.m. on Monday, June 13:
Toby Keith, “I Want To Talk About Me”
John Michael Montgomery, “Letters From Home”
Tim McGraw, “Red Ragtop”
Alabama, “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas”
Tracy Byrd, “Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo”
Tracy Lawrence, “Stars Over Texas”
Chris Cagle, “Never Ever Gone”
Reba McEntire, “It’s Your Call”
Toby Keith, “How Do You Like Me Now”
Clint Black, “Summer’s Comin’”
George Strait, “Easy Come, Easy Go”
Dixie Chicks, “Long Time Gone”
Brooks & Dunn, “It’s Getting Better All The Time”
Reba McEntire, “Take It Back”
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, “It’s Your Love”
Alan Jackson, “Livin’ On Love”
Garth Brooks, “The River”
Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Shut Up And Kiss Me”
Mark Chesnutt, “I Just Wanted You To Know”
Jo Dee Messina, “I’m Alright”
Brooks & Dunn, “My Maria”

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Sean Ross is author of the Ross on Radio newsletter and VP of music and programming of Edison Research.

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