First Listen: Real 106.1, Vintage 96.5, 94.7 Smoke
A few notes from some of the July 4 weekend format changes.
Some of the trades positioned it as a head-to-head battle for throwback Hip-Hop and R&B with Radio One’s WPHI (Boom 103.9) Philadelphia, but keep up, people! WPHI modified its Classic Hip-Hop format to a more adult-leaning Mainstream Urban late last year. At the outset, there were both currents and ‘90s titles, sort of an Urban version of WKTU New York. Boom has continued to evolve since then, and is now mostly “today.”
Boom debuted with a lot of local Philly Hip-Hop and with some first generation hip-hop that had never crossed over. Real 106.1, which replaced AC “Mix 106.1” last Monday, is more (but not entirely) crossover. A lot of what it played is the rhythmic music heard on Top 40 sister WIOQ (Q102) during its heyday. There are a few songs that were never really pop hits, but they’re similar to what you might have heard on WRWM (The Beat) Indianapolis when it was at its biggest two years ago.
Stations that launch with all-throwbacks have always wondered how recent they can go, and how to set up an Act II. So it’s worth noting that Real 106.1 has been playing one recent song—a recurrent or current—per hour. In other words, there are already underpinnings of the WKTU model. But the older songs will just be Hip-Hop and R&B instead of Freestyle and Backstreet/Britney pop.
Here’s Real 106.1 at 1 p.m. today:
- Fabulous, “Make Me Better”
- Ice Cube, “Check Yo’ Self”
- Justin Timberlake, “What Goes Around Comes Around”
- Missy Elliott, “Work It”
- Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”
- Silk, “Freak Me” (set-up as an instant Twitter request)
- Outkast, “Ms. Jackson”
- JD & Jay-Z, “Money Ain’t A Thing”
- Aaliyah, “Try Again”
- LL Cool J, “Around The Way Girl”
- Destiny’s Child, “Jumpin’ Jumpin’”
- Kris Kross, “Jump”
- Usher, “U Got It Bad”
It’s been nearly seven years since the debuts of WFEZ (Easy 93.1) Miami. Since then, supersoft AC stations have come, and sometimes gone, as a stately pace. The rush seems to be over, and then a KISQ (98.1 The Breeze) San Francisco launches. Supersoft hardly seems novel anymore.
What’s different about Vintage 96.5 is that while many of the supersoft stations have evolved to the point of being heavily ‘80s-base, the just-launched Norfolk station is primarily ‘70s-based and even playing the ‘60s. There’s also a heavy ‘70s soft rock/singer-songwriter component. Not everything the station plays would fit on Sirius XM’s The Bridge, but much of it would.
Here’s Vintage 96.5 just before 1 p.m. today (July 5):
- Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”
- Neil Diamond, “Cracklin’ Rosie”
- Beatles, “Strawberry Fields Forever”
- Spinners, “Workin’ My Way Back To You”
- Van Morrison, “Domino”
- Eagles, “One of These Nights”
- Rolling Stones, “Time Is On My Side”
- Lobo, “I’d Love You To Want Me”
- Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”
- Tom Petty & Heartbreakers, “Refugee” (I may never have heard it in an AC context over these many years, but if you’re thinking “soft rock,” there’s more of a connection)
- America, “A Horse with No Name”
- Commodores, “Three Times A Lady”
- Beach Boys, “In My Room”
- Redbone, “Come And Get Your Love”
- Rod Stewart, “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)”
The Country/Southern Rock hybrid has confounded broadcasters for nearly thirty years. The earliest major attempt I remember was WTDR Charlotte, N.C., launched in 1990, but long evolved to mainstream Country as WKKT (the Kat). For Beasley’s just-launched “94.7 Smoke,” WBCN Charlotte, the stakes are a little lower (it’s an AM/translator combo), but also they’ve wisely made the move of positioning as “all about the south.”
Country is a minor flavor. The new southern-flavored music that borders Classic Rock and Triple-A is the next most prominent style. Country is more occasional. And every now and then (especially toward the end of the hour), there’s a Classic Rock song that feels bluesy, perhaps, but not quite southern. (Blues rock seems to be the real thru-line.) Beasley has a recent history of stunting, launching a Tampa station as “98.7 Donald FM,” so I’m hesitant to write about 94.7 Smoke without hedging, but an evident amount of work has gone into it, especially into stagers that set up the new music. And you can’t be unhappy about a station that transcends (or redefines) genre and conveys a sense of place.
Here’s 94.7 Smoke around 2:15 on July 5:
- Steve Miller Band, “Take The Money And Run”
- Alabama Shakes, “Hold On”
- Band, “The Weight”
- Black Crowes, “Seeing Things”
- Allen Collins Band, “Chapter One”
- Little Feat, “Dixie Chicken”
- Whiskey Myers, “Lightning Bugs And Rain”
- James Gang, “Walk Away”
- Drive By Truckers, “My Sweet Annette.”
What Was Lost
As significant as some of the new formats adapted last weekend are those that went away:
Norfolk’s “Vintage 96.5” was “96.5 Rocks“, one of the Active/Classic Rock hybrids along the lines of KVRQ Seattle and KFMB-FM San Diego that was momentarily “the next hot format.”
iHeart Radio rebranded the second of its Christian AC “Up”-branded stations in Fort Collins CO, as iHeart ‘90s. It’s the second time that iHR has waded in and out of Christian AC waters. And it’s a further extension of the long-expected rebranding of local stations as “iHeart,” following a handful of iHR ‘80s-branded outlets.
iHR also switched Panama City’s “Real Fun Beach Radio,” an AM/translator combo that debuted two years ago with a mix spanning from from Kenny Chesney to Jimmy Buffett to Ziggy Marley to LMFAO. It seemed like the right move for our “everybody likes everything” mood service era, but it was replaced by a more traditional Active Rock format. So it’s good to have another different-thinking station like Smoke 94.7 stepping in.