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First Listen – KDRI (The Drive) Tucson

830 101.7 The Drive KDRI Tucson Bobby RichI would have posted this article an hour ago. But I kept going back to KDRI (The Drive) Tucson, Ariz., veteran programmer Bobby Rich’s take on the soft oldies format, because I wanted to hear what they were playing now. I had the monitor I needed for a First Listen, but, hey, there was “We’ll Be Together” by Sting. There was “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys into “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees.

The Drive brings Rich back to Tucson radio after more than a decade. It launched with several days of novelty songs as “The Worm,” and Rich was on the air this morning talking about how the response to even the stunt had been so enthusiastic that the station would find a place for “earworms” as part of the real format. He was also talking about broadcasting from makeshift studios—“not a real radio studio.” His promo for tomorrow’s morning show notes that you can listen on FM or AM, “if you know what that is.”

In its music and mission, KDRI is similar to WRME-LP (Me-TV-FM), the now syndicated Chicago station with a large library and an older target left disenfranchised by Classic Hits outlets that play “Paradise City” and Mainstream ACs that play EDM ballads. The Drive has a similar era mix of ‘70s pop and ‘60s oldies. But unlike the jockless Me-TV-FM, Rich is in mornings and there’s a full staff of market veterans. In that regard, the most comparable station is probably Denver’s KCKK (The Rock) at its launch.

This was the stretch of The Drive that I heard this morning starting around 8:45 a.m. local time:

  • Simon & Garfunkel, “The Sounds of Silence”
  • Lionel Richie, “Stuck On You”
  • Bob Seger & Silver Bullet Band, “Still The Same”
  • Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “I Second That Emotion”
  • Ambrosia, “You’re The Only Woman (You And I)”
  • Ace, “How Long”
  • Donovan, “Mellow Yellow”
  • Pete Townshend, “Let My Love Open The Door”
  • John Denver, “Annie’s Song”
  • Simply Red, “Holding Back The Years”
  • Three Dog Night, “The Family Of Man”
  • Pointer Sisters, “Slow Hand”
  • England Dan & John Ford Coley, “Love Is The Answer”
  • Bill Withers, “Lean On Me”
  • Babys, “Every Time I Think Of You”
  • Herman’s Hermits, “There’s A Kind Of Hush”
  • Fleetwood Mac, “Gypsy”
  • Elton John, “Your Song”

After the sale of WABC New York, it was correctly noted that the selloff of radio stations was benefiting not the well-admired smaller broadcast groups, who were supposed to benefit, but religious broadcasters like EMF or non-broadcasters who weren’t dependent on the scarce financing for broadcast radio. Rich and his co-owners are the thing you would hope for: people who know how to do a fully-realized music station and still want to.

In the meantime, there’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” by Glen Campbell.

Here’s “Make A Move  On Me” by Olivia Newton-John.

Here’s “Trouble Me” by 10,000 Maniacs.

Here’s “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” by Jimmy Cliff . . .     

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  1. says

    For Joy, For Joy! That’s why Bobby Rich does what he does. Having spent time in the company of Bobby, Jim Arnold, Fletcher McKusker and Ken Carr in Tucson, I know these guys are thrilled to have a little fun, impart a little joy, and see what happens. As well-versed as Bobby is in the science of what works in music programming, he enjoys throwing caution to the wind and simply doing what feels good to him. So go for it, guys. It looks like a low risk experiment and you have all the upper demo people who know you in Tucson (and that’s everyone) rooting for you. Maybe even writing you checks. How much is a :30?

    1. Sean Ross says

      I went with an out-of-town radio friend to see Barry Manilow on Broadway this weekend. Much of the entertainment came from the crowd singing along to every song, but particularly the “Looks Like We Made It”-type ballads that I thought were throwaways (hits, obviously, but not first-stringers) at the time. After about 20 minutes of that, my friend turned to me and went, “Too bad nobody wants to hear this on the radio.” Then we listened to The Drive on the way home, and song after song prompted the “this could be my own collection” comment. We finally got to a song that wasn’t in his iPod about four blocks from home and it was “Give A Little Love” by Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers, also an outlier in terms of era. So I’ve now seen the station resonate first hand with somebody in the target.

  2. jholiday says

    Denver’s (The Rock) never made any sense from a musical standpoint. But, there was never anyone with the programming credentials of Bobby Rich involved. It was a misguided effort for sure, but that doesn’t matter. The Hunts’ are laughing all the way to the bank with the $1.8 million iHeart paid for them for an FM translator!

    1. Sean Ross says

      Thanks, Jon! I was trying to be careful with the comparison to The Rock, in part because that station has just lost their Denver FM frequency and because they’re now hosted in mornings only. The commonality was the combination of a morning veteran and the classic CHR/Hot AC presentation, rather than the Soft AC/Breeze-ish feel. (One of the things I like about previous commenter Smokey River’s KSWD Seattle is that it has elements of both.) But I didn’t want anybody to infer “…and look what happened to them” because I think the combination of so many great people involved and a bigger hole in the market than Denver (with a lot of gold-based stations already) will make a difference.

  3. Bobby Rich says

    KDRI Tucson, The DRIVE, is different, let’s agree on that. Don’t want to be labeled. That makes me crazy, yet I understand the industry just has to pigeon-hole everything. I don’t call it anything. We don’t run typical liners or the usual boastful BS. We don’t have the MOST or BETTER or BEST of anything. We don’t identify eras or songs-in-a-row or minutes-of-music-per-hour. We have the two-minute max rule for spots (up to 3 breaks an hour.) We’re live all day M-F and 10 hours Sat and Sun (so far). We’re targeting those who Identify As 45-64, Older & younger welcome if you FEEL like you belong here.

    Might work. Might not. Having fun and so are our listeners.

    1. Sean Ross says

      Wow, Bobby, thanks for chiming in! I hope Bobby Rich, one of my radio heroes, doesn’t feel like I, Sean Ross, am one of those people trying to pigeonhole The Drive. I do think there are a few different teams of rival scientists trying to cure the same radio ailment right now. But I like that many of the various approaches are different and personal, and I like that the Drive does *not* sound like other stations that share some of the same songs and key artists, and that was where I was going with the article.

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