Classic Soul Is on a Roll - RadioInsight

Classic Soul Is on a Roll

One of the gratifying developments of the last few years has been the return of Classic Soul to the airwaves. The ‘90s Hip-Hop/R&B Throwback stations have had their highly publicized ups and downs. Most of Radio One’s “Old School” stations have evolved back to Urban AC as well, but WOSF (Old School 105.3) Charlotte, N.C., remains a force. And over the last year, Radio One has rolled out ‘60s-and-‘70s-based AM/FM translator combos in Cincinnati and Detroit. Then, in December, it unveiled Classix 102.9 Atlanta.

Nashville has two Classic R&B stations now: the long-running heritage AM WVOL and the more recent The Ville, which got a number of reader mentions when I solicited suggestions for Intriguing Stations of 2017. Then I came across a stream for WHKO-HD-3 (The Soul of Dayton) Dayton, Ohio, which was gratifying for any fan of “oh wow” songs.

Atlanta and Dayton show an interesting split in the format. With long playlists and relatively quick turnover, R&B radio of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s made chart hits of more songs than you can possibly expect to hear on the radio now. Classix 102.9 has some songs you won’t hear on Urban AC anymore, but it plays enduring hits — songs that made it to Urban AC at some point. The Soul of Dayton was playing songs I hadn’t heard since they were new. I was happy either way.

Classix Classics 102.9 W275BK Atlanta Tom JoynerClassix 102.9 has picked up the Tom Joyner Morning Show dropped by rival WALR (Kiss 104.1), and seems aimed at filling a hole left by the ongoing modernization of WALR and other Urban ACs. One stager asks, “Can you believe stations gave up Classic R&B for today’s R&B?”

Here’s Classix 102.9 in middays:

  • Ashford & Simpson, “It Seems to Hang On”
  • Anita Baker, “No One in the World”
  • Isley Brothers, “Voyage to Atlantis”
  • Rene & Angela, “I’ll Be Good”
  • Chaka Khan, “I’m Every Woman”
  • Bobby Caldwell, “What You Won’t Do for Love”
  • Levert, “Casanova”
  • Funkadelic, “(Not Just) Knee Deep”
  • Michael Jackson, “Wanna Be Starting Something”
  • Average White Band, “Pick Up the Pieces”

98.7 The Soul Of Dayton WHKO-HD3The Soul of Dayton was another matter. The first song I came across was “Fancy Dancer” by the Commodores, which I last heard on the radio during its brief chart run more than 40 years ago. The next was “Your Unchanging Love,” a 1967 Marvin Gaye song I’ve only heard on airchecks. In the streaming era, I’ve only come across a handful of R&B Oldies outlets of equal depth and breadth.  Many of those have been short-lived, but the Soul of Dayton is entering its fifth year. 

Here’s the entire hour:

  • Commodores, “Fancy Dancer”
  • Marvin Gaye, “Your Unchanging Love”
  • MFSB, “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)”
  • Luther Vandross, “Stop to Love”
  • Donna Summer, “The Wanderer”
  • System, “Don’t Disturb This Groove”
  • James Brown, “Prisoner of Love”
  • Stylistics, “Let’s Put It All Together”
  • Earth, Wind & Fire, “Side by Side”
  • James Brown, “Out of Sight”
  • Aretha Franklin, “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”
  • Karyn White, “The Way You Love Me”

At various other points that afternoon, I also heard both Jeffrey Osborne, “I Really Don’t Need No Light” and “She’s on the Left,” as well as Babyface, “Tender Lover,” and Shirley Jones, “Do You Get Enough Love,” into Tavares, “Don’t Take Away the Music.”

102.1 The Ville Nashville“My favorite discovery this year was 102.1 The Ville,” wrote veteran journalist turned Nashville-based publicist Brian Mansfield. “I’d never heard an Urban Oldies station before, and I loved it. I know I’m not the target demographic, but it was the perfect mix of familiar and unfamiliar for me. I just wish it had some local personality.”

Mansfield’s post set off a long thread on R&B Oldies, with many readers remembering long-gone affiliates of ABC’s Solid Gold Soul network and others. “You beat me to The Ville,” added Country promotion veteran Bob Reeves. “I can’t stop listening to it,” he adds, which takes work since the translator signal “doesn’t even reach my house 10 miles from the center of the city’s downtown core. It’s completely out there but incredibly well-done and well-researched.”

Here’s The Ville at 8 p.m. (according to its site):

  • Rick James, “Super Freak”
  • Miki Howard, “Come Share My Love”
  • Bootsy’s Rubber Band, “I’d Rather Be With You”
  • Destiny’s Child, “Cater 2 U”
  • Anthony Hamilton, “Comin’ From Where I’m From”
  • Labelle, “Lady Marmalade”
  • Bobby Caldwell, “What You Won’t Do for Love”
  • S.O.S. Band, “Weekend Girl”
  • Gap Band, “Shake”
  • Foxy, “Get Off”
  • Bilal, “Soul Sista”
  • Isley Brothers, “Choosey Lover”
  • Staple Singers, “I’ll Take You There”
  • Zapp, “Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing)”
  • Pointer Sisters, “Automatic”
  • Angela Winbush, “Treat U Rite”

1470 WVOL Nashville“The Ville does not parallel other Classic Soul stations,” Reeves says, praising the station’s Shannon Sanders for his ties to the Nashville community. WVOL has its own long history of eclecticism, including a regular quotient of pop titles that often go beyond the obvious. Here’s an hour of nights, also based on the station’s now-playing widget.

  • Phalon, “Rising to the Top”
  • T.A.T.U., “All the Things She Said” (!)
  • Marvin Gaye, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow”
  • Whispers, “All in Good Time”
  • Lenny Williams, “Love Hurt Me, Love Healed Me”
  • Ray Charles, “Shake a Tail Feather”
  • Smokey Robinson & Miracles, “Tracks of My Tears”
  • R. Kelly, “Taxi Cab”
  • Peaches & Herb, “Shake Your Groove Thing”
  • Gladys Knight & Pips, “Got Myself a Good Man”
  • Billy Ocean, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going”
  • Silk, “Lose Control”
  • Sean Kingston, “Beautiful Girls”
  • Temptations, “Get Ready”

Share This Post

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

2 Comments


  1. “The Ville” is great, but sometimes repetitious. I have sometimes heard the same song that afternoon that I had just heard that morning. They could use a better rotation of their songs, or more of them.


  2. Sean,
    Check out KMRJ “Jamin Oldies” in rancho mirage California. They only stream off their own website but I think it is well worth a listen. I am sure I’m not their target demographic but I enjoy having it on whenever we are in the car. Plus it’s good to hear live and local DJs and Art Laboe in the evenings. The Art Laboe dedications from people who are “away” is just something I’m not used to hearing on the radio, but it serves a useful propose to a certain element of the SoCal community.

Leave a Reply