Fresh Listen: WKIC Hazard KY

97.9 WKIC HazardI don’t know if today’s 15-year-old music geek needs a station like 97.9 WKIC Hazard KY. That would imply they were listening to the radio and waiting around to hear songs not normally heard on the radio. My options for that in 1978 were hanging out at the record stores that let you audition singles or hoping that a radio friend would let me go through their pile of junk 45s. Would a “Tomorrow’s Hits” playlist somewhere have avoided all that?

In the absence of other options, stations like WKIC were my gold standard for daytime listening, until nighttime DX became available. They were the suburban or small-town stations, audible from Washington, D.C., that not only played new music, but did not necessarily weed songs from the gold library once they were established as something other than consensus hits. Often, these stations were full-service ACs, at that time the stations least tethered to the charts.

I became aware of WKIC through RadioInsight’s Lance Venta, who tuned in because they were recently sold (for a dollar and from the owner to his son). Musically, they’re CHR. Presentationally, they’re full-service AC, and they have the 25-minute national and local news package at Noon to prove it. There was also a produced vignette about the childhood of a local business leader and you were meant to guess, Paul Harvey style, who that person was.

If you go through the music log on WKIC’s site, you’ll see Maroon 5, “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt”; the Wanted, “I Found You”; Vicci Martinez, “Come Along”; Icona Pop, “All Night”; Mat Kearney’s “Kings And Queens.” They are the station still playing “No Excuses” by Meghan Trainor and “Ahead of Myself” by X-Ambassadors.

It’s always dangerous to write about stations that don’t “play the hits,” or at least the hits as decided by large-market iHeart CHRs. Let me make it clear that there’s no sneering here. At this moment when the hits aren’t great, and few CHRs are scoring big wins by playing them, playing the hits is sort of overrated. I still want to hear Alice Merton, “No Roots,” which I like more than most of the songs that did make it to power. Same with “No Excuses” and “Ahead Of Myself,” actually.

Here’s WKIC just after 11 a.m. on July 10. There are stretches here that aren’t unusual at all, and some that definitely are:

  • Major Lazer, “Powerful”
  • Rozzi, “Never Over You”
  • AJR, “Sober Up”
  • Dua Lipa, “IDGAF”
  • Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera, “Moves Like Jagger”
  • Ed Sheeran, “Perfect”
  • Janelle Monae, “Make Me Feel”
  • Kesha, “C’mon”
  • Shawn Mendes, “In My Blood”
  • Twenty One Pilots, “Stressed Out”
  • Justin Timberlake, “TKO”
  • Rihanna, “Umbrella”
  • Sam Smith, “Too Good At Goodbyes”
  • Taylor Swift, “Delicate”
  • Alice Merton, “No Roots”
  1. kennedyideas says

    This reminds me of when I worked at nearby 100,000-watt blowtorch WQHY. That was a traditional CHR/Pop station that still played Paul Harvey, Casey Kasem, Rick Dees and local Prestonsburg High School Basketball games. Every summer, we had a “Stick It to Win It” campaign where we would appear in towns as small as McClure Virginia to the suburbs of Huntington West Virginia to promote “Eastern Kentucky’s Best…”

    These stations while albeit an oddity on the radio dial bring something special to the communities they serve. They’re often owned by local families who’ve passed them down in generations and deeply rooted in the business and even Rotarian scene. 100,000 watts booming out of a tower on Minnie Mountain in Prestonsburg, the signal could be heard as far away as Portsmouth Ohio and Kingsport Tennessee.

    1. ewconover says

      This is a local station to me. It is a sister station to 100,000-watt WSGS, a legend in these parts. They also do news blocks in the evening as a simulcast with ‘SGS. It is one of the best stations for contemporary radio in an area where three out of every two stations are country. WKIC ran on AM for years as a daytimer and was a good Top 40/CHR station even then.

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