I 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”