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Fresh Listen: WGRR and WRIT

103.5 WGRR CincinnatiI’ve devoted a lot of column inches to those Classic Hits stations that are aggressively pushing into the ‘90s and 2000s—WCBS-FM New York, KRTH (K-Earth 101) Los Angeles, and especially KOLA Riverside, Calif. But I can’t help noticing that when I look at Nielsen PPM ratings every month, two of the highest-rated Classic Hits stations in the country are WGRR Cincinnati and WRIT (95.7 Big FM) Milwaukee.

Neither station is devoted to the previous generation of Classic Hits—they’re both the big box Classic Hits stations for their market. But as some stations push into the late ‘80s/early ‘90s with its greater concentration of Guns N’ Roses and novelty rap, WGRR and Big 95.7 remain nuanced differently.  Both stations were already mentioned among the “Intriguing Stations of 2018.” But I wanted to take a more detailed Fresh Listen because both stations prove that there’s more than one way to win with Classic Hits.

95.7 Big-FM WRIT MilwaukeeBig 95.7 does come into the early 2000s. Their slugline is “the best variety of the ‘80s and more.” They play “Tubthumping” and “Mambo No. 5.” “Drift Away” is by Uncle Kracker and Dobie Gray, not Gray solo. But there’s also some older songs that stand out. The ‘60s are limited to “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Come Together,” but there’s still a significant amount of soft rock early ‘70s—“You’re So Vain,” “A Horse With No Name,” “Fire And Rain,” etc.

WGRR came to prominence in the ‘90s as the Oldies station that most aggressively went deep on pre-Beatles music. Now, “Amie” by Pure Prairie League is the most spun song of the last seven days. “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt still plays 5-6x a week—almost no other large-market Classic Hits outlets play it. There are still a handful of ‘60s at the “Light My Fire,” “Respect,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” level. The music effectively cuts off at 1990.

Here’s WGRR just before 10 a.m. on March 27:

  • John Waite, “Missing You”
  • Foreigner, “Cold As Ice”
  • Doobie Brothers, “Takin’ It To The Streets”
  • Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
  • Steve Miller Band, “The Joker”
  • Cars, “My Best Friend’s Girl”
  • Beatles, “Come Together” (for a Beatles Wednesday feature)
  • Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
  • Elton John, “Honky Cat”
  • Prince, “I Would Die 4 U”
  • Bachman Turner Overdrive, “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”
  • Paul Simon, “Kodachrome” (Web?)
  • Bryan Adams, “Run To You”
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”

And here’s WRIT, as monitored by Mediabase, for the same hour:

  • Doobie Brothers, “Black Water”
  • Bryan Adams, “Summer of ‘69”
  • Stevie Wonder, “Superstition”
  • John Cougar Mellencamp, “Hurts So Good”
  • Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know”
  • Prince, “Purple Rain”
  • War, “Low Rider”
  • Dire Straits, “Walk of Life”
  • Men At Work, “Down Under”
  • Aerosmith, “Cryin’”
  • America, “A Horse With No Name”
  • Naked Eyes, “Always Something There To Remind Me”
  • Bob Seger & Silver Bullet Band, “Against the Wind”
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