Your Intriguing Stations of 2017

posted in: by Sean Ross | 1

I’m always glad when each year’s “Intriguing Stations” article gives Ross On Radio readers something new to listen to. And each year, listeners’ own suggestions for additions to the list keeps me busy for a while as well.

Some are stations that have been saluted in previous years and continue to fascinate. Some are big-name stations that I need to catch up with. Some are readers’ pitches on behalf of their own stations, which I’m still happy to share with you. I’m just starting my way through the list, and I’ve already discovered three radio stations that I’m glad to know about.

RadioInsight’s Lance Venta’s list was helpful in spurring mine. He mentioned Cox’s KGLK (The Eagle) Houston, which evolved from Classic Hits to Classic Rock and grew, even when a Classic Hits rival came to town (see below). Also, Christian AC and Christmas music powerhouse WFSH (104.7 The Fish) Atlanta, which has effectively become the market’s Soft AC. Also “WKTI Milwaukee overtaking [Country rival] WMIL after all the on-air shakeups.”

Adam Jacobson of Radio + Television Business Report listens to radio the way I do (and probably much more). Besides KINK Portland, seconded by many listeners last week, he also mentions:

  • KCRW Los Angeles and its new companion station in Berlin! “Their ratings have never been higher and they’ve never sounded as good.”
  • CIND (Indie 88 ) Toronto – “Despite their paltry ratings, they are the source for Alternative music with heritage personalities on a tiny signal that seems to do more online than on the radio.”
  • WNKI Elmira, N.Y. –“Professional sounding adult-leaning Top 40 with multitasking talent that goes above and beyond.”
  • WBMX (104.3 Jams) Chicago – “Finally an ultra-focused throwback station that is enjoyable by millennials and the multicultural listener. No stiffs from 1985 here. This is clean and crisp and perfect for Chicago.”

WKAF (The New 97.7) Boston gets a nod from the station’s Jay Brown, but it should have been on my list as well. PD Chris Malone appeared on a panel I moderated for the Mass. Broadcasters Association last year. I already knew about the initial outpouring for the station that brought Urban AC back to FM in Boston, but it was eye-opening to see the excitement about WKAF among other radio people. I should also mention Urban AC KBLX San Francisco, which under PD Elroy Smith has impressed me with a lot of little flourishes of the type you don’t often hear. (He’s currently playing a 30-year-old Whitney Houston song as a bring-back.)

Recently returned Bostonian David Corey has spent seven months at WKLB (Country 102.5) Boston. That station didn’t seem in any way broken when new rival WBWL (the Bull) prompted it to further contemporize (before Corey’s arrival). But now Corey says the station “has really grown from a ratings perspective in the last few months. I’ve brought a very CHR approach to country, and it’s working well.”

“While I’m no longer there, I’ll say [WKXW] New Jersey 101.5 [Trenton], one of the most unique and successful brands in the industry: 1 million listeners, over $20 million in revenue, super-serves a state, and has been a lifeline during dramatic life-threatening events.” – Eric Johnson, WPEN Philadelphia

“I think you already know what my nomination would be.” – I’m pretty sure Chris Huff is referring to 95.7 The Spot, which brought Adult Hits to a full Houston signal for the first time last year.

“I recommend 92.5 WINC Winchester, Va. The station is in the shadow of Washington, D.C., and sounds better than any music station in the D.C. market … Morning man Barry Lee has been a constant on the station for 34 years. His community involvement is everything that is good about radio. He created the Chain of Checks campaign over 30 years ago, [which is] still going strong, involving the listeners, businesses, and communities to raise money for local causes. This year’s campaign was ‘A Stronger Me,’ with the public schools, to address teenage depression and suicide prevention …They are still doing radio the way we fondly remember.” The recommendation is from weekender Stacie Seifrit Griffin, but I can second her. And I recently spotlighted WINC’s like-minded Hot AC sister WBQB (B101.3) Fredericksburg, Va., as part of my “Virtual Road Trip” article.

“There’s a few small markets in Michigan that run with deep and intriguing playlists. Two of the more interesting ones are [WQON] Q100 in Grayling and WLEW (Cruise 102.1) Bad Axe.” – Jojo Girard, WFGR Grand Rapids, Mich.

“I really think John O’Connell really does a nice job with [Alternative] WSFS (104.3 The Shark) Miami. Old tunes. New tunes. I don’t feel like it’s all gimmicks all the time like on the other stations.  Deena Lang makes you feel like you always learn something and you’re hanging out with your BFF. The morning show is silly but honest.” – T.A. Walker

WPOW (Power 96) Miami was a standout for me, because of the way they captured that ‘305’ feeling better than the other Top 40s. I have vacationed in South Florida for the past several years, and [former owner] CBS has tweaked WPOW to be something special … their personalities, their DJ mixes, and especially the inclusion of [Spanish-language crossovers] makes this station feel not as much Top 40 as a Miami signature station.” – Allan Nosov, whose comments on crosstown WMXJ (the Beach) (also WSFS’s sister station) were quoted in the first installment of this discussion.  He also mentioned AC WTDY (Today’s 96.5) Philadelphia.

“WXPN Philadelphia for their ‘’70s A to Z’ programming in December.” – Ross Landy

KSUR (K-Surf) Los Angeles “won major bonus points by … treading the fine line between the overly familiar and ‘hasn’t yet worn out its welcome’ fare.” – Mike McDowell.

WKCI (KC101) New Haven, Conn. Adam Rivers has made that CHR amazing. It has unique local elements, the forward momentum is amazing, and the on-air promotions are creative.” – Kevin Vaughan, Hall Radio, New London, Conn.

“WRME (Me-TV FM) Chicago for its strange playlist, lack of personalities, and being, in reality, a TV station on a frequency (87.7) that a lot of radios can’t receive, operating with a signal that doesn’t cover the entire metro, yet pulling in a cume of nearly 700,000 weekly listeners.” – Greg Gawronski. Me-TV FM’s combination of oldies and super-soft AC has been regularly featured here as well.

“Check out WHIN Gallatin, Tenn. It’s like a female-leaning Jack-FM with a few jocks. Cool music mix. The dude that owns Hippie Radio in Nashville [Tony Richards] owns it. He brought back the Tookie Bird Mascot that Y107/Nashville used back in the day. The logo looks the same too. It’s an interesting listen.” – Mark Summer, Bristol Broadcasting/Paducah, Ky.

“Classic Rock 102.9 WMGK Philadelphia. No. 1 or 2 for nine out of twelve months in 2017 with persons 25-54.”—WMGK’s Nancy Palumbo.

[WXSS] 103.7 Kiss-FM Milwaukee. Duh.” – Kiss morning host Andy Riggs, but it often makes this column, particularly because of PD Brian Kelly’s increasingly rare willingness to find his own hits.

“Obviously the Entercom Alternative flips. Of course, I nominate [Northern Michigan’s] Top 40 WCDY and Classic Hits WBZX (B103.9): stations doing an uber-local approach that’s working well with ears and the cash register.” – Mike Erickson, WCDY/WBZX. Unfortunately, those stations don’t stream. Nor does …

“Has anyone nominated WJIB Boston, now that they are on FM as well? It is the most refreshing thing on the radio dial there.” — Tony Simon

“I nominate the classic ending of [KSWD] 100.3 The Sound Los Angeles. Proof positive that professional broadcasters can be told in advance of the station’s demise and be allowed to say goodbye, and give listeners a chance to say goodbye too. What a classy ending.”—Chris Torrick.

92.9 Play-FM Panama City, Fla., and Revolution 93.5 FM with its string of terrestrial and translators in South Florida are both pretty sweet, proving full-time EDM formats can be done.” – Brian Holmes. Revolution 93.5 also made my Intriguing Stations of 2017 list, and has been profiled in Ross On Radio before.

“Classical WRCJ Detroit was started just 12 years ago, out of Detroit Public Television. The license was owed by the Detroit Public Schools. A year ago, it was purchased and moved into a private Foundation. The station has 130,000 listeners a week, 9,000 members, a strong bottom line and a partnership with organizations like the Detroit Symphony Orchestra [and] University of Michigan. It is housed in the Detroit School of Arts, a public high school.” – Rich Homberg

“WVQC (95.7 MRC) Cincinnati is a low-power FM I helped start for students. The cool thing is that 100% of the music is written, recorded, and produced by students in grades 7-12. [The nickname stands for Music Resource Center] . . .  WSDP (88.1 The Park) Canton, Mich., is the station where I got my start. The school radio program has been going strong for 45 years and has a number of alumni working in the industry. Full disclosure, I help them out still, too.” – Jay Kruze.

“For something completely different,” veteran broadcaster Skip Finley nominates his Martha’s Vineyard-based reggae outlet, also done with student help, WYOB 105.5 FM.

“From the unusual department, can I plug CJBQ Belleville, Ontario? One of the last locally owned AMs in Canada, and a fun listen. Full-service mornings, then some country and talk, and then from 2-7 they go all-out personality oldies with my pal Freddy Vette. I get to play radio with him one afternoon every summer, and it’s always a highlight of my year!” – Scott Fybush, NERW

“I have just started listening to [CFMI] Rock 101 Vancouver. They play the greatest hits of rock from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s but I have heard some ‘60s music thrown in.  They do play some songs that I haven’t heard on the radio [in the U.S.]; just yesterday I heard “Radio Ga Ga” from Queen.” — David Thomas

“I nominate [WMNP] Mixx 99.3 Newport, R.I., and [WSNE] Coast 93.3 Providence, R.I. The former is a rhythmic leaning, broad-based CHR that spices up their weekends with one old gold (almost always a rhythmic track) every hour dating back to 1995. The latter transitioned from a CHR-leaning hot AC to a gold-intensive one, dropping their syndicated programming entirely in the process (this never happens with iHeart hot ACs and CHRs).” – Tom Geraci

WDXD-LP 101.9 Tallahassee, Fla., is a unique little station that brought classic and traditional country music back to the market. The last classic country station here, WGWD 93.3, was sold and changed to talk in April 2012. The former WGWD owner even provided his country music library to WDXD. Listeners refer to WDXD as an oasis, with its non-commercial country variety format, which does also feature local info — weather, traffic, community events, etc. Automated evenings and overnights, but has live DJs six days per week.” – Alan MCall, WDXD

WXYG (The Goat) St. Cloud, Minn. The audience reviews on the Facebook page say a lot.” – Lee Arnold. (The deep cuts/old-days-of AOR outlet has appeared in this column in previous years.)

KKCL (The Cloud) Denver, from the station’s Chuck Lontine. The station slogan is “fresh, calm, peaceful.” Another positioner is “give us 20 minutes and we’ll give you your life back.” Lontine characterizes it as “pop/alt variety, combined with locally produced messages of wellness, health, and hope.”

“I’ve been very intrigued by WVMP (The Mountain) Roanoke, Va. They are a Triple-A station, and while they play some chart hits, I really believe that listening to it is mood music. You’ll get it after spending a few hours with it …  On the non-commercial side, I need to give my station [WERA Arlington, Va.] some credit. People often think of low-power FM as a wayward ‘anyone can be on it’ platform, and while we are a community host-driven station, our strategy for approving shows has allowed us to be an incubator for what I believe will be great podcasts, and unique music shows that are plugged into the Washington, D.C., community.”—Brandon Charles, WERA

WHWG (The Hog) and WBEL (The Beat) Janesville, Wis., from the stations’ Wayne “Grizzly” Adams. WHWG is “Everything That Rocks” Active Rock. The Beat is the ‘90s-based Classic Hits station that I helped launch and have written about (including in Part I).

“103.9 The Doc Rochester, Minn., from worst to first (among doctors, of course).” – From J.B. Wilde, OM of the Adult Hits station’s Townsquare Media cluster. But Brian Davis of Townsquare Dubuque, Iowa, seconds: “J.B. has done an amazing job with the Doc. Big fan.” And one of the things Wilde has done is create an entire Bob- or Jack-like vocabulary around “the Doc” in the home of the Mayo Clinic.

“[WRHD HD-2] Fresh 97.9 Greenville, N.C. I believe we are the future of Urban AC — aggressive.” – Brand manager B. Paiz

“Take a listen to Radio XL5: a stream-only station that is hit music-oriented but programs indie pop in the playlist as well to keep it real musically, and to bring new artists exposure. They work these artists and establish relationships. They brand as ‘Smart Hits for Your Smart Phones!’” – Radio XL5’s Gary Brefini.

“Well, I think we are kinda unique” says Damon Collins about his WLYB Livingston, Ala./Meridian, Miss., best described as Rhythmic Adult CHR, but stretching from Al B. Sure! to Zedd & Alessia Cara (and back into ‘70s disco, actually).

“Jammin’ 92.5” – I’m currently running my own Internet station online, and it needs to be on the real radio. The music that I’m playing is what people are missing; can you help me get recognition for my radio station?” – Tyler, Dayton, Ohio.

WTOB Winston Salem, N.C., [plays] great songs from the ‘50s to the ‘70s. The station is live from 6 AM to midnight, Monday to Friday, and most of the weekends. There is actually a local news team, too. WTOB was king of the market in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and we use the old jingles.” – Greg Rice

  1. Brett

    I will report that there are actully more like CJBQ that are locally owned AM radio station. In Montreal there are Multicultural and soon to English and French talk radio that are local owned AM. No to forget Concordia University who owns CJLO 1690 am. Near by CJLV 1570 in Laval Quebec is local owned. All but a few AM radio stations in Montreal are local owned.

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