Following up on last night’s post, I found time today (in other words, was stuck at enough traffic lights) to redo my car radio presets.
But first, a quick note on 96Rock, which I mentioned in passing and which is apparently still on Devil MacDawg’s presets despite the name change and format tweaking — while I was in high school, 96Rock started an ad campaign noting a major change coming up at noon Sunday. I happened to be at a chess tournament in Atlanta, and I was dispatched to a car to listen to the announcement. It sounded just like a typical format change — a surreal sound, like a commercial but longer and without any music. Then they revealed the new direction, playing some big-band music. I recall stomping with anger. How DARE they take away my music from me!!
Then … “APRIL FOOL!!!!!!”
Yeah, they got me good.
On to the post …
What’s happened to a lot of these stations is a natural transformation. The oldies stations are no longer quite as old. As Lenny once said, “How about some NEW oldies, geniuses??!!”
So as I list these, I’ll explain what they are now and what they used to be …
FM, BAND 1
1. WINC, 92.5 “Wink FM.” Supposedly “hot adult contemporary,” which means they play new-ish stuff — minus hip-hop and hard rock — for the most part. They’re not the old-school AC, which would never dream of playing Chris Daughtry or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think they don’t fit so easily in the “Hot AC” format, in part because they’re not really in the Washington market. They’re way up in the mountains, and they have much more of a local feel. They remind me of my local AM music station growing up in a Southern college town — mostly Top 40, but a little eclectic at times, with local news mixed in. They’re owned by a small local chain (Mid-Atlantic), and yes, it makes a difference.
2. WARW, 94.7 “The Globe.” The station that prompted last night’s post. It had been getting a little newer, year by year, inching into the ’80s and perhaps into the ’90s, and it already had two former WHFS DJs. So the change in format was a natural progression. I can verify from listening today that they do indeed play the Stones and Zeppelin. And Weezer, which I think is new with this format. And Gnarls Barkley, which threw me for a loop. I can just imagine someone who’s been out of town returning today, flipping on the local classic rock station and going, “What the … Gnarls Barkley??” In their DJ-free introductory week, they’ve playing a lot of variety but haven’t worked out the kinks. When I went into Target, they were playing KT Tunstall’s Black Horse and the Cherry Tree. Thirty minutes later, back in the car — Suddenly I See. Yep, another KT Tunstall song. I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t plugged in my iPod.
3. WWDC, 101.1 “DC101.” DCRTV puts it best — they play whatever “rock” is in vogue at the moment. In the ’90s, they veered from “classic” to “alternative,” prompting WHFS ads chortling that their format prompted “101 imitators.” Now WHFS is gone, and DC101 is still going strong with a mix of various rock streams. Howard Stern started here — today’s mildly outrageous morning host is Elliot in the Morning, who’s occasionally juvenile but seems to be a genuinely good guy, chatting up D.C. United and Washington Capitals players and doing tons of charity work.
4. WBIG, 100.3, “Big 100.3.” The theme of edging ahead decade by decade continues. They were an oldies station for ages, playing sunny surf-pop and the Beatles. By my count, they’ve since done one tweaking (now adding the ’70s!) and one re-branding. Now they’re classified “classic rock,” but they’re also the area’s most reliable source of what Jason calls “mellow gold.” Checking out their current “Last 10” — conveniently on their site — they have Seals & Croft, plus Pilot’s Magic, along with the expected Who and Zeppelin. The oldies format is still on their secondary stream on HD Radio.
5. WRQX, 107.3, “Mix 107.3.” Hot AC, but as DCRTV points out, they play much more “modern rock.” They did some sort of stunt in which morning host Jack Diamond supposedly brought in his iPod to protest the narrow scope of music they were playing. Weird way to announce that you’re expanding the format. The “mix” generally isn’t bad, and the DJs are genial. They had direct competition from Z104 for a while, but read on to see what became of that.
6. WBQB, 101.5, “Magic 101.5.” Another local from the outer periphery of the suburbs — in this case, Fredericksburg. Supposedly Hot AC, though the site says it’s a “family-friendly mix of today’s hottest songs, with great ’80s retro.” Not settled on this one, and the signal isn’t strong.
FM, BAND 2
1. WAMU, 88.5, NPR. With WETA abruptly going from all-talk to all-classical, this is now the main source for all the NPR favorites, plus a handful of locally produced shows. They’re also devoted to bluegrass.
2. WETA, 90.9, classical/NPR. A public broadcasting giant that lurched violently from mostly classical to all-talk and now over to all-classical, excluding a simulcast of NewsHour with Jim Lehrer from its TV sibling.
3. WWXT, 94.3, sports talk. So Redskins owner Dan Snyder bought some local Spanish stations and tried to turn them into a sports network so he could own the stations on which the Redskins are broadcast. But they were really weak signals, and I don’t get this one with enough frequency (ouch … sorry) to keep it here. Consider this slot open.
4. WXGG, 104.1, rock mix. This is the new “George” station, replacing classical station WGMS as of Jan. 22. WGMS had just moved there two years earlier from another frequency, bumping out likable modern mix/AC Z104.
5. WASH, 97.1, soft rock. Excuse me … adult contemporary.
6. WWRT, 104.9, classic rock. But it doesn’t come in very well.
Currently off my FM bands
– 97.9, 98Rock from Baltimore. Hard rock. Had a great morning show in Kirk, Mark and Lopez until Lopez died after a long, poignant battle with cancer that had a lot of people rooting for him. Kirk and Mark have just moved to what passes for WHFS these days, as you can see on their non-functional Web site. (Supposedly, the old alt-rock WHFS format still lives on a second stream. Still a shadow of its old glory.)
1. WTEM 980, sports talk. Formerly Tony Kornheiser’s home, and formerly ESPN Radio until Snyder snatched it away. Not really sure what they play now. I don’t listen to AM much.
2. WMAL 630, talk. No idea why I have this on the presets — it’s your typical right-wing babble, though it has former Gopher-turned-congressman Fred Grandy.
3. WXTR 730, sports talk. The AM version of Snyder’s mini-empire, which means I’ll get rid of the FM version if I can trust this signal. Still, the only sports talk show I like is Mike & Mike in the Morning, which I watch on ESPN2.
4. WMET 1160, world talk. Or something like that. They have D.C. United games, so on the rare occasion I’m in the car during one of those, I can listen.
5. WTWP 1500, talk. Washington Post Radio. Never listened to it, but figure I should give it a try one day. They got a big shot in the arm recently — Kornheiser is going back to radio, and they convinced him to land here. You’d think that’d be a no-brainer since he supposedly still works at the Post and all, but it wasn’t. Some people apparently like him, though I’m just waiting for Michael Wilbon to explode one day on PTI and call him an ignorant slut. Must be nice to do absolutely no research on sports and be considered a top-drawer sports talk host.
6. WTOP 820, news. Ratings juggernaut despite flipping around frequencies. Traffic and weather on the eights, which is essential for commuting even though afternoon traffic institution Bob Marbourg seems to love the words “Quantico” and “Occoquan” too much to give anything related to Tysons Corner. Seriously — they’re masters of the craft.
The most recent Arbitron ratings from DCRTV will show you that WTOP is the only popular station on my presets (note that WGMS was still classical at this point):
1) WMMJ, 2) WHUR, 3) WPGC-FM, 4) WTOP, 5) WASH, 6) WKYS, 7) WMZQ and WIHT, 9) WMAL, 10) WJZW, 11) WGMS, 12) WWDC, 13) WLZL and WBIG, 15) WRQX, 16) WJFK-FM, 17) WARW, 18) WAVA, 19) WTEM, 20) WFRE and WWXX, 22) WPGC-AM, 23) WFLS and WTNT and WTWP, 26) WYCB and WBQB.