During our whirlwind Tucson round trip road trip I made a point of listening to local radio stations along the way. As a former radio professional (at least, as best as I could be), I used to find great delight in listening to other radio stations during our travels. I was able to formulate new ideas, or at least copy ideas from far flung radio stations, and bring new elements to our station to keep it “exciting and fresh”. Buzz words are important in radio.
With the arrival of the 21st century and the simultaneous explosion of Internet streaming, iPods, iPhones, and the like, and the watering down of radio station ownership to a handful of media megaconglomerates, I had lost interest in listening to radio. That all happened about the same time as Top 40 performers relying heavily on auto-tune, and my musically trained ears just can’t stomach that awful processing, unless it’s used as some sort of special effect. I know I’m getting old, but the vast majority of pop music falls into three categories: 1. all humanity drained from the track by autotune, 2. screaming and yelling and yodeling-like sounds trying to sound like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, and 3. whispered tracks that sound like a cat making yowling sounds to a backing track.
Back in my day, while going up hill in the snow both ways to get to school, “classic hits” harkened back to the days of Elvis, the Beatles, and other bee-bop and Rock ‘n Roll. Today’s “classic hits” format plays music from my teenage days to the late 90s, and for the most part sit quite well with me.
Here’s four “classic hit” stations that caught my attention during our trip.
KMXO 95.3 FM in Rolla, Missouri had a strong signal for a good share of the Interstate 44 corridor and had a nice mix of music from multiple decades. I liked everything I heard, the station branding is strong, and it didn’t feel too narrowly focused. With Internet streaming, you can listen here.
I first heard 92.5 KOMA from Oklahoma City in late 2000s when I was attending training for work in Norman, Okla. The station goes back to what I would consider “classic hits” but comes up into the late 80s and plays a nice mix. I often listen to this station courtesy of Alexa; it was nice to listen to the station in real time in an analog way. We listened going into Oklahoma City on I-44 and held onto the signal quite a ways west along Interstate 40 as we made our towards Amarillo. You can listen to KOMA here.
When we decided to move to Tucson I started looking around online to find radio stations that would fit my listening needs. I never really did that when we moved to Chicago; I don’t know enough about Windy City radio other than to listen to WBBM for traffic and weather on the 8s. K-HIT 107.5 in Tucson is a heavily 80s station, at least when I listened to it earlier this week. I had the windows down and the tunes cranked as I made my way down Speedway looking for a recommended Mexican restaurant. I was blasting Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Culture Club. You can listen to it here.
WJEZ covers Livingston County in Illinois. It’s licensed to Dwight, Illinois and identifies to Pontiac. It comes in beautifully across the prairie along the Interstate 55 corridor. I had the sense this is a newer format for the station, and my radio tuned ears could easily identify that it relies heavily on automation in that someone is sitting in a studio running multiple stations through specialized computer equipment at the same time. The first four songs we heard were straight off the old Wow-FM playlist I would generate back in the late 1990s. We heard tracks from the late 1990s going as far back as to The Rolling Stones and a couple of Top 40 tracks from the early 1970s. The mix was eclectic. The only thing that was odd was there were a couple of weird edits to songs, almost like they were hastily edited to fit a certain time slot. I’ve heard many edits of “Groove Is In The Heart” by Dee-lite, but the edit I heard on WJEZ was nothing I’d ever heard before. I still really liked the station, found the air personalities friendly, if slightly generic (hence my bet on automated trickery) and I recommend the station. You can listen here.