I suppose it happens to everyone.
Everyone who’s ever been in radio, or at least a radio geek, has a short list of stations that they can point to as being the catalyst for their love of the medium.
Me, I had seven. We moved a lot as a kid and I was shy, so I listened to the radio a lot. When we lived in Omaha, I had Sweet 98/KQKQ on constantly. When we moved to scenic(!) Burlington, Iowa, I put my radio on KIIK 104 until I discovered Power 98.9/WPXR. Then it was KIIK in the morning for Spike O’Dell (until he left for WGN) and Power the rest of the day. When my family moved again, after my sophomore year in high school, I knew what I would listen to: the station I would be glued to at my grandparents’ house: OK 105.7/KOKZ — which I think by then was in its ill-fated run as “KZ 105.7,” but I also discovered a local station that I liked: Q103/KQCR. Part of my routine every summer was a trip with my grandparents to extreme northern Minnesota — an area so remote that its’ first real local station was purchased in the just-finished FCC Auction 62. On that trip every summer, I knew exactly where to switch off the tapes and start dialing between WLOL and KDWB.
KIIK was the first to go, changing to Oldies shortly after Spike left in 1987. WLOL left in 1990 to become Classical. Q103 went Country in 1995. KOKZ, Oldies in 1997. Sweet 98 flipped to Hot AC in 2004 and now KDWB is The Last Man Standing after this past weekend.
No, WPXR wasn’t the same station when it blew up over the weekend; in 1995 it had been relaunched as All Hit 98-9/WHTS. (Great call letters, BTW.) It was still a great station. I re-discovered it in 1996, when I went to work playing in the ashes of Q103 at Max 102.9/KXMX in Cedar Rapids. I liked the Country I was playing okay, but Top 40 was coming back and I jonesed for a flame-thrower with all the Spice Girls, Donna Lewis and Hanson I could take. I couldn’t really get ‘HTS on my drive to work I could get it just fine at my apartment in Iowa City.
All Hit 98-9 was still doing quite well — seventh 12+ in this last book and creaming a competitive Top 40 by three full shares — but Clear Channel didn’t actually own WHTS because of the local ownership cap. Instead, they simply LMA-ed the station from Mercury Broadcasting…but in December, Mercury decided to sell and EMF bought the stick to bring their satellite K-Love format to the Quad Cities. To Clear Channel’s credit, they didn’t turf the station and staff, but instead let the station say goodbye on the air and with a big party where they brought back some of the old Power/early All Hit staffers. Some of the ‘HTS staff found new gigs quickly, and others stayed around till the bitter end this past Friday night.
Yep, I suppose it happens to everyone at some point: the stations that defined radio for you simply…go…away.
In the Quad Cities section, check out the last legal ID for WHTS and one of the first for its’ replacement, WLKU, along with some other QCA goodies. Thanks to Tim Messer and Chris Cervantez for the submissions. (Incidentally, Tim has the last two hours scoped here, if you’d like to hear a station say goodbye.)