Perhaps the mega-consolidation of radio stations, so that even tiny stations in the middle of nowhere can be part of a corporately programmed chain, will mean the end of the phenomenon, but while it lasted, it was pretty common: A small-town station would get the idea that the best way to attract the widest possible audience would be to play as wide a variety of music as possible. Up to a point, it can work–but beyond that point, cluelessness lies. I once worked in a market that was home to the single most clueless radio station on Earth. I once heard them segue from Bruce Springsteen into the Glenn Miller Orchestra, but that wasn’t their all-time prizewinner: That would have been the night they went from something by Motley Crue into Shelley Fabares’ 1963 hit “Johnny Angel,” which was being played at the wrong speed.
Stations with a clue would generally be a little more subtle in trying to achieve a broad mix. At KDTH in Dubuque circa early 80s, we did it. Our music was mostly soft country–call it urban cowboy or countrypolitan, they both fit–but we mixed in some AC material during the day and harder country at night. Our definition of “soft country” was fairly broad–it included then-current superstars like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, but also certain records by the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and others on that California soft-rock continuum.
Like, for another example, Karla Bonoff, whose 1982 hit “Personally” we played for a while. The first time I ever heard it was the first afternoon I played it on the air, and I liked it so much I played it again right away. It’s got one of the all-time great DJ talkover intros, and it’s hooky in about half-a-dozen different ways. I heard it again this morning, at the bagel shop–yet another great moment in the history of background music–and you can hear it now by clicking here.
(Columbia 02805, chart peak: #19, August 7, 1982)
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