Ah, here's one now...
Then: KSLU. They used to play "lite jazz" (i.e., stuff that didn't sound like jazz to anyone who listens to jazz) all during the day, but at night they played Hearts of Space (ambient stuff) and the weekends had legitimate jazz shows that were more Chick Corea than Kenny G, then it was all sleepy classical music piped in by satellite from midnight until the djs returned the next morning. I hung out at the station sometimes because I knew a couple girls who worked there, so I got to listen to the library of cds. Later on they started getting into alternative music some, though the highlight of my listening experience from that period was catching my ex-girlfriend Cathleen on there one night for about five minutes as I was leaving town and the signal broke up.
Now: Still KSLU, but their format is "Adult Album Alternative" which their site describes as featuring "artists such as Lucinda Williams, Weezer, Dave Matthews, Moby," and so on. Considering they're kind of in the middle of redneckville, I guess the jazz was just a bit too much for their market. Even though this is just a step away from pop radio, it's probably a good thing they're bringing culture to the natives.
Then: WCKW. Classic rock. They were like your cool uncle's record collection: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Stones, plus anything that was new and fit into that tradition, especially if any of the aforementioned guys were on tour that year.
Now: "Diva." I think the original concept was to play only female musicians, but that must have caused too many traffic accidents from people falling asleep at the wheel. Now it's a bunch of bullshit "soft rock" "artists" like James Taylor (who I think is a pussy, so he still counts as a female musician as far as I'm concerned) and other people who write songs off the top of their head about when they see your smiling face they have to smile too. Their playlist reads like a list of people I most want to punch in the fucking face.
Then: B97 FM. They were chameleons who did anything to fit in and be liked. You knew people like this in high school. They had no opinion or style of their own. Whatever was popular got played. Usually it was Top 40, but for a while it shifted toward talk. Of course, it wasn't long listeners started switching them off. In the early '90s they even shifted from the pop stuff to playing several hours of alternative every night to bring in the Nirvana/Pearl Jam crowd. It was as though no one at the station could independently commit to a single decision without major marketing research, never realizing that they weren't chasing trends so much as chasing trends away. Everything they embraced as "cool" suddenly wasn't as it gained mainstream acceptance.
Now: Same call sign, but at one point I was in town and thought to myself Jesus fucking Christ! I don't know anyone black enough to listen to this station anymore. It was hardcore rap that your speakers probably couldn't handle even if your musical tastes could. Since I'm usually in a rental car, I avoided this preset so I could return it the way I picked it up and not vibrated to pieces. Currently they play the same artists as Mtv puts in heavy rotation, which doesn't make any sense because those are the people who practically have to get naked for me to sit through their songs. Who would listen to a strip show without the visuals?
Then: WRNO, the Rock of New Orleans. Honestly, there wasn't a lot of difference between them and 92.3 except maybe they were a little bit harder and were into more recent stuff (There was also a noticeable and welcome absence of all the southern boogie that 92.3 had a penchant for playing in spite of the fact that absolutely no one was asking for it). For about a year around '91 or so they became Z-Rock which was a nationally syndicated thing from California. During that time the quality went way up since a big company sitting right in among all the West Coast record companies could entice more artists to hang out in the studio and jam or give interviews. No surprise to anyone now in light of the post-Katrina whining, but the residents of New Orleans bitched about it and eventually it went back to local stuff like the Raiders back to Oakland. No one listened to it anymore.
Now: After a period of playing more soft rock than the city could handle, it's talk radio. What's up with this shit? I grew up there, so maybe I'm just over my quota at this point, but I don't know anyone who can listen to people from New Orleans talk at length, let alone whine.
Then: They broadcasted out of Baton Rouge, but I was close enough to them that I picked up the signal pretty well. While they respected the classics, they also had an ear for newer artists, yet would still "Get the Led out" (i.e., play an uninterrupted block of Led Zeppelin every weeknight at 9pm). They also used to have "album nights" or whatever they called it, where they played an entire album straight through. My tape deck got a lot of work catching up on the back catalogues of U2, Yes, etc.
Now: Country. Bleeeeech. There are a million country stations out that way already, so WTF? Seriously. How many stations do you need when every track coming out of them sounds alike? Oh, sorry. This is "New Country." They don't even realize the irony here. It's called an oxymoron, you morons.
Then: Another Baton Rouge broadcaster. I can't remember their call-sign, but they were just a pop station. However, it was an interesting time because alternative sometimes stepped into their territory (think REM), and if it had a beat, they didn't question it before adding it to their playlists.
Now: Same story only less interesting playlists. They'll put on anything in a 14 year-old's cd collection: Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood, Linkin Park, and pretty much everyone you wouldn't listen to anymore by the time your voice changed.
Then: Light rock. Most of it was older soft stuff, but they would play "adult contemporary" things like whatever Tina Turner had just put out. To me, that was like a whole other universe. The tracks weren't heavy like what was usually on my stereo, but there were pretty good musicians on these tracks. I got sucked in enough to save it as a preset and check it out when nothing good was on my favorite stations.
Now: They were even Gospel at one point for about a year, but now they're classic rock. I don't know what happened here. All the formats flip-flopped so that nothing is where it used to be, but everything's exactly the same. How is this an improvement?
Then: The Zephyr. Oh, man. Where do I begin? Cathleen and I used to love the fuck out of these guys. This was the one real alternative station around, and they found some great stuff. They'd play novelty songs by new bands no one else on the dial had even heard of. On Saturday nights they'd get a club dj to play about four hours of mixes, presumably so you didn't go through withdrawal in the five minute commute between stops on your bar-hopping route. It was the early wave of what was to become electronica, and they'd mix rock stuff the way only U2 was doing on their B-sides at the time. One of the regular djs used to show up at publicity events and (supposedly) eat an entire jar of mayonnaise, which was nearly as crazy as their playlist most of the time.
Now: "Music That Swings." I didn't think anyone else listened to this stuff outside of file sharing circles, but they play Tony Bennett, Brian Setzer, Ray Charles, Harry Connick, Jr. (he's a local; most of the town's still loyal to him in spite of the bad acting), etc. They're simultaneously at the opposite end of the musical spectrum and still uniquely hold the distinction as the only station that has quality music in mind. Pretty cool.
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