Monday, April 23, 2007

Just When You Thought They Couldn't Come Up With Another Radio Format, Along Comes Lone Star

Clear Channel Dumps Classic Rock in Dallas for Hybrid of Outlaw Country, Americana and Southern Rock. Oh, Yeah. Fewer Commercials, Too

No doubt, Clear Channel is as responsible as any company for the dumbing down of music radio, where any sparks of creative programming are snuffed out by focus groups and station managers too scared of a hiccup in the Arbitrons to try something truly different.

Which makes today's transformation of its Dallas classic rock station KZPS all the more remarkable. Instead of just playing the same 400 dinosaur tracks ad nauseum, the station is now a unique hybrid complete with non-Nashville country, southern rock and the AAA artists who rock a little harder, not to mention Willie Nelson being the voice of the station.

A playlist sample, as provided by Radio & Records:

ZZ Top "Heard It On The X"

Willie Nelson "Ten With A Two"

Allman Brothers "Blue Sky"

Lynyrd Skynyrd "I Know A Little"

Old 97's "Barrier Reef"

John Mellencamp "Rain On The Scarecrow"

Bob Dylan "Someday Baby"

Johnny Cash "Folsom Prison Blues"

Molly Hatchet "Gator Country"

Arc Angels "Living In A Dream"

Pat Green "Take Me Out To A Dancehall"

Stevie Ray Vaughan "Pride And Joy"

Jimmy Buffett "Hello Texas"

Drive-By Truckers "Let There Be Rock"

Ian Moore "Nothing"

Hank Williams Jr. "Family Tradition"

Pretty cool mix. It shows a human being was actually thinking about the music (in this case program director Duane Dougherty).In addition to some of those artists, I caught Travis Tritt, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle -- even the Ozark Mountain Daredevils singing something else besides "Jackie Blue -- during an afternoon listen, made all the more tolerable by the paucity of commercials.

Which, if the station has its way, will be the way things will pretty much be, even if the sponsors do come a knockin'.

Gone are 30- and 60-second spots, replaced by weaving in plugs or quick mentions of sponsors throughout the programming. It's as if NPR got dropped in the middel of a roadhouse. On top of that, each sponsor gets exclusivity in their category.

So, Coors doesn't have to worry about bumping against a Bud Light spot while you'll hear lots of good things said about Southwest Airlines but no other carrier. Guitar Center and AT&T are the only other ones signed up so far.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the station got a lot of positive feedback from other sponsors, even if they haven't signed on yet, while others blanch at the prospect of surrendering their 60-second spots. Shame.

Of course, a solid Arbitron book or two could change that. And Dougherty and his bosses could then worry more about the music and less about the hiccups.

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