Monday, November 8, 2010

106.7 Sounds Like A Plan

The low point in True Oldies 106.7's life was probably its launch.  It was born out of a need to help save its sinking parent Citadel some dough, and provide an Atlanta affiliate for Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel and Imus.  However, local Citadel management has slowly been building something on the powerful move-in signal, which city grades all of Atlanta.

The station has two identities, however.  From 6-9AM and 4-7PM, its moniker is "Atlanta's Greatest Hits, 106.7."  The other 18 hours, it's the True Oldies Channel.  This makes me wonder whether the Atlanta folks want to distance the station from the "O" word and will eventually do so.  Recent actions point in that direction.

Like he does with 106.7's (WYAY-FM's) country sister Kicks 101-5, Operations Director Mark Richards has put out the best product with what he had to work with, which at the start wasn't much.  Providing an Atlanta affiliate for Imus was a Citadel directive.  Not that Imus' target audience of older men was that inconsistent with the Oldies listener, but the show impeded the station's ability to establish the format in the morning and carry listeners through the day.

The rest of the day--and nights and weekends--starred Scott Shannon, who created the True Oldies format in his home studio.  Shannon was frustrated by the extremely tight, focus-group-driven playlists used by Oldies stations.  It was just the ticket that Citadel CEO Farid Suleman was looking for, a format that his stations could run on the cheap.  I have followed Scott Shannon's work for years.  He's a genius programmer and loaded with creativity.  But a disc jockey he is not.

The slow building process started when Richards held on-air auditions for the afternoon drive slot.  Budget limitations restricted the tryouts to Kicks and former Eagle part-timers Freddie Brooks, Rob Lee and Steve Boomer Sutton.  Brooks prevailed, and at least the station had a live and local PM driver.  After a while, True Oldies 106.7 added Spiff Carner, the out-of-work half of the Randy & Spiff duo, to what became the Fred & Spiff Show.  Fred & Spiff; darn that sounded strange.

Next, the station edited the Imus show and inserted music, still clearing the national spots.  The custom Atlanta version sounded incoherent, but Citadel needed an Imus affiliate in market #7.  Citadel/Atlanta management's prayers were answered when WCFO-AM, a talk station, decided Imus would make the perfect morning show.  No longer hamstrung in mornings, True Oldies 106.7 moved Fred & Spiff to the wake-up shift.

The other shoe dropped about a year later, when Randy Cook joined Spiff in morning drive.  When Randy departed WGST, the pairing became a no-brainer provided the money was in the till, and apparently enough was there for Randy to choose the job over unemployment.  The station was now anchored by the guys synonymous with Oldies in Atlanta.  Fred Brooks jumped back to afternoons, and some semblance of a real radio station was in place.  Scott Shannon's True Oldies syndication remained in middays, evenings, overnights and weekends.

Rumors persisted that Scott Shannon, who is reputed to have considerable input, did not care for Fred Brooks' sound, and that he wanted Atlanta veteran JJ Jackson in the slot.  Several weeks ago, Brooks was indeed relieved of his duties.  His replacement, however, turned out to be Tripp West, who spent 10 years at Star 94 and about 6 months at The Groove.

Tripp West is a talented personality with a sound that cuts across demos.  He was perfect for both Star 94 and The Groove, and is just as perfect for True Oldies 106.7.  Tripp was not around when the songs he's playing were popular, but is into music and will quickly come up to speed.

The question remains, however, as to why Mark Richards chose to overlook JJ Jackson, someone who, like Randy & Spiff, is associated with Oldies in Atlanta.  Couple that with the dichotomy to which I alluded above, "Atlanta's Greatest Hits" in the drivetimes and "True Oldies" the rest of the hours.  That combination of thoughts sets the mind aflutter.

Will 106.7 continue to have 2 identities?  Will the music stay the same with a much younger personality in afternoons?  Or will 106.7 manage to grab a little of Farid Suleman's post-bankruptcy cash stash and break away from the True Oldies syndication?  Citadel's WLS-FM in Chicago has managed to separate itself from Shannon except in middays.

True Oldies 106.7 has been getting good Persons 6+ numbers, but the demographics have been old.  Demos too old for most advertising buys has pushed many Oldies stations away from the 50's and to some extent the 60's, and much more into the 70's and 80's.  And most have fled from the Oldies positioner to Classic Hits (which will not be used by 106.7 because of 97-1 The River).

So here are my short-term predictions for 106.7: 1) Middays and possibly evenings will be filled with new voices, perhaps voicetracked. 2) During these hours, the station will be called "Atlanta's Greatest Hits," with "True Oldies" relegated to overnights and weekends. 3) Music in the "Greatest Hits" hours will shift more into the 70's and 80's.

I suspect we'll know whether my prophecy becomes reality in the very near future.

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