I’ve been getting a lot of letters and emails lately regarding KRTH (101.1 FM) and their continued addition of even newer songs at the expense of even more (what some would call) oldies, especially those from the 1960s and ‘70s. KRTH abandoned music from the 1950s long ago.
As someone who spends far too much time living in the past -- one of my favorite things to do is to listen to top-40 radio station airchecks from the 1970s -- I feel your pain. To oldies purists, even the 1970s are too new; now that KRTH has added music as new as the 1990s ... well, the word blasphemy must come to the minds of some former listeners.
But some perspective is in order. When KRTH went on the air in 1972, the station played a mix from roughly 1955 through the British invasion years of the 1960s. That means the oldest song it played was 17 years old. This is now 2014. Seventeen years ago was 1997.
The problem is that KRTH needs to move forward to avoid becoming irrelevant. Certainly there is a place for music of any era, be it the 1920s, 1940s, or the music KRTH used to play from the 1950s and ‘60s. Music I like too, mind you, even if I am too young to have experienced it when it was new.
But music from 1955 is almost 60 years old. Can you imagine KRTH playing music from 1913 when it launched?
Interestingly, KRTH is now playing much the same music it played during the era I liked. Before they went “all oldies” in 1986 or so, the format under programmer Bob Hamilton was a hybrid of current top-40, a little album rock, and oldies spanning back as far as the 1960s. It was in my opinion the best format KRTH ever ran; I liked the variety because I tend to get a bit tired of one genre. It was the station that played anything from Cream’s “White Room” to Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.”
For a time, they even had a great morning team in John London and Ron Engelman. Weekends were made more special with themes: Souvenir of the Seventies was my favorite, but there were others, such as the Runner Up of Rock and Roll.
I personally wish they could still do such a format. There is a lot of good music available today that doesn’t get played on the radio, and much of it would fit such a hybrid format. But that’s not KRTH of today, as much as I would personally enjoy it.
Getting back to the point, stations that stagnate don’t do well: playing the same music they played in 1972 would most certainly lead to an untimely death for the station. And the recent changes have led to some of the highest ratings the station has ever seen, so it does appear to be paying off. And if you have a digital HD Radio or don;t mind listening online, KRTH HD2 does still play music from the 1960s.
This does open up opportunities to other stations willing to take a chance. Stations that are underachievers or total ratings failures in their current incarnations: KDIS (1110 AM), KFWB (980 AM), KRLA (830 AM), KEIB (1150 AM) and KABC (790 AM) come to mind, though there are others. Maybe a current-leaning station that plays gold -- like the station I would program if ever given a chance -- might rejuvenate the Southern California radio marketplace.
Before I leave KRTH, I want to mention that Maggie McKay has been added to the weekend/fill-in roster. McKay comes most recently from KFWB, but you may remember her from the original KRLA (now KDIS) and KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM), along with KCBS-FM (93.1 FM) before they became the jockless, soul-less Jack FM.