By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
All morning long, KTXQ-FM staff members--on-air personalities, sales personnel, and receptionists alike--wandered through the radio station's frigid corridors, saying little and wearing faces so long, they damn near brushed against the carpet. When they spoke, they offered only curt words and dark jokes.
"You leaving?" a receptionist asked one of the jocks as he headed for the elevator.
"We're all leaving," he offered, wearing a thin, grim smile beneath his pulled-down baseball cap.
The receptionist grinned half-heartedly, then groaned. Everyone knew what was coming, but nobody said anything. Maybe then the inevitable wouldn't happen.
At exactly 10:57 on the morning of August 27, the voice of doom blared over the loudspeaker in the Central Expressway offices that house KTXQ (102.1) and KBFB-FM (97.9). "Attention Q staffers," said the male voice, deep and booming, full of fake enthusiasm. "The fun's about to begin. Everybody meet in the conference room."
The troops began filing into the room, slowly shuffling toward their fate. "It's cold in here," said one woman, shivering as she walked down the hallway. "In more ways than one," offered a female colleague.
Then--for the next hour and a half, during three separate meetings with small groups--Q102 and B97.9 employees were told what they'd feared for weeks: Q102 was dead. No more "Texas Best Rock." No more "Bring in the Weekend" parties. No more Redbeard. No more Lex and Terry. No more "Texas Tapes." No more blood drives. No more nothin'.
Delivering the news was George Toulas, regional senior vice-president of operations for Chancellor Media Corporation, the Dallas-based radio-and-television conglomerate that owns six stations in this market, including Q102, B97.9, KDGE-FM (94.5), and KZPS-FM (92.5). Toulas was short and to the point, a hangman just doing a day's work. He told staffers--including longtime veterans of the station, DJs such as Doug "Redbeard" Hill, Buddy Wiley, R.J. Lane, and Bob Elliot--that effective immediately, all Q102 on-air staffers were fired.
They were to leave the building immediately, allowed to return the next day to pick up their checks. Toulas explained that Chancellor's research had revealed that Q102's audience was not a "desirable" demographic and that changes were going to be made "starting immediately." The jocks asked Toulas about a format change. He responded by saying, "I didn't say there was going to be a format change." And that was pretty much it.
After 25 years as one of Dallas' premier rock-and-roll radio stations, Q102 was gone.
Happy anniversary. Get out.
Within a matter of minutes, Q102 was broadcasting a message instructing listeners to turn to KZPS for their fill of classic rock "now that Q102 is gone"; they were also playing "Taps" in between Metallica and Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins triple-shots. Every so often, a voice would come over the air and remind listeners they were listening to "Q102, Texas' best rock."
Never was there any mention of the format change that would come at 3 p.m. the following Monday. Never did anyone come on the air explaining how and why Redbeard and the rest of the jocks left without getting to say goodbye after so many years. It was just...over.
"I feel sorry for that guy," said Buddy Wiley as he walked toward the elevator. Wiley--who had cleaned out his desk the night before, when he received a memo announcing the mandatory staff meeting--motioned toward a solitary figure in the control booth, which is visible from the stark lobby on the 12th floor of the Comerica building on Fitzhugh and Central. The guy was just a rented-out board operator brought in to play CDs and ads during the late-morning shift, while the mass execution was taking place. The poor schlub never uttered a word on the air.
"He's probably like, 'I have to go to the bathroom, but no way am I going out there.'" Wiley, a tall man with close-cropped hair and a goatee, smiled. "It's not his fault."
To Q102 employees, the end of their beloved radio station did not come as a surprise. They have awaited this day for weeks, ever since the spring Arbitron ratings came out and revealed that the station's ratings were--once again--absolutely dismal. Weeks ago, some jocks started looking for work at other stations.
According to Arbitron, which uses diaries to count the number of listeners tuned in to radio stations across the country, Q102 is 19th in the Dallas-Fort Worth market overall with listeners 12 and older. Arbitron's research shows that about 14,400 people were listening to the station during any given 15 minutes, giving the station a 2.4 share of the market.
In other words, Q102's audience was the same size as that of WRR-FM, the city-owned station that broadcasts classical music and City Council meetings.
"We all knew this was coming," says Bob Elliot, the now-former midday jock. "There wasn't any kind of fall campaign being planned. It was extremely quiet at the station. Normally, during this time of the year, we're gearing up for a big fall campaign with promotions, but this year--nothing."
At the very same moment Q102 was being shut down, Chancellor Media Corporation chairman Tom Hicks--of the local investment firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst--was announcing that Chancellor was merging with the Austin-based Capstar Broadcasting. Both Chancellor and Capstar are controlled by Hicks, Muse. The result of the merger, which cost Chancellor $4.1 billion, will make Chancellor the largest owner and operator of radio stations in the country, giving the corporation 463 stations in 105 markets. It finally surpasses CBS as the nation's largest radio entity.