Souled out

After 25 years of Texas' best rock, Q102 bids a tearless farewell

And Chancellor plans on buying even more stations, despite its $65 million loss posted for the second quarter of 1998. There's a possibility it could soon own the rock-formatted KEGL-FM (97.1), one of two local stations owned by the Kentucky-based Jacor Communications, which is currently for sale. Were Chancellor to wind up purchasing Jacor--and The Eagle, which is ranked sixth in the market by Arbitron--Hicks, Muse's mega-corporation would own every single rock station in Dallas-Fort Worth.

"One of the weirdest things about all this consolidation is that onetime competitors are now allies," says R.J. Lane. "That's so weird. It's like, 'Who's our competitor now?' In the last two, three years, everybody's starting to be owned by the same people, and where's the competition? Where's the motivation? You need enemies in your market. Now, it's all a monopoly."

The Q102 jocks and sales staff had long heard rumors about how the also-struggling Edge (rated 18th in the market, with a 2.5 share) was going to switch frequencies with Q102. They had heard how the new format was going to be either top-of-the-pops mainstream or urban oldies (much like CBS' KRBV-FM, 100.3) or urban-contemporary (or "churban," as it's known in some quarters, referring to a mix of top-40 and hip-hop). One rumor even had Redbeard, who was also the station's music director, going to KZPS, which Redbeard quashed in an instant.

"I have a contract with KTXQ for two years," he says. "They can't just send me to ZPS."

Shockingly, all that speculation was so much wasted time: At 3 p.m. Monday, Q102 debuted its new format, though to call it "new" would be a misstatement--the first song heard on the "new 102" was Junior Walker and the All-Stars' "Shotgun," a song that debuted in...1965. The deep-throated voice that debuted the format referred to the playlist as "Jammin' Oldies," which means The Gap Band, Marvin Gaye, Wild Cherry, Otis Redding, War, Kool and the Gang, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, and Rick James--or, in other words, Q102 is now a station for people who haven't listened to the radio or bought a record since 1982. Imagine a cross between the soul-oldies KKDA-AM, the '60s and '70s oldies KLUV-FM (98.7), the urban-adult contemporary KRBV-FM (100.3)--and even KEOM-FM (88.5), the station run by the Mesquite Independent School District that plays nothing but hits of the '70s. Which means the "new 102" is likable and listenable (better Al Green than Alice in Chains), but only because it sounds like every other oldies-formatted station in the market. God forbid Chancellor introduce a station in the market that plays music made in this decade.

According to this same voice, the so-called "New 102"--Chancellor will pay $25,000 to the listener who names the station, and my suggestion is "Why102?"--was created after "thousands of listeners" were surveyed by Chancellor's crack research staff. It's being promoted as a "custom-buil[t] station for Dallas-Fort Worth...designed to make you feel good"; these are, we have been promised, "jammin' oldies--Texas style." The format (they ought to just call it "The Big Chill") is no doubt intended to reach a 25-49 demographic--the very same target audience that listens to KZPS. Think of this as a little chocolate to go with KZPS' classic-rock vanilla.

Just how Chancellor came up with this format remains a mystery.Not a single person at Chancellor returned myriad calls from the Dallas Observer last week. Not George Toulas, who spent the rest of his Thursday in meetings with the remaining Q102 staffers and other Chancellor employees. Not Jeff Marcus, president and chief executive officer of Chancellor Media Corporation. Not Jimmy DeCastro, the Chicago-based president of Chancellor Radio Group, a division of CMC. Not Hicks, bossman over the whole shebang (and, you know, owner of the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars).

The Q102 jocks were resigned to the inevitable, all saying almost the same thing as they filed out of the conference room and into the elevators. "It's the nature of the radio business," said Lane. "It happens."

And no one, to a man, blamed Chancellor for the firings.
Just two hours after the meeting, Redbeard, Wiley, Elliot, and overnight jocks Ed Knight and Brian Curry sat around a table at the Angry Dog in Deep Ellum and insisted they, too, would have made changes at Q102. They knew the station was dying and are not so arrogant to presume they could have fixed what ailed it. Even 24 hours before the firing, Redbeard was on the phone with the Observer saying that Q102 and the Edge "both need a lot of work" and that personnel changes were in order.

"I think we all understand this business, and they [Chancellor] are in the business to make as much money as they can," Lane said between bites on a burger and early-afternoon swigs on a longneck Pearl. "There's no resentment at all. I just hope we all can find jobs with them down the road."

But each man said, repeatedly, that he simply wishes Chancellor would have given the rock-and-roll format one more chance, even with different people in place. They didn't want it to end like this--Q102 being shot out back, while no one was looking.

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