Souled out

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

"There is personnel, and then there is format," Redbeard said. "They're not the same thing. Today, they changed all the personnel, and I believe they're changing the format, and it would have been nice to have given it one more chance with different personnel. I think it deserved that."

But how did it happen? How, 25 years after KTXQ became a rock station--at one time, the most successful in this market--did Q102 come to such a quick, ugly death?

"That's what I want to know," says Dave Martin, general manager for CBS Radio, which owns several stations in the market, including the stalwart KVIL-FM (103.7) and the urban-adult contemporary KRBV-FM (100.3). "Dallas-Fort Worth was always known historically as being one of the best rock markets in America. But for whatever reason, rock radio seems to have significantly diminished its position in the market. Why? I just don't know. That's my first question. On the face of it, it doesn't make sense."

The era of which Martin speaks existed a long time ago, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Q102 and KZEW-FM (97.9) were the only two rock-and-roll stations in town. Those were the glory days, long before the classic-rock format was born; back then, The Who, Van Halen, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC were new (or newish) bands. During those days, jocks at both stations absolutely hated each other, so much so that they weren't on speaking terms. There were stickers plastered all over the walls at the "Zoo" that read, "KTXQ--Fuck You!"

"It was very, very, very competitive," says former Zoo jock Mike Rhyner, now part of the sports-talk duo "The Hardline" on KTCK-AM (1310, better known as The Ticket). "When I first started at the Zoo in September 1979, Q102 was really trouncing the Zoo in the ratings, but the Zoo was on its way back. And everybody was real focused and very competitive, and the focus was the hated Q102."

But the Zoo disappeared eight years ago. By then, the Belo Corporation had sold the station. Thereafter, 97.9 seemingly switched formats every other week, offering all Christmas music one minute, soft rock the next.

Q102 was, for years, owned by CBS Radio, and its ratings were enormous: Throughout the 1980s and early '90s, KTXQ pulled in an eight share, which would have made it the top-rated station in Dallas today. Redbeard, who joined the station in the mid-1980s, often played host to the top names in rock and roll; he was on a first-name basis with the likes of Jimmy Page, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, even Paul McCartney. He was among the most respected taste-makers in the album-rock format: If Redbeard was playing a band, similar stations across the country often would follow suit.

But the end began in the summer of 1994, when CBS obtained the 97.9 frequency and instituted a new format called "The Arrow," which CBS had begun in Los Angeles. The KRRW-FM format was so similar to Q102's--album-rock, and lots of it--that you couldn't even tell the stations apart. What's a little "Tush" between friends? Within months, Q102's ratings were cut in half, leaving The Arrow and Q102 to share the same dwindling audience.

"I warned them three times they were going to kill the Q102 goose that had been laying the golden egg for over two decades," says Redbeard. "They insisted on installing a format that directly competed with Q102, and we had no choice. It cannibalized Q102, cut our legs right off the body, and left us with a two share. And Arrow never got more than a two share."

"It was like a new baby comes into the family, and the other kid gets ignored," Elliot adds.

In order to boost its ratings, which sagged like a botched facelift, Q102 in the fall of 1994 switched formats--sort of. It put the dinosaur acts out to pasture and instituted the so-called "active-rock" format, which meant swapping The Who and Lynyrd Skynyrd for Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

The station also began to add local bands to its regular rotation. No longer were acts such as Tripping Daisy, Hagfish, Spot, Funland, and the Nixons ghettoized to Redbeard's long-running "Texas Tapes" program. Now, you could hear Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and a handful of songs off the Toadies' debut Rubberneck long before they were played on other local stations--not to mention stations around the country. By the summer of 1995, The Edge, The Eagle, and Q102 were all vying to be known as the station for Dallas music; all three stations took credit for breaking Tripping Daisy and Deep Blue Something, when, in fact, it was Redbeard and Q102 who were airing the most homemade rock and roll. Thanks to Chancellor, local music has lost one more valuable venue with the "new" format at 102.1.

But then, in 1996, the Federal Communications Commission lifted its long-standing regulation that no company could own more than two stations in any market. The deregulation of radio would eventually ruin the medium; suddenly, companies like CBS could own as many as eight stations in a single city, and CBS promptly went about purchasing anything it could get its hands on.

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