Down to Earth

If you don't know the joy of commercial-free satellite radio and don't care to shell out a monthly fee for the kind of programming that used to be free, take heart: Redbeard is coming back to Dallas airwaves.

When the now-defunct Chancellor Media Corp. abruptly yanked Q102 off the air in late summer 1998, there was a rumor floating about that Redbeard—the longtime voice of Texas' Best Rock—would be moving to KZPS-92.5 FM, Chancellor's classic-rock outlet.

The rumor was false, at least until now. Sort of. Redbeard has returned to local radio as the music director and afternoon disc jockey for the station formerly known as KZPS, which this week switched its format and its name, going from a classic-rock station to Lone Star 92.5—what it calls on its Web site a "one-of-a-kind amalgamation of Outlaw Country, Classic Rock and Alternative Country," which means plenty of Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Steve Earle mixed in with some Drive-By Truckers, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and Old 97's.

KZPS is as close to satellite radio as terrestrial radio's ever gotten: Single sponsors pay for an hour's worth of broadcasting. The jocks will work in the sponsors' names between songs, but there'll be no commercial breaks. The point, says station program director Duane Doherty, who's been working on the format for the last year on KZPS' high-def broadcast signal, is to keep audiences listening all the time.

That's what got Redbeard back on board after years of declining offers to jump back on the FM signal.

Readbeard is familiar to listeners of early satellite radio: In 2001, he was among the so-called Dirty Dozen of jocks who pioneered the network. He was the voice behind the "Deep Tracks" channel, and he programmed it as well—the closest thing a DJ got to pretending he was still on free-form FM radio, circa 1973.

Why the return to FM?

"Everything before this was the same ol' radio. Nothing about it was significant. The last thing that was bold and revolutionary was when we started XM. That was bold. But when Duane and J.D. Freeman [Dallas market manager for Lone Star owner Clear Channel] contacted me, they wanted to do a unique Texas format that's never been done before anywhere in the country," Redbeard says. "And not only was the musical format unique, but so was the presentation and the way that this commercial radio station wanted to monetize itself."

Doherty says the station's still a "work in progress," but he insists his bosses at Clear Channel Radio, especially CEO John Hagan, have given them no deadline by which they need to prove the station can be profitable.

The new format feels old-fashioned, radio the way it was when Redbeard got into the biz in the early 1970s. And both he and Doherty insist the playlist will only get "deeper and wider" in coming days and weeks, especially when the permanent Web site goes live April 30, when listeners can suggest artists and titles for the playlist, which Redbeard and Doherty will control. "I am not researching anything," Doherty says. "If it sounds good, we'll play it. There are no preconceived notions about anything here."

 
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