It was one thing for KKDA-AM to replace most of their on-air staff last year with an automated computer. That was sad, but the great tunes kept playing and Willis Johnson kept his morning show. So it's incredibly sad (and infuriating) to see KKDA-AM go completely off the air.
If you turned on AM 730 yesterday and were perplexed by what you heard, you were not alone. The sounds of classic soul, R&B and blues have been permanently replaced with Korean music. And, understandably, this has outraged many around town who were loyal to the station for years (and, in many cases, decades).
As much as KKDA-AM felt like a member of the community, dominated by citizens of all ages who would listen to the station for hours a day, it was still susceptible to the nature of the radio business. Economics led to the decision to let most of the on-air DJs go, and it was probably the reason why the frequency was sold. When a station switches formats (or gets "blown up" in industry terms), there's usually no warning or remorse. It's a simple message of, "We've changed and there's nothing you can do about this."
When I read soul730.com yesterday with the line, "This sale is final, and cannot be changed," my heart sank. As cold as this message sounds, business reigns supreme over anything else. No matter how many years this station was on air, and how much it meant to people.
There are reasons why a station like KKDA-AM will be fondly remembered. Like how people still speak fondly of Q102 and The Zoo, the stations that truly matter to the listeners never truly go away. (I have yet to meet anyone who misses Sunny 97.1.) I can't help but feel bad for those who found the station as something that truly spoke to them. This was a place that played hits, but the hits were beyond the typical and obvious ones. It wasn't just "Let's Stay Together" when it came to representing Al Green; it was also "Tired of Being Alone" and "I'm Still in Love With You."
KKDA-AM dug deep into a sound that it is timeless and is not restricted by age, race, gender, or income level. If you're currently in love, been in love, or dealing with a broken heart, then Levi Stubbs and Teddy Pendergrass are speaking to you.
I was not a loyal listener to the station, but when I did midday traffic reports for Bobby Patterson between 2010 and 2011, it was the highlight of my day. Whenever I put my headphones on, I usually heard songs I had never heard before. There were times before I'd talk about construction woes and accidents, and I'd ask Bobby, "Who sings that song?" Thanks to this station, I discovered greats like The Dells and Z.Z. Hill. And I heard songs from artists I already knew, but they were songs that I never heard anywhere else, like Chairmen of the Board's "Everything's Tuesday" and Archie Bell's "My Balloon's Going Up." I had a desire to hear more, so I dug, paid attention, and was often rewarded.
Not too long after most of KKDA-AM's on-air staff was let go, I created a station on Pandora called "KKDA-AM RIP." I called it that as a tribute to all the great songs they played, and hoped I would have the "Who sings that song?" reaction again. But this is a Pandora station, something that's for personal use and not mass consumption. I might enjoy this music for hours a day, but I miss the communal atmosphere of talking and sharing with people that I don't know.
KKDA-AM filled a hole in the listener's hearts and minds. Without it around anymore, it feels like a crucial part in preserving the history of soul, R&B and blues has been silenced.