Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Feeling the Beat – Is it Getting Fainter?

Classic, Oldies Rock & Roll take hits as stations disappear from your radio dial and we lose key pioneer artists. (Rushed? Skip the diatribe to scroll below for lists of terrestrial and Internet Oldies and Classic Rock radio!)

I vividly remember when The Beatles essentially took over the Earth without firing a shot. Do you? We chanted, “Long live Rock & Roll!” and “It’s gotta be Rock & Roll music if ya wanna dance with me!”! 1964 was pure magic in music.

Well, it may not die, but it’s definitely headed for an old folks’ home …

In the early Sixties one or two radio stations persisted in a Big Band format to placate the “old folks.”  I listened to my dance instructor mother, Florence, lament the loss of variety to enjoy strains of Swing and Strings.

We teens cared not. The powerhouse stations picked up on the popular wave of Rock & Roll and the world would never be the same.

Our once youthful exuberance and lack of fear is no match for Father Time, though. Rock & Roll, however mighty, is apparently not invincible.

At the time, my offhand attitude about the trend irritated and frustrated my mother. “Really, mom, no one listens to that anymore!” No one – meaning no one my age.

I dismissed her angst, glad to have a wider station choice of my music, with the same selfish attitude many of today’s young people feel about Oldies and Classic Rock & Roll vs. their weak imitation pop music. (Notice a little resentment?)

Adding to mom’s sadness, were the late 1950s deaths of Jazz great  Paul Whiteman (1890-1967), and popular swing bandleaders, Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956) and his brother, Jimmy, a year later.

Now I know how she felt. Our revered musicians of yesteryear are heading to Rock & Roll Heaven in record numbers. Many of those left are desperate to keep Rock’s heart beating, but let’s face it, even the revered Paul McCartney is well past sixty-four.

The music you gravitate to as a teen is often the same music you listen to throughout adulthood, which eventually becomes “oldies” whether we like it or not. It’s simply the nature of things.

So you grow up with the singers, musicians, and in our era, Radio Disc Jockeys, and when they begin to filter upward … sigh …

Recent (heart-)breaking news mingled with haunting strains of “All I Have to do is Dream,” (1958). Phil Everly, half of the dynamic, revolutionary Rock duo, The Everly Brothers, headed up to Rock & Roll Heaven on January 3rd, following Jay Traynor (January 2nd) who broke our hearts with “She Cried” in 1962.

At 74 (Phil) and 70 (Jay), were like older brothers to us Baby Boomers. Along with groundbreaking performers, we lost beloved pioneering Radio DJs, Larry Lujack (WLS/Chicago,12/18/13), and David “TheSnake” London (KCBQ/San Diego,12/06/13). Hey, hey, my, my, Rock & Roll will never die … right?

Without the support of the admittedly beleaguered radio industry I fear Rock & Roll will soon follow its leaders on a path reminiscent of the Big Band era.

Even “Classic Rock” radio stations are inching their years up higher on the decade dial. And Classic Rock is commingled with Oldies until no one knows anymore, what era the terms make reference to.

Wikipedia describes “Oldies” Rock as popular music generally from “15 to 55 years before the present day.” Huh. That makes 1999 the Oldies music – let’s par-ty! And anything before 1959 is … dinosaur music?

Whether you personally know a popular artist, or never see them perform but revel in memories of your first kiss while their music streamed through the steamy car, there is a real sense of loss. They are a public reminder of your own mortality.

In December this message slithered innocuously into my emailbox and devastated my day: “Clear Channel makes a major year-end statement in Houston, flushing the format on Classic Rock KKRW (93.7 the Arrow) and launching Urban 93.7 The Beat, ‘H-Town's REAL Hip Hop and R&B’” – per the industry report from RAMPRadio and Music News.

Wow. I felt the knife prick my heart … another Classic Rock / Oldies radio station bites the dust. I raised my eyes skyward and silently apologized to the essence of my mother again, for being such a stupid, insensitive child.

Because her vocation required her to sway with the current trends, Florence was acutely aware of changing demographics and music progression. It came with a certain disdain for the new, and sadness for the loss of the loved and familiar. Sound familiar?

But take heart true Rock & Rollers! Boomers aren’t going away for at least another fifteen to twenty years. 1964 is the last birth year attributed to post-World War II babies, and they won’t turn 65 until 2029. So hopefully, at least the 1970s and ‘80s music will be safe for a while longer.

Yet, “our” radio stations, especially those playing music from the late 1950s through the ‘60s, is fast disappearing on terrestrial radio. Wouldn’t you think though that with such a large demographic (supposedly with time and disposable dollars on our hands), advertisers and radio stations would recognize the revenue potential of keeping our music around too?

A few new, enterprising independent stations have hit the air recently, including The Wolf 102.7 in my NorCal neck of the woods. I forgive that even in its first year the format has relegated 1950s songs to special sporadic spots. But it also engaged vintage airchecks of Dick Clark (Sunday mornings) and Wolfman Jack (every evening), with terrific Wolfman tributes by DJ Ed Hopkins. Have Mercy!

While terrestrial radio decides whether or not to fade off into the Rockin’ sunset, independent Internet radio “stations,” or networks, are picking up speed to help fill in the gaps of our early Rock & Roll music memories.

Internet radio is gaining ground not only for portability, but functionality, as more autos are wired for high-tech entertainment and a few more new “grounded” stations flip on the Oldies switch.

Let’s keep Rock & Roll alive! I don’t care HOW you listen to it, just do it! We’re not dead yet, and neither should our music succumb to the babies’ wails of insistent attention. “Today's music ain't got the same soul / I like that old time rock and roll”!

Below is a list of terrestrial and Internet stations to bebop to all night long … keep them on the air … listen … and Rock On!

Early, Oldies, Classic Rock & Roll Radio Stations!
(Links tested for viability, but not for Oldies integrity – use at your own Rock & Roll risk. I know – there are many more than on these lists – this will get you boppin'!)


94.7 WLS-FM | Chicago
98.7 KLUV | Dallas
K-EARTH 101 | Los Angeles (BFYP DJ Shotgun Tom Kelly still “spinning the platters”!)
K-HITS 92.1 | Sacramento
KLOU 103.3 | St. Louis MO
Majic 105.7 | Cleveland
The Walrus 105.7 | San Diego (Drive home w/BFYP DJ Rich “Brother” Robbin!)
WCBS-FM 101.1 | New York
WOGL 98.1 | Philadelphia
The Wolf 102.7 | NorCal, San Francisco North Bay Area


And of course, there are the many network broadcasts of Live 365, Pandora, etc.

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