"While everybody else is talkin', we'll be rockin'"
My Kinda Place!
Washing sand out of my shorts while smoking.
That's me...always Multi-Tasking
Mosaic: Brian Jay at a Rock103 Remote in 1998
"Divers do it deeper..."
The Morning Brew-HaHa!
Weekday mornings at 7:15
Join us weekday mornings for a little comedy.
Very little. :-)
We'll feature short comedy clips from America's Stand-out Stand-up comedians to get your day started. Enjoy! And no heckling, please. :-)
*Caution: Sudden unexpected laughter can cause you to spew your morning coffee right out of your nose in unlikely places...like in the middle of rush hour traffic. We assume no responsibility if this happens.
Another in a series of articles recalling Rock 103's 35 year history.
Rock 103 is celebrating 35 years of rockin' Memphis this month.
Okay, there was that one year that kinda sucked. We wouldn't be totally honest unless we at least acknowledged that.
I don't think there was ever an official "policy" that said we shouldn't talk about that time in the station's history. It's just something everybody hoped would go away.
When you witness a gruesome car accident...or see a really gross video on YouTube, you can never really un-see that stuff. It stays in your mind's eye forever.
That's sort of like what happened with the format known as "Z-103". And once you heard it, you could never un-hear it.
Around 1985, disco was officially dead. Top 40 stations were looking for something to replace it with in their tight rotations, and they discovered Album Rock. Some of the songs that you first heard on Rock 103 were suddenly showing up in other formats, and Album Rock took a little bit of a hit in the ratings as a result.
I'm not sure exactly what was taking place in station management and ownership at the time. I had gone back to college, and really wasn't closely in touch with any of the full timers at the station for a while. But to make a long story short, it was decided to pull the plug on the Rock 103 format, in favor of a "Contemporary Hits" format that would be called Z-103.
The "powers that be" at the time were so determined that the station could never become like Rock 103 again that they gave away the station's entire music library...to employees, friends, or whoever. (I actually bought some of those old albums in a garage sale a few years later, but that's another story).
That one year period in Memphis Radio History was a miserable one. There I was, Majoring in Commercial Music & Audio Engineering in college, yet I was downright dispondent about the over-commercialization of Memphis Radio.
During that miserable year, the Miami Vice Theme could be heard cranking out of Z-103 and the two urban stations in town simultaneously. You could punch the buttons on your radio and never get away from it. REALLY? Was that necessary? I mean, we can hear it every time the TV show comes on. Was it really necessary to assault us with it every hour and fifteen minutes on the radio too? Another multi format crossover hit at the time was "Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora (Now a Listerine commercial)! Even the cooler rock songs at the time were seriously abused and overplayed. Bands like Night Ranger and The Firm that otherwise might have been totally acceptable to traditional Rock 103 listeners were overplayed at a rate of about once an hour...interspersed between cheesey Jingles and puking personality jocks...right into "Careless Whisper" by Wham...or something like that.
But you couldn't find a song from Eric Clapton, Derek & The Dominos, The Who, Led Zeppelin, or Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio if your life depended on it. There was NO rock station left in Memphis. Period.
It got so bad that Freewheelin' Franks Smoke Shop bought some advertising time on Z-103 for the purpose of playing one minute of Grateful Dead music (Truckin'). I still remember that and really appreciated it at the time. Thanks Frank!
Of course all this hot rockin' hit crankin' stuff offended the very soul of the Rock 103 listener who had come of age listening to the station. The typical Rock 103 listener was a "heavy user". They tended to listen ALL DAY. In the early days, Rock 103 DJ's talked very little. When they did, it was rarely over music...and the delivery was much like that of a friend telling you about something. It was very conversational. It was as if you were there in your apartment, listening to music on your stereo when the quiet guy in the corner would speak up, say something of interest to you, then go back to quietly listening to the music again. Very non-intrusive. Compare that to the screaming personality DJ's and those JINGLES that would screech out of your radio between songs and you have the perfect formula to drive traditional Rock 103 Listeners stark raving mad.
In late April, 1986, rumors were running wild around Memphis. It seems that someone who looked like they might have been from a radio station had made a very LARGE purchase of Rock Albums at Pop Tunes. There was a feeling of excitement in the air.
Then finally on May 3, 1986 (3 days before my birthday), sensibilities returned to the Memphis airwaves and Z-103's General Manager Craig Scott took to the airwaves with the announcement of a format change.
Believe it or not, I've saved that announcement all these years.
You can listen to it by clicking the speaker HERE->
For me, it was perhaps the best Birthday present ever.
And so, the next generation of the station begins
If you listened to the audio clip, you'll notice that even with the change back to a rock format, they didn't call it Rock 103. I guess they were hoping that "Quality Rock, the Eagle 102.7" would catch on and everybody would just forget about all the good times they had coming of age with 'Rock 103". Didn't happen. As cool of a mascot that "Eddie Van Eagle" was, he sort of quietly disappeared (right about the time that massive inflatable gave out).
Over time, the station would again simply be called Rock 103, as it was in the beginning. Our friend the Rock 103 Walrus would make a cameo appearance on the station's bumper stickers right about the time of the station's 25th Birthday.
Now I don't really have anything against the "Contemporary Hits" format. I had a chance to work "across the dial" for a hit music station, and had the opportunity to work with top notch talent and some of the best names in the business. It is what it is: An effective, high energy delivery system for Hit music. And it's the direct decendent of "Top 40", which was undisputedly the "mother of all radio formats".
I also don't have anything against those Jingles that were so common on the radio in the 70's and 80's. I'm strangely nostalgic when I hear one of those now. One of the biggest jingle production companies in the country (Pepper/Tanner & Media General) was based right here in Memphis. I even had a chance to record some jingles myself in a 24 track studio during my time in college.
But the big picture was all wrong...especially when it involved taking Memphis' Rock station off the air. Bad move. I'm glad it's over.
In a strange case of Deja Vu, history repeated itself a few short years later. Another station across the dial picked up the "Z" format thing and used that infamous letter to identify its own brand of Contemporary Hits. As of this date, both stations in the market that have made that move have gone back to being rock stations.
But that's the nature of the business. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.