Where Have All the Oldies Stations Gone? N.Y. Station Suddenly Dumps Oldies Format

Music News | Jun 4th, 2005

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Yahoo: It’s the day the music died. WCBS-FM, the top oldies station in the nation for more than three decades, stunned its legion of listeners by abruptly switching formats this weekend. Goodbye, Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys. Hello, Duran Duran and Jet.

“I’m sure this move angered and bewildered its listeners,” said Tom Taylor, editor of the trade publication Inside Radio. “A lot of people punched in WCBS-FM, heard Pink’s `Get The Party Started,’ and said `Something’s wrong with my radio.'”

The station had switched to an oldies format in 1972, initially as a bastion for the doo-wop sounds of the ’50s. Although the playlist changed over the years, WCBS-FM always remained the outpost for classic Top 40 radio in the nation’s largest radio market.

It was also the home to many of New York’s legendary Top 40 DJs, including “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, Harry Harrison, Dan Ingram and Norm N. Nite.

Radio formats came and went disco, punk, hip-hop, talk, sports talk but WCBS-FM remained unchanged, a warm and welcoming presence at 101.1 on the FM dial.

The station’s new format is called “Jack,” an eclectic mix of hit music from the ’70s through the present. The station’s owner, Infinity Broadcasting, made the same format shift Friday at its Chicago oldies station, WJMK-FM, where classic Top 40 had aired for the past 21 years.

“We did a lot of market research and found a hole in the market that wasn’t being served by any other station,” said Chad Brown, WCBS-FM vice president and general manager.

There are currently about a dozen stations nationally using the Jack format.

“Youth must be served,” Taylor said about the changes. “If you look at a lot of media, older Americans aren’t important unless you’re selling Craftmatic beds.”

At 5 p.m. Friday, just as Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” faded out, WCBS listeners heard a voice announce: “Why don’t we play what we want? There’s a whole world of songs out there.”

The first song played on the new ‘CBS-FM: “Fight for Your Right” by the Beastie Boys.

Until that moment, there were no indications of any imminent change at the station. Earlier in the day, morning show host Mickey Dolenz yes, the former Monkees drummer celebrated his 100th show with the station by hosting a live broadcast from B.B. King’s Blues Club just off Times Square.

In the winter 2005 Arbitron ratings, WCBS-FM was ranked eighth among the city’s stations a strong showing, but apparently not strong enough.