Back in the 70s and 80s top FM stations played rock music. It was music of the 60s and 70s (and later 80s) because that was current and popular. Ironically, that is the exact same music played by classic rock stations today. It might include Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Coldplay, but it is still based on a world where Stairway to Heaven and Freebird duke it out every year for number one song.
When I arrived in the Triangle for college in 1983, the venerable rock station everyone listened to, including unhip college who had yet to discover “college radio,” was WQDR. This was the station everyone in the area grew up listening to. In 1984, the station changed its format to country and has been the number one station in the market for over 20 years. Around the same time, a new rock station entered the market,WRDU.
On the last day of WQDR’s rock programming, one particular DJ signed off in the morning, and showed up on WRDU in the evening. Not only was this a great stunt, but it passed the mantle to the new station.
For many years, WRDU was king of rock, but as radio audiences have slipped, so too has WRDU. It has been many, many years since I have listened to it. The format has become very dated. Radio has become less relevant. How many times can you listen to your favorite song from when you where 12, now that you are in your 40s or 50s? What is the difference between classic rock and oldies these days?
Last week, WRDU, now owned by Clear Channel Communications, changed its format to country and is calling itself 106 The Rooster. So far the format has stuck, convincing listeners that it was not just a stunt, called flipping, where a station changes formats briefly, before settling on it real new format.
The now much smaller mantle has been passed to Clear Channel sister station The River. This is a station that has switched many times, including from Oldies to its current classic rock format.
I found the parallels interesting, even though my radio listening is limited to NPR, and has been for years. Even that has lessened as I listen to podcasts on my ipod.