Thursday, June 22, 2006

One More Sign the Oldies Format is Dying

It wasn't that long ago that rock oldies, particularly songs from the 50's and 60's, was a mainstream, popular format in radio.

But faced with the realization that their listeners were rapidly aging out of the so-called "money demo", powerful FM oldies stations have had to make major adjustments to even survive.

Locally, it's often said that Clear Channel oldies WMJI/105.7 has still done well for two reasons - a gradual nudge of the music mix into the songs of 60's and 70's, but mostly due to the station's powerhouse morning icon, John Lanigan. Many local radio observers expect when Lanigan retires at some point down the road, WMJI's days as an oldies outlet may be history.

We've got another sign of The Imminent Doom of Oldies - Jim Zippo.

The name may be familiar to some Northeast Ohio listeners. Zippo was the program director of ABC Radio's 24/7 format "Pure Gold" (known on air as "Oldies Radio"), and thus, his "Zippo in the Morning" show on the network was heard locally on Wooster's WKVX/960...the AM sister of country WQKT/104.5. (WQKT/WKVX switched from ABC to Westwood One's similar formats a few years back, but Zippo had already left the building in Dallas.)

Zippo, usually regarded as one of the better satellite jocks, landed at Clear Channel Las Vegas oldies outlet KQOL/93.1 "Kool 93.1", which itself has also moved into the 60's and 70's music-wise.

He's no longer there, and a question on a local message board got us to searching for his current whereabouts...mornings/program director at another Clear Channel "Kool" oldies outlet, KPKY/94.9 "Kool 94.9" in Pocatello ID.


No offense if there's anyone reading from that part of the world, but how does a nationally heard morning host (even if he's on one of the 24/7 formats) end up doing a local morning show in a small Idaho city at a station known as the home of "Southeast Idaho's Superhits"?

Our guess - after Leaving Las Vegas (that'd be a good name for a movie), Zippo found the oldies radio pickings slim. Very slim. With many stations turning to the "adult hits" format known in incarnations as "JACK FM" and the like, that means less job opportunities for those who might fit in with that kind of anti-format...since most of those stations air only one voice, the snarky "station voice" known as Jack, or Bob, or whatever. The format has even supplanted traditional oldies in places like New York and Chicago.

There may be other factors that led "Zippo in the Morning" to small-city Idaho, such as lifestyle issues, but that's certainly got to be one of them...and we also wouldn't be surprised to see "Majic 105.7" dump the oldies whenever John Lanigan decides to hit the golf course...


74wixygrad said...

Pocatello ID- So that's where the "secret broadcast cave" is nowadays.

Anonymous said...

I've said it for years. And having worked at WMJI I know what runs that ship - Lanigan. Now moreso than ever. Years ago, 5-7, there was actual talent on the station other than Lanigan. No more.

WMJI has been able to "stay ahead of the curve" with oldies b/c of Lanigan. The station never would have been able to progress musically as quickly as it did w/o Lanigan's numbers.

When Lanigan goes...unfortunately so goes oldies. Sad too, since P35-64 is the new 25-54. Former CC VP Programming Chicago was quoted as saying as much in a January R&R article. CBS won't do oldies...even though it would fare better than alt rock on 92-3. There's no other player in Cleveland that would do least not the way it SHOULD be done. So away they will go.

Anonymous said...

Zippo! Thanks for the flashback, OMW. I used to listen Zippo and Maria (?) in the mornings on 100.9 in Sandusky (well, not "in", but close). This would have been around 1993-1996. I never heard much of them since and thought maybe I was just dreaming that I used to listen to a guy named Zippo in the morning. :)

Ohio Media Watch said...

Your memory is correct - you did hear "Zippo in the Morning" on 100.9 FM.

The station licensed to Clyde was WNCG, if we recall correctly, and was indeed an affiliate of ABC's Pure Gold network at around that time.

The station is now classic rock WMJK "100.9 The Coast" and is part of Clear Channel's Sandusky-based cluster (along with WLEC/1450, WCPZ/102.7).

The WNCG calls landed not that far away, on North Central State College's LPFM at 95.7 in Mansfield...


Ohio Media Watch said...

Oh, and "Maria" is right, too...that's Pure Gold's Maria Danza who was Zippo's co-host. We believe she's still working at the operation known on air as "Oldies Radio".


Anonymous said...

Another sign Oldies or even 60s & 70s is in trouble...recently on MJI in the wee hours of the morning, I heard Rod Stewart's "This Old Heart Of Mine"...hardly from the 60s or 70s. Look for more of that in the not-too-distant future.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, just because a cover of a Motown song is in rotation doesn't mean the station is gonna flip to Lite FM. I think I heard Little Richard on WMJI the other day, does that mean they're going to hire Alan Freed's corpse?

Ohio Media Watch said...

The guy who wrote our second comment could probably address this better, but I get the impression WMJI sneaks in a few 80's tunes for various reasons.

One reason is simple - to continue to nudge the format into more favorable demos. Once you're in the 70's, how difficult is it to slide a few early 80's tunes into the mix? Er...the "majic", that is...

Just a guess.


Johnny Morgan said...


It's VERY easy to sneak in some 80s stuff; in fact, Majic's been doing it for years (Beach Boys, Orbison, etc.) What's funny is that if they start nudging a bit more, they could pull out the old Majic carts from the 80s that used to reside at 3940 Euclid when the music was N-E-W.

As it is, those upset with the 80s stuff have a perfect choice down down the dial at 88.9.

Yep, you guessed it: the Sunday Oldies Jukebox, 25 hours of great music and memories from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. And, not only are we commercial-free (oooh, ahhh), but we're not limited to the safe 300. Great music, and dislodging some forgotten memories (do you remember her/his name?)

And, we're online too:

(or click on my name in this comment)

Anonymous said...

I have worked in various capacities for a small WW1 affiliate. A few years ago, the network made it clear to drop usage of the word "oldies." It became "greatest hits of all time." Hits from the '50s are rare and the '60s are now headed in the same direction. Also, since that "change," you hear a lot more late '70s and even early '80s in the WW1 playlist.

Anonymous said...

Zippo was once the (satellite) morning show on a radio station I programmed. We got more requests for him for remotes than the rest of the air staff combined. (and I'd always have to explain to the clients that, for one reason or another, "Mr. Zippo was not available" to make an appearance...)

Anonymous said...

In resonse to the 7th post...
What about Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" or "Uptown Girl"?
More and more they're sneaking in some early 80s, and not just overnight.
Remember what Majic sounded like in the late 80s? Very slowly they're moving in that direction. Not saying it's right or it's wrong...just trying to attrack a few younger numbers.