Monday, April 11, 2011

WLS-FM / The True Oldies Channel

Lots of comments ... and lots of passion ... after our article ran last week regarding the complete change of programming schedule going on at WLS-FM, former home of Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel.  (Seems the honchos in charge here in Chicagoland are more intent on giving us more "localized" programming, rather than Shannon's syndicated program ... and folks here in Chicago are none too happy about this decision.  
Simply put ...  WE WANT SCOTT SHANNON BACK!!!!!

Read on ...


>>>I actually heard them play "Love Shack" by The B-52's the other day.  Now I don't know about you, but the very FIRST act I think of when it comes to oldies music is TheB-52's.  (kk)
I thought the B52s were from the '40's!!!??
Yeah, years ahead of the Jefferson Airplane!!!! I had no whole lotta love for Zeppelin!!
I don't like getting high with those; I feel safer on the ground with the Cars!!! Besides, less pollutants! Let others deal with the Air Supply!
Jersey John
(thanks for the update!!!)

Here in OKC, the TOC is located on 99.7 FM. Now I discovered the station some time last Summer. From what I know and from somewhat limited information I have gotten, the station signed on with the TOC a few week before I discovered it.
Now the station itself is not physically located in OKC, but is in a city some 90 miles from the OKC area. The first week - 10 days I listened to the TOC (I still do during the day while out in my car), I noticed that they really seem to play the same oldies over and over, much like our other oldies station does. The first week I listened, I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard LIGHT MY FIRE. The song of course was played during different day-parts.
I was glad he got rid of the cheezy easy listening song of the day and replaced it with the forgotten 45 of the day. I wish he would play more forgotten 45's, but it goes back to a previous e-mail I sent to you. Who has the last word on what is played or not played or TOC?
A listener today wanted to hear HOTLEGS recording of NEANDERTHAL MAN. Now without checking, I don't know how high that record got on the charts. Scott mentioned he remembered it but couldn't play it because the "oldies police" would be up in arms. When he says something like that, that tells me that there is more than one person programming the channel, someone probably above Scott.
The reason I am writing this to you involves your FH for Today. For about one year now on Sunday mornings from 8 AM - 11 AM, our local oldies station runs Casey Kasem's AT40 - the 70's. I listen to it briefly on the way to church. Every week I seem to hear at least one record I have not heard on the radio in years. All other hours of the week on the station is the same old same old.
I hate to hear you may be losing the TOC in Chicago. Our station during the day seems to have a lot of dead air, especially during the commercial breaks. Also some of Scott Shannon's segment bits you can hear more than once during a day, assuming that one listens to it for a full 8 or 9 hour work day.  I am like you in that I can't and really don't want to, sit in front of my computer all day listening to the TOC or any other channel out there.
One final thing and you may not be able to comment on this. Scott says he does his show from the "nut hut" or the mother station. Every place I have looked has either him doing his show, live I might add, in Chicago or New York City, Which is it?
I am looking forward to Sunday's Comments as usual. Wait a minute! AS USUAL! Wouldn't that be a good title for a song by somebody?
In reverse order ... yes, GREAT idea for a song title ... but nobody will play it (because Brenda Lee seems to have moved from the "endangered species" list to the "totally extinct" list when it comes to oldies radio ... despite the fact that she had an incredible 29 Billboard Top 40 Hits ... including a dozen Top Ten's  and two #1's ... and is a member of The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame!)  "As Usual" hit #12 in early 1964 (and we actually DO have ANOTHER Brenda Lee song coming up later this week in Forgotten Hits!)
Scott Shannon's show isn't done "live" anywhere ... the entire program is voice-tracked a day in advance from New York (I believe most of it is done in his home studio with a little bit added after his daily WPLJ morning gig.)  Several features are repeated two or three times a day, based on a changing listening audience that typically DOESN'T listen for more than a few hours (if that) at a time.
It's rare that I get to hear him at all anymore here in Chicago (as we have a "no radios" policy at work ... so unless I'm out in the car or it's lunchtime, I pretty much miss his program every single day ... which is why I REALLY looked forward to the weekends ... but now they've taken him off the air there, too!)
I didn't know that he dropped the "Cheezy-Easy Listening Song Of The Day" in favor of a Daily Forgotten 45 ... (gee, I wonder where he got THAT idea?!?!?  lol) ... so it'd be REALLY neat to hear it.  (What time does he play it?  The Cheezy-Easy song used to come on right around 1:45 each weekday afternoon so I'd actually time my lunch to catch it ... unfortunately, that put it up against Bob Stroud's "One 45 at 1:45 weekday feature, so I'd find myself switching back and forth to see what each of them were playing each day!)  However, now that Shannon records an "exclusive" WLS-FM edition of his show for broadcast here between 10 am - 3 pm on weekdays, a lot of his nationally syndicated features are gone ... and it REALLY hasn't gone over well at all with our Chicagoland listeners.  The general consensus is that WLS-FM President and General Manager Mike Damsky, Programming Director Michael LaCrosse and highly paid consultant John Parikhal have TOTALLY blown it with this new line-up and mix of '80's (and even early '90's) music.  (Seriously ... you paid a consultant to determine that your "brand new, updated localized sound" would be better served by broadcasting 35-40 year old reruns of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 Countdowns?!?!?  And you BELIEVED him?!?!?)
For all intents and purposes, The True Oldies Channel no longer exists here in Chicago ... it's now "Chicago's Greatest Hits Station" ... and, based on our recent "What Is An Oldie" survey poll, I totally get that.  You simply CAN'T call it "oldies" when the majority of your programming now consists of late '70's, '80's and even early '90's music.  (Talk of a name change to "The True '80's Channel" were apparently just rumors!!!  j/k)
As for "Neanderthal Man" by Hotlegs, it was a legitimate #20 Hit back in 1970 ... by a band that evolved into 10cc ... so, if only for historical purposes alone, it certainly SHOULD be played.  (While hardly a great song, this is yet another legitimate Top 20 Hit being ignored by oldies radio today.  If it made The National Top 20, it absolutely SHOULD be played ... at least once in a while ... on an oldies station!  Scott needs to buck "The Oldies Police" more often and play what the real oldies music fans are telling him they'd like to hear on a daily basis by way of their "off-the-playlist" requests ... 'cause it SURE ain't "Born To Be Wild" for the sixth time ... or "Love Shack" by
The B-52's!!!)
Anyway, my feeling is (based on the comments I've received via emails and phone calls ... and the comments that I've seen posted on other radio boards around town), that WLS-FM has TOTALLY blown it with this line-up change.  (Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that NBC thought a Jay Leno Prime Time Show was a good idea, too!!!)  I suggest that all disappointed listeners should bombard the station with phone calls, letters and emails and let them know ... in NO uncertain terms ... WE WANT OUR SCOTT SHANNON SHOW BACK ... the way it USED to be!!!  (kk)
NOTE:  Chicago is ... and has always been ... a BIG oldies town.  We've had at least one oldies station at all times since the late '70's / early '80's ... and when Jack-FM knocked Magic 104 off the air a few years ago, the fans were outraged.  It was Scott Shannon ... and The True Oldies Channel ... that brought oldies back to Chicago ... and, over time, the ratings grew and grew and grew.  Is it really possible that the big-wigs in charge STILL haven't learned ANYTHING from this whole experience???  (kk)

I wholeheartedly agree with you about WLS. When I e-mailed, Michael La Crosse got a little testy. I think they have signed their own death warrant. If Scott goes to another radio station, I will follow him. I'm a loyal TOC fan.  Thanks for your posts.
I don't know that Scott CAN go to another radio station ... the way his deal is structured, he may be obligated to keep The True Oldies Channel on an ABC / Citadel affiliate.  However, if WLS-FM doesn't WANT this format anymore, then they should simply let him pursue that avenue elsewhere.  It's pretty clear to anyone paying attention that they no longer believe in the format ... and have been jacking with the concept for AGES now ... so just let him go do it somewhere else.  Seriously, what are they afraid of???  That he may be RIGHT!?!?!?!?  (kk)

Hey Kent,
What kind of boneheads are running that station? Cutting Scott Shannon to four hours on Saturday mornings is nuts. Even though he’s playing more and more non-oldies music, he’s still got the personality, experience / knowledge of the music and fun, special features that make me want to listen to his show. I personally don’t care about “live and localized” programming when I’m listening to the True Oldies Channel, which everyone knows is pre-taped in NY, because his show is still far more enjoyable than about 98% of all the other radio stations in my listening area. The station that carries TOC in CT, WDRE-AM, is almost on the fringe of my car radio’s reception, as is WCBS-FM, but I still prefer Scott’s show now even though I was a WCBS-FM listener from it’s very beginning in 1972. As for WLS running Casey Kasem, don’t get me wrong I love those old AT40 shows also, but, they’re on satellite radio already. Did the consultant find some “research” that showed Casey was still popular and convinced himself that this is what WLS needs?! To sound like a satellite station? Boy, they just keep making things worse and use ridiculous corporate - suit - research - speak to justify their changes! If and when we get real internet access / wi-fi in our car radios instead of stupid / smartphones (oxymoron?), over-the-air radio will disappear, because then we’ll have some real choices!!
Pardon my Rant
Eddie Burke
Orange, CT

>>>Truthfully, if a more "localized" sound was REALLY what they were shooting for, especially in the way of a "countdown" show, the station would have been FAR better served by bringing Ron Smith in on the weekends to do his Chicagoland Countdown Show, playing songs that were actually on the WLS Chart at the time but with the benefit of a "live", updated feel to the program.  (This guy literally wrote the book on the Chicagoland Music Charts!)  kk
My iPod is my oldies station now.  In fact, I'm so into oldies that my iPod is a Walkman.  When it is so easy these days to acquire thousands of oldies and play them without commercials, an oldies station has to offer more, specifically:
1) Personalities
2) Deejay's who know the music.
We had the perfect oldies station, RealOldies1690, and they took it away from us.  The high points of Real Oldies were the morning show with Uncle Lar & Little Tommy and Ron Smith's countdown.  The morning show was, as you mentioned earlier, real appointment radio.  Not only did I hear the funniest pair in radio riff on everything from music to pop culture to animals, but, since it was live, I could fire off an e-mail on any topic (like I do with Forgotten Hits) and have a reasonable chance of it being read on the air that day.  True interactive radio.
With regard to the countdown, there was one problem.  Ron had to cram 20 songs into one hour.  But, your mention of the countdown got me thinking.  We have Dick Biondi every night, just like when I was in grammar school.  Why not bring back another institution from the glory days of WLS, the Daily Silver Dollar Survey.  Have Ron Smith play the entire Top 40 for, say, this day in 19XX, from 3 to 6:30 PM every week night, just like we used to enjoy every day after school.  As you mentioned, the WLS surveys from the early 70's are rather anemic, but WCFL and for a while WBBM had complete top forty surveys at that time, so one way or another, Chicago had complete Top 40 surveys from 1956 to 1987.  In the 3 1/2 hour time-frame,  Ron could feature lots of song and artist trivia, where are they now, this day in history, "Silver Dollar Specials" and cuts from albums popular at the time.
There you go.  Then, bring in Larry Lujack and Tommy Edwards for A.M. drive.  Maybe get Connie Szerszen for middays, leave Dick Biondi where he is, and I've just programmed your entire weekdays with local talent.  No charge.
Ed Erxleben
When The True Oldies Channel first launched, WLS / Chicago was considered a major coup ... a HUGE flagship station based on their incredible radio history.  And WLS seemed to embrace this legacy at the time, too ... they were even holding Big 89 Jock Reunions on the AM side.  Now all of that seems to have gone by the wayside.  And why???  The True Oldies Channel was getting some of the best ratings in Chicago once things switched over to The People Meter, a more accurate way of measuring listenership.  And now they're going to COMPLETELY revamp the concept in order to compete with some brand new upstart K-Hits Station that hasn't got a CLUE what oldies radio is all about?!?!?  Were they REALLY that scared that K-Hits would steal listeners from them?  Jeez, just TRY and listen to that station for an hour ... it can't be done.  It's annoying as hell ... and still 80% '80's music.  Meanwhile, Y103.9 continues to be the BEST oldies station in Chicago ... and, they've even put on an "800" line so that listeners can tell them how else they'd like to improve the station ... they're making it a station FOR the oldies music fans.  (Boy, what a concept ... actually devoting serious time to PLEASING your listeners!!!  Who'd have EVER thought that a big city radio station would do THAT?!?!?)  kk

Live and local don’t mean anything if you don’t know the music.
O’Toole, Fogel and for that matter Damsky and LaCrosse don’t know oldies. Thank God someone bought Fogel a Joel Whitburn book or he’d have nothing to talk about. Say what you will about Scott Shannon. He knows this format.
I've said it before and I'll say it again ... Dave Fogel is, WITHOUT QUESTION, the WEAKEST Morning Man this city (and particularly this station) has EVER seen.  If you're NOT going to make a pitch for Fred Winston or Larry Lujack, then for God's Sake put Danny Lake on in the morning!!!  At least he knows his stuff and LOVES this music ... and always sounds like he's having a GREAT time bringing it to us!  And he's entertaining to listen to!  (kk)

I like listening to the “True Oldies Channel” and I was hoping WLS-FM would keep it during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. The weekend features are fun. If the programming is good, everything doesn’t have to be live and local.
Dan Fields
The fact that Michael Damsky would say something as RIDICULOUSLY stupid as "the weekends give us a chance to play songs that people would not normally hear during the week” only PROVES that he has absolutely NO CLUE or IDEA as to what Scott Shannon did for the station.  Scott's "Specialty Weekends" were designed SPECIFICALLY to feature more music off the beaten path.  If a guy like Michael Damsky took over Forgotten Hits, he'd set the industry back 200 years!!!  (kk)
NOTE:  This past weekend I heard "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel and "Wild Wild Life" by Talking Heads ... and also heard that they played "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham ... hardly the music most Forgotten Hits Readers would associate with an oldies format ... or even a "Greatest Hits of All-Time" format ... unless, by "all time" you mean 1977 - 1991!  (Then again, maybe the launching of M-TV represents the Dawn of the Rock And Roll Oldies Era to some???  Like the young folks now in charge who simply weren't AROUND when all this great music was first taking place???)  By the same token, I also heard "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore, "Dancing In The Street" by Martha and the Vandellas (three times, I believe!!!) and a few other '60's tunes ... so who KNOWS what the big master game plan is!!!  If they mix this up with enough variety, they may retain some of their old listeners ... until something BETTER comes along. 
(By the way, I also heard K-Hits play an Elvis record for the very first time this past weekend ... naturally it was "Burning Love" from 1972 ... I mean the only two hits Elvis ever had were "Burning Love" and "Suspicious Minds", right?  Plus that great 2001 European remix of "A Little Less Conversation")  kk

Damsky said "the moves are in line with a strategic plan developed late last year in partnership with media consultant John Parikhal to improve the format.”
And this, in a nutshell, is one of the main problems with OTA radio today: the over-dependence on media consultants and pre-packaged formats, not to mention the complete lack of creativity that now exists in the industry. What ever happened to allowing DJs, who historically have been some of the most knowledgeable music folks, create their own playlists? This is why I listen to sports radio in the car, and if I do feel like music I plug in the iPod.


Sounds like CBS got 'em on the run finally! If this plan was in the works for sometime, why did it take so long to implement?
My prediction ... BOTH stations are doomed to fail as they're currently set up ... there is NOTHING to distinguish one from the other ... so why bother to listen to EITHER???  By offering nothing new or different to the mix, they simply cancel each other out.  Radio JUST doesn't get it!!! (kk)

Is WLS-FM leading up to a change in their moniker?. More than once I have heard the phrase, “The Greatest Hits Of All Time” used while listening. Are they moving away from using “The True Oldies Channel”?. Just Curious?.
Keep listening ... you'll hear it less and less ... and then not at all ... if we're not there already!  (kk)

WLS FM has blown it again – did their listeners ask for this drastic change in format???? After losing Scott Shannon’s True Oldies Channel during the week, I at least had Saturdays and Sundays to look forward to. Now it appears I won’t even get that. Local listeners loved Scott’s TOC – why is WLS FM taking it away from us – who needs live and local??? After all, it was Scott’s TOC that put WLS FM back on the map – isn’t taking him off the programming schedule sort of like biting the hand that feeds you???? Who is the moron at WLS FM who decided that we “needed” more local programming???? Scott’s TOC is so much better than any “local” generic format – I really miss his TOC features which WLS FM has eliminated from his weekday program between 10 am and 3 pm. Does anyone @ WLS FM give a thought as to what their listeners want??? Why did the format need improving – the format was just fine as it was – and I, for one, would like to have it back!!!!! WLS FM’s listeners did not ask for a “realignment” of programming – either during the week or on weekends!!!!! Bottom line – the station’s listeners don’t matter – just what some corporate big-wig programmer says – the listeners are never asked what THEY want!!!!! 
Janis Ooms Spencer 
Why on earth would a radio station EVER listen to what their listeners have to say ... when they can just pay a consultant instead to TELL them what people "really" want to hear.  It's a pretty easy gig, actually ... "just play the same stuff that every OTHER radio station in the country is playing ... that's GOT to work ... or why else would they be playing it?!?!?"  Makes perfect sense, right???  Morons!!!  (kk)

Clearly, I don't get it ...
Michael Damsky says:
I love radio and feel strongly it should be as local as possible. The improvements we have made at WLS-FM over the past three months are designed to make that it even more of a Chicago-based radio station. We did work with a great consultant, John Parikhal, to conduct the research which helps us best meet the musical interests of our audience - John does not peddle “pre-packaged” formats.  
OK, so John Parikahl "doesn't believe in pre-packaged format" ... pretty easy to read between the lines on THAT one ... Scott Shannon's syndicated, voice-tracked True Oldies Channel format no longer fits the bill ... so it's out.
INSTEAD, they're going to run John "Records" Landecker's "pre-packaged", syndicated "Into The '70's" show on Sunday Nights ... and run 35+ year old rebroadcasts of Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" Countdowns on Sunday Morning.  Nope ... no talking out of both sides of your mouth going on here!!!  (Sounds like this guy's got a GREAT future in politics once he loses his radio consulting gig!!!)  kk
What we are trying to achieve in this evolution is to make the station as local as possible, while preserving what many people enjoyed in listening to Scott Shannon’s “True Oldies Channel.” We’re very happy to have Scott continue contributing as long as the work load doesn’t interfere with his golf game.
Wow ... have you EVER heard a more "sincere" message spoken?!?!?  Can somebody up in the WLS-FM Penthouse explain to me how THIS constitutes "evolving" as a station?  Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel delivered the highest ratings WLS-FM has EVER seen once the People Meter tracking system kicked in.  It airs in nearly a HUNDRED cities around the country and has become THE #1 Oldies Show on Radio.  In fact, here in Chicago, Scott Shannon's mid-day ratings ROUTINELY beat the ratings of ANY of Chicago's so-called "local talent" ... so how is eliminating the BEST thing about the station "evolving" exactly?  That's like saying your master game plan is sleeping your way to the bottom!!!
And how "revolutionizing" is it to hit the panic button the minute a brand new, unproven radio station hits town offering up music from the '60's, '70's and '80's?!?!?  WLS-FM comes across as SO frightened by any potential audience they might lose that, instead of standing by their guns and being the LEADER in oldies music content, they've instead become the FOLLOWER.  Both stations playing the exact same music equals boredom ... why bother listening to either one?
In addition to being the consistent ratings leader for WLS-FM, Scott Shannon has ALSO won award after award as "Programmer of the Year" ... in fact, he has often been referred to as "The Most Influential Programmer of the Past Twenty Years" ... yet despite this PROVEN talent and these many accolades, Damsky would prefer to consider the opinions of WLS-FM Program Director Michael LaCrosse (whose credentials don't hold a candle to Shannon's) and consultant John Parikhal, who preaches an aversion to a "pre-packaged format" ... and then adds TWO pre-packaged formats to the new line-up!!!
Like I said, I guess I just don't get it ... but when all this fails (and it will), I'll betcha consultant John Parikhal, programming director Michael LaCrosse and President and General Manager Michael Damsky all still will have gotten paid handsomely for their (failed) efforts.  (Hang on to that money, guys ... maybe it'll tide you over while you're looking for your next gigs in radio!!!)  Seriously ... I can't WAIT 'til the next ratings book comes out!!!  (kk)

Chicagoans have spoken ... we want a radio station in town that features Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel format.  If WLS-FM no longer wants to be associated with this format, then let him pursue another Chicago Radio option.  Let's see who really has the better game plan.

Meanwhile, we're all out here chanting "S.O.S." ... SAVE OUR SHANNON!!!