State Of The Radio Address: 97X Needs ‘Miner Disturbance’
In the history of the greatest radio stations, a fanatical army of listeners is a key ingredient.
I can remember watching the shock when Dr. Johnny Fever from TV's 'WKRP In Cincinnati' when he found out his audience actually dumped their trash on the steps of city hall after he sarcastically suggested it on his show. That's a pivotal moment in a career for a DJ, and one you hope for from the earliest moments in your career.
When Michaels and I came to work for 97X in 1990, we were intimidated by the heritage of this station, the power of it's audience, and the outright attitude of its music. Hell, the Music Director at the time, Malcom Ryker was thanked in the liner notes of a Tora! Tora! album. Credentials much?
Michaels and I were coming from a pretty heritage rock station ourselves, WWCT in Peoria. We had brought morning ratings there to Number 1 in just under a year, while the rest of the day kinda faded, due in no small part to the awful music that was being played. I used to drive to Knoxville Il, on I74 and pull over just to crank up the "Real Rock" that guys like Andy Hammer and Steve "The Professor" Donovan would play in the middle of the night on 'The X'. It cleared my head.
So when we got here, we had to live up the expectations of the audience. 97X was yours, and it took a while before we felt like we fit in. It's the only time I've been intimidated doing radio. I'm sure there have been plenty of times where I thought I was better than I actually was, but only one time where I didn't know if I could pull it off. And that was in front of you--the long-time 97X fan. Fans who filled the Levee, Credit Island, and John O'Donnell stadium for rock concerts and festivals. 97X fans have always been passionate. And vocal.
Over the years, 97X has done like most rock stations, and gone more towards playing the songs that made them, rather then playing songs that make a band. Maybe it's not cool, but it does keep the lights on. The days of corporate ownership seem to have done in all but the most hearty of Rock Stations. But 97X has always fought with the music. There was a time in the mid-80's where you could hear a Prince song, or maybe Madonna. 97X apologized to you, for doubting your passion, and went back to real rock and roll. In addition to Tora! Tora!--97X helped break the Black Crowes wide open. Four Horsemen reached their popularity due in large part to stations like 97X. Satriani, Kenny Wayne Sheperd--the list goes on.
If metal was more your style, Mark Detl and Z-Man had you covered. Dr. Demento? Fish Heads? Why not! It was all part of a unique-to-the-market idea that the radio and it's listeners were on a journey together. And like a family car vacation, there'll always be some wrong turns.
So when the Miner Disturbance podcast came to my attention, I became a fan of its message and music. Not immediately of Brian Miner, the Host, or co-host Travis Williams. But then I started to appreciate the attitude of the show, and the chemistry between the two guys, and their different experiences that led them to this moment. Remind you of anyone? I knew this was a perfect type of show for 97X. The old 97X.
We needed to put this voice of local music and that actual music on the radio again. It's tough for a station to take a risk. Even a calculated one. The margin for error is so small, guys can lose their jobs over a insensitive email sent to listener. So for 97X to wake up to it's destiny as a radio station that loves to rock--all types of rock, was a thrill for me to watch. And it took some gutsy front-office types. Miner Disturbance may only be a minor change in the landscape of 'The X', but I'll take it. Baby Steps. First, Friday night grabs a new listener, then another. Then maybe simultaneously the new audience and the old radio station begin to appreciate that the classic rock is bearing these new bands and their music, and that these new bands and music are the natural homage to the greatest rock bands whom ever played together. It's that spirit that keeps the boat rowing.
If you haven't checked out the Miner Disturbance Radio Show on 97X, or the longer Podcast on Youtube--you owe it to yourself to check it out. Friday's at Midnight on 97X. The Quad Cities' Classic (and possibly New?) Rock Authority.
If you missed the inaugural show, give it a listen below: