Congratulations to Sacramento radio listeners who’ve reached their 40s. You’re now old enough to have a classic rock station geared for you.
93.7 The River debuted at 12:01 a.m. Monday with a twist on the traditional classic rock format. While the playlist includes such stalwarts as Led Zeppelin and the Eagles, this isn’t your parents’ baby boomer radio experience. Legacy alternative rock and hard rock from the likes of Pearl Jam, Green Day and Foo Fighters and other Gen X-associated artists will also be in the mix.
The station, which is operated locally by iHeartMedia, takes the place of 93.7 Jack FM, a “classic hits” station that spun such artists as Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, Coldplay and U2. Unlike 93.7 Jack FM, which was a preprogrammed station and didn’t use on-air DJs, its replacement will include a roster of well-known Sacramento radio talent.
“The Dog and Joe Sho,” a highly rated duo formerly of KRXQ 98 Rock FM, will host a morning show on The River. Other on-air talent includes Monica Lowe, a well-known DJ formerly of KZZO 100.5 FM, and Derek Moore, who previously worked the night shift DJ slot at The Eagle 96.9 FM.
The River’s debut arrives during a shake-up in the corporate radio landscape, which faces increasing competition for listeners with satellite and internet radio.
In the ever-competitive world of commercial radio, the hope is The River will score a hit by broadening the definition of “classic rock” while assembling an all-star team of local on-air personalities.
“(Classic rock radio) has gotten a little tired at this point in time,” said Curtiss Johnson, senior vice president of programming for iHeartMedia Sacramento. “It’s almost hitting an oldies format. We’re going to redefine what this brand means.”
The River’s debut arrives during a shake-up in the corporate radio landscape, which faces increasing competition for listeners with satellite and internet radio. CBS Radio recently announced a merger with Entercom Communications Corp., which oversees a string of Sacramento radio stations including The Eagle, 98 Rock and KDND The End, which moved from 107.9 FM to 106.5 FM following the merger. As part of the deal, Entercom was expected to divest 14 of its 244 stations around the country to meet FCC requirements.
Johnson is a former station manager and program director at Entercom Sacramento who specialized in its various rock radio offerings. With The River, he now has former Entercom employees helping him, including Moore, to compete against Sacramento rock stations he once helped run. Johnson said said he was able to land “The Dog and Joe Sho” after their contracts expired with Entercom and they became free agents in the radio market.
“We built the station in large part around them,” said Johnson. “They’re bringing a younger-sounding show on a classic rock station, something a little edgier.”
It’s the kind of youthful edge that its targeted audience may be trying to reclaim. Given that Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and other albums from the glory days of grunge and alternative rock are now more than a quarter-century old, the aging Gen X demographic is especially ripe for radio nostalgia. The River will also broadcast a syndicated show from Nikki Sixx, the 58-year-old bassist for Motley Crue, to enhance the station’s vibe of rocking the middle ages and beyond.
“He’s kind of our audience in a way that he used to be that rock ’n’ roll guy and now he’s in a totally different life space,” Johnson said about the Nikki Sixx show. “Now you’ve got a family, you’re grown up a little bit but you still like to rock ’n’ roll.”
Stretching the usual classic rock playlist of the Who and Queen to include such 1990s-era favorites as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden is a relatively rare format in commercial radio. Perhaps even more rare, The River’s studio will have a turntable to play the occasional bit of vinyl on air, a method that’s nearly been extinct from radio airwaves since the early 1980s.
“This will be a work in progress, an evolving sort of thing, but it’ll be unique to Sacramento,” Johnson said about The River’s overall approach. “We’re fortunate to build a brand new station from the ground up.”