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KDEE (97.7 FM) in Rancho Cordova, one of only two low-powered FM stations in the area (KDRT 101.5 FM in Davis is the other), is starting to make airwaves in its little corner of the Sacramento radio market.

The nonprofit, noncommercial station run by the California Black Chamber Foundation last month hired former CBS radio producer Frontis Abney to head programming. And change has been immediate. Abney dropped the station's jazz format and replaced it with urban adult contemporary. Plus, on weekdays, the station runs informative talk radio programs on social and civic issues.

"We're playing Luther," Abney says. "That's Luther (pictured, left) when he first came out, not (the more commercial) Luther Vandross. We'll play a lot of groups you don't hear much on the radio. We've got a 3,000-song database, so you'll never hear the same song twice."

Earlier this week, for instance, KDEE aired a one-hour tribute to Aretha Franklin, featuring songs and commentary. Next week, during the talk segment, Abney plans to spend all five days on home-buying issues for those in the area.

One thing the new KDEE won't play is hip hop.

"This is a station for grown-up folks with grown-up tastes and issues," Abney says.

The problem, of course, is that the FCC will only let KDEE and other low-powered FM stations broadcast at 100 watts. So listeners in Sacramento (and, heck, anywhere except Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights) are out of luck. But Abney says he plans to have the station's Web site streaming its programming by next month.

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September 2009

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