12/18: Xmas Lites out, country Bull charges in
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
So the rumors were true: 94.9 is now country. In effect, the Grinch took away Christmas music a week early. (Your other options: 104.7/The Fish and B98.5)
After playing Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” at 11:54 a.m., 94.9 did a strange feint by playing the Moody Blues’ “Your WIldest Dreams.” Then they segued into a promo in which they said they had a Christmas present they had to open up early: 94.9/The Bull, a full-on country station. They then sampled several artists, from Carrie Underwood to Lonestar to Sugarland.
“Finally you have a choice! 94.9- the Bull!” the promo says. The first Bull song out of the gate: Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” followed by another hometown group Sugarland and the act’s hit “Something More.” Then another hometown boy, Travis Tritt with “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.” Then the first non-Georgia act, Keith Urban, slides in with “Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Me,” a song that does reference Georgia.
The next six: “The Way You Love Me” by Faith Hill, “Somethiing Like This” by her hubby Tim McGraw, then “As Good As I Once Was” by Toby Keith, “Be My Baby” by John Michael Montgomery, Kenny Chesney’s “Summertime,” Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.” It’ll be interesting if they choose to play the Dixie Chicks, who have been banned from Kicks and Eagle. So far, it sounds like a straightforward, top 40 country station with no particular lean toward men or women.
This means we now have three metro-wide country stations, along with Eagle 106.7 and Kicks 101.5, both owned by ABC. The Bull music mix the first hour is very much along the lines of Kicks’ playlist.
“Kicks has been the country leader in Atlanta for a long time,” noted Cox Radio market manager Chris Wegmann. “It’d be interesting to watch to see if they can make inroads against Kicks… Country radio fans are very loyal.” He said that Cox’s B98.5 will naturally benefit from Lite’s departure, becoming the default “in office listening” station.
Victor Sansone, general manager at Kicks and Eagle, said he wishes his competitor “moderate success.” “They play a good game over there,” he said. “We’ll be tough. So will they.” Given the way ratings work, we won’t know how much headway they’ll make with country at least til later in the spring. His company ABC is in the midst of being sold to Citadel so perhaps Clear Channel smells weakness.
Christmas has been a boon for Lite over the past six years but ratings when Lite has not been playing Christmas were relatively poor this year, hurt partly by the arrival of 97.1/The River.
Why would they dump Christmas a week early and peeve tens of thousands of Christmas fans who now see 94.9 as a three-decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce? With so many people listening to 94.9 who normally wouldn’t be listening (especially men), this is a way to draw Kicks and Eagle fans who wouldn’t have otherwise known about it. And the Arbitron ratings book ended on Dec. 13 so the station has already gotten the ratings it needs for the fall book out of Christmas.
Randy and Spiff, whose final shift was today before their vacation, knew it was over this morning based on what they said, though they never explicitly said goodbye.
In thanking everyone for raising $250K-plus for the Make-a-Wish Foundation over the weekend, Spiff said at 8:40 a.m., “We owe our listeners everything.”
Randy said: “More money came out of Atlanta from individuals than ever before.”
“We thank each and every one of you for the Make a Wish kids — and for us.”
“We’ll probably be off for awhile,” Randy said.
“So check us out on randyandspiff.com,” Spiff said, helpfully plugging a site that is unrelated to the station.
I reached Carner at his home while he was sifting through emails from concerned fans: 300 already. “I answer three and five more come in,” he said. His message to the fans:
*”We’ve been here since 1989. We’ve really bonded with our listeners. Randy’s been through three adoptions. They’ve accepted them. I’ve lost a wife and remarried and got a new family. They’re always there for us. We’ve had more fun than they had. We really had. We want to thank them for every minute of every day we’ve had with then. Hopfeully, we’ll have some more.”
Randy and Spiff started their Atlanta career in 1989 at Fox 97.1, the oldies station, moved to Cool 105.7 in 2003, then to Lite last year. Goss has been at Peach/Lite for more than 25 years.
Lite started as Peach, an easy-listening station in 1972 before seguing in the 1980s to soft rock. The Peach name was dropped in 2002 for the more generic Lite, a name used nationwide among Clear Channel soft rock stations.