Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, August 20, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
Nellie Knorr, who led the launch of Keener 13 WKNR-AM (1310) on Oct. 31, 1963, recently passed away at age 89. As the owner of WKNR, Knorr had the vision to launch the revolutionary sound of 1960s radio in Detroit and helped shape what you hear on radio even today. It was under Knorr’s watch that a young Dick Purtan arrived at Keener 13 in 1965. And you can still hear a take-off of Keener’s “Music Power” jingle every day on XM Radio’s “’60s on 6” channel. It became crystal clear just how much influence Knorr had on Detroit radio at last year’s big Radio Reunion, where she was the guest of honor. Her introduction and the standing ovation that followed were enough to send chills down the spine of even those that are just a tad too young to remember Keener in its heyday. The love that was shown to Knorr that night was unmistakable, as was her influence on Motown radio history. Be sure to visit www.keener13.com for much more on Knorr and Keener13.
* * * *
You’re going to be hearing more and more about digital radio in the days and months to come. Most local FM stations already offer digital broadcasts, witnessed by the countless promotions you hear for HD radio on a good number of stations up and down the FM dial. The upside, if you happen to own an HD radio, is nearly CD-quality sound and the capability to hear not only the main station, but also any secondary programming that is offered. The downside is extra interference on the band; it’s much tougher to hear stations from neighboring cities such as country WWWW-FM (102.9) and Top 40 WIOG-FM (102.5) with HD turned on at urban WHTD-FM (102.7).
On the AM band, the story is quite different. The interference factor is much higher, so much so that AM stations have to cease their digital broadcasts at sundown for fear of causing too much interference to distant stations. Also, many listeners notice a difference in the sound of their favorite AM station in the daytime when they are broadcasting in digital. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these listeners are still listening on analog radios and the difference is that the station’s audio quality has been noticeably decreased.
News-talk WJR-AM (760) recently dropped AM stereo, a requirement to use the most common type of digital broadcast equipment, and to my ears, WJR’s audio has sounded terrible ever since. The audio is softer and more muddled and actually causes me fatigue. I’m sure there are some tweaks that can be made, but it seems like sacrificing audio quality for a minority of listeners is a questionable move.
Another example came via e-mail. A listener reports that ever since religious WRDT-AM (560) started broadcasting in digital, picking up easy-listening CKWW-AM (580) has become nearly impossible south of Detroit.
It seems like there needs to be some serious reconsideration given to the idea of digital radio on AM before it drives even more listeners away from the band.
* * * *
As Art Vuolo reported in this space several weeks ago, talk AM 1310 mysteriously changed its call sign from WDTW to WWWW in July, but it has continued to run its progressive talk format identifying itself as 1310 WDTW. It looks like the move to change the call sign was to keep those famous W4 call letters under the control of owner Clear Channel, as an announcement is expected that the current four-station group of stations owned by CC in Ann Arbor has been moved to Cumulus as part of a large deal between the two companies.
Ironically, country WWWW-FM, adult alternative WQKL-FM (107.1), sports WTKA-AM (1050), and talk WLBY-AM (1290) were sold by Cumulus to Clear Channel back in 2000, and after the sale was completed, Clear Channel moved the WWWW calls to FM 102.9 from 106.7 Detroit, where they had resided since the 1960s. Will Clear Channel also retain the rights to the name W4 Country?
* * * *
Fred Jacobs, founder of Southfield-based Jacobs Media Consulting and creator of the classic rock format, recently was inducted into the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. “I’m truly honored by this acceptance into the Hall of Fame, joining other broadcasting luminaries from Michigan,” Jacobs commented. “I’m proud to be a part of such a vibrant entertainment community. Michigan has led the way in developing some of the greatest minds and legendary talent in the broadcasting industry. When I travel around the country to visit our clients, I’m amazed by the array of talent that began in our state.”
* * * *
Set your dials: Hosts Tom Wilson and Alison Harris serve up a program of World War II tunes and old-time Campbell’s Soup ads on today’s edition of Somewhere in Time at 6pm on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
* * * *
Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.