Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, December 24, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
With all of the relatively mild weather we’ve enjoyed this December, Christmas Eve seems to have arrived suddenly. Fans of Christmas music on the radio enjoyed a record number of stations playing the Sounds of the Season this fall — maybe that’s part of the reason why the actual holiday seems a bit anticlimactic, at least to me.
Across the U.S. and Canada there were well more than 400 radio stations that switched to an All-Christmas format by Dec. 15, including at least 18 in Michigan. Locally, soft rock WNIC-FM (100.3) started its marathon on Nov. 3 followed by oldies CKWW-AM (580) on Dec. 11. CKWW continues its holiday music presentation through Dec. 26, helping Canadians celebrate Boxing Day.
Christmas music will be easy to find up and down the dial today and early Monday, including on Classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3), which will present Mannheim Steamroller’s 2006 American Christmas starting at 9 a.m. today. That 12-hour program will be followed by 24 hours of uninterrupted Christmas music, ending at 9 p.m. Christmas Day.
With the exception of CKWW, all the radio holiday cheer will come to an abrupt end before you’re ready to head back to the stores early Tuesday morning. You might even forget that Western Christian churches roughly refer to the Christmas season as starting with Advent, four weeks before Christmas, and ending with Epiphany, on Jan. 6. So while you could hear “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” on Nov. 5 on WNIC, it’ll be nowhere to be found on Jan. 5, when it would actually be still appropriate.
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Another holiday tradition, and this one seems to be getting longer in duration every year, is the absence of high-profile morning and afternoon drive programs between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Many of your favorite hosts signed off for the last time in 2006 this past week and you’ll be hearing best-of clips, substitute hosts, and prerecorded shows on just about every station. In an industry that is facing stiff competition from things like MP3 players and satellite radio, is “mailing it in” for two weeks really a good idea?
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As 2006 draws to a close, several stations made significant personnel announcements. WNIC and “Pillow Talk” host Alan Almond agreed to terms on a new contract that will keep the soothing sounds of Almond’s nighttime program on the airwaves for what the station says is many years to come.
Over at Classical/Jazz WRCJ-FM (90.9), Carmen Garcia has been named as the new permanent weekday afternoon host, effective Tuesday. She’s a former air personality at the now defunct Jazz WJZZ-FM (105.9) and has made some recent guest appearances on WRCJ. Garcia takes over for Ann Delisi who left in September.
The highest profile change might be the departure of Art Regner from sports WXYT-AM (1270) where he’d been one of the station’s biggest names since arriving from sports WDFN-AM (1130) in 2001, right about the same time the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings moved from WJR. His sudden departure must have been a disappointment to co-host Doug Karsch as the duo had the type of on-air chemistry that is rare in radio these days.
Reports are that Regner’s exit from the station was purely budgetary — he was one of the highest-paid WXYT hosts and was due for a new contract on Jan. 1.
The new lineup on WXYT, once regular programming resumes in 2007, is Karsch along with Scott Anderson from 10 am to 2 pm, followed by Mike Valenti and Terry Foster from 2 to 6 pm.
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There’s no official word yet on where you’ll be tuning to hear the Detroit Tigers this spring, but no one would be surprised to see them, along with the Red Wings, move off WXYT. It’s possible the teams might go back to WJR-AM or even land on an FM station. Perhaps Regner, who is well-connected to the Red Wings, will latch on with whatever station lands the teams, if it’s not WXYT.
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Reports say the Rose Bowl, which pits U-M against USC on New Year’s Day, will be broadcast by Host Communications, featuring Frank
Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter and Doug Karsch. More on that next Sunday.
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Set your dial: Dusty Rhodes, Cincinnati radio icon and former CKLW-AM (800) morning host for a brief time, hosts a 36-hour Christmas music special on XM Channels 24 and 173 starting at noon today … Host Tom Wilson takes the Somewhere in Time audience on a special Christmas journey to the Ponderosa Ranch at 6 pm on WMUZ-FM (103.5) … Paul Edwards daily Christian talk program gains an hour each weekday starting Jan. 2 on WLQV-AM (1500) when it expands to 4-6 pm.
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.