Since it became a modern-rock station eight years ago, FM 94/9 has carried syndicated alternative-oldies show New Wave Nation on Sunday mornings. Hosted by the raspy-voiced Nina Blackwood, the show is dedicated to ’80s-era punk and new-wave hits by acts such as Adam and the Ants, the B-52s, and the Cure. Blackwood was one of the original five VJs when MTV debuted 30 years ago.
Now the station is dropping Blackwood’s show and adding a locally produced two-hour block of blues.
Blues shows on noncommercial stations are not uncommon. KSDS (88.3 FM), for instance, airs a night of blues-style music from 8 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday morning. For a commercial station like 94/9 to air a blues show is a rarity. “There are only five or six rock or classic-rock stations in the whole country that have a blues show,” says a consultant who works with stations across the U.S. “I think [94/9] is the only alternative-rock station with a blues show.”
Brown Bag Blues airs 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sundays and is hosted by Mike Hansen, a former full-time DJ.
Veteran 91X DJ Steve West may be the happiest about the news. He says before 94/9 started airing Blackwood’s show, his Sunday-morning Resurrection Sunday killed it in the ratings. “We were always in the top three among all stations...among all listeners,” says West. “When Nina came along, it sort of fragmented that audience. That show has acted as a sort of spoiler, spoiling other people’s glory. But, I welcome all her former listeners.” West says 91X has been airing Resurrection Sunday since 1990. West has hosted the show for the past 13 years.
94/9 has had success with its other Sunday-morning specialty show, the all-reggae Brunch with Bob and Friends, which airs 9 a.m. to noon. But some wonder how well blues will go over in the morning.
“It does seem like a nighttime thing,” says Michael Kinsman, president of Blues Lovers United of San Diego. “It seems like [that time slot] starts the show off with a handicap. On the other hand, any blues on commercial radio is greatly welcomed. But people are going to have to find it. If it’s done well, it could be a huge success.”
Helping to spread the word will be T, the single-letter-named blues DJ who has been working at KSDS since 1978. “I have the longest-running prime-time blues show west of the Mississippi.” His show, Every Shade of Blue, airs from 8 p.m. to midnight on Saturday and anchors an overnight block that includes blues, gospel, zydeco, and R&B. “The more blues on the radio the better.” T suggests having a blues show on commercial radio is a stretch. “God bless the sponsors who are putting up the money to sponsor it.”
T says he has been blind for the past ten years. “I can’t do requests anymore, but I can run the control room by myself. Most people who listen have no idea I can’t see. I spend eight to ten hours each week getting the show ready.” He says being blind has opened up his ears to new artists.
“Everybody who sends me a CD now gets a fair shot to be on the air. It used to be if some dorky white kid sent in a CD with his picture on the cover, chances are I wouldn’t listen to it. Now I give everyone a fair shot.”