Jazzed up: 107.5 change rocks Kidd fans

When Heather Kilmer turned on her car radio Monday morning, March 8, she spent several minutes trying to find her favorite station, Mix 107.5. No luck.

"I thought my sons or husband had changed the radio settings," says Kilmer, 21, a self-proclaimed "huge fan" of the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show.

Instead, Kilmer learned– along with other Charlottesville Kidd lovers– that after seven years, 107.5 had undergone a dramatic programming change on Saturday, March 6, morphing from the pop rock offerings of the '80s, '90s and the present to smooth jazz, a genre encompassing everyone from Kenny G to Barry White.

"I can't stand it!" rails Kilmer about the new sound.

She's not alone. On the Kidd Kraddick website, kiddlive.com, messages from disappointed Charlottesvillians are popping up like spring flowers. Poster Fred Telegdy even started an online petition– which sported 147 signatures by Monday, March 15– to bring Kidd back to the local airwaves. (The petition site is petitiononline.com/cv4kidd.)

"It's not quite Howard Stern," says web designer Telegdy, of the Texas-based Kidd Kraddick show. "Kids can listen to it." And of the Kidd crew, which includes Kellie Rasberry and Big Al Mack, Telegdy says, "They're just funny; they don't need to go overboard."

Telegdy says he hopes to garner enough signatures to convince any radio station in town that grabbing Kidd Kraddick is a smart business move.

"I'll tune in to whatever station has it," says Telegdy. "Just bring it back, somehow, someway."

Kraddick, reached in Dallas, says he's touched by the Charlottesville outpouring. "You find out how much they love you when you're kicked out of town," he says. And for those who are among the disappointed, he says there's some hope. When the show was kicked off the air in Austin, Kraddick says a grassroots campaign convinced a different station to bring it back.

But Regan Keith, operations manager for the six Clear Channel stations in the Charlottesville market, says Kidd won't be back on 107.5 anytime soon.

"It was purely a business decision," says Keith. "Mix has been on a steady downward trend for a number of years." And while he says Kidd Kraddick did soften the decline, the show couldn't carry the station on its own.

That, Keith says, combined with the fact that Kraddick was pulling listeners from another Clear Channel program, Valentine in the Morning on HOT 101.9, made the decision easy. "We were in a situation," he explains, "where we were competing with ourselves."

So why smooth jazz?

Keith says listeners made the choice.

Twice a year, a company called Arbitron randomly surveys 680 local listeners about their radio listening habits. All area radio stations, says Keith, use the results of these surveys to plan future programming.

Keith says that year after year, fewer Charlottesville listeners have reported tuning in to Mixit came in eighth out of 11 local stations this year– and more have expressed a desire for a jazz station. Using numbers from similar radio markets, Keith says, Clear Channel decided Charlottesville was ripe for jazz.

While some jazz musicians agree that Charlottesville is ready for more jazz, they say "smooth jazz" is a misnomer.

"Smooth jazz, to be totally blunt," says trumpeter John D'earth, "is not jazz. To many people's ear, it's not music. It's the musical equivalent of wallpaper."

Musician Jeff Decker says hearing watered-down versions of jazz "being used as elevator music or as background for the weather," can be frustrating for jazz musicians, who know the rich history and meaning of their art form.

But, he says, "light jazz" has its place, and he believes there is a market for it.

Not so Telegdy, who thinks the new format spells doom for 107.5, no matter what Clear Channel's Keith claims.

"Why don't you just say, 'We're trying to kill our ratings, trying to kill our radio station," he asks.

So where are all the smooth jazz fans? The Hook was unable to find anyone happy about the 107.5 format change, but UVA government professor David Waldner gave a clue as to what might be going on.

"No one's going to admit they like smooth jazz," he laughs. "That's like saying, 'I hum Karen Carpenter in the shower.'"

Fred Telegdy, with his online petition, misses Kidd Kraddick