No Kidd-ing! Kraddick, Mix return

Gone today, here tomorrow. That's the lesson fans of syndicated radio show "Kidd Kraddick in the Morning" learned when Clear Channel launched the new Mix 107.5 on September 19.

In March 2004, the Kidd Kraddick show was enjoying lots of loyal local fans when Clear Channel suddenly replaced the old Mix with "smooth jazz," giving Kidd the boot in the process. Fans of the bawdy morning drive-time show balked.

"I can't stand it!" railed local Kidd listener Heather Kilmer about the new, softer sound some say is epitomized by sax-player Kenny G.

Kidd fan Fred Telegdy was so outraged he launched an online petition that eventually garnered nearly 150 signatures.

But Clear Channel wasn't swayed by the heartfelt pleas.

"It was purely a business decision," said then-operations manager Regan Keith in 2003. "Mix has been on a steady downward trend for a number of years." And while he said Kidd Kraddick did soften the decline, the show couldn't carry the station on its own.

That, Keith said– 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 the change of heart?

Keith says he's no longer the media contact for Clear Channel, and referred inquiries to market manager Phil Robken, who didn't return the Hook's repeated calls.

But several people familiar with Charlottesville radio say the switch is just par for the course at a station that has changed programming frequently.

Light jazz did "fine" in the Arbitron ratings, says WNRN founder Mike Friend, who adds, "Obviously they were having some problems selling it."

In Charlottesville, ranked 231 among national radio markets, "Arbitron ratings aren't but so useful," Friend says. Rather, the programming is driven by advertising sales. "It's more about target audience. You carve out a niche and go after it."

But if the Mix wasn't working two years ago, why would Clear Channel bring it back?

The key, says Friend, is in the word "new."

In addition to bringing back the popular Kidd Kraddick show, "I think they're trying to do a 'Jack FM' format," he says, referring to a radio trend that's spreading across the country. Jack FM stations play a wide array of songs– most from the '80s.

"At its heart, Jack is a nostalgia station for Generation X," writes Joel Stein in the August 15, 2005 Time Magazine, "but it disguises that fact with carefully selected obscure tunes."

The new Mix 107.5 is not Jack FM, a trademark owned by ABC Radio, says Friend, but Clear Channel may be riding the coattails of the trend that already has a local presence with SAM FM, another Jackish variety station out of Louisa that launched July 2 on 105.5 FM.

Brad Eure, former owner of Eure Communications which was purchased last year by Saga Communications, agrees with Friend.

While the new Mix "doesn't go as far as the Jack," Eure says, "it's certainly broad."

But Eure believes Clear Channel would have been better off sticking with smooth jazz.

With the Mix, "People will tune in for a while until they hear a song they don't like," he says. Because of the widely ranging songs, Eure believes the new Mix "will end up being somebody's second or third-choice radio station."

It's too soon to say whether the new Mix will be a hit, but one thing is certain: you can't please everyone.

While Kidd-lovers rejoice over their radio hero's return, Clear Channel now has a new batch of unhappy jazz lovers on its hands.

"I'm terribly disappointed," says smooth jazz fan Katherine Stupak. "It was pleasant sophisticated music, and I miss it terribly."

Fred Telegdy, with his online petition in 2004, missed Kidd Kraddick.