I-95 GETS A NEW SOUND, BUT THE CHANGE IS SUBTLE
Miami Herald, The (FL) – Wednesday, April 16, 1986
Author: LINDA THORNTON Herald Staff Writer
Sorry, teens, but one of your favorite radio stations is growing up.
For five years, Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) station I-95 (WINZ 94.9 FM) has competed with Y-100 (WHYI 100.7 FM) for the Top 40 audience. But last week, six days into the new Arbitron ratings period and two days after the arrival of a new general manager, I-95 began to alter its sound, tossing out much of the dance music and replacing it with rock. The result so far is a station that remains CHR based, with leanings toward Album Oriented Rock (AOR).
Though I-95 was one of the first local stations to debut current dance music by such artists as Trinere and Miami Sound Machine, the station’s core Top 40 playlist is now flavored with music such as current hits by Dire Straits and Heart, that appeal to slightly older rock and roll fans. The mix falls between Y-100 and WSHE (103.5 FM, the only local all-rock station).
“We’re still playing the Top 35, but we’re focusing toward a more compact group of listeners. Before, we were trying to serve all the masters of the universe,” said Gabe Baptiste, I- 95’s program director.
The shift in direction was the first battle cry of Gary Lawrence, new general manager of I-95 FM and WINZ (940 AM), and former general sales manager for WAXY (105.9 FM). When Lawrence joined WINZ last week, filling a spot that was technically vacant for three months, he had his work cut out for him. The FM has been in a state of flux lately, with no permananent general manager, a new program director, a severe drop in the last published Arbitron, and the subsequent firing of its morning show team.
Until recently, I-95 ranked consistently in the Arbitron as one of the five most popular stations in South Florida, attracting 5 to 7 percent of the overall local listening audience and 20 to 30 percent of teen-age (age 12-17) listeners. But Y-100 always remained a step ahead, keeping a grip on the title of No. 1 CHR station.
Last year, the local contemporary radio market began to experience a shake-up following the debut of three new stations — 96 X (WCJX 96.3 FM), Hot 105 and Majic 102.7 — as well as the departure of former AOR station K-102 and the swift rise in popularity of rock station WSHE. I-95 and Y-100 were hit hard by the new competition in the fall 1985 Arbitron. I-95 dropped to 11th place in the market, and WSHE took over as No. 1 contemporary music station.
Rumors arose in the local radio market regarding a shift in format for I-95. Some guessed that I-95 would change to an AOR format; others speculated about a shift to Adult Contemporary. I-95’s present alteration of sound is not as drastic as some might have expected, but the station has only begun to change.
“It’s a subtle change. We want to do a little experimentation first,” said Baptiste.
A change in format is often accompanied by a change in call letters. While Baptiste and Lawrence say that no such decision has yet been made, the Federal Communications Commission recently authorized a proposed switch in call letters for I-95 to WSST-FM. I-95 has until May 15 to claim or reject those new letters.
Another challenge Lawrence faces in putting I-95 back on its feet is the securing of its talent lineup. His first move in that direction was the rehiring of Jean Cashman. Cashman formerly hosted I-95’s midday (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) show before being fired last fall by former I-95 program director Keith Isley. Since October, Cashman hosted middays on country station KISS (99.9 FM).
Last week, Cashman signed a one-year contract with I-95 and was reinstated as its midday jock. She has been replaced at KISS by Beau Walker, who was formerly heard on 96 X. Johnny Dolan, who was filling in on middays on I-95 before Cashman’s rehiring, has been bumped back to swing shift status.
A new disc jockey also has been hired to host I-95’s 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. weeknights shift, currently being hosted by I-95 part-timers Kathy “Wild” West and “Rockin’ Ron.” Al Linder of WYMJ FM in Dayton, Ohio, is expected to take over the show within the next week or two. For the present at least, no major changes appear to be in sight for WINZ AM.
“For now, we’re confident in what we’re doing,” said David Hosley, program and news director of WINZ-AM.
CHANGES AT A1A
Another local AM/FM outlet is undergoing management changes. Stephen T. Joos, who was hired in November 1985 as general manager of Adult Contemporary 97 A1A (WAIA 97.3 FM) and news/talk/sports WIOD (610 AM), was fired by parent company Cox Communications last week, following complaints from station employees that Joos was incommunicative with the staff.
The position of general manager at WAIA/WIOD is being filled temporarily by Don Dalton, corporate vice president of sales for Cox Communications and general manager of KFI/KOST radio in Los Angeles.
“Some managers are not people persons; they hide behind
closed doors,” said Dalton about the reasons for Joos’ dismissal.
* Neil Rogers ‘ April “phone-out” is over, two weeks early.
Rogers, host of WINZ-AM’s talk shows from 8 p.m. to midnight weeknights and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, announced last month that he would not air telephone calls from listeners on his weeknight shows through April. Instead, he said, he would focus solely on guests and issues. However, Rogers reversed his decision and returned to the phones late last week.
I was not able to reach Rogers for comment, but WINZ public affairs director Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld said “the experiment didn’t work out.”
* Paco Lopez, formerly of Tampa’s Q-105 FM, is the new 6-10 p.m. weeknight deejay on Y-100. Lopez, 26, replaces Tramontte Watts, who was fired in February.
* Sandy Weinberger, who held the post of promotions director at 96 X for just two months, is leaving South Florida
because of health problems exacerbated by humid weather
Caption: photo: Gary LAWRENCE
Record Number: 8601290971
Copyright (c) 1986 The Miami Herald