Whimpers from a dead Planet... The message was rambling, one poor schmuck's attempt to make sense of circumstances beyond his control. When Dave Summers, former late-night jock for the recently deceased modern-hits radio station The Planet, reached my voice mail last week, he just couldn't wait to lay out his frustrations, doing so in a hasty snarl of half-sentences, pregnant pauses and mild expletives. Guess you'd call it a half-assed therapy session, a chance to vent without the strictures of a real human on the other end of the line to impede the tirade. Mainly, though, it was just plain sad.
"Hey Hobart, it's Dave calling you back on ... what the hell is today, Wednesday? ... yeah. Umm, what can I tell you? Basically, the bottom line is that we're signing off the air Thursday night [May 28] at midnight, which totally bites. But that's life, right? I chose to work in this insane business, and I'm paying the price. That's the deal. It's really kind of a drag. We put a lot of work into this, and now it's going to go down the crapper; it's like, 'Hey guys, good try, see ya down the road.' The bottom line is, we're screwed."
Consider Summers's rant a messy emotional footnote to a radio station's demise, and compelling evidence that the business of consolidation is not all cold, calculated big-money transactions, abrupt format changes and clear-cut call-letter acquisitions. By the time you read this, KKPN/102.9 FM will have spent its first week as regional Mexican station EstereoLatino, in keeping with the Spanish-language format of its new owner, Heftel Broadcasting Corporation. The largest Spanish-language radio broadcaster in the country, Heftel acquired KKPN's frequency from the airwaves giant Chancellor Media after the latter was forced to unload it or be in violation of the FCC's limit on the number of stations it can own in a single market.
Summers, meanwhile, is out of a job and praying that he won't have to leave his native Houston to find one. "I've got an offer to go to Austin," says the DJ, who pre-Planet was a part-time personality at The Buzz (KTBZ/107.5 FM). "It's hard, though, because I really am attached to Houston. It's taken me years and years and years to know this community."
Planet staffers had long suspected their jobs were shaky -- starting in March, the month Heftel purchased the station from Capstar (which had acquired the station last year) for $54 million. Yet Summers and his coworkers held out hope that another frequency might snatch them up. One rumor had Capstar wiping out classic-rock station KKRW/93.7 FM (The Arrow) and replacing it with The Planet. But, alas, KKPN's modest Arbitron ratings (which had been improving) didn't warrant such a brash move.
Last week, Summers was making cracks about buying a sombrero. But now, the kidding is over.
"I'd been in denial about it, thinking that there was going to be some last-minute reprieve from our execution," Summers says. "Yeah, right."
More name games... Further proof that all the cool band names have been taken: MCA Records recently contacted the attorney for Houston's Free Radicals, asking whether the group would mind parting with its moniker. Turns out the label has signed its own Free Radicals, which is actually only one guy. But according to Nick Cooper, leader of the local version, he has a trademark pending on the name and is not about to give it up. MCA's alleged response: See you in court.
Release activity... The latest installment of the Jesse Dayton album saga: The title of the Beaumont native's long-awaited follow-up to Raisin' Cain has been changed from Letter to Home to Wayward Soul, the third such revision since last year. And once again, the local Justice label has bumped back the disc's release date, this time to late summer. In the interim, it's likely Dayton will continue to commute between Houston and Los Angeles, the home of his latest squeeze. He's also been touring with the George Strait Country Music Festival, which rolls into Rice Stadium Sunday.
A few of the region's punchiest ska outfits will take the stage at Fitzgerald's Friday to commemorate the release of Texas Ska Vol. 1, the state's first compilation devoted solely to the genre, in all its bastardized '90s glory. The bill includes Los Skarnales, Chadd Thomas and the Crazy Kings, Vent-o-lators and Holey Guacamole.
Etc.... Believe it: Silky's Blues Bar has lived to celebrate its first birthday this weekend -- a significant feat, considering that the bar's shady, inconspicuous Washington Avenue locale has been nothing but a curse for past tenants. Friday night's anniversary festivities feature the Jay Hooks Band; Saturday, it's Big Daddy Gumbeaux and the Sheetrockers.
-- Hobart Rowland
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