Even though it's owned by an evil radio monolith, golden oldies station KBME manages to contradict every criticism cast the company's way. You say Clear Channel won't play local music? KBME does -- everything from Grady Gaines to the El Orbits. You say CC doesn't allow personalities to flourish? KBME does, as evidenced by local radio legends Paul Berlin and Ronnie Renfrow. You say CC has rigid playlists and sticks to prefab formats? Not so KBME, where the Beatles abut Louis Armstrong, where Bing Crosby follows the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Like the Muskogee, Oklahoma, of Merle Haggard's song, KBME is a place where even squares can have a ball.
After KIKK-FM switched to smooth jazz, Houston was left with a mere two country stations. Cox Communications saw an opportunity and seized it. They took a struggling rap station -- the weakest of four in the area -- and flipped the format to classic country. A few months later, it is the No. 1 country station in Houston, and the fifth-place station on the English-language dial. Ironically, KTHT is playing the same songs that KIKK made its name on back in the '60s, '70s and '80s. Now, if they could just add a couple more DJs to tell us about what we're hearing...

After KIKK-FM switched to smooth jazz, Houston was left with a mere two country stations. Cox Communications saw an opportunity and seized it. They took a struggling rap station -- the weakest of four in the area -- and flipped the format to classic country. A few months later, it is the No. 1 country station in Houston, and the fifth-place station on the English-language dial. Ironically, KTHT is playing the same songs that KIKK made its name on back in the '60s, '70s and '80s. Now, if they could just add a couple more DJs to tell us about what we're hearing...

We're not big fans of overly formatted radio, and that's why we love KEYH. Neither a Tejano nor a strictly regional Mexican station, KEYH plays the music of the Caribbean islands and the east coasts of Central and South America, from Matamoros down to Colombia. Salsa, cumbia, sonidero and merengue are just some of the genres you'll hear every hour, making the station as much of a treat for the ears as a trip to the Gulfton Fiesta is for all the other senses.

We're not big fans of overly formatted radio, and that's why we love KEYH. Neither a Tejano nor a strictly regional Mexican station, KEYH plays the music of the Caribbean islands and the east coasts of Central and South America, from Matamoros down to Colombia. Salsa, cumbia, sonidero and merengue are just some of the genres you'll hear every hour, making the station as much of a treat for the ears as a trip to the Gulfton Fiesta is for all the other senses.

When you walk into this bar, it feels like you're stepping onto a set for Sex and the City. The furniture is funky and the people are pretty. The Social helps them stay pretty, too -- even in hot, hot Houston. The outdoor patio is outfitted with pose-worthy sofas and sweat-stopping fans. And the fruity mixed drinks have enough juice in them to keep you from getting sloppy drunk. You could sit and sip and pretend you're Carrie Bradshaw for hours.

The Social
When you walk into this bar, it feels like you're stepping onto a set for Sex and the City. The furniture is funky and the people are pretty. The Social helps them stay pretty, too -- even in hot, hot Houston. The outdoor patio is outfitted with pose-worthy sofas and sweat-stopping fans. And the fruity mixed drinks have enough juice in them to keep you from getting sloppy drunk. You could sit and sip and pretend you're Carrie Bradshaw for hours.

Dennis Lee's radio show, which broadcasts every Tuesday night out of the student center at Rice University, is three hours of unadulterated hip-hop ecstasy. Lee scours the earth looking for undiscovered hip-hop finds, and it's amazing how he can fill a three-hour show with nothing but unsuckable music. We're serious -- the man's tracks never blow. On any given installment, the steady stream of bullshit-free sounds can range from the cream of the crop (De La, Mos Def, OutKast) to the fringe of the underground (Madlib, Afrobatik, Styles of Beyond) to some commercial stuff here and there (a Neptunes-produced heater has been known to make an appearance). Lee will graduate from Rice soon, but thankfully he's planning to stick around a little longer at Vinyl Frontier.

Dennis Lee's radio show, which broadcasts every Tuesday night out of the student center at Rice University, is three hours of unadulterated hip-hop ecstasy. Lee scours the earth looking for undiscovered hip-hop finds, and it's amazing how he can fill a three-hour show with nothing but unsuckable music. We're serious -- the man's tracks never blow. On any given installment, the steady stream of bullshit-free sounds can range from the cream of the crop (De La, Mos Def, OutKast) to the fringe of the underground (Madlib, Afrobatik, Styles of Beyond) to some commercial stuff here and there (a Neptunes-produced heater has been known to make an appearance). Lee will graduate from Rice soon, but thankfully he's planning to stick around a little longer at Vinyl Frontier.

In 1950, 19-year-old Paul Berlin came to Houston and became an immediate success as a DJ. Back then, he promoted concerts and dances with the likes of Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and the Platters. Today he takes the knowledge he's gained over the course of his life and applies it to his midday gig at KBME. From 10:30 a.m. till 2 p.m. weekdays, you can swing to the sounds of yesteryear -- from Sinatra to Patsy Cline to Sonny & Cher -- and brush up on your music trivia at the same time. Paul drops facts about pretty much every cut he plays, and generally adds a personal anecdote for good measure. He's also a jokester with miles of personality who has the ability to take his listeners back to a better day for radio, before all the computers took over. Berlin has been honored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and is also a nominee for the Marconi Award and the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago. In October 2002, Berlin was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. After 50-some-odd years, he remains a distinctive voice on our local airwaves.

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