Country 102.5 WKLB rebrands canceling Sunday Morning Country Oldies

wklb_logoWant yet another example of the corporate machine striking again? Well, here you go – Country 102.5 WKLB, Boston’s twenty-one year old country music station has cancelled their ‘Sunday Morning Country Oldies’ program after a twenty year and five month run, replacing it with the same mix of bro-country and progressive sounds that litter their airwaves every other hour of the week.

The move comes in response to the decision by 101.7-FM to switch from an EDM format to country, giving Boston two country music radio stations for the first time. This new station, run by Clear Channel and billing itself as ‘The Bull’ in a shameless effort to covet the younger country music audience, is the ultimate soul sucker. They’re running an uninterrupted commercial free summer to draw in listeners and have slotted the Nashville produced (i.e. syndicated) Bobby Bones Show during the coveted Morning Drive hours.

According to the Boston Globe article announcing the format switch at 101.7, Dylan Sprague, vice president of programming for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Boston, says the format switch is in accordance to the changing tastes of listeners, most of whom wouldn’t have considered themselves country 1017_the_bull_commercial_free__0_1402657108music fans even ten years ago.

To achieve this goal, 101.7 has launched a “comprehensive search” for DJ talent, as Sprague puts it, to be put on air after Labor Day. The Boston Globe article doesn’t divulge how they plan to find this talent, or even how hard they plan to “search” but at least they have plans to bring a personal touch to the station, who’s call letters are WBLW, and aren’t planning on a syndicated format around the clock.

So, where does Country 102.5 WKLB, Boston’s Country Music Association award winning country music powerhouse, play into the equation? Well, in response to the new station they’ve rolled out what they hoped would be a subtle rebranding campaign as “Boston’s New Hit Country,” which in turn left no room for the venerable oldies program on Sunday mornings.

Sunday Morning Country Oldies began in January 1994, running 8am-noon with the hits from bygone eras no longer heard on mainstream radio. Hosted by Michael Burns and Stu Fink, the program most recently heavily featured 70s, 80s, and 90s country with a nod back to the 60s with a ‘classic oldie of the hour’ like Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” or Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.”

Up until 101.7 switched formats, the Oldies program was going strong with no signs of imminent cancelation. This spring they even dedicated shows to featuring tracks from and giving away copies of Johnny Cash’s Out Among The Stars and Ronnie Milsap’s Summer Number Seventeen in coordination with the artists promotional teams in Nashville. On Mother’s Day, they played Jimmy Dean’s tearjerker ‘I.O.U.’ once every hour.

Now the program is gone, cancelled without warning to the listeners or the hosts themselves. Burns and Fink were told on June 16 that their final show had aired the day before. Burns will continue his relationship with Greater Media, who owns WKLB and a host of other stations, while Fink has been let go entirely. The fans of the program, who where wondering what was going on when they tuned in this past Sunday, flooded WKLB’s Facebook page with messages lamenting their anger.

Listeners reminisced about tuning into the program with their 97 year old parents or listening with their spouses who originally hailed from Texas and couldn’t find this music anywhere else beyond CDs and such. Others downright disowned the station and planned to never listen again.

As one of those disgruntled listeners, I’m deeply saddened by the show’s cancelation, but I’m not surprised or shocked at this move by Country 102.5 WKLB. We live in a world, especially with regards to media, where corporate greed wins out every time no matter how it might effect a entity’s image or well being within the community.

I’ve had by soul shattered by the continuing devolution of country music for years now, and I’d be a fool to think it could possibly recover even to a fraction of what it once was and should’ve always remained. The mainstream country music genre and establishment, no matter how much money it makes on a daily basis, is corrupt and morally bankrupt.

If I didn’t understand that fact before, the cancelation of Sunday Morning Country Oldies makes it loud and clear. This move puts Country 102.5 WKLB on par with 101.7 instead of establishing themselves as an exception to the rule. Sunday Morning Country Oldies is what helped them stand out from the pack and retain the older country music audience in and around Boston starving for authenticity out of the music they love. Without it they’ve lost, my 26-year-old self included, whatever fraction of that audience they had left.

I’d have to be an even bigger fool if I thought this move would significantly impact Country 102.5 WKLB’s bottom line. Will they suffer as a result of cancelling Sunday Morning Country Oldies? Of course they won’t. WKLB makes their money off of the latest and greatest in country music and their pivotal role of turning Boston into a must visit city for all major country music tours. With the growth of country music, they’ve become the number one most listened to station in Boston with ratings going through the roof. Country 102.5 WKLB hasn’t been this popular at any other point in its 21-year history.

With those statistics, it’s hard to believe they’d be so insecure about loosing their audience to 101.7 that they’d quickly rebrand and yank their Sunday morning oldies show. I find it mind boggling that a weekly four-hour block of classic country on a Sunday morning would deter listeners to another station. They seriously believe that fans are so impatient they can’t wait until noon for the likes of Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, or Jason Aldean? The thinking here, suggested by the cancelation of Sunday Morning Country Oldies, is flat-out ridiculous.

Michael Burns (Left) and Stu Fink - hosts of Sunday Morning Country Oldies

Michael Burns (Left) and Stu Fink – hosts of Sunday Morning Country Oldies

Without so much as a press release or statement from Country 102.5 WKLB explaining this move in their own PR spun words, is there any hope going forward for the fans of the program? With the damage already done, they’re shouldn’t be. By making the move in the first place Country 102.5 WKLB have shown their true colors as a station just like all the rest, a follower of demographics and industry trends. Keeping the show alive would’ve been the bold move, a stance against the devolution of corporate radio at a time when a protest is needed most.

There’s been speculation about Burns and Fink trying to revive the program online or through another medium but any formal announcement, beyond a ‘Save Sunday Morning Country Oldies’ Facebook page has yet to come down the pipeline. I sincerely hope they get the last word in all of this as they are the true victims here, lovers of classic country who had their voice diminished without as much as a chance to officially thank their listeners for twenty great years.

As for Country 102.5 WKLB, they can be yet another voice diminishing real country music on the airwaves, catering to the mainstream audience that’s done more to murder music row than any artist in Larry Cordle’s song.

WKLB, go and cram Luke Bryan’s August coming out party at Gillette Stadium down our throats. Its okay, now that we’ve seen who you really are once and for all.

Further Reading: 

Boston Radio: New Sheriff In Town Country Is #1

Clear Channel converts 101.7 to country music format

WKLB DROPS “SUNDAY MORNING COUNTRY OLDIES”

 

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16 Responses to “Country 102.5 WKLB rebrands canceling Sunday Morning Country Oldies”

  1. Lisa granger Says:

    I can’t believe that Sunday morning country oldies has been canceled. I’ve been listening to this for the past 20 yrs as well as many many many other peeps. I would get up every Sunday and put on May have drove neighbors crazy but I LOVE it. The other station that we put on in place does not compare to sunday morning s at all. What do we need to do to get back stu and fink????????????? I miss them so much my Sundays are not the same. Love you miss you stu and fink.

  2. C Jaglinki Says:

    I’m done with 102.5!!!

  3. PHYLLIS A LOVER OF GOOD COUNTRY MUSIC. Says:

    MY HUSBAND ANI GO OUT EVERY SUNDAY FOR A RIDE AND WE ALWAYS PUT 102.5 SUNDAY MORNING COUNTRY . FOR 20 YEARS .SORRY IT WAS TAKING OFF THE AIR .YOU JUST LOST US AS LISTENER .I NOW FOUND OUT THAT .740 AM PLAYS THE OLD COUNTRY ON SUNDAY .NOW I LISTEN TO THAT STATION .YOU JUST MADE A BIG MISTAKE .HI TO BURNS AND FINK O” YA .THANY YOU FOR 24 YEARS

  4. Joseph Says:

    me and my wife would put on 102.5 every sunday morning. now that mike and stew are gone so are we. its to bad you put all the old listeners out to pasture. mike and stew we wish you all the best hope some other radio station will pick you both up you guys were the best. number 1.

  5. Josephine Eddy Says:

    I was so upset to hear about country oldies on Sunday mornings being cancelled.Guess I won’t be listening to the station anymore.What they call country music today is not what I consider country,Sorry for Michael Burns and Stu Fink,especially the way they got the news of being cancelled…I think it was a big mistake,will have to go back to listening to my CD’s

  6. Vincent Bravoco Says:

    BRING THEM BACK…WHAT A MISTAKE..THE NEW GUYS TOOK OFF GREAT MUSIC AND PUT THAT JUNK ROCK COUNTRY ON…THEY’LL NEVER SURVIVE. THE NORMAL PEOPLE WANT THE GREAT OLDIES…THERE’S NOTHING LIKE THEM!!!!

  7. Shirley Egan Says:

    I thought Michael and Stu were on vacation, and then found out KLB took them off the air without warning! Well, they have lost my entire family of 6 for ever. Just another example of the greed in this country. I hope that some time in the near future Michael and Stu find another station to hire them and start another Country Oldies show. There is oldies on Listeners Choice on Cable, but of course it’s not the same. What the HELL were you folks thinking by getting rid of our favorite show. I’m 75 yrs. old, and have been a country fan my whole life. The country of today can’t hold a candle to thr music of yesterday, all the singers today just scream and yell, might as well be listening to any other station. You’ll never have us as listeners again.

  8. Leo Godwin Says:

    Shame on 102.5 management. I listened every Sunday morning. No interest in the station now.

  9. Ellen Estabrooks Says:

    So gonna miss you, Mike and Stu! Almost like the death of close friends. You and the Country Oldies were such a welcome part of our Sunday Mornings. What a shock to return from vacation to find you and Sunday Morning Country gone! No more 102.5 for me or mine! In my heart, June 15th will forever be remembered as, “The Day the Music Died.” Good luck guys with your future plans and thanks for the tunes and your many years of dedication.

  10. Bob Google Says:

    I agree, I’m 66 with family, our whole family and friends from several generations, including those in their 20’s now almost never listen to 102.5 Most of the country on other country stations seemed to have reached a downward spiral with country music twanging about drinking, sex and hedionism without the old story telling. All this seems to have happened within the last 3 to 4 months in poor quality country songs. I used to listen to country stations at least one out of every 2 to 3 times, now it’s less than 1 out of 10. Miss Fink and Burns. Bring them back and bring back more good ol and young quality country songs.

  11. marco Says:

    guess ill be switching to101.7

  12. Andre Says:

    Shame on corporate greed again! Miss Stu & Mike. 101.7 sucks
    Lousy country music.

  13. Linda Says:

    Listening to Sunday morning country was my favorite of the week!
    Guess I won’t be tuning in to 102.5 anymore. Money is all these big wigs think of anymore money, money and more money. Screw the listeners that put you at number one in the first place.

  14. DARLENE Says:

    I stopped listening to 102.5 when they stopped Sunday morning oldies..I am all set with that station now…I will listen to my own oldie CD’s….

  15. Sam Says:

    I am now 14 and I have been listening to the Sunday morning country oldies since I was 7 years old. In the past few years it was one of the only times I could listen to real country music in the Boston area. After 7 years Country 102.5 has lost me as a listener. Now there is no station in Boston which is playing country music all of the time.

    Hint: If you live north of Newburyport, near Portsmouth, and want to listen to country music tune to 1380 am.

  16. Jim Martel Says:

    102.5 no longer exists on my radio…….and never will! I hope the advertisers realizes that……what we need here is a marketplace grocery store protest……it worked for them…..it can work for us!

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