Rock radio is always in a constant state of change and flux. The late 80s into mid 90s brought about large changes to rock music in general and also local radio. Towards the end of the 1980s, melodic hard rock and glam metal ruled the airwaves in this area and generally nationwide. A syndicated station known as “Z-Rock” eventually made the airwaves in Kansas City, along with other major markets across the U.S. Here in Kansas City, Z-Rock could not find an FM outlet and ended up being broadcast on AM 1030. This was not well-accepted by some listeners who could not stand hearing hard rock and metal on an AM signal, however, many of us went with the flow and accepted it because we loved the music. Z-Rock had a great mix for anybody who loved hard rock and metal, particularly of the late 80s and early 90s variety. I remember listening to this station a lot in my car, the AM signal didn’t really bother me much at all since I had grown up listening to a vintage vacuum tube console radio and was used to mono sound anyhow.
Sometime around 1990 or 1991, the musical landscape began to change. Melodic hard rock and glam metal began to fade in popularity and what was once deemed as “college rock”, then “modern rock”, and finally re-christened “alternative rock” was on the rise. Ironically, the radio station in the area that should have been most ready to take advantage of this change, Lazer 105.9 in Lawrence, had went to a rather pedestrian Top 40 format circa 1986. The first station in the Kansas City area that I actually remember getting onboard the coming alt rock bandwagon was actually Top 40 station Q-104, which started airing a block of programming at nights that they called “Planet Q” that featured groups like The Jesus And Mary Chain, Camper Van Beethoven, Jane’s Addiction, and others.
KLZR in Lawrence eventually got with the program and changed their format back to embrace alternative rock in early 1993. As Z-Rock was on it’s way out, 105.9 The Lazer came onto the scene. I particularly remember the early months after the Lazer changed their format back to alt rock as especially good. You could hear music from Paw, Television, Keith Richards, Daniel Ash, Nirvana, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Blur, The Velvet Underground and Jellyfish, all in the same hour. In the earlier year or so after the format change, I especially loved that the Lazer would include a lot of great early 90s British rock such as Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Blur, Swervedriver, The Catherine Wheel, Adorable, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Inspiral Carpets, Soup Dragons, The Farm, The Charlatans, World Party, The Waterboys, and many more. They also broadcast a syndicated show on Sunday nights called “Rock Over London” that I enjoyed. Over time, the Lazer began to play less British rock, while simultaneously American alt rock began to get watered down, I won’t mention any names, but those of you who were around probably would understand what I am talking about. By 2000, the Lazer was bought out and turned into a dull Top 40 station, which it has sadly remained to this day.
Another station in the mix from 1988 to present is 90.1 FM KKFI Kansas City. I have been listening to this station for 25 years and began listening to it almost exclusively by 2000. Next installment I will discuss a little bit about the history of KKFI, “The Rocker” radio show hosted by Curt Mason, and the current High Voltage Radio program co-hosted by me and how I ended up doing this program.