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The End of WHFS

January 14 2005 12:42 AM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

In random also-news, I saw the blips today about the demise of long-time DC alternative radio powerhouse WHFS. My initial reaction was the typical "Why!?!?" until I re-thought it and remembered all of the stories in the last couple of years about how the station was being "re-tooled". By most accounts at the time, the "re-tooling" was not a good idea, and was more of a last ditch effort than anything else.

I remember travelling through DC back in 1992 and hearing They Might Be Giants on WHFS and being in absolute shock. Until that moment, I had never heard They Might Be Giants on a major radio station. I kept listening, and heard all kinds of strange songs that I'd never heard before. Yep, back then, they were still the loose free-form alternative station that had made them so influential in the 1980s.

The downfall really started once they fell under the ownership of Infinity Broadcasting at the end of 1995. The station had to be "commercial", and narrowed their playlist significantly. It worked for a brief time as alternative music was really starting to find its audience and, at the time, they were the only game in town.

Towards the end of 1996, though, DC-101 finally decided to join with the times and stop playing the sludge rock that to that point had been their trademark. And they were serious: they even lured 99x night guy Will Pendarvis, whose alternative show "On the Edge" was arguably the impetus for Power 99 to change formats in 1992, to work mornings. (I still can't believe that one. Will was so absolutely a night guy.) By the late 90s, DC 101 was out-HFSing HFS. It didn't help that WHFS's reception in DC was absolutely abysmal, granted that their tower was out in Annapolis, Maryland.

So here's to the end of an era.

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