Notes from the PD No. 1 – We’ll Cut Them Off at the Pass!

Don’t worry. "Notes from the PD" has nothing to do with the cops. In this case, "PD" stands for Program Director. In the radio business, that is the traditional position of the person who determines what you hear on that station.

While there have been a few stations over the years that have set aside time or space to explain what they do and why and offer the general public ways to give feedback that will be truly considered, it has always been the exception rather than the rule. As I have always strongly felt that a radio station needs to be connected with its community whether its the people reached by its transmitter or whoever decides to tune in online, I am going to make KoHoSo Radio 66 one of the exceptions.

I have been wanting to get to this series of posts for a long time. A busy work schedule plus me almost frantically trying to improve the music mix on KoHoSo Radio 66 with any of my free time has made me put this off for a while. However, with my station about ready to easily pass its first number-of-listeners goal and almost certain to remain "on the air" through at least early May, I thought it was time to get to it.

The issue I want to explain today is the general cutoff date I have set for the music played on KoHoSo Radio 66. On the "outbound" side of 1966, that date is absolute no matter how harsh it might seem.

This occurred to me yesterday as I was deciding what songs to put in the rotation from the Spencer Davis Group. Their biggest hit, Gimme Some Lovin’, was released in 1966 so it easily makes the cut. However, the band’s second biggest hit, I’m a Man, came out in early 1967. As much as I think people would like to hear that song, I have to stick to my rule and leave it out.

Why so harsh on a date? Once I decided that I would limit all songs to 1946 through 1966 (which I will explain further in a future post), I knew I had to stick to it to prevent "mission creep". I realized that, if I started making exceptions for songs released in 1967, it would inevitably lead to songs from 1968, 1969, and into the 1970s. Then, if that happened, the connectivity with songs coming from the pre-rock era and how some country and pop from the post-war generation fits in so well with that music simply falls apart. It would be at that point where my station would cease to be a planned and cohesive set of music and turn into nothing but somebody’s random playlist.

Despite the fact that some songs from 1967 onward might fit in well with everything else, they also start getting folks away from the Route 66 theme of the station. They put people less in a mind of cruising in an over-sized American car and stopping at the local diner, drive-in, or juke joint and more about how things are today. Let’s face it…despite how music is mostly a flowing river of change where it’s hard to pinpoint where one thing began and another ended, 1967 is an easy-to-spot bend in the river where almost everything changed…and, if it didn’t, it was mostly placed in the bargain bin.

Aside from the most obvious example, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967 started right off with the Doors releasing their first album, Jefferson Airplane blowing everybody’s mind with Surrealistic Pillow, and everybody else that came along in the so-called "Summer of Love".

While 1967 is certainly a benchmark year, people were not standing still in 1966. Some of the music being made in ’66 foretold what was to come. So, even though my favorite all-time bands are the Grateful Dead and Rush, for this station, I have to put on my PD hat — sort of like a cop, I guess — and decide who’s allowed into town and who is politely but firmly told that the City of KoHoSo Radio 66 doesn’t take kindly to hippies and they need to move along.

A good example of this happened yesterday when I began to consider adding Donovan songs. Two of his biggest hits, Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow were released in 1966. While certainly hinting of the psychedelic era to come, Sunshine Superman made the cut as a song that still had roots in the basic rock & roll of the British Invasion. Even with its pop sensibilities, Mellow Yellow got left out as it was just plain leaning to far over the line of the next era.

This kind of thinking is also why I have almost every Beatles song in the rotation until the Revolver album. Yes, that’s 1966 but, even though I love them, some of those songs just don’t fit the station.

What I hope to get across here is that programming a good radio station of any type isn’t about discriminating in a negative way. It’s about creating a special feel for the community being served. In this case, it is for those who want to spend some time enjoying the mid-20th Century and, as one of my current promos says, to recreate the feel of what is was like to drive and stop along Route 66 or any of America’s other forgotten highways and byways.

Yes, it’s an idealized version where we only think about the good things and everybody is equal. After all, the mix of KoHoSo Radio 66 is almost evenly split between white and black artists. Unlike the reality of my station’s chosen musical era, people are judged solely on whether or not they made a good record that has stood the test of time. That being said, I do have to be realistic in one area…no hippies, please. :-D

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