The Favorite Station You Can’t Stream (And Three You Can)

KOAI (The Wow Factor) Phoenix, which celebrated its second birthday on Sept. 30, became a quick favorite of Ross on Radio readers, especially when its station stream was made available outside Arizona. Over the first year, PD/consultant John Sebastian tightened the station’s broad mix, eliminating the early 2000s Country aspect and focusing more on ‘70s pop/rock and ‘60s oldies. In year two, KOAI became a serious ratings player, peaking at 3.7 in August. (It was at 2.6 in September.)

Sebastian, a constant figure in the radio trades over the years, has built a similar high profile on Facebook, especially among radio veterans. In July, he took to the platform to announce that The Wow Factor had been forced to geofence its stream again. It was distressing news for the station’s following, but also for advocates of streaming overall — a station worth hearing outside its market and with a good user experience (short stopsets and no ad substitution) was a victim of its own success.

There are a lot of stations playing the ‘60s and ‘70s oldies that weren’t hard to find on the radio in 2001 but are less a part of big-city FM now, even at the megahit level. No two stations sound like each other. Certainly, Sebastian’s production style and the presence of more ‘70s Classic Rock makes KOAI different. But if you need something to stream outside Arizona in the meantime, there are choices for that music, including another surprise recent ratings winner.

We took a First Listen to the Wow Factor at its launch, then returned to it several times in the last year. For those unable to hear the station, here’s a Fresh Listen. But if it’s something to listen to, not reading material, that you’re looking for, we’ve also got three more takes on the ‘60s/’70s blend. (It’s not meant to be a definitive list; see the comments below.)

The Wow Factor’s imaging has always been part of its appeal. I wrote early on that the unique blend reflected Sebastian’s radio journey. He’s flipped that now; one sweeper declares, “This is your personal music history.” Another comes out and calls The Wow Factor “the perfect boomer station.” When we listened, KOAI was giving away tickets for the upcoming Doobie Brothers reunion tour as well as a concert getaway to see the Cirque du Soleil Beatles Love show in Las Vegas.

When I wrote about the station last year, I mentioned a segue between “Baba O’Riley” and “Baby I’m-a Want You.” This year, the transition was from that Bread song into the Who’s “I Can See for Miles.” It’s worth noting that I got a chance to see how that audio looked in the Audacity editing program. The volume between the two songs and the sweeper that separated them remained even throughout — you wouldn’t have known that there were three different elements. I don’t write about processing expertly, but even that cursory look showed its intended role in making a broad mix sonically compatible.

Here’s The Wow Factor at 7 a.m., October 6:

  • Gerry Rafferty, “Right Down the Line”
  • 5th Dimension, “One Less Bell to Answer”
  • Doobie Brothers, “Listen to the Music”
  • Bread, “Baby I’m-a Want You”
  • Who, “I Can See for Miles”
  • Carly Simon, “Nobody Does It Better”
  • Ringo Starr, “Photograph”
  • Classics IV, “Spooky”
  • James Taylor, “Fire and Rain”
  • Free, “All Right Now”
  • Tommy James & the Shondells, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”
  • Steely Dan, “Hey Nineteen”
  • Cat Stevens, “Peace Train”
  • Huey Lewis & the News, “Heart and Soul”
  • Eagles, “Desperado”
  • Grass Roots, “Let’s Live for Today”
  • Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing”

The good news about mid-‘60s-to-late-‘70s/early-‘80s hits is that there are plenty of choices on radio’s endless dial. Whenever I write about any station in that space, there are always plenty of other reader suggestions. In June, I wrote about “Oldies XL,” my new grouping for those stations that cheerfully went beyond the safelist as it now exists at Classic Hits radio. 

Unlike the small-market Rhode Island station I wrote about, “Wow Factor” has pretty much settled on the hits —songs that tested well with audiences at some point, even if newer-leaning Classic Hits stations have moved beyond them. Of the three stations here, two are relatively hit-driven. One has some “oh wow” component. Two are hosted and have a “classic radio” feel. They’re all stations that a former “Wow Factor” streamer might enjoy.

Big WECK 1230 100.1 100.5 102.9 Cheektowaga Buffalo Joe ChilleWECK (Big WECK) Buffalo, N.Y.

WECK has been a “local radio strikes back” success story, currently getting a 3.3 share 12-plus with a mix of an AM home base and FM translators. Market veteran Roger Christian does middays; former WMSX PD Joe Chile just returned to the station for afternoons. Especially after its recent rebranding as “Big WECK,” the station is a particularly good choice if what you miss is the Oldies format as it successfully existed in the early ‘00s.

Here’s WECK around 4:15 p.m., October 12:

  • Four Seasons, “Who Loves You”
  • Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl”
  • Monkees, “Daydream Believer”
  • Stevie Wonder, “Living for the City”
  • Sam Cooke, “Only Sixteen”
  • Isley Brothers, “This Old Heart of Mine”
  • Strawberry Alarm Clock, “Incense and Peppermints”
  • Jay & the Americans, “Come a Little Bit Closer”
  • Miracles, “The Tracks of My Tears”
  • Rascals, “How Can I Be Sure”
  • Beatles, “Eight Days a Week”
  • Ad Libs, “The Boy From New York City”
  • Blood, Sweat & Tears, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”

1480 99.5 107.9 WDJO CincinnatiWDJO Cincinnati

“Cincinnati’s Oldies Network” has elements of both that market’s WSAI (Real Oldies 1530), whose powerhouse signal made it one of the most-heard pre-Beatles Oldies formats in the early ‘00s, and earlier versions of Classic Hits WGRR, especially now that Dangerous Dan Allen is hosting Saturday night’s “Dial a Hit.” (I asked Allen to play this local hit that I’ve written about, and he did.)

Like WECK, WDJO is oldies-radio-as-you-remember-it, but with a little more of a ‘70s component and, when I heard it on October 12, more “oh wow” songs. Here’s the station around 5:15 p.m.:

  • Millie Small, “My Boy Lollipop”
  • Miracles, “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”
  • B.W. Stevenson, “My Maria”
  • Simon & Garfunkel, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”
  • Raspberries, “Go All the Way”
  • War, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”
  • Beatles, “Day Tripper”
  • Chase, “Get It On”
  • Buckinghams, “Susan”
  • Chairmen of the Board, “Give Me Just a Little More Time”
  • Gerry Rafferty, “Right Down the Line”
  • Association, “Windy”
  • Mouth & MacNeal, “How Do You Do?”
  • Chris Montez, “Let’s Dance”

860 KONO 86 San Antonio OldiesKONO-AM San Antonio

Cox’s KONO-FM is worth a listen, too. It has been successful with a Classic Hits mix that is both more rhythmic and more pop than many of its counterparts. It’s only hosted in mornings, making it less of a throwback than the other two (but also possibly the best choice if what you like about Wow Factor is being music-intensive). Here’s the AM around 8 p.m. on Oct. 12:

  • Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain”
  • Alive ‘N Kickin’, “Tighter, Tighter”
  • American Breed, “Bend Me, Shape Me”
  • Jim Croce, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”
  • George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”
  • Moments, “Love on a Two-Way Street”
  • Byrds, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
  • Brownsville Station, “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room”
  • Jimmy Ruffin, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”
  • Three Dog Night, “Celebrate”
  • Paul McCartney & Wings, “Band on the Run”
  • Tommy James & the Shondells, “Mony Mony”
  • Eagles, “Take It Easy”
  • B.J. Thomas, “Hooked on a Feeling”
  • Skylark, “Wildflower”
  • Four Tops, “Standing in the Shadows of Love”
  • Rod Stewart, “Maggie May”

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