Monday, April 3, 2006

Radio listeners clamoring for more classic rock now have another option on the local dial, but those looking for oldies may find themselves with a case of the summertime blues.

WBIG-FM (100.3) yesterday swapped oldies for “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll of all time.”

The new Big 100 will play songs from the late 1960s through the early ‘80s from artists such as Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel and the Rolling Stones, replacing hits from the early ‘60s and Motown recordings, said Jeff Kapugi, regional vice president of programming for the Washington-Baltimore region at Clear Channel Radio.

“Shout” by the Isley Brothers was the final song played before WBIG switched at 5 p.m. yesterday. Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” ushered in the station’s new identity followed by Mr. John’s “Bennie and the Jets.”

The WBIG switch gives the Washington radio market two stations dominated by classic rock but no oldies on the dial.

“The trend is that increasingly a lot of people do not want to be in the pure oldies business,” said Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming at Edison Media Research, a consulting firm in Somerville, N.J. Sometimes that means eliminating hits from the ‘50s “and sometimes they’re starting over.”

WBIG adopted the oldies format in 1993, but dropped ‘50s music from its lineup a few years ago.

Clear Channel still operates successful oldies stations in Cleveland and other markets, but the WBIG switch enables the company to pair it with WWDC-FM (101.1) and establish a “wall of rock,” Mr. Ross said.

Washington’s only classic rock station until now has been CBS Radio’s WARW-FM (94.7), “The Arrow.”

In Arbitron Inc.’s fall ratings, WBIG finished just ahead of WARW in total listeners 12 and older, but neither station was in the top 10. Arbitron’s spring ratings period started Thursday. Its report for the winter quarter is scheduled to be released later this month.

WARW and CBS Radio executives did not return calls and e-mails for comment yesterday.

Mr. Kapugi said WBIG is not “classic rock,” but “classic hits.” He said Clear Channel conducted research that showed a need for the programming in the Washington area.

“But we are not necessarily ‘competing’ with 94.7,” he wrote in response to questions submitted via e-mail. “We are evolving the new Big 100.3 to make it more accessible to more people.”

WBIG on-air hosts Gary Murphy and Jessica Cash of the “Murphy & Cash” morning show, Stephanie Wells and Tom Kelly were dismissed yesterday.

Nighttime host Jim Curtis was retained and will assume part-time, on-air duties at adult contemporary station WASH-FM (97.1). Mr. Curtis also exports material to other Clear Channel markets, Mr. Kapugi said.

The company is searching for new on-air talent and a program director for WBIG. The nationwide search is expected to take about 90 days and “low-key” hosts will be used to introduce songs on WBIG in the interim, he said.

Bill Hess, who had been program director at WBIG, will continue to serve in that role at WASH-FM.

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