Sam Burnham, Curator
Back at the beginning on this month, Georgians of a particular age were delighted when iHeart Radio resurrected Atlanta radio station 96 Rock in an all-digital format.
From 1974 to 2006, 96 Rock ruled the airwaves across North Georgia. I’ve heard more than one person opine that it was the best radio station in The South. The only competition for that title I ever encountered was Classic Rock 99.5 in Birmingham and WRUF-FM in Gainesville, Florida. Both of these stations were also gobbled up and destroyed by corporate radio acquisition. This is why modern commercial radio stinks. But that’s another story.
Back to the good aspects. The nostalgia ran deep on this. They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. But in this case, we knew exactly what we had. Homesick Georgians were gathered together at Jacksonville State one night when someone suggested going up to Mt Cheaha and listening to 96 Rock. The signal up there was crystal clear under a starlit sky and a pilgrimage was born. That’s just one of many stories. And a lot of Georgians can tell you similar tales.
My take on the reboot is mixed. The music is great even though it’s a bit repetitive at times. Toward the end of the broadcast era, the station had the same problem, only much worse. It is good to hear most of the voices of the old personalities. The iconic “This is 96 Rock” makes me smile every time.
I do not like hearing the reminiscing by “The Regular Guys.” The former morning team whose juvenile antics ultimately killed the entire station are pretty much hailed as heroes at times. There’s no reason for Eric von Haessler’s voice to be on 96 Rock. There’s no reason for Larry Wachs to be heard on radio ever again, period. Like many New York transplants in Georgia, these two self-serving miscreants made a lot of money destroying something we all loved. And that’s all I have to say about that.
I do hope that the station will cultivate more of a presence in the area. Ultimately what we have right now is a playlist. In its heyday, 96 Rock was where we heard about shows, concerts, album releases, and other music news. The very first time I heard Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell was when 96 Rock played the album in it’s entirety. The 96 Rock stage at Music Midtown was always a must. This wasn’t just a radio station. It was part of the community. Correction, it was part of our communities, plural.
So this resurrection is not without negatives, particularly the fact that it is orchestrated by the Walmart of radio, iHeart. It’s a corporate thing and we all get that. But hopefully that floating disembodied heart emoji in the sky will see by that data it’s collecting that we all still love our old station and they’ll put the resources into it to make it what it was, what it could be, what it should be.
Welcome back, 96 Rock!
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire