Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

"Red" Is a Return to Real Radio

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

"Red" Is a Return to Real Radio

Article excerpt

Just when the naysayers think there's nothing new on the radio, a local outlet resurrects a sound from the past, and people start noticing.

What makes this more incredible is that one of the big radio conglomerates is behind this unique format.

When Chuck Hillier left his management job with Emmis in Chicago he formed a consultancy. One of his ideas was to put a station on the air that would deliver a 35-to-54 audience to advertisers by playing a mix of swing, jazz, blues and lounge music, but he didn't have a station that was interested.

Enter the St. Louis Emmis operation. People here had been batting around ideas to attract the same demographics. It was a great match, and "Red" was born, the first radio station of its kind in the country.

WRDA (104.1 FM) is saddled with a signal that doesn't come in very well in South St. Louis County because it was originally licensed to Jerseyville, Ill., but that doesn't stop program director Jeff Allen from proudly noting the audience share for the station is almost double what corporate had projected at this point. He says there are strong listening bases in western St. Louis County, St. Charles and some pockets of Metro East.

When Red hit the air, all the announcers were female. It wasn't planned that way, says Allen, but there were three women involved with Emmis St. Louis who fit what he was looking for: Dana Daniels, Kristi Carson and Denys Schaefer.

"There were a lot of card readers out there looking for jobs, but they weren't a good fit for us," he says.

Sean Smothers, whose voice is well-known from earlier jazz station stints here, is on board now, along with Dave Lewis, who's holding down the afternoon drive.

It took about three months for Red to go from decision to reality. The time was spent lining up announcers, developing an image campaign and assembling the playlist on hard drive. …

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