R.I.P. WRAX

The station as it exists now sucks, so this is no surprise:

Birmingham radio listeners can expect a major lineup change today.

Alternative rock station The X at 100.5 (WRAX-FM), once one of the most popular stations in town, will go off the air this afternoon to make room for sports talk station WJOX, which already airs on the AM 690 frequency.

The story goes on to say:

During its heyday as 107.7 The X, the 100,000-watt WRAX was one of top stations in Birmingham and the highest-rated alternative rock station in the country.

But ratings gradually started to slide over the past few years, and last spring, the station changed frequencies from 107.7 to the less powerful 100.5 signal.

The story does not explain, or even attempt to explain, why the ratings gradually started to slide. The reason is simple: The X quit playing new music and decided to be like every other station on the air by only playing the same stupid songs that some corporate know-nothing told them surveys indicated people who advertisers love wanted to hear.  Here’s the real deal:

Much of the credit for the station’s early success goes to Program Director Dave Rossi. While many PDs around the country were content to follow the examples of other radio stations, Rossi listened to hundreds of bands each month in an attempt to break new artists on the station. Late in WRAX’s first year, DJ Scott Register began a Sunday morning specialty show called “Reg’s Coffeehouse,” which introduced lesser-known bands to Birmingham listeners. Rossi incorporated into the station’s daily playlist some of the bands that garnered a positive reaction on Register’s program.

What followed was a long list of bands whose songs became hits in Birmingham before becoming popular elsewhere, including Matchbox 20, Train, and, more recently, John Mayer. Labels and radio stations around the country took notice, as did local concert promoters, who brought many of these bands to town.

That was five years ago. Changes in management, philosophy, and personnel have taken a toll on the station. During the summer of 2005, new Program Director Ken Wall issued an infamous memorandum that echoed current station owner Citadel Broadcasting’s mantra: “We are not in the business of breaking new music.” Around the same time, management decided to move the signal from 107.7 to 100.5. This weaker, directional signal drastically affected the station’s reach. Wall also tinkered with the format, deciding that Birmingham audiences would enjoy hearing Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Metallica during their morning drive.

Like I said, the station as it now exists sucks, so I probably would not care that they are going bye-bye except that this means no more Reg’s Coffeehouse. Every Sunday morning for the last several years, we’ve gotten up and gone to the early Mass and then come home to eat breakfast, drink coffee, and relax to the sounds of that wonderful show. He’s what radio ought to be. New songs, new artists, and live interviews with the musicians, who would often play a few tunes during the interview. You never knew when you’d hear something that would grab you, that you’d have to run out and buy the next day. His slogan is “Helping build your music library one song at a time.” My music library and my Sunday mornings are both going to suffer.

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15 Comments on “R.I.P. WRAX”

  1. walt moffett Says:

    Unfamilyfriendly words here…

    Radio has slowly gone downhill since KAAY took Bleeker Street off the air. Oh well, some interesting stations on those internet tube things.

  2. wheeler Says:

    “those internet tube things.”

    i guess that or satelite is the only way to go.

  3. Ren Says:

    The article says that, “Register will continue to host a one-hour syndicated version of his show.” Where can this be heard? Any ideas?

  4. wheeler Says:

    i don’t know. the article didn’t say and i didn’t see anything on his website. i’m really hoping another station could pick him up, but i’m sure that is a long shot.

  5. walt moffett Says:

    Some very interesting music out there. Currentily listening to Radio Tatar after an afternoon of Classical Chinese which reminds me music is a universal language.

  6. Dan Says:

    I just read and posted about this and Sara told me you had mentioned it. I came to the same conclusion — the X was starting to suck. Still, I’m depressed. I grew up in Birmingham and the X rocked in the mid-to-late 90s when I was in high school.


  7. Wheeler, I was discussing this with my husband when we found out yesterday morning. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him curse so much. The X, love it or hate it, was Birmingham’s ONLY alternative station. If you like hip-hop, pop, easy listening, country, gospel, and classics– you’re pretty well covered. But heaven forbid you want to listen to ROCK MUSIC!!! We sincerely WANTED to listen to what was left of the X, but living in Trussville, the signal was always spotty, at best. With the weaker signal, they efficiently killed off what was left of their listeners, because those who wanted to listen couldn’t.

    I’m going to miss Beaner and Ken and Reg. Maybe I can catch them in syndication if they happen to broadcast online.

  8. wheeler Says:

    “living in Trussville, the signal was always spotty”

    i live in east b’ham, and it was spotty even at my house.

  9. Barger Says:

    What has happened to Birmingham radio. If you want country music , rap , hip-hop, easy listening, or “oldies” …GREAT, but there is no longer an alternative station in the birmingham listening area. Or could this all be a ruse by citidel broadcasting to create a stir in the area so that the alternative scene will show a little more suppport??

  10. wheeler Says:

    “Or could this all be a ruse by citidel broadcasting to create a stir in the area so that the alternative scene will show a little more suppport??”

    hmmm, the conspiracy theory? maybe. if not, i hope someone will step up and fill the void. there’s a market – wrax used to fill it – so maybe someone will take notice.


  11. […] First, here’s the inside scoop on the end of the X, the replacement, and other options for B’ham Alternative music fans. […]

  12. andrew t Says:

    I think that the x was responsible for its own demise. New music is essential to radio. If you look to mtv and others to decide what to play, then you are riding for a fall. The x just got so bad at delivering new artists that for a while me and my friends stumbled on to new music by accident, and word of mouth. The birmingham alternative radio scene can be great again, but this time it should anticipate that music is constantly changing therefore the radio scene must follow or be left behind.

  13. wheeler Says:

    “I think that the x was responsible for its own demise.”

    agreed. i just hope someone will learn a lesson from the death of the x. niche marketing is the way to go, and in radio that means finding and playing new local music.


  14. […] Here, here, and here, are my previous posts on the death of the X and the loss of Reg. I’m so happy that his show is back that I think I’ll go buy a new cd after work today. Rock. […]


  15. when i was younger, i always love the tune of alternative music compared to pop music `*:


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