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KERA’s New Station: What is Adult Album Alternative, Anyway?

by Jerome Weeks 10 Jun 2009 10:38 AM

North Texas’ newest public radio station will broadcast a music format known as Adult Album Alternative, or Triple A. What will it sound like?

Good question. Dave Chaney is the editor of triplearadio.com, a resource website. Chaney has followed this format for years, yet he struggles for a definition.



  • Expanded online story:

KERA is launching a second public radio station that will broadcast music. KERA’s board of directors has agreed to pay $18 million dollars to Covenant Educational Media for the licensing and transmission properties of 91.7, which currently airs religious programming. We have two stories with more information. Jerome Weeks has more about the unique music format. But first, KERA’s Shelley Kofler reports on what lead to the acquisition.

Music is the sound of things to come when KERA launches its new music station by the fall of this year.

You’ll hear Texas artists, world and ethnic music, singer-songwriters, and more. KERA President and CEO Mary Anne Alhadeff says the new 91.7 will broadcast a format known as Triple A- adult album alternative.

Alhadeff: “It’s a wonderful combination including acoustic, jazz, reggae, a very broad ranging kind of music service. We’ll be hearing public radio style interviews with the artists, learning about the music, learning about the artists the artistic process. I think it will be a very rich musical discovery process.”

KERA broadcast music until 13 years ago when 90.1 shifted to a news and information format. Alhadaff says this second station allows KERA to continue focusing 90.1’s programming on news while providing a public broadcasting style of music that will add an under 40’s audience.

The new 91.7 will air music round the clock, sometimes hosted by local announcers, some automated. Alhadeff says it will include nationally distributed programs, but also showcase local, North Texas talent.

Alhadeff: “Here at KERA we have a performance studio that hasn’t been used much in recent years, so we’re really excited about inviting bands and local artists in to perform for us.”

Chief Financial Officer Jason Daisey says KERA became aware of the opportunity to acquire another non-commercial license over a year ago, and has since been researching the economics and the fit.

Daisey says the timing was right for KERA after having a cash surplus for four years. He says KERA was able to finance the $18 million purchase through three lenders that specialize in non-profits. He says this expansion of programming is an opportunity to expand future revenues, as well.

Daisey: “It makes sense to the bottom line of KERA by allowing us to generate a new audience that brings in new people to the public radio family and hopefully new revenue and contributions and new sponsors out there in the local business community to help us both afford the service and become more valuable to the community as it moves forward.”

The launch date for the music station depends on when the Federal Communications Commission approves the sale. Station call letters must still be chosen. And the music programs must be selected.

KERA’s Jerome Weeks talked to North Texas artists about what the new station will offer:

By Jerome Weeks

North Texas’ newest public radio station will broadcast a music format known as Adult Album Alternative, or Triple A.

What will it sound like?

Good question.

Dave Chaney is the editor of triplearadio.com, a resource website. Chaney has followed this format for years, yet he struggles for a definition.

CHANEY: “There is no easy way to describe it. Nevertheless, rock, rock-blues, reggae, elements of Americana in there, obviously. No, it’s maddening.”

It’s not easy to pin down the format because Triple A radio grew out of both the classic album stations of the ’70s as well as the alternative rock format that developed in the ’80s, says Chaney. And Adult Album Alternative can encompass different flavors in different regions. Zydeco and Cajun music in Texas and Louisiana, gospel and blues, or alternative country and independent rock in other areas. Examples of this format in non-commercial stations around the country include WXPN (home of World Cafe) and KEXP in Seattle.

Carl Finch of Brave Combo

Much of this music is not currently featured on major commercial stations. Chaney explains.

CHANEY: “Long story short, it takes a long time to build up an audience. The corporations don’t have that kind of patience. And they can’t afford to have that kind of patience.”

KERA is committed to including local programming on the new station. And it’s the local flavor that makes the Triple A format important to an area’s music scene. Especially to bands who don’t fit into typical popular formats. Carl Finch is the leader of Brave Combo, the well-known Denton polka band. He remembers when KERA changed its format in 1996.

FINCH: “The loss of regular music programming on KERA was a big blow to us and a lot of other bands that played music that didn’t fit comfortably into the Americana umbrella. So to have a station, a local station especially that’s reaching out more for that sort of thing is the difference between night and day.”

While the music may vary in Triple A, Chaney says that across the country, the people listening to the format remain roughly the same: They are split equally between men and women in their mid-30s to early ’50s.

CHANEY: “Stations like this new one are really one of the few under-reported success stories out there in the commercial world because it’s been nothing but bad news, and in the non-commercial world, so many stations are taking a hard look at the success of these Triple A stations because all of sudden they’re grabbing a more active audience and a younger audience, which is important to public radio.”

Tim Delaughter, the leader of the Dallas group, Polyphonic Spree, explains very simply what the increased airplay could mean for local musicians.


Tim Delaughter and Polyphonic Spree

DELAUGHTER: “This is big. It’s been missing for so long.”

But Carl Finch brings it back to what a lot of area musicians might be wondering about themselves.

FINCH: “You’re wanting to let me know that you’re going to devote an hour a day to Brave Combo?”


Finch image from Prostband, Polyphonic image from Indiealymoly.

  • jo

    The music is back.
    Oh bliss, oh glee!
    I’m beside myself with joy!

  • This is great! I would love to have my music played. It’s perfect for this new station!

  • This sounds exciting for both musicians and music lovers. I look forward to hearing it.
    I also would like to suggest somethings that I hope programmers will consider.

    1. Ask for advice from everyone before you set it up. Let this be a joint project with as many opinions as possible. The more people that help program it, the more people will listen to it.
    2. Don’t be TRENDY. PBS radio has a habit of sliding into trendiness over quality. IF and When others criticize you about not being cool enough, then you’ve done your job.
    3. Don’t limit the music to friends. Make sure that there is music from musicians that no one running the station knows personally. Don’t turn it into only music from those you know. Having a limited radio clique really hurts the station.
    4. Don’t rule out music because its revolutionary, or its unique and one of a kind. Don’t rule out music that challenges the status quo. Don’t be provincial.
    5. Instead of AAA limited selections, I’d just open it up to AMTG – all music that’s good. Why segregate music?

    Good luck

  • Jennie

    I’m sooo happy! Dallas radio has gotten so bad and unless you subscribe to satelite radio, you would never hear anything local or off the charts. Thanks so much-I’ll even renew my membership now!

  • Douglas Martin

    This is really great news. I don’t know how many times I’ve canceled or threatened to cancel my membership if they took the music away.

    It could only be topped if they expand Paul Slavens’ airtime, and snag back alum Abby Goldstein, Chris Douridas, and Liza Richardson…

    Also would love to get the syndicated “Sound Opinions” show from Chicago Public Radio currently only available at University of Texas.

    Is Jeff Ramirez going to be Program Director over there as well?

  • Wonderful news!! I was a member until the music died … I might just be inspired to pledge again.

    Oh how I loved the old 90.1 format – I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since we lost it. I’ve really missed the music and the outstanding on-air talent. A girl can only take so much talk. I mostly listen to satellite radio now, but I still fondly remember Abby, David, Jeff. I taped several hours of 90.1 at Night, and I still listen to that old cassette every once in a while.

    Fall can’t come soon enough!

    • Melissa

      THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Yes, I’m screaming!

  • Slim JIm

    Man O’ Man, the skies have parted and sun has shined down on Texas music in DFW once again. Somebody get Abby Goldstein on the phone!

  • i always enjoyed abby and gabriel (?) during the day and also recorded the misic for road trips , mike

  • Stephen

    I moved to the DFW area in 1994 and was thrilled that KERA was almost as good a music station as my beloved KUT. Then KERA reduced and finally discontinued their music over the next two years, and I quit subscribing and quit listening. Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing back music to North Texas. I agree with the comments above regarding asking for opinions of as many people who want to participate. And please include lots of local music. Thanks again.

  • A Zephyr

    For 13 long years, I have both loved the news and information on KERA and desperately missed and mourned their incredible diversity of music. I couldn’t be happier. Two stations, two contributions. I’m doubling my donation now!

  • Kavin.

    Great news for local musicians and fans of the “old” KERA 90.1.
    I was a fan of Dennis Gonzalez and Craig Shropshire’s Listening Room show. Can we bring ’em back?

    I will definitely lend my support.

  • As a struggling north Texas artist, the news that KERA is back in the music format is awesome. Opportunities to have ones music heard have become few and far between. I hope it bears some of the hallmarks that made the old 90.1 so great. I was exposed to so much great “unheard of” music before the rest of the world through that station. This will be a huge blessing to people who treasure real music.

  • Mary

    Great news, indeed. Even better for those of us who listen in Tyler if this new station will be broadcast to us as KERA is now.

  • Julie

    I’m another who will resume membership once the music returns. This will fill a gaping void in DFW.

  • Kavin. wrote on June 12, 2009 at 10:22 am
    Great news for local musicians and fans of the “old” KERA 90.1.
    I was a fan of Dennis Gonzalez and Craig Shropshire’s Listening Room show. Can we bring ’em back?
    I will definitely lend my support.

    I just stumbled upon this (above) by accident…..
    This is Craig Shropshire , the KERA alumnus from 1987- 1994.
    From time to time , I do find myself missing doing my old KERA program “THE LISTENING ROOM” . It covered ALOT of musical terrains, and we explored some wonderful , and largely unheard artists. I spent 7 years of my life doing that weekend overnight show (hauling items from my personal record collection to the station each Saturday.
    In the beginning years (especially circa Chris Douridas era), it was a TREMENDOUS experience. Chris had recommended myself & Liza (as he had heard our previous shows on KNON.) to KERA , and helped us become established there……….
    He could tell we were people with a serious *passion* for music.
    ……..but then Chris left , & Liza followed him , and over time mangement changed (as it tends to do) , and the whole approach changed , as well ,and the people who had been there so long like Dennis Gonzalez , Kim Corbett, & myself either left , or were “let go’.

    ( Hopefully I will be proved wrong), but it`s unlikely that KERA`s new sister station will be all that adventurous, and will likely believe it needs to stick to ‘safe’ music.

    My interests , tastes , and musical horizons have expanded exponentially since those days. I continue to rabidly collect rare and unusual recordings from around the world.
    I believe the greatest joy in life is experiencing and sharing music.
    Let`s hope they give the DJs some freedom this time.

    cheers & bests
    Craig Shropshire

  • Hear! Hear! I just discovered 91.7, having all but abandoned the talk-format of 90.1 (with the notable exception of Paul Slavens’ superb “90.1 At Night,” relegated to a spare two hours on Sunday evenings).

    Whither Kim Corbet now? I would love to hear him back again.

  • Kim Corbet

    I’m right here…listening, wondering…watching intently if the new beast can rekindle the spark that was when it really was.