Prior to launching InsideFortSmith.Com in 2016, I spent a long time in the radio business. So naturally, I get an occasional question from folks who are wondering what is going on when there is a change in town. Sometimes I know the answer, and sometimes I just know what I’ve heard.
Today’s column may fall in the latter of those two categories.
For the last three months, there have been three different channels in Fort Smith broadcasting the same song, over and over. It has done just what I figure that the person behind this thing is after – and that is to get people talking.
For example, when grilling out with my friends the Carrs from Van Buren over the weekend, my buddy Corbitt noted that on a recent outing to Lake Fort Smith, that he and his lovely wife Jan had stumbled upon on old favorite of his, “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette. By the time he found himself at the lake, he realized the song had been playing continuously, over and over on the 105.5 FM frequency.
Over on 101.9 FM, we’ve noted the song being played over and over again has been “All Right Now” by Free.
I’m not really into the harder rock, but my wife and eleven-year-old daughter identified the noise playing on 94.1 FM over and over with what they believed to be a song called “Down With The Sickness” by Disturbed.
(On a personal note, while I have nothing against the fine folks of “Disturbed”, I will stick with my Brooks and Dunn and Mickey Gilley records and leave those songs to the rockers that listen Jesica Beaty and the Snowman on The Fort….)
So if you are following along so far, you have three radio signals playing the same songs over and over. No one knows why. And a whole bunch of people are talking about it. If you have been around Fort Smith for any length of time, you might have a guess as to who is behind it.
Enter one Fred Baker, Jr. – who may the “Greatest Showman” of our time when it comes to Fort Smith radio broadcasting.
Love him or hate him, not many will argue that Fred has probably been more innovative and creative during the nearly fifty years that KISR 93 has been on the air than any other radio broadcaster in the market. Except for the few years in the early 1990’s that he spent running off to start a country station in Wichita Falls, he has probably been the most consistent person or brand in the history of the market.
How many of us listened to the clues with a notepad in hand trying to win a high dollar prize during a KISR egg hunt? I remember one time one of the clues had something to do with “rolling down a hill”. And over at Creekmore Park, you could see people literally rolling their bodies down a hill in hopes of finding the prize egg.
Then there was the time that Fred waged war on B-98. The corporate radio folks came in with all of their money, and he wasn’t going to take it. The back and forth between the two radio stations kept people in Fort Smith talking for a long time.
And let’s be real, the KISR 93 weather music is enough to send you into the storm cellar on a sunny day. He has been there for every rain cloud and lightning bolt over the past half-century, and as a result, most people have usually headed for his station at the first sign of a thunderstorm. (Fred, if you are reading this, I just would like to have the weather music so I can make it the ringtone on my phone during the months of April and May).
The dude is like Willy Wonka with 100,000 watts of power.
In the early 1980’s, the FCC began authorizing small signals called “translators” that would rebroadcast a bigger station when there might be a hole in it’s coverage area. So Fred ended up buying every one that he could find within 75 miles of Fort Smith. There were two in Fayetteville, a couple over toward Russellville, one down at Jenny Lind. The caveat was though, the small signals had to repeat the larger station. As a result, at one time you could hear KISR at nine or ten different spots on the dial.
In recent years, the FCC loosened up rules on these smaller signals, and now they can rebroadcast AM stations or the HD channels that only your most expensive car radio can receive. So Fred, already owning nine or ten of these smaller signals has figured out a way to basically start some new radio stations. He already has one, “Hog Country 93.1”, which went on the air a couple of years ago. Now, he has three more.
He’s done this before. In 2001 or so some will remember that he started a rap station on 92.3 FM called “92 KREU”. For a week or so, he played three or four songs from the “Jock Jams” CD over, and over, and over again.
So that is the background on the stations that sound like a broken record. What we don’t know is what the future will hold for them. Because those plans are usually held pretty close to the vest. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this latest stunt turned into a Guinness World Record for the most times a song has been played over and over on one radio station.
I could call up there and ask him, but he would probably just laugh and tell me to stay tuned. Either way, the best answer I have this is just Fred bring Fred.
We wish him the best of luck on his new ventures.