The Mark Of The Wolf At Country Radio

Perhaps the best way to look at the effect of KPLX (99.5 the Wolf) Dallas on Country radio is to look at the format as it existed when the station rebranded itself on July 24, 1998 under then GM Dan Halyburton and director of programming Brian Philips:
By 1998, the format that had been an alternate universe Top 40 in the early ’90s was more in the orbit of Soft AC. The transition started around 1994 when Country stations began worrying about possible upper-end fragmentation, just as pop radio was finding artists like Hootie & the Blowfish and Sheryl Crow with the same ’70s-flavored acoustic appeal that artists like Garth Brooks had offered. Then consolidation ended the Country battles in many markets and the survivors often ended up as the 35-54 female offering in their cluster.
Country’s “Class of ’89” was still hanging in there, but few of those artists were making their best records. As the format skewed older and more female, the acts who could sell to all ages just from Country airplay were whittled down to a handful — Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain. And the latter two had just been discovered by pop radio, leading Music Row to gear much of its music even softer for the next few years.
On this week in 1998, the Dixie Chicks had just managed their first Country No. 1 with “There’s Your Trouble.” Toby Keith’s reinvention with “How Do You Like Me Now” was more than a year away. Keith Urban was still “that Australian guy from The Ranch.” Taylor Swift was not yet nine years old, but even as a teenager, she would have received only the grudging acceptance that went to LeAnn Rimes at the time.
Only a handful of songs from the late ’90s would make the cut in future Country gold libraries. There was always a legitimate hit or two with tempo (this week ten years ago it was Jo Dee Messina’s “I’m Alright”) but never more. And without a lot of galvanizing new or recurrent product, Country radio was relying on gold titles from the early ’90s that, by this point, had been in heavy rotation for nearly a decade. The notion of two currents in a row, or even a recurrent and a new song, was in direct violation of Country programming law of that time.
By 1998, the Country community – usually optimistic to the point of boosterism – had finally started to allow that something might be wrong, although it was often couched as a “leveling out,” rarely a slump. There was a realization that 18-to-34-year-olds (never directly targeted by the format in the first place) had drifted back to Top 40, while men had been driven away. And while there was talk that year about the possibility of a “male country” niche, most in the industry felt that getting the men or under-35s back would dilute whatever base the format had left.
You can’t credit the Wolf with single-handedly reversing the state of Country radio. Programmers who should have perked up during its peak years of 1999-2002 were often quick to dismiss it as only making sense in its own market (and, as a totality, it did – like any great station). You also have to take into account the impact of KEEY (K102) Minneapolis, the other major-market Country station that failed to get the memo about being soft-and-library-driven.
But the Wolf (and K102) would stand out in those doldrums years as an example of Country’s ongoing ability to be a mass-appeal, all-the-marbles format. In doing so, they were a bridge between the mass-appeal energy of early ’90s Country and the post-Gretchen Wilson format powered by Swift, Sugarland, and Rascal Flatts. Eventually, The Wolf would spawn a generation of pups who took the name but weren’t always successful in duplicating its stationality.
Part of what made the Wolf hard to duplicate was its complexity. Geography gave it the opportunity to position as “Texas Country” and that gave it the ability to play anything from Waylon & Willie to George Strait to the local heroes that hadn’t yet achieved national stardom (Pat Green, Jack Ingram) or never would (Charlie Robison, Robert Earl Keen). The Wolf was always a yesterday-and-today station (at the outset, its library went back to at least the late ’60s), but Philips’ emphasis on active records (and willingness to sit out some more passive national hits) made the station feel a lot more Top 40.
So did the presentation. The Wolf had the advantage of competing with KSCS, a station conceived two decades earlier to sound and feel like an AC station. Country had been spawning a menagerie for more than a decade by 1998, between KMLE (Camel Country) Phoenix, a pond full of stations called Froggy Country and others. But the Wolf’s oft-cited energy and attitude came at a time when Country was increasingly describing itself in terms that allegedly came from listeners but never sounded like something real people would say.
The Wolf had a Top 40 morning man (Bobby Mitchell), another Top 40 vet in Hollywood Henderson, and, in John “Mr. Leonard” Rio, the ultimate morning show character of Top 40’s mid-’80s heyday. It had high-profile personality and heavy phones in every daypart, including Amy B., perhaps the best phone jock in any format, but it never reached the point of being “all about the phone calls” in the way that then-rival KYNG (Young Country) was. It also had actor Barry Corbin as its station voice, back at a time when radio stations weren’t yet dealing with the William Morris Agency for their voice talent. And it had “the Code of the Wolf,” a declaration of station principles that put it beyond the reach of such petty considerations as “18-in-a-row” or “familiar favorites.”
Wolf wasn’t a male country station – few of those ever actually materialized – but it didn’t specifically exclude guys, as many stations did in their research at that time. It wasn’t Top 40 Country, but it eventually overtook KHKS (Kiss FM), until then, the showplace station for Top 40’s mid-’90s comeback. The Wolf grew steadily between spring ’99 and spring ’00. But in April 2000, Young Country went away, Kiss became a less well-oiled-machine and the Wolf went into overdrive with a team that also included Smokey Rivers, Cody Alan, and Paul Williams.
Finally, the Wolf was one of the last Country stations that regularly found its own hits. In 1999, its two most-played records were “Horse To Mexico” by Trini Triggs and “Barlight” by Charlie Robison, neither of which made the Top 30 most played on KSCS that year. In 2000, its No. 3 record was “I’m Diggin’ It” by 17-year-old Alecia Elliott, at a time when Country radio viewed 17-year-old artists with borderline hostility. The following year, KPLX would find Mark McGuinn’s “Mrs. Steven Rudy” on an advance of an indie-label album. That song, little remembered now, would nevertheless foreshadow an era of sonic change in Country (“Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” “Holler Back”) and new viability for Country’s indie labels.
It’s ironic (or perhaps inevitable) that the Wolf begins to trail off just as Country got its energy back – it last cracked a five share in late 2003, just as the format was on the verge of being Big & Rich again. By the following year, Kiss would reinvent itself as well, working more pop/rock into its once mostly-rhythmic template. KSCS also became more aggressive and tempo-driven musically. When eventual new owner Cumulus brought new PD John Sebastian in to overhaul the Wolf, you might not have agreed with the 180-degree-turn the station took, but it was, as he pointed out, hard to argue at that moment for changing nothing.
Under current Cumulus group/in-house PD Jan Jeffries, there’s more of a nod to the original Wolf’s legacy. The Classic Hits crossovers of the Sebastian era are gone, the Web banner proclaims “Welcome Home to Texas Country” and you can still hear an occasional Kevin Fowler title that you wouldn’t hear on Country radio outside Texas. But the Wolf at its peak had a multi-dimensionality that isn’t easily or quickly re-created.
Country radio is still trying to figure out what to make of the Wolf as well. Many of the new Wolf-packers were able to create a stationality that was hard for competitors to ignore, but there were also those stations who found out the hard way that the name and the wolf howl was not enough. More globally, some Country programmers are looking askance at all the tempo and new artists of recent years in a way that makes a complete mid-’90s-style retrenchment seem entirely possible. Country in that era was a compromise that pleased few; the Wolf was a balance – not the same thing, and something any format needs to maintain moving forward.
Here’s a music monitor of The Wolf from August, 1998:
George Strait, “True”
Clint Black, “Killin’ Time”
Shania Twain, “From This Moment On”
Brooks & Dunn, “Neon Moon”
Dixie Chicks, “There’s Your Trouble”
Waylon Jennings, “Luckenbach, Texas”
Dwight Yoakam, “Things Change”
LeAnn Rimes, “Blue”
Charlie Daniels & Leroy Parnell, “Texas”
Mark Chesnutt, “Goin’ Through The Big D”
Jo Dee Messina, “I’m Alright”
Robert Earl Kean, “Road Goes On Forever”
Garth Brooks, “The Thunder Rolls”

43 replies
  1. Lon Bason
    Lon Bason says:

    As the General Manager of the Wolf from 1999-2006 I must loudly proclaim my sincere admiration for Brian Philips and Paul Williams for making The Wolf a remarkable radio station. Hats off to all the incredibly talented personalities who gave 100% to their listeners every day.This month is The (original) Wolf’s 10th Anniversary. It saddens me that it has basically become the same station it was before Brian and Paul came to Dallas to make their mark with The Wolf and Susquehanna Radio. Aaaaaaooooohhhhhh.

  2. Paul Williams
    Paul Williams says:

    Additional props to our “sonic architects” that made the stationality sizzle- Rick Lovett, “Humble” Billy Hayes and “Phatt” Matt Ganssle. While we have pretty much all scatteered, we’ve had fun this past week exchanging emails and memories and appreciate you taking a look at it here. And props to the Entercom crew (Mike Moore, Pat Paxton and Bill Pasha) for keeping the Wolf stationality concept alive with their “pups.”

  3. steve warren
    steve warren says:

    the stationality, imagery and marketing of The Wolf were all brilliantly conceived and executed by Brian…but due credit for the swashbuckling music strategy goes to KKBQ/Houston which blazed the trail in ’92. i’d been consulting Dene Hallam in Houston for six years when Dan called me and said, basically: we want music like that….and hired me on for my modest contributions to the re-vamping that became The Wolf.

  4. steve warren
    steve warren says:

    ….oh, an Larry can attest as he was the research guy for KKBQ, working with Dene and me all during the 90’s, too. it was his work that was confirming what an extraordinarily strong music position KKBQ quickly developed and maintained.

  5. Kent LaTurno
    Kent LaTurno says:

    I think you are so right on – emphasizing the Wolf finding its own hits (as BP did at KDWB with Roxette, etc)…another gem the Wolf aired was “Don’t Try To Find Me,” by The Roger Springer Band (Biff Watson and Joe Manuel, guitars – awesome). It featured an ode to the Holiday Inn at exit 19A. It didn’t really exist. Although we spent a whole show trying to find it with the help of Wolf fans!

  6. John Shomby
    John Shomby says:

    I was there on the same floor (at sister KLIF) when the Wolf was born and, being the old CHR guy I was, it energized me just listening to it on a daily basis and, believe me, I was NO fan of country music at that time. (How things change, by the way?). The Wolf took branding to a whole new level. I still use some of those concepts here at our Eagle in Norfolk. Amazing station from some amazing people!!!

  7. Dene Hallam
    Dene Hallam says:

    When “93Q COUNTRY” debuted, KIKK and KILT were identical in Their AC presentation of Country Music (You were right about that). KILT was owned by Westinghouse; KIKK was owned by Viacom. KILT was #1 A25-54; and KIKK was #2 A25-54. So, I saw the “hole” as “CHR/Country ” (a new concept). When We did change from “Easy Country” to “93Q COUNTRY,” I asked Gannett President Gerry DeFrancesco for some advice. He simply said, “When They zig, You zag.” That was it.
    KPLX used KKBQ as a template for reinventing KPLX. When He got to Dallas, Brian Phillips called Me to pick My brain about KKBQ, because KKBQ was selling so many albums, and getting great ratings, for 4-5 years already. KKBQ used Top 40 formatics (including high rotation of songs), with a large dose of select album cuts…also played in high rotation, as if they were already singles. As a matter of fact, there were plenty of songs released as singles as a result of KKBQ’s airplay of an album cut. Brian’s version of KKBQ was using select “Texas music” songs (in place of album cuts) to flavor His new Station.
    KKBQ was even named CMA “Major Market Country Station Of The Year,” (in 1996 or 1997, I believe) which was highly unusual for a non-heritage Country station in those days. KILT was nominated that year, as well. At the time, there were never two Country Stations from the same major market nominated by the CMA. We beat Hudson & Harrigan, and KILT.
    What impact did KKBQ have? Well, KIKK eventually changed formats. Was there ever a more entrenched FM Country station than KIKK? They had the most recognizable logo ever…
    KKBQ was also the leader in Country putting callers on the air in between songs, a practice that most Country stations do today. We were the charter member of doing MJI Nashville broadcasts during CMA week. KIKK and KILT turned MJI down flaty. KKBQ did club broadcasts on Friday and Saturday nights, another first in Country Radio.
    I even consulted KMLE with the same philosophy back in 96-98, and We (including Larry) finally beat KNIX…even when had another flanking “Hot” Country station gunning for Us. AND in about 98, the legendary Dickie Rosenfeld took Me to dinner at His golf club, to lure Me across the street, podnah.
    I am on vacation with My 9 year-old, so I hastily put this EMail together. I could give You so many other things that KKBQ pioneered…BEFORE “The Wolf” debuted. Of course the Wolf did a fantastic job, and Brian is a world class Programmer…no doubt. BUT: it is unfair to say that KPLX alone influenced Country Radio to change

  8. janet
    janet says:

    First Tim McGraw is NOT from the class of 1989 but 1994. Tim McGraw will ALWAYS have a place in my country library no matter what this station plays or doesn’t play.

  9. John Sebastian
    John Sebastian says:

    I found your latest epistle regarding The Wolf’s history very interesting indeed. I must point out a couple truths related to my influence on The Wolf:
    When I got to the station KPLX had just been beaten by KSCS pretty consistently for the previous few books and had slipped into the low 2’s 25-54 in the most recent monthlies. With the changes I made we beat all the various competitors including KSCS nearly every month of my time there and in every full “book” 18-34 and 25-54. And in my last month we had a 3.9 compared to KSCS’s 2.2! The station’s playlist was much more adventuresome under my direction than it is now–no comparison! We broke new music much faster, played more currents, had a much more diverse gold playlist, etc.
    Two years before The Wolf’s advent, there was a little station called KZLA in Los Angeles where you may remember I presided. Our mascot was a coyote, very similar to a wolf “coincidentally?” And our station was the most rebellious in country radio in its time. We played new music aggressively, often at odds with the national charts, an extremely wide and open-minded gold playlist and we called ourselves, “Southern California Country.” Hmmm, sounds a lot like “Texas Country,” don’t you think? During my time at KZLA we rose from 492,00 cume to 750,000 making us the #1 cuming country station in the nation. And our shares gained from the mid 1’s when I arrived to consistent ratings in the high 2’s 25-54—in fact the most consistently strong ratings in the entire history of KZLA! Yes, KZLA strongly influenced what Brian and the people at KPLX did two years after the revolution that was begun at KZLA.
    Sean, I enjoy your writing very much but I thought you’d like to be reminded about these facts.
    Thanks for reading.
    John Sebastian
    Scottsdale, Ariz.

  10. Sean Ross
    Sean Ross says:

    I loved Dene and Steve’s 93Q — it probably rates its own article. I didn’t get to hear much of John’s KZLA, but I certainly appreciated hearing some of the same elements when he put them to work on his very different breed of Wolf at WSM-FM Nashville. And there’s no claim here that KPLX was the first Top 40 Country (you’ve got to go back at least to the late ’70s for WHN New York, WMAQ Chicago, and WMZQ Washington, D.C., and I’ll bet some reader can go back before that) or that it was the first Country station to find its own hits.
    Like a lot of transcendent stations, the Wolf was informed by a lot of great radio– Scott Shannon’s WHTZ (Z100) New York was in its DNA, too, and so for that matter was the ’80s Top 40 version of 93Q. But it was much more than the sum of its parts. And it came along when the early ’90s Top 40 Country movement had pretty well ground to a halt. Stations like 93Q and KBEQ (Young Country 104) Kansas City were at the cutting edge of the format in 1993-94, but at least Country radio was moving in that same direction. By 1998-99, stations like the Wolf and K102 were truly defiant.
    I knew when I wrote this article that it would be hard for me to offer the definitive list of closing title credits for the Wolf. But I knew I could still convey the essence of the station that, for several years, was my P1 radio station, even from 1,500 miles away (thanks to the miracle of the World Wide Wolf). So I appreciate all the readers who have helped give additional credit where due.

  11. Jaye Albright
    Jaye Albright says:

    What a fun read all of this is, and it’s hard to disagree with any of it. I do want to just add a couple more names from the original Wolf, Dallas crew, or close to it: Barry Corbin, Tara Ward and Cody Alan. They, among MANY others, added their personnas, interactivity and “reality” to the brand, which of course may be the most enduring and duplicated multi-market brands in the history of the country radio format. On this 10th anniversary, it was a great time to memorialize what Susquehanna Radio’s team created (not the first time they built a very strong brand in Dallas – remember “Flex Your Plex” from a previous KPLX incarnation? Congrats to ALL involved! Great radio brands are always worthy of celebration, especially when they take a station from worst to first.

  12. JoJo Kincaid
    JoJo Kincaid says:

    Hi, Sean! Just a quick note (ha!) to thank you for your article on the creation and history of the Wolf brand. Being a pure CHR air personality for 99% of my career, I hadn’t really been interested in The Country format until I heard what Entercom’s Scott Mahalick and Mike Moore were doing in Seattle and Portland. This intrigued me to the point of wanting to be a participant. After all, being a Florida native, I have Southern roots and a CHR background and thought I may be able to add my own flava to what was going on. Since Rob Walker, APD and Afternoons at The Wolf in Seattle was a protege during my days at KISS-108/Boston, I started sending messages of interest through him to Scotty and eventually wound up joining Entercom to help launch the Wolf here in San Francisco. I’m convinced that particular pro activity was one of the best decisions of my career and I’m having the time of my life. I can tell you great stories like, when I went into a Safeway Market in the East Bay to get milk and salad with A Wolf shirt on, only to become surrounded by most of their cashiers and several customers as the word spread down the line that I worked at the station. Or, the Wolf’s on-site, remote broadcast tent getting mobbed by fans at Country music concerts in The Bay Area. I have never seen so much P-1 passion in public which also translates into some of the best phone bits in memory. Couple that with Phat Matt’s monster imaging and Scott’s virtually unlimited imagination as it relates to promotion and air sound and you have one very happy Afternoon guy. I haven’t had this much fun on the air since we launched Q-106, San Diego, back in the day. Once again, thanks for the background info and warm, furry wishes to you and the crew.

  13. Bob Glasco
    Bob Glasco says:

    Sean, another great piece. It must have been to have so many hind legs lifted on The WOLF! We’re all nothing more than the sum of our influences mixed with our own personalities. That’s what made The Wolf stand out as well as the other stations mentioned in the comments. In the case of the Dallas Wolf, you had a convergence of opportunity and talent. Not a bad Rx for success.

  14. Jim West
    Jim West says:

    I lived in Dallas when the Wolf was born. It is a case study of how Brian Phillips, a pop format guru embraced the country format and made it a ‘local’ station.
    Other radio stations have since tried to copy this success – and I have listened to several – but the one’s I listened to completely missed the entire spirit of the Dallas Wolf format.
    A station simply can’t expect to copy a logo, music, marketing and get the same results. What made the Wolf in Dallas different was the way it connected with the local lifestyle of not only Dallas but Texas as well.
    My 2 cents. Thanks for reading.
    Jim West
    Program Director KATC-FM
    Cat Country – Colorado Springs
    Citadel Broadcasting

  15. Dean James
    Dean James says:

    The success of The Wolf shouldn’t be measured by who had the original idea as much as it should be measured by the execution of a well thought out game plan. The Wolf’s success was the sum of all its parts. While the programming was well thought out and executed the marketing plan was equally well thought out and executed. There was a laser focus as to what they wanted to be. Every aspect of the station programming and marketing drove that focus home. It wasn’t about just throwing money at it as much as it was about the money being well spent (which it was). Even when there was not instant success out of the box The Wolf stayed focused.
    The lesson here is what it takes for a station to have similar success in today’s environment. While the dynamics are different, a station needs to stay focused and fire on all cylinders to succeed.

  16. Chuck Geiger
    Chuck Geiger says:

    Most of the sonic comcepts the WOLF was embracing we were doing with Scott and Bob in Citadel. It was never about music, it was all about showbiz and entertainment. KYNG was about the same thing under Rick in the early 90’s. Huge investments in over top imaging and non-format specific elements that were part of the seasoning. As Bubba Black once told me “We play music?”

  17. Phat Matt
    Phat Matt says:

    Sean! Thanks so much for the great article! (crowd applause) I loved the heck outta working with Paul, Lon, Cody, Smokey, Amy B, Dingo, Mara Sidweber, Hollywood, Randall, Jeremy Robinson, Tara, Justin, etc etc etc… (award show music, up and under) wow – what an amazing little pack of brains we had. I thank my lucky stars every day for that experience, and for Brian Phillips’ vision, and the huge role Dan Hallyburton played in making Wolf what it was long before I showed up. (crowd applause) While I have the floor, I’d also like to thank all the PDs who Brian allegedely “ripped ideas off” from too. Our ESOPs greatly appreciate your contributions. (crowd laugh… jingle out)
    :) -m

  18. Jeremy Robinson
    Jeremy Robinson says:

    Sean! Great article!
    Looking back…..I am still amazed at the talent I had the privilege of working with.
    I learned a lot during my time at the Wolf, and still learning everyday from the same people who brought Wolf to #1!
    I’m thankful for that!

  19. Rick Lovett
    Rick Lovett says:

    Paul, Thanks for the Props! Sean, Thanks for a great article on the 10 year anniversary. Yes, you’re right about the mix of mainstream and Texas music, the imaging, the marketing, the research and all of the factors that contributed to the success of the station. But for me, day in and day out, the one thing that really made The Wolf so special, both on the air and in the hallways, was the knack that Brian had for bringing the right people together and getting us all excited about the vision he had. It was Magic! From the original crew, Dan H, BP, Paul, Smokey, Bobby, Chris, Tara, Rio, Luke, Cody, Amy B, Mel & Rebecca, Dingo, and Justin, to the folks that joined the team along the way, it was truly an honor to be part of The Wolf legacy.

  20. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    Hey …with all due respect to Brian Phillips(Who I thnk is a genius) and Paul Williams(who is one of the best promotional minds in the biz today)I loved the Wolf but Citadel was way ahead of the game in it’s execution and brand. Waayy ahead.
    I’m sick of hearing about the Wolf in Dallas.
    It was a good station. A legendary one? Naaawww.
    Now the whole Texas Country thing was cool and
    genius but that station had such a massive amount of promotional dough behind it and only two weak competitors. It was an easy win. Over simplified analysis? Nope.
    Musically they thought they were on to something.
    I say the promotional dough gave them the freedom to play the Texas Country. Without the marketing dough some of those second rate records and sound alike singers never would have seen the light of day. It was a great marketing angle and that was extremely smart.
    Cat Country 103 with Scott Mahalick as GM, Ed Hill as PD and Bob Glasco of Rusty Walker Programming were years ahead of the Wolf. We launched in the Fall of 92 and went straight to #1 in both Stockton and Modesto.(if you combined the two markets you would have a million plus listeners) We even had double digit shares in the East Bay of San Francisco and six country competitors. The station has never been #2 in Modesto since. We had Jack Murphy doing the redneck voices and the country “loud and Proud stuff.( we still use Jack)Producers Ric Allen from New York and Johnny George from Indy along with the voices of Billy Moore, Fred Winston and Whitney Allen were also part of the imaging platform, We used John Willyard as our main voice (I still use him)and Charlie Quinn (legendary CHR PD) and current long time PD of KYXY in San Diego)was a writer.While the Wolf was great they never sounded better than Cat Country 103 or K-Bull 93 in Salt Lake City which is my current station.They never had a real morning show and with the exception of Amy B. No real great personalities. I remember hearing the Wolf for the very first time and I loved Phatt Matt and Corbin. It was magic.However when Sussquehanna and Cumulus took that away the station degraded quickly.I due respect what Brian Phillips and his crew accomplished but that incarnation is long gone.As they say in show business that station just did not have the legs. If you want to hear some magic, moos, and massive meee-owws tune into or At those two stations the magic lives on.Katm will celebrate it’s 16th year this Fall and K-Bull 93 it’s 13th. The current Dallas Wolf is a mere shell of it’s former self and I just wish I could have gone head to head with the Wolf in it’s prime. I believe my station would have kicked it’s ass.

  21. Cate Crowley
    Cate Crowley says:

    My time at the Wolf, pre-cumulus, was incredible. It was fun to come to work and to go home listening to it.
    I learned a ton about production from Humble Billy Hayes and Phat Matt. Grif taught me a thing or two about spots, and I picked up all kinds of on-air tricks that I’m using today.
    Listening to the Wolf today is a little depressing, but I’ll always remember what it was and count it a privilege to say I worked there when it was on top. AAAOOOOOOHHHH!

  22. Ted Russell
    Ted Russell says:

    All along I always just thought it was our local country station getting to slow and boring in the time period you mentioned. Then along came a new more interesting station that unfortunately had a real rim-shot signal. Local country fans actually preffered to put up with the static of the weak signal because the programming was so much better on the new rim-shotter.
    This article should be printed and sent out as required reading to all the major corporate radio operators. National playlists and trends don’t usually lead to success in the local market. Consulting has its place, but there really needs to be constant local research done to keep the radio station’s programming consistant to what the listeners in the market want. Basically, let the local PD’s and MD’s do their job. Its no suprise that the station slipped a bit when the big corporate company took it over.
    I worked at what was and to some degree still is the premier local rock station. There used to be a great programming staff. Everyone there used to get involved in the research. Everyone in the programming department from Interns all the way up to the PD and the VP of the station used to do two 2 hour call-out shifts per week. Our station had the most active promotions department in our market. More cars had our bumper stickers than anyone else. We were the only station at the time with three vans, all often in use at the same time. A frew years later, the big corporation came in, fired a bunch of people, drove out the PD and the VP, you get the picture. People still listen, but I think its more out of habit and nowhere else to tune than anything else. The station that used to consistantly get in the mid to lower 5’s, now seems to have settled into the upper 3’s. The numbers seem to indicate that listenership has dropped off considerably. By the way, the station also more than doubled the operating power and increased the coverage area since the corporate takeover. We had more listeners with a weaker signal but better programming.

  23. Chilly Willy
    Chilly Willy says:

    This is a great article. I had the chance to work with almost everyone mentioned in this article at my time with The Wolf. Its a good read and the comments are great!
    Oh!! Of course John Sebastian invented The Wolf. He invented everything. He’s the greatest program director on the face of the Earth, by the way. He’ll tell you all about it.
    Now that I thin about it, wasnt it under Sebastian’s watch that most of all the people mentioned in this article left?
    Amy B, Cody, Dingo, Phat Matt… Hmmmm….
    That guy single handedly killed The Wolf, no matter what kind of made up garbage he tries to pawn off on you.
    He was such a great fit at The Wolf that they fired him……
    When will you learn Sebastian? Why cant you give praise where praise is due? Sean writes a great article and you come in here and try to take credit for inventing The Wolf!

  24. Brett
    Brett says:

    Ed, Sounds like you a fan of patting your own back. Wish you would have taken the gig at KSCS and gone head to head with the Wolf! I know that the Wolf put a couple of PD’s out of work and there was some openings. Brian Philips, Paul Williams and the rest of the Original crew were the best people to work for and with in the country. Great article Sean!

  25. Sean Ross
    Sean Ross says:

    I appreciate the kind words about the article, but Ed isn’t wrong about the sonic impact that Citadel’s Country stations had on the format. That said, you again have to trace that back yet further to some of Rusty Walker’s work with KCYY (Y100) San Antonio and WYAY Atlanta in the late ’80s, too. Those heavily produced stations particularly stuck out when so many Country stations were still operating off the “continuous country” template of the early ’80s.
    Again, there was a lot of Top 40-flavored Country between 1987-95. And, again, it’s a red herring because the format was going in a very different direction by 1998 when the Wolf came along. So you can’t get too hung up on the issue of “what did the Wolf know and when did they know it?” Any way you look at it, they were a gutsy move for their time.

  26. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    Hey Brett…If I don’t pat it no one else will.My record stands for itself.If you have some nads then put up your full name and send me an e-mail. Until then,your comments are worthless.
    I listened to The Wolf in it’s hey day and I am here to tell you again,the Cat sounded better and do did the Bull. We had and continue to have real morning shows not DJ’s that are on in the morning like Bobby M.The Citadel stations have more phones,excitement,contesting and real high energy way beyond the Wolf.Plus we continue to dominate with very little or zero A and P.The Wolf was a bloated rabid dog feeding off of Susquehanna for a long time. The Citadel stations were and continue to be the hunters. There is a big difference.
    The Wolf is gone. It’s time has passed. I’m still on the front lines with people I love fighting the fight.
    It took zero guts for The Wolf to launch. They saw the success of Citadel and said ..let’s go.
    BTW the listeners did not know country music needed any kind of “lift” in 1998, nor did they know anything about yoanalysis of the age. They just listened and lived their lives and voted for their favorite radio stations.
    I had zero sonic influence from Rusty Walker.
    I learned my stuff from George Johns,Chris Cane,
    Shotgun Tom Kelly,Machine Gun Kelly,Ron Jacobs,Bobby Ocean, and most of all Jack Murphy,Gary Wall,JoJo Kincaid,Scott Shannon and the #1 Q-106 sound in San Diego.
    PS: Dene Hallam was in San Francisco when the Cat launched and he was a fan of the station.He told me himself. He was also influenced by Citadel.
    No brag just fact.

  27. Cody Alan
    Cody Alan says:

    Sean, thanks for the great article, which was spot on. It was truly awesome to experience The Wolf first hand!
    The impact left by The Wolf was due to a rare, complex collision of right people, right place, perfect opportunity and visionary ideas.
    Sean is right about The Wolf’s complexity, big time! It was never about one thing or another. Yes, showbiz, talent, sparkle, promotions, fantastic marketing brought listeners in. But it was the music that BECAME a key Wolf passionate selling point. Particulary when we embraced the Texas music scene by finding new local artists, and searching out unique, great Nashville tracks.
    As the Music Director, it was exciting every day to embrace Texas music, while uncovering songs that kept the Wolf a station whose music listeners buzzed about. Thanks to Brian and Paul and the Susquehanna management team who gave me license to be a real “director of music”. This kind of creative, free environment allowed me and others to spread our wings and make some real radio magic!

  28. Marvelous MJ
    Marvelous MJ says:

    Ed: What’s the problem? Such bitter energy. I heard the Citadel stations and they were innovative. But the Wolf was unique, very Dallas, Texas. Music-personality-branding-boom. All there in one package. Wolf sounded authentic. I know some country programmers think it’s cool to ape 80’s era CHR, but there is a limit. Go back and listen to those stations, lots of liners, imaging, and little content.
    John Sebastian attempts to take credit as well for the Wolf. (before he actually programmed it)
    I was in L.A. during his KZLA days, believe me KZLA’s presentation was more like KOST than the Wolf.

  29. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    The Wolf success cannot be denied. It burned bright and hard.
    Brian Phillips left.
    The talent was still there.
    The creative brain trust was still there.
    The music director was still there.
    However when the marketing spigot turned off. So
    did the success. And all of the above went away.
    Then Cumulus made some mistakes and continued to
    dismantle the station even further in both it’s
    programming approach and it’s stationality.
    Hey it happens. The station is no longer what it
    was and all of the players have moved on.
    Kinda reminds me of Q-106 in San Diego. Sad..but

  30. JD Ryan
    JD Ryan says:

    WOW….so interesting to read what SO MANY of the guys I’ve worked with over the years have to say about THE WOLF! I was not fortunate enough to be at KPLX when THE WOLF was created! I was there with Bobby Kraig (the best) Dan H. in 1983 and again in 1995-98! It was fun to watch from across town (KYNG/KLLI). Hey to John Shomby & Dean James….I learned tons from you guys! THANKS!
    The little “radio” battles still rage on don’t they! Country radio needs another transformation! When Uncle Cracker & Kid Rock have hits on COUNTRY radio….glad I went to TALK! As Justin would say….”see ya down the road”!

  31. tom thurmond
    tom thurmond says:

    Good article with no mention Of Justin and Tara…
    and what about harmon and evans
    amd when did justin and tara leave

  32. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    Posters like Marvelous MJ should reveal themselves. No balls. Get in the game MJ!
    Sean wrote this article and fired me up.I just wish I could have had a shot a the Wolf. We used to listen and compare ourselves and laugh at the same exact concepts we were already doing at Citadel since 1992.
    But when the dough went away so did the Wolf. And that speaks for the Brand. The Wolf brand was not burned into the minds of the listeners. And that comes from the lack of an emotional attachement the audience had with the Wolf.
    If the Wolf would have had that brand burned into the market and the audience had an emotional attachment then then the success would have continued.
    Cumulus is trying to bring it back. They don’t understand the type of energy and creative thought it takes. It is complex formula in both
    it’s creation and execution.
    I am glad to work for Citadel where they encourage and understand the entertainment and excitement of their radio brands, stations and talent.

  33. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    Loved Bobby Kraig. Paul Williams is a great guy.
    Cody Alan used to work for me years ago in Columbia South Carolina. He was my best jock and I now compete against him. He’s a great guy.
    Never had the opportunity to meet Brian but would love to.My stations still would have kicked the Wolf’s ass.
    Last comment. Thanks for reading.

  34. David Kaye
    David Kaye says:

    Ed, you should stop replying to your own posts. Also you were in let’s see….Stockton or Modesto and you compare that to Dallas? Would have could have should have. PD’s like you that tippy toe around the small and medium markets are always the first to come out firing in a p— match
    like this. Notice how restrained Brian Phillips has been.

  35. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    Just spoke with Sean today. He said this topic has created a ton of views. So for all of you viewing. Thank you.
    Now. Who is David Kaye? Is he a V/O guy?
    Go back to your booth voice boy.Leave this board to the pros.

  36. Stephen Giuttari
    Stephen Giuttari says:

    I state humbly that many times reality is blurred by selective memory.
    Having lived in Texas for over 16 years and being around Dallas many times during the launch of the WOLF when Dan Halyburton and Brian Phillips launched it it can be said that…..
    THE WOLF in Dallas was made great by two key things: Their marketing campaign led by some of the most creative and standout billboard designs you’d ever want to see blanketed key spots in the Metroplex. The marketing campaign message had an attitude….cool….hip….adventurous radio. The second key was their air talent (and this gets mentioned alot….but you truly do not hear it done by talent in many markets) had their finger on the pulse of the entire Total Survey Area. Key Three was they owned the street. You’d go to an event where both country stations (KPLX and KSCS) were and KPLX (WOLF) owned the crowd. Then came the music… actuality THE WOLF played less “Texas Cuts” than KSCS did and they still won THE PERCEPTION WAR of playing more than they actually did.
    This term gets thrown around alot…..but THE WOLF during it’s very early stages was a truly GREAT RADIO STATION.

  37. Stephen Giuttari
    Stephen Giuttari says:

    One more comment….taking nothing away from the greatness of KPLX-FM, the music maverick station for Hot (Contemporary Country) was KKBQ-FM in the early and mid 90’s when Dene Hallam was at the helm. Playing songs before anyone else would jump on them, album cuts, even certain Texas Country Gold songs. Credit to Hallam and KKBQ on some truly great radio between 1992 and 1997!

  38. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    Steve’s comments are spot on. I remember Dene Hallam breaking Perfect Stranger. I also remember listening to KKBQ and enjoying it’s success since it reminded me of my own station. Hallam was the Maverick and I always enjoyed his passion and outspoken style.
    The Wolf was a great station in it’s early stages and when it spent the marketing dough.

  39. Rob Carter
    Rob Carter says:

    The imaging was key to the initial success. It was not the typical country jingle package that everyone else was using. Phat Matt Ganssle took the imaging to a new level and gave a CHR flavor.
    Living in southern Oklahoma I was blessed to get to listen from the onset and later befriend Matt. I was doing Production and Imaging for our group of 5 stations and Matt couldn’t have been nicer to me. He helped me with many projects and gave me endless tips and critiques.

  40. Ed Hill
    Ed Hill says:

    I agree. Matt is awesome. But Citadel started doing that level of imaging using Rick Allen from WQHT the original hip hop station, and Johnny George from WZPl in Indy. Jack Murphy was our “Country Guy Redneck” and John Willyard was our straight,fun,CRr wildman voice. And Scott Mahalick and I started that in 1993,
    I lived near LA and listened to LA radio. I worked with some of the best imaged stations in San Diego as the production manager.
    The Wolf wass great. But it was not the innovator.
    Citadel was.


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