‘Beautiful music’ does a slow fade

VICTOR STREDICKE – February 23, 1989 – Pity the folks in dentist’s offices. They don’t have a radio station to listen to anymore. The genre called “beautiful music” is endangered. Start humming a familiar tune, but imagine it produced by not-so-familiar performers such as the 101 Strings, the Hollyridge Strings, Frank Chacksfield. It’s the kind of music you just barely hear in the dentist’s office, in the elevator, in the background
But radio advertisers seek more active listeners, people who spurn the spit sink and go buy something, so it’s not cool to be beautiful.

For the past dozen years, two stations have been tenderfooting the category: KBRD, 103.9 mHz., with “relaxing music,” and KSEA, 100.7 mHz., with “easy listening music.” In September, KBRD punched up its vocals, shunting some background-music listeners to KSEA. But last weekend KSEA leaped into a format linearly described as “contemporary, vocal-based, soft hit music,” and asked listeners to call it K-SEA (like the ocean) instead of KSEA (the letters). In the radio industry the new format has its own letters: AC, adult contemporary, a category that has the most competition and the most stations playing what most listeners perceive as similar-sounding stations.

Expect to hear familiar, original artists, heavy on such folks as Barbra Streisand and Barry Manilow but including Kool and the Gang. Songs from a broader spectrum. No new music. Songs tested by airplay on other stations. The station continues with concise news, traffic, weather and finance updates. The format change is described as a “transition in contemporizing.” “This transition is a positive and a pro-active move, made to satisfy the needs of adult radio listeners,” said Kevin Cooney, vice president and general manager of KSEA. The new station slogan is “Soft and light hits.” But realistically, the station has co-opted a variety of written one-liners that raise questions or cause confusion: Remember now, “Soft and light” is not to be confused with KLTX’s “Lite” or KLSY’s “Soft” or, for that matter, in South King County, radio station KASY – pronounced “Casey.”


KOMO has arranged to bring its stellar ABC news commentator, Paul Harvey, to Seattle for a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center benefit May 19. Harvey’s features are heard five times a day on KOMO, 1000 kHz.


– Michael Bettelli, program director at KOMO Radio, is looking for a female with experience in basketball play-by-play.

– “Brunch With Barb” has become “The Talk of the Town.” Barbara Lord Nelson’s weekday interview program now originates from the Palm Room in the University Union Building, a renovated mansion in Tacoma, during the 10 a.m. hour on KKMO, 1360 kHz.

– “Classic Weekend,” a reprise of listeners’ 50 favorite classical selections, runs from midnight Friday through 10 p.m. Sunday on KING-FM, 98.1 mhz. The Saturday opera and some other features interrupt the countdown.

– “Earth on the Air” is a new five-minute program focusing on environmental news, at 4:55 p.m. Sundays on KCMU, 90.3 mHz.

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Author: Victor Stredicke

Former radio columnist for the Seattle Times (1964-1989). --- View other articles by Victor Stredicke

2 thoughts on “‘Beautiful music’ does a slow fade

  1. As a kid who was hooked on KJR-KOL-KING rock and roll, I never took much interest in the KIXI-KBRD-KEZX-KSEA type of music that my dad enjoyed. But one day, years later, I realized that I actually LIKED the relaxing stuff! I swear — your nervous system must change as you age! So now I miss the availability of easy listening music on the radio dial. Fortunately, it can still be found some on the Web and Sirius XM.

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