I still love flipping through the radio dials in the car and at home, searching for cool and unusual stuff on both the FM and AM side of things. It takes patience and effort to find good stuff, though. One has to navigate through some pretty obnoxious crap — on the music and talk radio stations alike. Over the last few weeks, I've returned repeatedly to a newly-launched AM station with unexpectedly deep and obscure tracks.
Last month, I discovered broadcasting company Apex's new station Classic Soul 1390 WXTC and its soul/funk/vintage R&B playlists, which dug into an overall "soul" style. This month, I'm glad to pay some attention to another new AM station — Kirkland Broadcasting's 1340 The Boardwalk WQSC and its unusually broad range of oldies.
In late March, Kirkland flipped the news-talk/sports format of Real 1340 AM to a mix of beach music, shag standards, '60s soul, and '70s funk, with a few modern Americana/indie slots as well.
"A beach music-oriented station can't be just beach music, or we flip the playlist within a 24-hour period," says station Production Director John Dixon, a six-year member of the Kirkman team. He refers to some of the station's deepest cuts as "hidden hits" and delights most in getting to plug these dusty old favorites alongside the usual standards. Dixon tries to blend shag-friendly music from a variety of genres, too.
"As a former country DJ, I get a kick out of seeing shaggers adopt country songs like 'Have Mercy' by the Judds, 'Dumas Walker' by the Kentucky Headhunters, or 'I Feel Lucky' by Mary Chapin Carpenter. Put these songs side by side with some Jimmy Reed, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Ray Charles — not to mention Carolina favorites like the Tams, Chairmen of the Board, the Embers, and the Catalinas — and mix it up with as much Southern soul as you can. Add a pinch of Motown, Chicago soul, Philly, and New Orleans, throw in reggae, Buffett, Delbert, and Van Morrison, and you get a musical gumbo that coalesces into a beautiful thing."
Local DJ, professional emcee, and record collector Jim Bowers provided a major dose of beach music credibility to the Boardwalk library. The popular on-stage character donated hundreds of tracks from his collection to the Boardwalk's main playlist.
"Jim has been an integral part of the formation of 1340 The Boardwalk," says Dixon. "We couldn't have put it together without his music and input. Jim had probably 1,000 or so cuts on hard drive. I was able to contribute about 300 or so classic soul, reggae, and stylistically similar cuts to round out the mix.
"The key is to find similar genres that fit," Dixon adds. "We've augmented the classic Carolina beach tunes with '80s shag and all the dancefloor stuff that follows."
Hopefully, the station can soon add a few live DJs or pre-recorded announcements to back-track some of the tunes. It's already networked its way into the scene a bit more directly by taking part in last month's Blessing of the Fleet event in Mt. Pleasant, and hosting what might blossom into a string of weekly "Boardwalk Beach Party" events at various local venues. Two weeks ago, the station set up at the High Spirits Lounge at the cylindrical Holiday Inn by the Ashley River, and drew a big crowd of shaggers with Jim Bowers spinning tunes from his DJ booth. This week, another beach party takes place at the Point Sports Bar & Grill (176 Patriots Point Blvd., in the Omar Shrine Building) on Wed. May 6 from 6-9 p.m. with Bowers on hand.
"At the beach parties, it's less about the mix we present on 1340 and more about the state dance," says Dixon. "The fellowship and dancing is center stage. While you're there, you'll observe and celebrate something distinctly Southern, and, in the process, I can pretty much guarantee you'll be smiling."
Visit www.1340theboardwalk.net for more info and live streaming audio.