POWER 1490 GETS TO SAY GOODBYE THIS WEEKEND
It's not uncommon for radio stations to change formats, and do so abruptly, but after Power 1490 AM ended its five-year stint in Tucson in the mid-'90s, Randy Williams, better known to listeners as R Dub, felt the need for closure.
After all these years, he'll offer that closure in the form of a documentary he produced and directed: A.M. Mayhem: The Untold Story of Tucson's Power 1490 AM.
"Power 1490 is like the girlfriend you lost back when you were a teenager," said R-Dub. "She was a good girl, and you screwed up and always wondered what could have been. Some of the alumni chide me for being a little sentimental."
The documentary details the station's history through interviews with former employees and air checks collected by staff members over the years.
"It was a ridiculously huge undertaking, much bigger than I ever imagined. I was used to making five-minute taco-review videos on a Flip cam that took me an hour to do," said R Dub, whose in-person interview subjects included the station's general manager, who now works in Chico, Calif. "I found artists in L.A. and Hollywood and met with them. I tried my best to find old artifacts from the station—whether they were old videos, old photos, or hundreds and hundreds of cassette tapes from old co-workers who had saved crates and crates and crates of air checks and recordings from the radio station—and I had to sit down and listen to every second ... to pick out the things I needed. I didn't want to miss that nugget that might be hidden in there if I decided to skim through the tapes.
"There were literally weeks at a time when I locked myself in a room until I was nauseated listening to these air checks. When I finally left the house, I would think I was back in 1993. It transported me back into that era."
In that era, Power 1490 was a breath of fresh air for those who loved the hip-hop music format—even though the station was banished to the end of the AM frequency, not exactly a haven for music.
"You had talk stations and maybe big-band-standards type of stations," said R Dub. "To think of your average high school kid coming home from Cholla High School and turning on an AM radio station to hear the (latest hip-hop songs), to this day, that blows my mind. The frequency and sound quality wasn't an issue. They listened because it was the only place in Tucson to listen to that type of music, and without Power 1490, a lot of the music we played wouldn't have had a chance to be exposed in Tucson."
Launched in 1990, Power 1490 marked a dramatic change from its predecessor, Joy 1490 KJYK—the hip-hop station maintained the call-letter designation—a format that morphed from elevator music to soft Top 40. The goal was not necessarily to provide ostracized hip-hop fans with a music outlet. Instead, opting for hip hop was a business decision designed to protect the cluster's lynchpin station, 94.9 Cloud FM, from Top 40 competitor KRQQ FM 93.7. KRQ tried to appease two audiences in two timeframes: at-work soft Top 40 during the day, and hip hop by night.
"(KRQ was) a thorn in the side of 94.9, so the company decided, 'If we put Power 1490 on as a hip-hop station, we'll try to get KRQ to focus on them and make KRQ pick a side of the fence,'" R-Dub said. "KRQ went more rhythm, and Power 1490 was a major factor. We finally beat (KRQ) in teens. That was the station's biggest victory. We could say we owned teens. That was the truth."
A.M. Mayhem will screen at 6 p.m., Saturday, July 23, at the Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St. DVDs of the film will be available for purchase; doors open at 5. For information on how to RSVP for the screening, visit www.power1490.com.
"I'm curious to see how many people will be there. There could 150; there could be people who are turned away. I'm really not sure," R Dub said. "I'm really excited to be there. The film is for people who grew up in Tucson and remember Power 1490, people who miss the '90s and appreciate '90s hip hop, and the media in Tucson who remember the station."
MADISON GETS KGUN MORNING-WEATHER SPOT
It's hard to believe that April Madison has been part of the Tucson media landscape, television and radio, for much of the last 15 years.
After earning a meteorology degree in 2010, and following years of loyal service at KGUN Channel 9, she was pegged for the meteorologist position on the ABC affiliate's Good Morning Tucson.
"We're very pleased to have April join our morning-news team," said KGUN news director Forrest Carr via e-mail. "Viewers are already familiar with her from the work she's done on a fill-in basis in the past. We think April's bright, cheerful personality and her knowledge of meteorology will serve our viewers well."
Knowing Tucson certainly helps, too. Madison replaces Brian Basham, who accepted a position with the Fox affiliate in Memphis, Tenn.
FEATURES CONFERENCE MAKING PUSH FOR ATTENDEES
Tucson is hosting the Society for Features Journalism Conference, slated for Aug. 24-27 at the Marriott Starr Pass, and organizers are making an early registration push.
Arizona Daily Star political cartoonist David Fitzsimmons will be among the guest speakers. SFJ members can attend for $300 if they register before July 29. For non-members, the cost is $475. Both fees jump by $25 after July 29.
More info is available at featuresjournalism.org.