WHITE SETTLEMENT -- Alan Price is taking requests, and I've come prepared to stump him.
Price has just begun the live portion of Alan's Golden Oldies, the Internet-only radio show he does out of his White Settlement home. When he asks for a song, I come up with a weird Lee Hazlewood-Nancy Sinatra ballad I'd stumbled upon the other day. But the only thing I can remember about it is that it had Velvet in the title.
Price turns to his control board and bank of computers, and types Sinatra's name into a search engine. An overwhelming number of songs come up, so he switches to a search for Hazlewood, who had fewer hits. He finds Some Velvet Morning, which peaked at No. 26 in 1968 and sounds very much like a relic of the era. Price moves it into a rolling queue of upcoming songs.
"Here it comes," says Price, who used to do an oldies show at Weatherford's KSQX/89.1 FM. "It's next. Just like that. I couldn't do that when I was at the radio station. I had to go through all the CDs."
And it's on the air at Alan's Golden Oldies (www.alansgoldenoldies.com), which Price has been running since he left KSQX in 2005. The station streams 24/7, but from 1 to 5 p.m. weekdays, Price is live, playing big hits, forgotten tunes and even obscurities, all in the style of a high-'60s DJ.
"Gooooood afternoon, comin' to ya from the city of White Settlement, Texas, it's Alan's Golden Oldies!" Price says effusively, launching his four-hour show, telling listeners he's taking requests via phone and e-mail, then playing a recording of the Mickey Mouse Club theme -- Price is a big Mouse Club collector, with memorabilia all around his studio and house -- before heading to a show that combines oldies, interviews, old radio programs and commercials, even audio from drive-in movies.
During a two-hour-plus Star-Telegram visit, Price plays some songs that still get a respectable amount of airplay (the Rolling Stones' Paint It Black), some '60s and '70s hits that haven't vanished completely but don't get much airplay anymore (Gary U.S. Bonds' Quarter to Three, Van McCoy's The Hustle), and some songs that have all but disappeared (the Fendermen's Mule Skinner Blues). That's just a fraction of the 12,000 or so songs that Price estimates that he has loaded into various hard drives.
"I've got the very first music," Price says, just as enthusiastic off the air as he is on. "I've got music on cylinders. My music starts in 1890." The focus of his show, though, is music from the '50s through the '70s, and if it hit a pop chart, no matter what the position, it's fair game. Price will occasionally throw in songs from the 1940s and earlier as well.
"And then I just picked up 1980 to '84," Price says. "I don't want to go any further, because the music starts changing."
Aging out of 'oldies'
The music isn't the only thing changing. One of the reasons Price started doing his show is because this kind of oldies radio is disappearing from traditional airwaves.
When KPMZ/96.7 FM "Platinum 96.7 FM" left the air about a month ago to become talk station WBAP-FM, many oldies fans were left with a hole in the Dallas-Fort Worth market. Although there are still some radio stations, such as KAAM/770 AM "Legends 77," that will play pre-Beatles oldies, it's becoming increasingly rare to hear music from before 1970. Advertisers crave the 25-to-54-year-old demographic, which at its upper end graduated from high school in the early 1970s. So '60s music is getting played less and less on stations such as KLUV/98.7, for decades the top "oldies" station in Dallas-Fort Worth.
"A station like KLUV or anyone who plays older music has to excel in the upper end of that [25-to-54] demographic," says John Summers, a longtime KLUV on-air personality who is a friend of Price's. "Because, let's face it, we're not going to get a lot of 25-year-olds listening.... Playing a song that's 50 years old isn't going to get many under-50s to listen. You have to keep moving the paradigm up."
Summers cites a couple of songs -- Gary Lewis and the Playboys' This Diamond Ring, Gene Chandler's Duke of Earl -- that fit right into Price's online format but that KLUV has dropped. Although KLUV still plays some 1960s monster hits, the playlist has shifted to a more '70s-heavy format, with some '80s songs such as Billy Ocean's Caribbean Queen cropping up. The station that used to have the slogan "I KLUV my oldies" doesn't even like the word oldies these days.
"We are a classic-hits station," Summers says. "We don't use the 'o' word anymore. Classic-hits stations are contemporary in every way except for the music. We talk about stuff that's going on now."
Price, however, believes that nostalgia stations on traditional radio need to be more open-minded about rock 'n' roll history.
"It's a younger generation of business owners," Price says of traditional-radio advertisers. "They think the old people like us don't buy things. That's baloney." He adds that the oldies work for another end of the age spectrum as well.
"Kids love this stuff," he says. "I get e-mails from kids, 12, 20, 18. They love it because it's new to them. They'll ask 'Where can I buy it?' and I'll say, 'I'm sorry, you can't get this. It's on the B-side of a record, and it's not even available on CD.'"
More than music
Price has been DJing since 1971, when he spun vinyl records from his own collection at the Carswell Air Force Base Officer's Club. He began his radio career at then-oldies KZEE/1220 AM, moving on later to Weatherford's KYQX/89.5 FM and then its sister station KSQX. He was becoming well-known outside of radio as well -- he ran Alan's Club, a now-defunct classics-dance club in west Fort Worth that lasted into the '90s, and he served on the White Settlement City Council from 2001 to 2004.
When the Weatherford stations started streaming his show, Price got so much Web traffic that he figured he could launch a show on his own, where he could have complete control. When he left the station, he was told that he was washed up and that nobody would hire him. But with the help of some advertisers, he was able to get the Alan's Golden Oldies Web site going.
Not that it was easy at first. When he was at the Weatherford stations, Price knew so little about computers that he had to get someone else to handle his e-mail. In his late 50s, not knowing what was going to happen, Price prepared to launch his Web site and basically taught himself how to get it going.
"I just sat up and started playing with it," he says. "It drove me nuts, because I couldn't figure this out, I couldn't figure that out. Then one day, it just started clicking."
There's more to Alan's Golden Oldies than oldies. Price drops in audio from old movie trailers, old radio comedy bits such as the detective spoof Chickenman, and promos from Andy Williams and other stars he has interviewed (autographed photos of the stars -- Jackie DeShannon, Lou Christie, Fabian, Chris Montez, Danny and the Juniors, Joe Stampley -- line the walls). At 3:30 p.m., Price runs an episode of the old-time radio serial The Adventures of Superman, and after the live show ends at 5, he airs an old radio program, which could be anything from Amos & Andy to the pre-TV version of Gunsmoke with William Conrad as Marshall Dillon.
Price's Tarrant and Parker County backgrounds have brought his Web show a loyal North Texas listenership, but his guest book reveals listeners from as far away as Alaska, Maine and the Netherlands. Some of the guest-book messages are from actual guests, such as Jay Osmond of the Osmond Brothers, whom Price has interviewed. Most, however, are from listeners thanking Price for keeping the music alive.
"I think Alan is an exception to the radio rule," Summers says. "He doesn't have to worry about target demographics. He's out there selling the thing himself to people and merchants who have known him in that area for a long time. [And] he can do pretty much what he wants."
Price might not have to worry about target demographics, but he says he does have his listeners most in mind both while streaming the Web site and during his live show.
"I play what I like, but I also play what they like," Price says. "I'm not here for me. I kind of test their appetite. In other words, I'll throw something they don't normally hear, and then they say, 'Oh, wait a minute, I like that!' and then get requests for it all the time."
Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872