Music News

KDKB Switches Formats to Alternative Rock

If you tune into KDKB right now -- 93.3 on your FM dial -- you'll hear something a bit different from the classic/hard rock station's usual offerings of Ozzy, Metallica, Judas Priest, or AC/DC.

At this exact moment, the local radio institution is broadcasting nothing but wall-to-wall Richard Cheese, including the comedy lounge singer's covers of Limp Bizkit's "Nookie," Sublime's "Wrong Way," and "Somebody Told Me" by The Killers. (As such, its also temporarily become known as 93.3 The Cheese.")

It's known in the radio biz as "stunting," an attention-grabbing gimmick that's employed by a particular station right before it switches over to an entirely new format, which, apparently, is what's happening at KDKB.

According to few online reports and tweets from the station's staff, KDKB is ditching its longtime focus on classic and hard rock in favor of an alternative-only format.

Later today, the station will transform into "Alt AZ 93.3," which, as the name implies, means nonstop alternative, indie rock, and punk of the radio-friendly variety. The station's recently launched website is filled with mentions of Jack White, M83, Capital Cities, Jimmy Eat World, Bad Religion, and Fun.

It's good news to fans of alt-rock or anyone who misses bygone station The Edge, but is likely bad news for regular listeners of KDKB, as station with a rock legacy that stretches back more than 40 years. Plus, it may also overshadow the crop of scrappy, low-power indie and alternative stations, such as KWSS and KUKQ (which recently began broadcasting on 99.1 FM in the East Valley)

The news certainly came as a blow to the KDKB staff. A source close to the station told New Times that a majority of its current employees were let go due to the format change.

Prominent KDKB disc jockey Mike Gaube, who celebrated his birthday this past weekend at a big blowout and concert at Club Red in Mesa, posted on Facebook this morning regarding the situation.

"Well's over. It's been a great eight year run at 93.3 KDKB, and I want to thank EVERYONE that ever listened to my big goofy ass," he stated.

Gaube was one of many colorful personalities that worked at the station over the last four decades. Old school residents of Phoenix will likely remember KDKB's heyday in the mid-1970s as a source of album-oriented rock and a progressive format and a continuation of sorts of KCAC, the groundbreaking AM station that's famous in local lore for its freeform broadcasts. Valley radio legend Bill Compton was involved with both stations.

A New Times feature story from 1991 described KDKB's experimental bent to rock 'n' roll and its glory years thusly:

The air staff, who talked like human beings instead of motormouth Top 40 disc jockeys (called "pukers" in the trade), built suites of tunes culled from the station's 15,000-record library.

A typical KDKB "collage" or "set" would start with a Beatles tune, then fade into blues, into a folk tune, into an early record by then-obscure musicians like Bruce Springsteen or Jerry Riopelle. Bob Dylan would follow the Beach Boys following the Rolling Stones following Gato Barbieri following Jimi Hendrix following Stevie Wonder following Jeff Beck following the Band following the Tubes. Most of the bands now considered "classic" rockers got started in the business on stations like KDKB.

In the 1980s, however, KDKB shifted more towards classic rock and harder sounds (and boasted the slogan "93.3 KDKB Rocks Arizona!"). Its one of three FM rock 'n' roll stations (including 100.7 KSLX and 98 KUPD) owned by Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting. Industry website Radio Insight reports that the format change was due to an "audience and musical overlap" with all three stations.

Fans of KDKB took to social media this morning and express sadness at the changover, including one gal by the name of "Rocker Chick" who wrote the following on the station's Facebook wall:

"I just want to thank you for the 40 + years of not only great rock but amazing personalities who were not just the voices we heard on the radio but true friends of the community. I wish nothing but the best to all of you. You will be missed by so many!"

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.