After working in radio for over 25 years, I have learned a thing or two about the different music formats. Each format is different and every station unique. But one format that is truly unique is country radio, especially in New England.
Country Music in Northeast was limited to a few smaller stations, serving a small but loyal listener-ship. Growing up in the Northeast, there were two camps, you grew up liking rock or pop. Typically in every town and city there was one power house of each, the bigger the city the more you would have. For example in Boston years ago you had the legendary WBCN for rock, plus WAAF, and WZLX for classic rock and WFHN for modern rock. In a smaller city like Providence it was a two horse town- Rock giant WHJY and WPRO FM the pop giant, both are still around today.
I learned that, unless you grew up with Country music, most people fought it like the plague. Typical conversation: “hey what kind of music do you like?”
” oh, I like just about everything, except country”
Poor Country music. relished to the bad joke isle.
“If I want to hear about my dog dying, my trailer blowing away and getting drunk because my girl left me, Ill tune into country”.
That is an over dramatization of course, but there is some truth to it as well. Some classic country does have a melancholy sound to it.
But this has all changed, starting in 2006 when Carrie Underwood won American Idol. At that point, the face of country music had changed. There are many significant music and lifestyle milestones that also contributed to this wave of change in New England, where people “discovered” a love for the format. Another one is, Kenny Chesney bringing his own passion and love for New England into his Music. In 2005 “Boston” came out. New England Fans are fiercely passionate and love this song. This clip is from a sold out show at Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro, the home of No Shoes Nation.
How are non country fans exposed to the format, well, typically by force or accident. Being in a car or home of friend who loves it and plays it often. There will be a day when the beat or lyrics of a song, speak to you and that is what I call your “gateway song” . That one song that lures you in, you like it but you fight it. Then it stays with you until you want to hear it again, then you want to hear more by that artist and presto- Welcome to being a country music fan. It is one of the greatest formats, the songs tell a story, have a great beat or rhythm, the artists are genuine in their craft and the music of the last 30-40 years is timeless.
I would like to tell you my gateway song story. I was a young radio sales person selling Classic Rock in Providence, Rhode Island. WWRX 103.7- an awesome station with one of the best signals in the northeast. As a radio sales person, it was part of our responsibilities to monitor other stations. We needed to know what they are up to, what commercials were playing and what promotions they were doing. We would all be assigned a station each week to monitor, the Country station, Cat Country 98.1 was not a favorite of anyone to monitor. Being the “kid” on the team I had to listen to that one a lot. I would try to time when the station content would come on, but I always ended up listening to more of the music than I cared for. Then one day it happened, Tim McGraw’s Indian Outlaw came on it was 1994 and I was hooked. I bought the “cassingle” ( if you don’t know what that is, I am not going to make myself feel any older than I already do by explaining it). That one song, with its bouncy beat sucked me in and I slowly slid deeper into the format.
If you are not a country music fan yet, you will be and you will always remember YOUR Gateway Song! Please share your Gateway Song with me. My Gateway song theory is just one of the many reasons for the mass appeal and wide spread growth of the Country format in New England.