Oldies radio set to make comeback in Denver with KRWZ

Forward...into the past.

Ever since The Fan, a local sports-talk station, abandoned its longtime dial spot, 950 AM, in favor of 104.3 FM back in March, there's been mucho speculation about what format would eventually beam from its previous home. Now, however, it looks as if the outlet's owner, Lincoln Financial Group, has finally settled on a style: rock oldies, to be dispensed under the call letters KRWZ and the slogan Cruisin' Oldies 950.

The decision has been a long time coming, with Boondocker, one of the guiding hands behind the indispensable website tracking the story's twists and turns. According to him, 950 AM briefly simulcast sister signals such as hip-hop/R&B-oriented KS-107.5 FM and country-flavored KYGO-FM before sampling ESPN Radio 1600 this past Friday. That was followed by 24 hours of classic country fare like the stuff once aired at the 1600 AM space under the KYGO-AM moniker and two days' worth of oldies from the '50s and '60s interspersed with airchecks and imaging from KIMN-AM, which occupied the 950 AM position for more than thirty years before fading away in the late '80s. (Newcomers can learn more about the glory days of KIMN at the 95 Fabulous KIMN tribute site -- and radio buffs can track the speculation about the possible return of a KIMN-like operation on this thread.) Today, however, the oldies are accompanied by sounders touting Cruisin' Oldies -- a brand that recalls KRZN, a defunct outlet that once used the "Cruisin'" handle. And a Google search on "KRWZ," "950" and "Denver" brings up the old AM 950/The Fan web address.

The move to oldies makes good business sense. KOOL/105.1 FM has shifted its playlist away from the '50s and '60s tunes on which its reputation was founded in an attempt to reach a younger demographic -- a subject explored in this March 6 Message column, "Shakeup in Denver Radio." The older listeners this shift abandoned may not be the first choice of many advertisers, but they remain a viable audience -- and they're more loyal to AM radio than practically any other group. Witness KDZA/1350 AM in Pueblo, which has been steadily building word of mouth since installing oldies-radio programming a few months ago.

If Lincoln energetically promotes KRWZ, the same scenario could be repeated in Denver, where a sizable number of oldies radio lovers have been grumbling about KOOL ever since the station starting playing more Huey Lewis and the News than Elvis Presley. Call it going back to the future. -- Michael Roberts