Last Wednesday I sat in my car outside the house, groceries wilting, listening to the last half of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” on the radio. This happens often—outside the bank, or in the Hirano’s parking lot, needing to dash inside, but instead I’m in the car catching the end of a Talking Heads song playing on WRHQ, aka Quality Rock, Q 105.3.
Q105.3 is Jerry Rogers’ baby. The New York City native took a radio job in Savannah in 1969 and has been here ever since, shooting up the career ladder at WSGA and WZAT before starting his own station (WRHQ) in 1991.
The quintessential hands-on radio station owner, Rogers is everywhere—on the air every weekday afternoon, with local anecdotes and sports updates between sets, even delivering cookies on Friday mornings to advertisers. Rogers and his small staff listen to every song before it’s included in their rotation, from the New Music File (tunes released in the past several months) to the monthly Second Sunday show featuring music recorded by Savannah area performers, and hosted by Rogers himself.
“We are the local station. We felt we should make the airwaves available for local groups to get some airplay,” says Rogers. “We try not to be judge and jury as to whether it’s great, but I tell you we’ve gotten a lot of great stuff. They’re putting out material that’s as good as what’s being recorded nationally.”
Wormsloew and the Train Wrecks are two current Second Sunday favorites that are gaining popularity with Q105.3 listeners. “On Select a Set, the daily listener request show, Wormsloew has shown up there very, very often,” says Rogers. “My sense is they are resonating in the music community.”
For those in Generation X and Y who think of WRHQ’s Rock AC (Adult Contemporary) format as “oldies,” there’s been a subtle shift in the station’s standard playlist the past few months, tilting toward a newer sound. Rogers did that, too.
“We backed off the late 60’s and 70’s,” says Rogers. “We added some 80’s we hadn’t played in a long time. The 80’s were not the best decade of music, but we put those in and increased the rotation of the 90’s stuff, and the 2000’s.”
Meaning more of Gomez’ “See the World” and less of Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.” More of the B-52s’ “Love Shack.” All okay by me.
I’ve been a Jerry Rogers fan ever since the 1970’s, during his era as a DJ on WSGA radio. I was the proud owner of a WSGA “rock and roll” t-shirt, white with navy banding at the neck and sleeves, boasting a graphic that tickled every 13-year-olds’ funny bone — a rock and a dinner roll. Winning that t-shirt in a listener call-in contest was a highlight of my eighth grade summer.
During those geeky middle school years, WSGA (1400 on the AM dial) broadcast all top-40, serving as my only portal into the otherwise-out-of-reach world of adolescent coolness. Rogers was Savannah’s answer to Wolfman Jack—we knew his voice and we thought we knew him too.
WRHQ’s “Tan Tone,” a short, electronic “zap zap zap” sound, beeps on the hour and half hour during the day in summer months. Rogers resurrected the Tan Tone at WRHQ from the ashes of WSGA.
“It’s a link to the deep, dark past that started on WSGA before I got to town,” says Rogers. “Back then when we thought the sun was terrific for us, it signified it was time to turn over and you won’t burn. It’s something for folks who grew up in Savannah, and hopefully the newcomer will buy into it too.”
Listeners won’t be winning any T-shirts by calling WRHQ, thanks to Q105.3’s no call-in contest policy. With the focus on the music and on community listeners, Rogers has adopted a list of station procedures that doubles as the antidote to a typical “radio pet peeves” list.
The station plays each song all the way through, from start to finish, without overlapping and without talking on top of them.
Want to know what you just heard? The DJ’s announce the artist and title after every three or four songs. They play music around the clock, including in morning drive time. No nerve-jangling, syndicated “dumb and dumber” commentary.
No cussing, no one doing the nasty on Rogers’ radio station.
And, they’re local. In addition to Rogers, on WRHQ you’ll hear Lyndy Brannen (who moonlights as the morning TV host on WSAV) and Brady McGraw and Ray Williams, two longtime Savannah radio hosts. Once in a while you’ll catch local attorney Skip Jennings filling in at the sports desk, and most weekday afternoons Ira Ruby puts on his best rock-and-roll stock broker voice for the financial report. None of these folks is likely to move on to a larger market share anytime soon—they live here.
Even with the station’s move to a newer set list, there’s no way WRHQ will please all of the listeners all of the time. I’m grateful for more Matchbox 20, but for those tunes I’d rather avoid, Rogers’ “no repeat” policy assures that a song will only play once between 6 a.m. and midnight each day.
Until my “no more Billy Joel” prayer is answered, I’ll settle for only having to endure “Piano Man” once a day at most.
Listen to Second Sunday this week, September 9 at 8 p.m. on WRHQ 105.3. Submit music for airplay via email or in person at the WRHQ station. Check www.wrhq.com for details.
Email Robin Wright Gunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.