Your Online Source for Easy Listening and Beautiful Music Info
While I was growing up, there were only a handful of beautiful music stations that were on the air here in central AL. Unfortunately, my interest in beautiful music began around 1982...as the format was, for all intents and purposes, at its end in the Birmingham area and waning for the rest of the country.
Probably the most legendary beautiful music stations in Birmingham was the WCRT AM/FM combo which began broadcasting in 1953 and 1961, respectively. WCRT (AM 1260) and its sister station, WCRT-FM (96.5), programmed a mix of big band, beautiful music and other hits from the 40's and 50's we now refer to today as adult standards. The two stations were simulcast for many years in FM's infancy period, when many FM stations were programming non-rock formats, such as beautiful music and classical, in order to highlight the FM band's untapped potential. In the early 70's, the FCC reversed an earlier rule allowing FM stations to simulcast their AM partners. Around that same time, WCRT AM and FM were sold to Magic City Communications. As a result of the break of the simulcast with of the two stations, WCRT-FM changed its call letters to WQEZ, moving away from more of the big band music/beautiful music mix it aired with WCRT-AM and transitioned into more of an instrumental direction with "beautiful music". The station was known as "Stereo 96", your "Q to EZ listening".
Spring ahead five years later to 1978, and Birmingham station WAPI-FM drops its "solid gold" format and jumps into the foray of beautiful music, too, as "Beautiful 94" and begins to compete with WQEZ. WAPI-FM's beautiful music format was short-lived, being replaced just a few years later when the station was sold to Dittman Broadcasting who changed WAPI-FM's format to album rock as "95 Rock".
With WAPI-FM no longer offering beautiful music, the WCRT and WQEZ combo had once again reclaimed their title as Birmingham's only easy listening stations and it seemed there was a guaranteed success. However, just a year later, in 1982, Magic City Communications announced its intention to sale both WCRT and WQEZ to Capitol Broadcasting. Capitol announced once the sale was approved by the FCC, WQEZ would become WMJJ and drop beautiful music for an adult contemporary format. On December 27, 1982, WQEZ "Stereo 96" gave way to "Magic 96", leaving WQEZ listeners abandoning ship for WCRT, Birmingham's only remaining easy listening station. However, just a few months later following the WQEZ switch to adult contemporary, Capitol announced it was selling WCRT to a local Christian group known as the Jireh Corporation, who made its intentions clear that the station would change to change to a contemporary christian format once the sale was given FCC approval. WCRT did eventually change to contemporary christian in August, 1983, but only after suffering a devastating fire which destroyed the station transmitter and studios, forcing the station off the air for several months. You can read some more history about WCRT and the fire from our other site here. It was following the WCRT fire that the beautiful music/easy listening days were pretty much over for Birmingham. The only remaining FM stations programming beautiful music during that time were WHMA-FM in Anniston (60 miles east of Birmingham) and WRSA in Decatur ("Beautiful 97") which later added an FM translator in the Birmingham area at 105.5 FM. The translator was taken off the air in 1991. Today, the 105.5 frequency is home to Birmingham's "News Radio 105.5- WERC".
One more glimpse of beautiful music for Birmingham..and then it's gone: In 1992, Birmingham radio station WYDE dropped its christian format and began offering beautiful music as "Light and Easy- AM 850". The rebirth of beautiful music was short-lived, as WYDE dropped the format for oldies within a year's time. For some airchecks of WYDE's days as a beautiful music station, click here. I've also included some from WQEZ "Stereo 96" and Decatur's WRSA "Beautiful 97" as well.
Although beautiful music has been gone from the Birmingham airwaves since the early 90's, several stations since that time have offered a somewhat comparable adult standards format. The former WCRT has offered adult standards since it dropped its easy listening format in 1983, as "Legends 1260" in 1999 (as WLGS) and once again in 2003 (as WLGD). Other Birmingham stations which have offered adult standards over the years are AM 1070, WAPI; AM 610 (as both WSGN and WEZN); AM 1320 (also as WEZN); and AM 1220, the former WTWG "Stardust 1220".
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