Cleveland has a rich radio history. Especially in rock n’ roll. This is the city of Alan Freed and the Moondog Coronation Ball, Kid Leo and the Buzzard Morning Zoo.
Those days feel far away. Now WMMS is a sad shadow of its former glory. It’s not entirely their fault. Let’s face it, mainstream rock sucks right now. When Nickelback is one of the top “rock” bands out there, you know we’re in trouble. But as a rock station, I expect music, not hours of talk every weekday.
A couple stations hold on to the traditions of Cleveland radio. One of them, Majic 105.7 I think, still plays Born to Run as a way to kick off the weekend. And Saturday night at midnight you can still hear WNCX play P. Funk’s Maggot Brain as they have for years.
That’s where the traces of the old Cleveland radio seem to fade. The commercial stations become more commercial, as they do everywhere, and the listeners are worse off for it.
Not all is lost for Cleveland radio. There is a gold mine out there. You just have to look at the left-side of the dial.
The region’s abundance of solid college stations is a hidden gem. Depending on where you are, and how good the signals are travelling, there are 5 college stations. Six counting the Kent State NPR station.
WBWC is the most “mainstream” of the college stations, playing more bigger name bands and songs. If you want to ease into the college radio scene, start here. They also play up and coming bands, and feature plenty of local music. Years ago, I laughed when the channel formerly known as Music Television lauded Dayton’s Hawthorne Heights as this great new band. WBWC had been playing them about a year and a half by that time.
Moving away from the conventional, there is WRUW and WCSB. Both are heavy on indie music and bands not often known to music novices like me. Representing the diversity that is Cleveland, weekends on CSB are a tour of ethnic hours. Oh, they throw a pretty kick-ass Halloween party, too.
Their playlists and shows are often quirky. The programming is a patchwork of different forms, styles, and genres. But the variety of college radio spices up the Cleveland airwaves.
When I’m not in Cleveland, I miss having the college stations I can rely on for music I would’ve otherwise not known I liked. Yet another way Cleveland is more blessed than others.