Classic rock is back as a radio format in Honolulu.
105.9 FM changes format
to classic rock
By Erika Engle
The alternative rock station at 105.9 FM, which signed on as "Lava Rock" nearly two years ago, switched to a classic rock format at noon Friday and began calling itself "The Big Kahuna."
The format launched with a big-voiced announcer promising "a brand new rock station and the greatest "classic rock songs of all time."
The first song played was the 8-minute-three-second, album-length version of 1971's Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.
Other classics in the 10-song launch came from Aerosmith, Boston, Heart, Kansas and Lynyrd Skynyrd to name a few. KAHA-FM will double its playlist at noon each day until its library contains "800 identified monster records," said Jeff Coelho, vice president and general manager of Maverick Media Hawaii.
The station had dropped its format for 36 hours of patriotic music under the banner, "All-American 105.9" for the holiday in order to make the transition.
"Our research shows a huge appetite for the (classic rock) format," Coelho said.
"Rather than be the fifth urban contemporary station or the fifth Hawaiian station," he said, "let's do something that the audience can hear that's actually different.
"We just came to the conclusion that we need to try to find a format that would serve the market better," he said.
That market is primarily men, 30 to 50 years old "and the women who love to get their hands around them," Coelho said.
He believes the station's format will provide an attractive environment for advertisers targeting "big boys who like toys," from the automotive and electronics categories for example.
Executives at Honolulu advertising agencies did not return calls, but South Seas Harley-Davidson had been among the advertisers on the Lava Rock format.
The dealership's target customer ranges in age from 25 to 45, said General Sales Manager Kaina Huddy.
According to Alfredo Villegas, South Seas sales consultant and former radio advertising account executive, the fastest-growing group of Harley owners is women.
"It's a big enough market now that it's a target," he said. Two of his prospective buyers yesterday (Friday) were women in their mid-20s.
Huddy believes the new, older-skewing music will also provide a good medium for his message as the so-called baby boomers have more disposable income and can "go back and feel that sense of freedom, release and stress relief and all that stuff; to relive their youth."
To make a similar appeal to the upper demographic in its TV advertising, Cadillac has recently used "Rock and Roll," from the same 1971 Led Zeppelin album that features "Stairway."
Not every man in the demographic group is lured by such tunes. The founder of Robb Young's Fine Woodworking in Aiea said he was "never crazy about Cream" and is not a big Aerosmith fan.
"I really prefer jazz, contemporary jazz and some traditional stuff," Young said.
In another business sector however, Anna Bannanas co-owner Tommy Noble said, "It's a station I'll probably listen to. I think that we've needed a classic rock station for awhile."
He wondered aloud whether it could compete against stations run by companies such as Clear Channel Communications Inc. and Cox Radio Inc., which own Honolulu's two largest station groups.
"We're going to play bonafide classic rock that's been missing from the dial," said Coelho.
Classic rocker KKLV-FM at 98.5 on the dial changed its format and call letters in October of 1999 when it switched to a mix of Hawaiian and reggae music under the "Island Rhythms" moniker.
The Big Kahuna, will be commercial-free for the first week and may run without air staff for the rest of the month. Three of the six Lava Rock staffers were integrated into the staff of sister-stations KUMU-AM and FM. Program Director Marc Young will stay on as PD for KAHA and two employees were let go "until we determine our new staffing needs," Coelho said.
"We're definitely going to make some noise," he said, "It's going to have a high 'wow factor.' "
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