Ten years ago today: 96rock ended its reign

This was posted on Thursday, November 17, 2016 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Ten years ago today, 96rock spun the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and ended its 32-year-run as Atlanta’s first major FM rock station.

That was the station’s first song as well in 1974.

The station beget DJ legends such as Kaedy Kiely, Mark McCain, Willard and Christopher Rude. Kiely is now on afternoons on 97.1/The River. Rude has been a morning host at 680/The Fan (now also on 93.7) since 2003. It also launched the now defunct morning show the Regular Guys (led by Eric Von Haessler, now on WSB, and Larry Wachs). Willard is long retired.

For six years, the station (WKLS-FM) continued playing rock as Project 9-6-1, which focused on “active rock” with more current acts. Project was led by Chris Williams, who previously ran alternative rock station 99X, which arrived in 1992 and sliced away part of the rock audience. (In 2012, it became top 40 and is now Power 96.1.)

Steve Mitchell, who worked at 96rock as a jock in the early years and the heyday of the 1980s, said radio was far more important back in the day. “We really jacked into the community,” he said. “When you connect with the community on so many levels. We had concerts. We had merchandise. We had live broadcasts. We had the Falcons involved. The music was hot.”

This website captured the switch. Project’s first song: Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

Fortunately, YouTube has a few archival moments, including this farewell to the station, which mocked its final years when it didn’t rock as hard as it did in its earlier years.

And here’s a sampling of the old 5:00 Whistle:

Mitchell created this history of 96rock video for the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, when they feted 96rock alums a few years back:

And here is a 1987 96rock ad:

The first time the Regular Guys were fired in 2004:

Larry and Eric early days Regular Guys

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