Last Friday, WGAY FM changed formats. Or at least that’s the term for it these days. A little after 2 p.m., without so much as a word of on-air notice, the venerable easy-listening station exited the realm of Air Supply and the Carpenters and emerged with a market-tested “jammin’ oldies” playlist culled from ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s R&B hits. “Jammin’ oldies” stations are ratings kings in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
But along with their playlist, WGAY’s owners ditched something else that had long been vexing them: the station’s name. By the weekend, DJs were referring to the station only as “the New 99.5Washington’s Jammin’ Oldies.” Meanwhile, they’re running ads touting a $25,000 contest to give the station a more market-friendly set of call letters. Though we’re not quite the demographic-testing experts that Chancellor Media Corp. will no doubt hire to vet entries, allow us to submit a few suggestions:
• WSWM There’s nothing quite as un-gay as those pillars of society, straight white men. Sure, “jammin’ oldies” is a format geared to women more than men, and station officials expect a full 40 percent of listeners to be minority-group members, but with this kind of name, everyone will know the station’s family-friendly.
• WJDQ Hey, if WJFK can name itself after a political leader, so can the new 99.5. And which political leader is more appropriate for a media conglomerate determined to sanitize the airwaves than one J. Danforth Quayle? Of course, the current vice president’s wife carries similar baggage. But a Tipper Gore-inspired WTIP would sound too much like news station WTOPa no-no for a station as jammin’ as 99.5.• WSUV Back in the ’80s, D.C. hosted a short-lived yuppie-oriented New Age station called WBMW. This automotive name would surely lock up the lucrative soccer-mom market. There’s nothing like some old Stevie Wonder tunes to take the stress out of a drive-time 4Runner full of carpool kids.• WUSS Let’s see: Big media conglomerate with high-priced market testers is scared of a widdy-biddy name. Sounds like a bunch of, well, sissies to us. Why not pick a name that reflects it?
• WFAG On the other hand, maybe we’ve got 99.5 all wrong. Maybe they were just sick of WGAY’s euphemistic name. Instead of being coy about it, the new format is all about reclaiming the language of oppression. It’ll be the Queer Nation of the airwaves! With a name like WFAG staring it in the face, Radioland will finally have to get used to it. Michael Schaffer