First Listen: San Diego's KFMB-FM Takes Adult Hits, Adds a Dash of '90s Gold

Okay, first about those call letters. "KFM-BFM" is the way that KFMB-FM San Diego has said the call letters in its legal ID at various times over the past forty years. They are particularly associated with its incarnation as B100, a truckin' top 40 under PD Bobby Rich in the mid-'70s, and a successful adult top 40 in the late '80s.

For just over a decade, however, KFMB-FM has been San Diego's "Jack-FM." San Diego's Jack wasn't always the "adult hits" format as heard on Bob and Jack-FMs in other markets. At a time when that format was usually heard jockless in the U.S., Jack SD usually had a full-service morning show. For the last six years that's been Dave, Shelley & Chainsaw, who had been with active rock rival KIOZ and who played little-to-no music in the mornings.

Last year, Jack San Diego ventured further away from adult hits, transitioning into adult top 40 musically, and repurposing a syndicated top 40 show, Johnjay & Rich, in afternoons. It retained the Jack FM name and imaging only. That lasted until November, when the station began stunting with Christmas music, and then a daily "wheel of formats" under new PD Garett Michaels, who had previously programmed crosstown KBZT (FM 94/9), which galvanized the alternative format with its gold-based approach in the early '00s.

The loss of a prominent Jack-FM might confirm, for some, the "fad" nature of the adult hits format. It has been a decade since adult hits became the format that unleashed havoc in almost every market. Most adult hit stations have evolved in some form (playing more '90s, adding some currents). Yet the music that drove adult hits – second-generation classic rock from Boston to Bon Jovi – has become the center of "classic hits," as the oldies format is now known in the industry. The need hasn't dissipated.

KFM-BFM's new format, which debuted January 4, was described by the station as a mix of classic rock and alternative gold. But it's basically an adult hits format that acknowledges '90s alternative, plays no pure pop (except as an occasional goof), and with a more straightforward presentation. As adult hits stations have evolved, many have adopted some of those elements, but not quite in this combination. And it's an unusual case of a station that had to drop the most famous brand name in adult hits to return to adult hits.

The new KFM-BFM parallels the active rock stations that have become more gold-based and more '90s alternative flavored in recent years, but it's much more mainstream. It's also not playing the same alternative gold that FM 94/9 was playing -- deeper and punkier. The older, more adult hits end has been "I Ran (So Far Away)" by A Flock of Seagulls and "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley. The newer, more alternative edge has been White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" and Black Keys' "Gold on the Ceiling." 

Here's KFM-BFM just before 5 p.m., January 4, 2016:

Rush, "Limelight"
Pearl Jam, "Even Flow"
David Bowie, "Modern Love"
Led Zeppelin, "Kashmir"
Billy Idol, "White Wedding"
Billy Squier, "In The Dark"
Black Keys, "Tighten Up"
Bon Jovi, "Wanted Dead Or Alive"
U2, "New Year's Dave"
Green Day, "Longview"
Blue Swede, "Hooked On A Feeling" (preceded by a stager promising "whatever, whenever")
Tommy Tutone, "867-5309/Jenny"
Lenny Kravitz, "Fly Away"
Talking Heads, "Burning Down The House"
Guns N' Roses, "Sweet Child O' Mine"
Bush, "Come Down"
Depeche Mode, "Enjoy The Silence"