History and Timeline
One of the early originators of this format was radio programmer Bob Perry, on an American Internet radio stream in 2000. Perry named the station after a fictitious persona, "Cadillac Jack" Garrett, "a hard-living radio cowboy." The back story created by Perry for the original web stream was that Garrett, a DJ who had worked a lot of "big sticks," finally got his own radio station and after years of being told what he was to play on-air was creating a station where the motto was "playing what we want." However, according to Rogers Communications, the only thing taken, without permission, for the first Jack-FM radio station, in Vancouver, was the name and the tagline. Pat Cardinal, one of the first JACK Program Directors, says that he was unaware of the type of music on the American website and that "JACK" was one of several names that were considered for the format. Rogers Communications came to an agreement with Perry for the use of the Jack-FM name in Canada soon after the launch.
Jack was also inspired by the success of CHUM Limited's "Bob FM" brand on CFWM radio in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Program director Howard Kroeger was inspired to create Bob FM after hearing a mix tape at a friend's 40th birthday party. Other Canadian broadcasters copied the concept as well, adopting such brands as Corus Entertainment's "Dave FM" and "Joe FM". In 2003, an Ottawa station launched "Frank FM" as a one-day Halloween prank. (The prank's name was possibly also inspired by the Canadian satirical magazine Frank.)
Beginning in late 2002, the format was adopted on Canadian radio stations owned by Rogers Communications. The first Jack station was Vancouver's CKLG-FM, which quickly shot to the top of the city's BBM radio ratings. The format was consequently adopted on other Rogers stations in 2002 and 2003. The format proved popular in many markets where it was introduced, although its success was not always as dramatic as it had been in Vancouver.
In 2004, SparkNet Communications, the owner of the Jack-FM and "Playing What We Want" trademarks outside of Canada, started to license Jack FM's in the United States. NRC Broadcasting's KJAC 105.5 in Denver, Colorado was the first U.S. station to become "Jack-FM" on April 14, 2004. The success of Jack caused a cloning effect, with some stations using the names of famous locals to promote their version of the format, such as WABZ "Abe FM" in Springfield, Illinois, named for Abraham Lincoln, WBEN-FM "Ben FM" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, named for Benjamin Franklin, "100.5 FM Louie" in Louisville, Kentucky, "Doug-FM 93.1" WDRQ in Detroit, Michigan, "96.7 Steve FM" WLTY in Columbia, South Carolina, named after current University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, or "The Chief 92.5 FM" in Champaign, Illinois, named for the controversial symbol of the University of Illinois, Chief Illiniwek, or local symbols like WARH in St. Louis (licensed to Granite City, IL), known as "106.5, The Arch".
On July 29, 2005, Rawlco's CKCK in Regina, Saskatchewan became the first non-Rogers station in Canada to directly license the Jack FM brand rather than adopting an alternate name.
On Wednesday, May 4, 2005, at noon, WQSR, an oldies station in Towson, Maryland which targeted Baltimore area listeners, changed its format from oldies to Jack-FM. Listeners and staffers alike were surprised by the sudden change because many long-time DJs and on-air personalities were considered almost a Baltimore institution. WQSR received a large amount of negative publicity regarding their format change. Popular former WQSR personality Steve Rouse has since resurfaced as the new morning show host at sister station, the Soft AC-formatted WLIF.
Not long after, on Friday, June 3, 2005, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, WCBS-FM, the oldies station in New York City, switched to Jack-FM without any prior warning. The switch to a more generic format has been termed The Day the Music Died by some New Yorkers and has drawn criticism even from non-listeners of the station, particularly due to the sudden firing of DJs of historic renown such as Cousin Brucie. In a partial nod to this controversy, on June 14, 2005, it was announced that the station would be unique among those with the Jack format in that it would occasionally include 1950s and early 1960s songs in its rotation as well as songs by performers like Frank Sinatra that are normally not part of the Jack format, though a later Web update retracted this and songs from before the late 1960s were no longer played.
The change in New York generated the most negative publicity of any market that switched a station to the Jack format, including a derogatory comment by the mayor himself. According to the New York Post, mayor Michael Bloomberg responded to the change by declaring he would "never listen to that fucking CBS radio ever again", which the new Jack station picked up on, making jokes about his quip ("Hey, Mayor Bloomberg. I heard you took a shot at us in The Post. What's with all the swearin' like a sailor? Fleet week is over. It's just music.") Initially, Arbitron ratings showed a sharp decline and while ratings did recover, they never surpassed the levels that WCBS-FM had before the format switch.
As a result, on July 6, 2007, WCBS-FM announced it would be switching its Jack format back to "Classic Hits" on July 12, a move attributed mostly to the newly appointed CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason. Three of the fired DJs and staff (Dan Taylor, Bob Shannon, and Mr. G) returned to the station, along with newsman Al Meredith (who had stayed at the station during Jack-FM doing his Sunday morning public affairs show), as well as DJ Pat St. John who had previously left CBS-FM for Q104.3 about a year before the flip to Jack. Steve O'Brien a weekend and fill in DJ's at time if the format change would also return in a similar capacity in 2008. However, the Jack FM format now renamed ToNY is still available through WCBS-FM's HD2 subchannel, and via an internet stream at www.1011hd2.com.
On the same day that WCBS-FM made the switch, another station owned by CBS, 104.3 WJMK, an oldies station in Chicago, Illinois, changed format to 104.3 Jack-FM as well. The change at WJMK didn't attract as much attention as the change to WCBS, but it still drew the ire of its listeners. The oldies format has since returned to the Chicago airwaves with the introduction of WZZN (94.7 FM; now WLS-FM).
On July 5, 2005, it was announced that Bohn & Associates Media and Wall Media formed SparkNet Communications L.P. as the exclusive International licensor and owner of the Jack-FM format. SparkNet has, in turn, licensed the format to Dial Global for satellite-based syndication to stations in U.S. markets outside the 40 largest. This satellite-fed Jack became active in October 2005, and now serves many of the smaller Jack stations, such as Evansville and Knoxville.
All Jack-FM stations in the United States and Canada use Howard Cogan as the "voice" of Jack, while all Jack FM stations in the United Kingdom uses former Blake's 7 actor Paul Darrow as the "voice" of Jack.
Stations using the "Jack" name are very strictly licensed by SparkNet. There are several terms that the station must agree to, one of them being the fact that disc jockeys are not to be used for at least the first few months of the format, among other things. SparkNet has also been very protective of its format, unsuccessfully filing suit against Bonneville International for its use of the Jack-FM "Playing What We Want" trademark and other phrases said to infringe. For this reason, many stations using a Jack-like format use slightly different slogans to avoid infringing on SparkNet's service marks: BEN in Philadelphia uses the tagline "playing anything we feel like", for instance. WDRQ in Detroit uses the line "93.1 DOUG FM - We Play..EVERYTHING!"
In late September 2005, CJAQ-FM in Toronto, Ontario announced that it would become the first DJ-free station in Canada. Pat Cardinal, general manager and program director of the station, announced that "The move came as a result of listener feedback." "The audience has been telling us that they want no DJs on Jack. They want more music." When it first launched - 92.5 Jack-FM operated without disc jockeys in an effort to establish the "Playing What We Want" concept which was new to Toronto. DJs were introduced within weeks. In November 2005, Cardinal defended his decision in an interview with Michael Hainsworth of Report on Business Television and stated why he doesn't see commercial-free iPods and satellite radio as a threat to a non-DJ format.
In mid-October 2005, Entravison Radio launched a Spanish-language version of the Jack format dubbed "José" with the "We Play What We Want" tagline translated into Spanish as "Toca lo que Quiere." "José" went live on six FM and AM stations in Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Denver, Colorado. Currently, "José" stations have no affiliation with Jack, SparkNet Communications or Bob Perry.
On October 25, 2005, Infinity Broadcasting announced that it would be replacing Howard Stern with Jack-FM on some of its stations. Stern left terrestrial radio for Sirius Satellite Radio in late 2005.
In mid-May 2006, the playlist of CJAQ-FM in Toronto, Ontario evolved into a classic rock format. The 1980s Top 40 acts such as Madonna, Duran Duran, Kim Wilde, Cyndi Lauper, Falco etc. have been dropped in favor of an all-rock format, and the station's slogan has changed to "Toronto's Best Rock Variety."
In September 2006, Rawlco-owned CKCK-FM (the only non-Rogers operated Jack-FM station) changed its slogan from the traditional "Playing What We Want" to "The Greatest Rock Of All Time" and added announcers to their afternoon drive show. This station also follows the "classic rock" format, similar to CJAQ-FM in Toronto.
In October 2006, the UK's first Jack-FM format station won a broadcast licence for the Oxford area. 106 Jack FM Oxford started broadcasting at 1:06 PM BST on 18 October 2007. On 2 December 2009, Bristol radio station Original FM changed to Jack FM after requesting a format change with OFCOM. Two further Jack-FM stations were planned on DAB digital radio from 2008 for Northamptonshire and Northeast Wales and West Cheshire but by August 2009 were a year late with no indication of an ETA. In addition the Oxfordshire Jack was to have been relayed to a wider area. RadioToday has reported The Coast (radio station) will flip to become JACK FM on July 4, 2011
In January 2007, KAJR in the Coachella Valley, California launched as a "Jack FM" affiliate in a region unable to receive the KCBS-FM signal from Los Angeles, 100 miles to the West. KAJR is no longer "Jack FM" and now airs a soft AC music format branded as "The Oasis" as of February 1, 2010.
On October 22, 2007 WJMK in Chicago announced that radio personality Steve Dahl would be morning drive personality as of November 5, the first personality on the station since it went to the Jack format. In March 2011, WJMK dropped the Jack format and is now known as "K-Hits" with a similar format of 1960s-1970s-1980s classic hits. Eddie & Jobo (Ed Volkman and Joe Bohannon, former morning hosts at WBBM-FM) now do the morning show.
There is one nationally syndicated satellite format using the "Jack FM" name; after several years at ABC Radio, it was recently acquired by Dial Global.
From 2007 to present, many Jack-FM stations were added in cities in the United States, while some Jack stations changed to other radio formats, e.g.: CJAQ in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. On June 29, 2012, it was announced that KJQN in Salt Lake City would drop the "Jack FM" format on July 16, 2012 and begin to simulcast the talk radio format of KLO. (http://www.radio-info.com/news/salt-lake-city-standalone-klo-1430-buys-kjqn-fm-1031), picking up up the call letters KLO-FM.
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