May 11th, 2009 | by KELLY CLARKE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Stop the Music: Rick Emerson Show Fans Fight for More Talk.

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Die hard fans of the Rick Emerson Show, the geekcentric local radio program that recently emigrated to KUFO Rock 101.1 from sister CBS Radio station AM 970 have started a campaign for more talk, less music during the show's new, prime 5 am-9am time slot.

The sonic kerfuffle started last Monday, May 4, when fans like Seumas Froemke noticed that there was a whole lot more King of Leon and Green Day playing than usual during RES than Emerson's trademark offbeat rants about obscure rock lore, Portland politics and the unifying power of bacon.

It turns out that the show's daily mix of talk with a little music in between had been upended by CBS Radio. The new schedule, as of last week, slashed the amount of time Emerson and longtime co-hosts Tim Riley and Sarah X. Dylan spend dissecting the minutiae of the day down to a mere 90 minutes over the course of four hours. That's down from 140 minutes when the show moved to KUFO in early March. When RES aired on 970 AM, the trio had 190 minutes to jaw. (Note: I appear on RES most Thursdays to talk about WW's top stories, but was not exactly aware what changes had taken place when I was at the studio last week. I can confirm the existence of a piece of paper printed with a pie chart taped to the wall in the set, noting that the breakdown for each hour of the show is now 24 minutes of music an hour, 22 minutes talk and 14 minutes ads.)

Froemke, a 31 year old former Portlander who now obsessively listens to the show via podcast in Denver, Colorado, noticed the change immediately. And he was not pleased. Here's a bit from Froemke himself:
Rick, Sarah and Tim have always been the kind of fantastic [show] that brings the geeks and freaks and artists and the creative together in the Portland area... That's why the show always worked before someone mucked with their formula....The Rick Emerson Show traditionally wasn't something you listened to. It was something you participated in with your fellow audience members. You contributed content to it. You gave feedback directly to it... It is that sense of belonging and community and appreciation that has always kept the audience not just dedicated to Rick, Tim and Sarah, but to their advertisers. Companies like Viso and Everybody's Garden Center and Secret Aardvark among many others.... How do you develop that loyalty if you strip a show of everything that makes it great and you reduce it to a bunch of rock records?

So he created "Save the Rick Emerson Show," a new blog devoted to mobilizing the show's legion of hardcore fans with the ultimate goal of cajoling CBS to changing RES back to the way it used to be. The blog lists public contact info CBS Radio and KUFO honchos as well as advertiser names and emails for local reporters (RES fans have sent me nearly a dozen heated and/or passionate missives so far). [Update Tuesday, May 12: Seumas Froemke reminded me the group also has a very lively Facebook group called "Rick Emerson Show Bottom Line Brigade." Check it out.]

Why the devotion? Froemke says it's important to fight for quality, local programming: "I'm a 31 year old successful professional with disposable income that I'm willing to spend. I'm a marketer and program director's wet dream," he wrote WW last week. "But after so much noise and a lack of unique content out there, I've grown very particular about what I consume. I consider my time and my ears and my mind to be very valuable, so what I stick in them has to be good." (Apparently that doesn't include songs like this in KUFO's current morning rotation.)

It's not the first time the "Emerson Army" has gone to battle to save what they see as one of the only truly unique, local radio programs out there in a sea of sports commentary, on-air fart jokes and robotic music programming. When Entercom canceled the Rick Emerson Show on Portland's now defunct MAX 910 in 2005, his fans sent hundreds of coffee cups to the corporate media behemoth's Portland office with notes that said "I need my daily fix." Rallies, parties and other RES devotionals also took place around town—more than 1,500 fans showed up one event. The fierce loyalty of the show's listeners ended up helping RES find a new home with CBS Radio in 2006.

It turns out at least some of the show's advertisers are fans too: "We're not thrilled with it either," says Scott Moritz of Secret Aardvark when asked about RES' new more rock, less talk format change. The local hot sauce company has been a longtime RES advertiser. They hadn't heard of the "Save the Rick Emerson Show" campaign yet. "I like Rick, I'd rather hear him more," Moritz says. "It's a talk show. That's what I signed on to advertise with."

I couldn't reach Rick Emerson for comment, but I'll update the post once I hear back from him. He's probably busy watching reruns of Mystery Science Theater 3000. At least, that's what I always assume he's doing when he's not on the air...

I also left a messages for Dave McDonald, CBS Radio's General Manager for Portland and KUFO programming director Chris Patyk. [UPDATE: I had to post a whole separate story on McDonald's and Patyk's comments and the tons of reader response to it. You should totally read it.]

Image of Rick Emerson from Vanished Twin Photography courtesy of rickemerson.com.
 
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