Radio Suerte plays the oldies
Low-power FM radio stations are tough to come by in Southern California. Not that there is no interest in launching them, and not that there actually aren’t any. The problem is that commercial stations in San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, and even Santa Barbara counties fill every available frequency, and the weather often allows the commercial stations to cover vast areas … meaning that supposedly distant stations can overpower the low-power FM station even it’s licensed area.
Add to that the fact that the LPFMs, as they are called, cannot run commercial advertisements, and you have a situation where a hard-to-find station usually cannot support a budget allowing it to get the word out on its existence.
Of course the whole idea of LPFMs only came about because the FCC allowed the educational band of full-powered stations to stray from its intent of serving local communities, along with allowing huge conglomerates to take control of the rest of the band such that few stations program to a local audience. But I digress.
As I said, though, there are a few LPFMs around. Among them is one I just discovered, quite by accident, due in part to the odd weather conditions near my house.
I happened to be testing out my “new” car stereo — a Kenwood removed from my wife’s car — when I happened upon a station at 90.3 FM. Of course I know 90.3, and you may as well. It’s XHITZ, broadcasting from just South of the border with a transmitter in Tijuana, Mexico. I used to listen long ago when it was a good rock station, with such DJs as Bill Hergonson.
But this time I wasn’t hearing top-40 music as the station now plays. It was oldies, primarily from the 1960s, along with some old-school from the ‘70s and ‘80s. And I wasn’t hearing commercials. Did XHITZ change into something different? Then I heard the top-of-the-hour ID: KLIE/Fountain Valley: Radio Suerte.
It’s apparently not a new station, as it received special recognition from the United States Congress in 2019 even though RadioLocator.com says the license was granted in January of 2021. Either way it is new to me, primarily due to atmospheric conditions that blocked XHITZ and allowed its 90-watts of power to reach me as I was driving around upper San Pedro last weekend.
The station is bilingual, English and Spanish, but the music is the language it speaks. Songs — and occasionally versions of songs — you haven’t heard for a while are the stars. Station CEO Maria Luisa Luna puts it this way, as an introduction of the station website (radiosuerte.com): “Radio Suerte is like no other station you have heard. We are the first bilingual station bringing you golden hits, playing jewels from the 60’s – 70’s -80’s and 90’s. We pride ourselves in playing music the whole family can hear.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if Maria grew up with the original KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM) or even the Chuck Martin-programmed KHJ (930 AM) circa 1979-80, which did the same thing. KRLA in particular, when the legendary Art Laboe was involved, created a format often listened to by multiple generations in families.
The station is downright fun. And you can hear it at radiosuerte.com by clicking on the player link on the main page.
HD Radio, the digital radio broadcasting system authorized in the United States, had its genesis as a way to improve the sound of AM radio. Yet the state of HD on AM is dismal, at least in Southern California. While almost every FM station in town uses HD to add extra channels (that they rarely promote) and hopefully improve fidelity if heard over an HD Radio tuner, there are only two HD AM stations left that I know of — KBRT (740 AM) and KMZT (1260 AM).
Why did KFI (640 AM), KABC (790 AM), KFWB (980 AM), and KNX (1070 AM) turn off the HD? A KFI spokesperson told me it had to do with a listener in the fringe reception areas annoyed by the drastic sound change when the station switched between analog and HD. I’m not sure about the other stations, but for those of us with HD Radios, it is unfortunate – the sound quality and lack of background noise is striking compared with typical analog.
But perhaps it doesn’t matter, as the future of AM radio — or perhaps radio in general — may be online. Between online internet access, smartphone apps, smart speakers and the like, the value of HD on AM or even FM is somewhat diminished. AM stations sound great via apps, and you can listen to distant stations with ease.
I’m not ready to say AM and FM over the regular airwaves are dead, but it’s an interesting thought. What are your views?
Tuna on the AM and FM
Charlie Tuna from August 23, 1976 is the star of KIIS AM and FM on a recent MixCloud addition. The short segment features a full newscast, and a reminder that the station was not known as “kiss” back then … it was still K-double I-S, including the jingles that have a groovy soul-full “AM and FM” vocal a part of the package. Also included: a montage of Neil Diamond songs that the station custom assembled. Tuna, as always, sounds great … though he isn’t heard nearly enough.