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Country returns to L.A. radio

Classical station flips formats

Country is back on FM radio in Los Angeles, six months after the boot-scootin’ format lost its key outlet here.

But in the process, L.A. has lost its last commercial classical station — at least on FM. Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters will flip KMZT-FM (105.1) from Brahms to Brooks — Garth, that is — on Monday.

L.A. radio lost its twang in August, when Emmis dumped its longtime country format on KZLA-FM (93.9) in favor of a rhythmic-leaning adult contemporary sound. Emmis recruited legendary jock Rick Dees and renamed the station KMVN-FM (“Movin’ 93.9”).

At the time, Emmis noted the changing demographics of Los Angeles, arguing that a country format didn’t attract a broad enough aud in this multicultural city. New York has also been without a country station for several years.

But the KZLA flip opened the door for a potential flip to country elsewhere in the market — including a rumored one at KYSR-FM (“Star 98.7”) that failed to pass. The flip also gave Riverside-based country outfit KFRG-FM (95.1) its strongest showing in recent memory (if ever) in Los Angeles, where its signal partly reaches.

In the meantime, Mt. Wilson began flirting with the country format. It first swapped out its Tijuana-based XESURF (540) for country, then dumped adult standards off L.A’s KKGO (1260) in favor of the sound.

Mt. Wilson also recruited several former KZLA employees, including Shawn Parr, who took on mornings. The “Go Country” format of the AM stations will now migrate to KMZT (which will take on the KKGO call letters).

Mt. Wilson owner Saul Levine is more or less swapping his AM and FM formats, meaning KMZT’s classical sound will now move to 1260 AM.

Levine has a history of frequently flipping his AM stations, but the FM outfit has carried classical music since 1989. It dumped jazz for classical that year after KFAC-FM dumped its longtime classical format.

KMZT’s HD-2 channel had already carried country; now, as KKGO, its HD-2 channel will air classical.

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