CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Back in the 1980s, in most of the country, if someone wanted to hear modern or alternative rock, that meant turning on MTV or heading to the local record store. But if you lived in the Tri-State area, all you had to do was turn the radio dial to "the future of rock 'n' roll, 97X"
Purchased by Doug and Linda Balogh in 1983, 97X or WOXY, as it's known, started as a traditional rock station, but the Balogh's changed the format based on the recommendations of the community around them – college students at Miami University.
Former WOXY DJ and Program Director Dave Tellman says the students were wanting to hear on the radio what they were seeing on MTV. And the Balogh's took note.
“A lot of the students said yeah, we're missing you know, listening in the Tri-State that kind of music and eventually, the station started slowly over a short period of time turning into the alternative modern rock format,” said Tellman.
From the small studios in Oxford, Ohio, the station quickly gained a cult following, not only because of what was heard on the airwaves, but also because of how it brought music lovers together.
“Because it was a smaller station, and you had to seek it out, I think the people that tuned in found a sense of community with the DJs that were on there and would wind up going to the same small shows that folk arts or Jockey Club or things like that,” said former DJ Damian Dotterweich.
The station also gained national fame after being immortalized by Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Rainman, which was partially shot in the area.
WOXY eventually moved to a streaming only format, until it shut down completely in 2010. But its legacy has been kept alive through a podcast, called “97X - Rumblings from the Big Bush,” hosted by Tellman and Dotterweich. That's where the idea came up to resurrect the Modern Rock 500 Countdown for this Memorial Day weekend.
“A good way to wrap it up might be a Modern Rock 500 and Damian, Mike, and I started bouncing ideas off each other. And the next thing you know we're teaming up with Inhaler Radio here in Cincinnati and it's happening now,” said Tellman.
Playing off the Indy 500, the Modern Rock 500 will count down the best alternative songs in five 100-lap segments.
“Any song that appeared on any Modern Rock 500 could potentially be in this but we said it's only the songs that appeared on it while the station was on the air the .com era,” said Dotterweich.
Throughout the weekend broadcast, you'll also get old commercials from the WOXY vault, and hear from over 30 former DJs.
“You’re gonna hear Bake singing "97 extra cash coupons", you're gonna hear drops from the movie Rain Man. Some of the fun promos we did over the years from the beginning of the station all the way till 2010. It'll be like you're listening to 97X all over again, and can get the signal all throughout Cincinnati,” said Tellman.
And so, on what would have been the 40th anniversary for WOXY, it's time to “relive the future” one more time -- the future... of rock 'n' roll.
The 2023 Modern Rock 500 will air on Inhailer radio, the Inhailer radio app and on WGUC, 90.9-HD3. You can listen now through Monday.
To listen, visit here.