On Friday June 3 2005, at around 5 PM, as the afternoon drive was getting under way, listeners to WCBS 101.1 FM turned on their radios and got a nasty shock -- their beloved oldies station, the home of legendary DJs like Cousin Brucie and Don K Reed and shows like the "Doo Wop Shop", suddenly switched formats to a creepy thing called JACK FM.
JACK was strange beast -- a pop music station but without any DJs. Instead, the music was punctuated by snarky comments from an anonymous, pre-recorded voice named JACK. JACK was a very weird, very cruel, and very unpopular commentor. It was impersonal -- in fact, that was the entire point. This station without DJs was trying to be an IPod on the radio -- and the city was outraged.
Mayor Bloomberg used obscene language to register his displeasure with the format change. The Internet blew up with complaints. Cousin Brucie himself even called into WNYC radio to exclaim how music radio was different, special, and an experience that no IPod could replicate. Outraged reigned.
No one liked JACK. JACK was wack. All boring music and no DJs made JACK a dull boy.
The ratings tanked. NYC firmly rejected JACK. The station didn't get JACK in the ratings. And, finally, in 2007, they decided to take JACK off ... the radio. (To paraphrase Fight Club, "I am JACK's total lack of ratings."). Soon enough, WCBS FM returned in all its oldies, high ratings glory.
JACK FM was an attempt to do something "cool" and "cutting edge" and it failed completely. Just a reminder that different isn't always better or more popular. And today, more than a decade, no one in NYC remembers -- or wants to remember -- JACK FM. It's like that embarrassing person you dated years ago that you want to forget and you want everyone else to forget. JACK has gone into NYC radio infamy -- gone and almost forgotten ... but not completely.