Commercial country’s thin skin

k.d.langThis post from Jack Sparks (hat tip to Matt Welch ) reminds me of a little run-in I had with KSON-AM/FM in San Diego about 14 years ago.

First, I when I found out KSON had banned k.d. lang (this was just after Absolute Torch and Twang came out) from its playlist, I wrote a letter to the program director in which, among other things, I accused KSON of either not getting enough payola form lang’s people, or homophobia, or just bad taste. The letter prompted not one but two letters from KSON executives who told me to go to hell. It’s worth noting that at the time, lang’s record was the hottest selling CD in San Diego County, according to my personal survey of local Tower Records. The KSON officials claimed KSON listeners didn’t like lang’s music.

A few months later I wrote a column for the east county’s daily newspaper about KSON’s lame music, which was (and still is) highly commercialized, over produced, vapid pop music that has as little to do with country music as Salvador Dali. I had some suggestions for KSON’s playlist, such as Marty Stuart (who hadn’t gone commercial yet), Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Marty Brown, the Waggoners , Steve Earle, Allison Krause (who wasn’t a star yet) and, of course, lang. Needless to say, KSON didn’t heed my advice. In fact, I figured nobody over there even read the column.

About a year later, I learned otherwise. A feature editor wanted me to write about a nighttime DJ, and since KSON was the most popular radio station among our readers, I called KSON first. The quick, short answer was — No. Howard Owens would never step inside of a KSON office. They had read the column. It stung so much that they wouldn’t have anything to do with me (what they didn’t know was that my fiancee was editor of their newsletter and I had been to their offices many times — guess the joke was on them!).

The way I figure it, the purveyors of bad country music know very well what they’re doing, and they feel guilty as hell, which is why they react in defensive anger when you call them on it. They just can’t stand being called out. If they had any self respect they would ignore their critics and just keep collecting those fat paychecks.

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