Views and Brews: Early 70s Radio and The American Format Revolution
It was a night of remarkably mellow music as Views and Brews dove into Early 70s radio and unpacked the James Taylor controversy. Kim Simpson, host of Sunday Folkways and author of Early 70s Radio: The American Format Revolution, took us through a musical illustration of early 70s hits and highlighted the unique characteristics of the decade’s soundtrack.
The 60s, which saw hits from iconic artists like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, was a time of social and political unrest that culminated in the shootings at Kent State in May of 1970. According to Jay Trachtenberg, when school let out that summer it was like everyone let out a deep breath and by the time fall rolled around, everything had changed. “Things had just kind of calmed down,” said Trachtenberg, “…and then there was James Taylor.”
As Simpson points out in his book, early 70s radio may have seemed scattered, but there was a method behind the madness. Stations were finding their way through formatting and by around 1974 things were pretty much set with five main formats that remain with us today: Top 40, MOR (Middle of the Road), Progressive Rock, Soul and Country.
Listen to the entire discussion, including details of the James Taylor controversy, by clicking on the player at the top of this post and be sure to check out Kim’s book and the other cool things from the 70s we’ve found while surfing. We hope you’ll keep the conversation going by sharing your radio stories in the comments section below.