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Urban adult contemporary is the name for a format of radio music, similar to an urban contemporary format. Radio stations using this format usually would not have rap music on their playlists. The format was designed by Barry Mayo when he, Lee S. Simonson and Bill Pearson organized Broadcast Partners in 1988.



The format usually would play R&B hits ten years old or more. Classic soul music also has a great impact in this format. Disc jockeys use a more relaxed sound than their younger counterparts. News and current events have a major impact on the older audience. Around the evening urban AC stations play smooth jazz and slow jams. Many of the urban AC radio stations implement slogans such as "Today's R&B and Classic Soul", "Smooth R&B and Classic Ol Skool", "The Best Variety of R&B Hits and Oldies", and "(City/Region)'s R&B Leader". Some popular nicknames for urban AC stations include "Magic" (borrowed from Soft AC), "Hot," "Mix," and "Kiss (borrowed from Clear Channel's top 40 clone branding)".

Gospel music also has a great impact in the format. Some 18-to-34-year-olds would listen to gospel music with their older counterparts usually not heard on most urban contemporary stations. In the past urban stations (like WBLS and WRKS in New York, WUSL in Philadelphia) played gospel music early on Sunday mornings and many Urban AC stations still do devote a large portion of Sunday morning programming to gospel.

WBLS-FM in New York which is the flagship station of the urban contemporary format is one of the first stations to introduce the urban AC format in 1994. WRKS-FM (also in New York) introduced the first 24-hour classic soul radio station in the country. Urban AC stations usually target the 25-54 age group. The format can also be described as adult contemporary.

Many Urban AC stations rely heavily on syndicated programming such as the Tom Joyner Morning Show, "Love, Lust and Lies" with Michael Baisden, and the nightly slow-jam program "The Keith Sweat Hotel." Citadel Media also operates a 24/7 Urban AC format delivered to affiliated stations via satellite, called "The Touch" (known on-air as "Today's Best R&B and Old School," formerly "The Best Variety of Hits and Oldies"), which is common on smaller- and medium-market stations featuring the Urban AC format.

Hot urban AC

Hot urban AC stations play current R&B without any form of rap music (or relegating rap music to nighttime dayparts) which resembles an adult top 40 station. Many stations around the country are adapting this format due to the fact that it attracts a mainstream adult audience as well as younger audiences. Hot urban AC stations also play a great deal of dance music.

Urban oldies

Urban oldies refers to R&B music dating back to the 1950s through the early 1970s. Although African-Americans are the primary audience, radio stations playing this type of music often attract White listeners because R&B traces its roots back to rock and roll. A more mass-appeal version of the format is rhythmic oldies, which attracts both white and black listeners. One of the first stations to play this type of music was WRKS-FM (98.7 Kiss FM). In December 1994 Emmis Broadcasting transformed Kiss FM as the first station to play classic soul music on a regular basis. The format was an instant hit with black and white listeners around the Greater New York area, reaching to number two on the Arbitron ratings.

Before WRKS, many of the stations playing this music were on AM radio. Primary artists included The Isley Brothers,Mcfadden & Whitehead Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and The Temptations. One of the first stations to try the format was WSID in Baltimore in the late 1970s. WJMO in Cleveland was another of the early converts. KHYS in Houston switched to the format in 1999. KCJZ in San Antonio, Texas followed suit 7 months later.

Early in 1994, M Street Journal reported 33 radio stations in the format, compared to 14 a year earlier. Many of these were affiliates of the Satellite Music Network format Urban Gold, which had 27 stations six months after starting October 1, 1993. Steve Harris, the SMN manager for urban radio, said no black radio stations had targeted adults over 35. Consultant Tony Gray said older adults did not like contemporary music, which had few tunes that had proved they could stand the test of time. And rap was becoming a bigger part of contemporary radio. Another factor was the availability of older records in remastered form. Hurricane Dave Smith of WYJZ in Pittsburgh, which had switched from jazz, doubted the format would succeed on FM radio, but he believed listeners who enjoyed older songs were used to AM. Sean Ross of WGCI-AM in Chicago believed the format could work either place, but stations that selected it would be those desiring something different. The satellite format focused on the years 1967 to 1978 but also played songs from as far back as 1963 and as recent as the early 1980s. Included were both ballads and uptempo songs. WGCI even played songs from the 1950s, including "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole, though Ross said even teenagers liked the station because they had learned about older songs from their parents, and because newer versions of old songs were being recorded.[1] Other stations included WRBO "Soul Classics 103.5" in Memphis, WNPL in Nashville, KMEZ in New Orleans and WPLZ in Richmond.[2]

In addition to WRBO, urban oldies stations today include KAJM in Phoenix, WALR-FM in Atlanta, KOCN in Salinas.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Carrie Borzillo, "AM Gives R&B Oldies a New Lease on Life," Billboard, 3/26/94, p. 119.
  2. ^ Sean Ross, "R&B Oldies Format On The Rise," Billboard, 03/06/99, p. 28.
  3. ^, Retrieved on 2007/12/04.

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