Life After FM Radio

92.1’s sudden format change forced popular talk show Drink of Ages to find a new home.

By Katharine Shilcutt January 4, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

On October 8 of last year, Houstonians tuning into 92.1 on their FM dials found that the station’s news-talk format had suddenly, inexplicably disappeared, replaced by something called Boom 92. In what must surely rank as one of the most successful publicity stunts in recent memory, the station celebrated the switch to its eventual playlist of old-school hip-hop and rap by programming a week straight of all Beyoncé songs. As even the singer’s fans will attest, there are only five or so hours of truly stellar Beyoncé one can play—Destiny’s Child catalog included—before one is forced to loop back around to “Single Ladies.” Nevertheless, Houstonians ate up the new format, and the all-Beyoncé station quickly made national headlines. Everyone loved it. Everyone except Jon Denman. He was just confused.

“People were calling me, sending me messages, asking, ‘Why is there suddenly Beyoncé playing all day long?’” Denman recalled over pints at Taps House of Beer. The station’s top brass hadn’t seen fit to inform him of the switch, despite the fact that he hosted one of its most listened-to weekly talk shows. That would be Drink of Ages, his two-year-old, wildly popular radio hour with a simple conceit: Denman and a rotating panel of guests discussing craft beer and local music with live accompaniment. 

But now it was gone. For a time, it seemed like the Fraternal Order of Orphaned Radio Hosts (Stevens, Pruett, Walton, Johnson) would be gaining a new member. The whole thing had the 39-year-old in an existential funk. 

“What do I really want to do? Do I even want to continue?” Denman remembered asking himself. He already had a day job, plus he’s married with two kids. Did he really need Drink of Ages? Then again, what about the show’s rabid followers? What about the craft beers out there still to be paneled? For a moment we stared at the yawning abyss with Denman, sporting his trademark blond beard and bright blue Karbach Brewing Co. Rodeo Clown shirt.

“The numbers were great, the Arbitron ratings were great, the number of downloads of the show—those were huge,” Denman said. It’s those downloads that turned out to be the key to Drink of Ages’ comeback, as it happens—that and the internet-only radio station Badlands, which broadcasts the show live every Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Firehouse Saloon.

Tom Imber, owner of both the Galleria-area saloon and Badlands, sought out Denman as soon as he heard of the show’s cancellation. His station is devoted to classic and current Texas C&W, so Drink seemed a natural fit. Denman likes the new arrangement too. Drink of Ages now boasts its own glass-walled DJ booth and stage at the Firehouse, and Imber also installed new tap lines for a wider variety of craft beers. (Expect deep discounts during broadcasts.) “It’s a great studio,” said Denman approvingly. “It even has a fireplace.”

And there are other perks to fleeing FM for the internet. For radio fans, it means potential freedom from endless spins of “Baby Got Back.” For Denman, it means freedom from FCC jurisdiction. Will Drink of Ages become a saltier affair, we wondered? 

“We’ve built a reputation out of drinking, hanging out, and having fun,” he said with a grin. “I think
it’s gonna be a helluva time.”

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