All of the Songs Played on “WKRP in Cincinnati” in One Spotify Playlist: Stream 202 Classic Tracks

I don’t know how many peo­ple still watch WKRP in Cincin­nati (appar­ent­ly it is stream­ing on Hulu), or how well the jokes have aged, but there is a small but ded­i­cat­ed fan base out there. Part of it might be nos­tal­gia not just for the sit­com itself, but for a time when radio sta­tions were idio­syn­crat­ic things, not just part of vast media con­glom­er­ates that have a song playlist you could fit onto a thumb dri­ve. Ask any boomer and they’ll recall their own favorite real-life ver­sions of rock DJ John­ny Fever (Howard Hes­se­man) and funk/soul DJ Venus Fly­trap (Tim Reid).

Recent­ly, one ded­i­cat­ed fan went through the first sea­son and iden­ti­fied every song played on the shows, and pro­duced this spread­sheet first men­tioned on Boing­Bo­ing. That then led to some­body wish­ing for a Spo­ti­fy playlist and of course the Inter­net has pro­vid­ed. Find the playlist and stream all 202 tracks below.

What to make of the choic­es? DJ John­ny Fever starts off with Ted Nugent’s “Queen of the For­est” to announce the station’s switch from muzak to a rock/Top 40 for­mat in the first episode. A major­i­ty of the songs are major label selec­tions, with the Rolling Stones the favorite choice through the sea­son with five songs total. Oth­er bands are still sta­ples of clas­sic rock for­mat sta­tions to this day: Bob Seger, Boston, Styx, Van Mor­ri­son, For­eign­er, The Grate­ful Dead, Blondie, The Doors. Venus Flytrap’s selec­tions aren’t as com­mon, but they are also a famil­iar cross-sec­tion of the dis­co era: Chic, A Taste of Hon­ey, Eve­lyn Cham­pagne King, and Mar­vin Gaye.

One inter­est­ing appear­ance was Michael Des Bar­res, for­mer front­man of the rock band Detec­tive (who were signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label), and post-Robert Palmer front­man of Pow­er Sta­tion. He was cast as the lead singer of the punk band “Scum of the Earth” in one WKRP episode, where he sang three Detec­tive tunes. (The band actu­al­ly came dressed in busi­ness suits, so I’m not sure how “punk” they were). Now, the pro­duc­ers must have liked Michael Des Bar­res, because when the ill-fat­ed sequel The New WKRP in Cincin­nati pre­miered in 1991, he played one half of a morn­ing show team.

Cre­ator Hugh Wil­son explains in this video how cost­ly some of the orig­i­nal rights usages could be, where maybe “I could get 17 sec­onds of Pink Floyd for $3,000.” But as the show grew in pop­u­lar­i­ty, record com­pa­nies start­ed to treat the show “like a real sta­tion” and pro­vid­ing music and mer­chan­dise to dress the sets.

The use of actu­al radio hits (and not “sounda­likes”) became a prob­lem for the show in syn­di­ca­tion. When it was time to renew the rights, the var­i­ous media com­pa­nies want­ed 10 times as much. As Wil­son says, that was the end of WKRP in syn­di­ca­tion.

The Shout Fac­to­ry DVD box set was able to repro­duce most of Sea­son one with 80 per­cent of the orig­i­nal music intact, and it’s pos­si­bly why only one sea­son is out there.

That also may be why that $3,000 worth of Pink Floyd only exists as a very blur­ry YouTube video up at the top of the post.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Only Instru­men­tal Ever Banned from the Radio: Link Wray’s Seduc­tive, Raunchy Song, “Rum­ble” (1958)

A His­to­ry of Rock ‘n’ Roll in 100 Riffs

Rick Wake­man Tells the Sto­ry of the Mel­lotron, the Odd­ball Pro­to-Syn­the­siz­er Pio­neered by the Bea­t­les

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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  • Grebo says:

    quote: “The Shout Fac­to­ry DVD box set was able to repro­duce most of Sea­son one with 80 per­cent of the orig­i­nal music intact, and it’s pos­si­bly why only one sea­son is out there.”

    This is whol­ly incor­rect. You claim that “only sea­son one is out there.” Where you wran­gled that info from is beyond me.
    The fact is, the entire series was released by SHOUT FACTORY, and for the entire­ty of the release — ALL sea­sons — they man­aged to secure 80 per­cent of the orig­i­nal music. Not just for Sea­son one.

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