KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This week marks the end of an era for Kansas City radio. Radio station 96.5 the Buzz was officially rebranded by owner Entercom to Alt 96.5.
As part of the rebranding effort, local morning show host Jordin Silver has been replaced by KROQ’s “Stryker and Klein” from California.
Other dayparts will also change to national or regional hosts, with the exception of “The Church of Lazlo.” The popular midday show will now also air in Las Vegas and Dallas.
“Today’s been a punch to the gut,” said Hartzell Gray, who began working at the station as in intern in 2013.
Gray was furloughed from The Buzz in March, and his future at the company remains unclear. Still, seeing the station he grew up with change dramatically was upsetting.
Gray began listening to The Buzz as a child when his mom would play “Afentra’s Big Fat Morning Buzz” in the car.
“I would listen and try to hear some stuff ’cause I was angsty and I thought they were talking to me,” he said.
That feeling is shared by listeners and longtime fans of the station, many who have been tuning in since the early aughts.
James Berry, who briefly interned at the station, said he’s been tuning in for decades.
“The Buzz introduced to me to many bands over the years and was a big factor in shaping my musical tastes,” Berry said. “From all the things on air over the years like 90s at Noon, the midday siesta and country psychic to live shows like Kegs and Eggs to Buzz Under the Stars when they were still in the City Market, I feel like this is the end of an era for music in KC.”
“I liked the DJ’s for their unapologetic attitude in their conversations,” listener Bryce Randol said. “It seemed real and unscripted, like you were just listening to friends chat about anything and everything.”
It’s that real connection to listeners that had Gray “fanboying” when he met hosts Lazlo and Slimfast for the first time.
“I’m seeing all these crazy folks like Lazlo and Slimfast, and I’m like, ‘You guys are awesome.’ These are just the most genuine dudes I’ve ever met,” he said.
It wasn’t just the personalities that kept Gray coming back. It was also the music.
The Buzz featured local artists and prided itself on playing more new music than any other station in town.
“One of the things that made The Buzz so special was we just said, ‘F it, why not just play it? Why not just play The Get Up Kids more often? Why don’t we play Hembree more often? Why don’t we play these groups in Kansas City who’ve always been good?'” Gray said.
Listeners, which station hosts branded #BuzzFamily, were dedicated.
Besides the thousands of people that would attend festivals like “Buzz Beachball,” you’d often find hundreds of people packed into small venues for shows like “Kegs and Eggs.”
“We had a show at The Tank Room, and I want to say capacity was like 79 people,” Gray said. “It was for Meg Myers or Glass Animals or both. We got like 215 people in there at like 6 a.m. That was at 6 in the morning when we did that.”
Gray hopes to land back at KRBZ in its new format, but for now, he’s hoping people will tune in to Alt 96.5 and support his friends on “The Church of Lazlo.”
“I love those dudes. I love Jeriney. I am so proud that they are still here, that they are still allowed to do this thing, to share the little bit of KC that they can still put into that show,” he said.
Gray has a special message for fans of The Buzz. Hear it in the video player above.