The seeds of “Arizona’s Party Station” were planted 6 months before the actual sign-on date. Prior to the Spring of 1996, KBZR was one of the many frequencies statewide that was carrying “The Blaze”. “The Blaze” was a bizarre Alternative/AOR/CHR hybrid format. In either March or April 1996, KBZR broke off from the other frequencies and began airing “old school” music…i.e., Hispanic-oriented Gold selections from the R&B, Hip-Hop, Rap, Freestyle, and Disco genres. As it turns out, the music selected and the audience it targetted were both premonitions to the eventual format and target audience.
There were no jocks, but an interesting stunt that is best described as a radio version of the “Where’s Waldo” book series. Promos and sweepers (voiced by station owner Jerry Clifton) claimed that the station was looking for “Steve” as they were “moving in from the desert”. To make a very long story short, the meaning of “Steve” was revealed in October, shortly before the sign-on of the new format…”Steve” was actually an acronym — “S-T-E-V-E” — which stood for “Songs That Everyone Vociferously Enjoys.”
The “moving in from the desert” phrase referred to the station waiting to upgrade its signal. After 6 months, when it became clear that the upgrade wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, the station made its debut. On October 30th at 3:30 pm, following several hours of stunting with “Party! Party! Party!”, KBZR signed on with a Hispanic-targetted Rhythmic CHR format as “The New 103.9, Arizona’s Party Station”. They made it clear from the very beginning that they wanted to go after the “safe” Rhythmic CHR in town, KKFR (Power 92). On the first night, during their “Slammin 7 at 7” countdown, the only song played was “Bow Down” by Westside Connection.
Even with its 1100-watt signal located 50 miles southeast of the Phoenix metro, KBZR achieved amazing success in a very quick period of time. They played the hip-hop and R&B that KKFR at the time didn’t want to touch. Plus, KBZR was the stage on which Krazy Kid Stevens — who would eventually become one of the market’s best-known personalities — offered his first serious performance. Krazy Kid and sidekick Ruben S worked evenings and were easily the station’s best-known jocks.
KBZR peaked at a 3.2 in the Spring of 1997 — which is about the same time they changed calls to KPTY and were able to get a minor signal upgrade (but still not the full signal upgrade that they were planning on). This success came at the expense of 100000-watt KKFR, whose ratings had fallen to the low 4’s for the first time in years. On June 13, 1997, KKFR changed to a Crossover format (all hip-hop and R&B, with lots of cutting-edge selections) and revamped its airstaff almost completely.
It seems like KPTY did not know how to take the next step. Musically speaking, the station succeeded because it “owned” the hip-hop audience in town. But with KKFR now playing that same music, on a much more powerful signal, with a much larger budget, KPTY’s numbers began dropping. The roof seemed to cave in when Krazy Kid and Ruben S, who as a duo had moved to afternoons (Ruben stuck around to do evenings solo), crossed the street to KKFR to do afternoons, in March 1998. Ironically, just a few days later, KPTY finally upgraded to 50000 watts — almost 2 years after it was originally supposed to happen.
Two and a half months later, on June 4, 1998, KPTY changed its moniker to “Party Radio @ 103.9” and its format to what was described as “Extreme CHR”.