This Day in 1991: KLSK-FM’s “Stairway to Heaven” stunt

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
This Day in Music

27 years ago today, a New Mexico radio station got a lot of attention – and simultaneously sent its listenership into turmoil – by playing a rock classic for 24 straight hours.

Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, KLSK-FM had just switched formats: whereas they’d previously been playing all new-age music, all the time, now they were all about the classic rock. In an effort to make local listeners aware of this decidedly dramatic switch-up, John Sebastian – not the guy from the Lovin’ Spoonful, but the station’s owner and general manager – came up with the idea of playing “Stairway to Heaven” for an entire day.

The stunt worked insofar as it got KLSK attention, but some of that attention was of a different variety than had been intended: police were sent to the radio station on two separate occasions during the course of the 24-hour period. Why? Because rumors were running rampant about the reason for this marathon, including one which suggested that the DJ had had a heart attack, resulting in the constant repeating of the same track.

“I don’t remember exactly what all the rumors were,” Sebastian told Ultimate Classic Rock. “There were lots of them, which was the whole idea, to get word of mouth spread – and it certainly worked. [The stunt] spread the word so rapidly that even though we had like half a signal compared to the other Albuquerque stations, we went from nowhere to second in the market within just a couple of ratings periods. It really helped us to get off the ground.”

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