The tombstone for The Edge — Dallas' first, last and only alternative rock radio station — reads: "June 30, 1989 — Nov. 16, 2016." But in truth, it died long before then, around the time such bands as 3 Doors Down, Nickelback and Creed crept onto corporate-approved playlists and demolished the house George Gimarc and Wendy Naylor built on a foundation of the Ramones, Elvis Costello and the local acts they'd long championed.
When The Edge closed up shop, it was the 21st-ranked station in the market; it might as well have already been off the air. For much of its existence, The Edge was a zombie no one had bothered to bury.
Which is why, when Gimarc relaunches the format on June 30 — "and what symmetry," he says of that date — the new online-only iteration will go by a different moniker: Fuzz Box. There are legal reasons for the name change, among them copyright ownership and various stations across the country that sell themselves as The Edge. Locally, Star 102.1 still uses the KDGE-FM call letters.
But more than anything, Gimarc said , he wants to distance from the past and begin anew, even if the sound of Fuzz Box, including the voices introducing the songs, will be instantly familiar to those of us who spent our 20s with The Edge among our small handful of car radio presets.
"I consider The Edge brand so damaged I don't want anything to do with it," Gimarc said, confirming a few teases dropped on Facebook in recent days. "It went off the rails a long time ago. This is the doppelgänger world: What would The Edge have been like if it hadn't gone down the path of Incubus, Limp Bizkit and all that other crap? It sucked all the joy out of the format."
Fuzz Box will launch as an app at month's end via Vokal, the same Dallas-based company through which Gimarc resurrected classic-rock spinning The Zoo earlier this year. Its founder John Ritchie said an alt-rock station was always on their to-do list. They launched The Zoo first simply because it had a built-in brand name locally and programming it was relatively easy.
And, The Zoo was easy to market: Bumper stickers and T-shirts featuring the old "Zoo Freak" are on their way. But without any advertising so far, Richie said, Vokal's website is seeing 10,000 to 12,000 visitors a day — "and a majority of that is The Zoo."
"When George and I started talking about this, The Edge had just died," Ritchie said. " It was awful by the time it went off the air. So this was good timing."
The station won't be frozen in amber; Fuzz Box won't just be Gimarc recreating the old Edge playlists he's managed to hang onto all these years.
Imagine a mash-up of SiriusXM's three alt-rock stations: the pogo'ing 1st Wave, the '90s alt-heavy Lithium and the current-day SiriusXMU. And unlike The Zoo relaunch — which Gimarc did to satisfy a classic-rock audience of which he is decidedly not a member — Fuzz Box will be the music to which he has a deep connection, as The Edge was essentially a 24-hour-a-day version of the Rock and Roll Alternative he launched in 1977 on Denton's KNTU-FM.
"After '95, when I was forced out, I would have made very different decisions in what I would have played, and that's what you will see here," Gimarc said. "The Edge playlist will be very familiar up to the point where I basically go away and then continue all the way up to the present. This will be pop stuff, dance stuff, local stuff — a lot of local stuff — and a fun attitude and killer songs that are played regardless of whether they're a hit or not. It's what The Edge was about."
Ritchie and Gimarc said the new Fuzz Box will feature some old Edge voices, among them — fingers crossed — longtime jock Brian the Butler and Naylor, now living in Arizona.
"I would love to be a part of it, if everything goes according to plan," Naylor said. "It would be a kick! I am just flattered George asked me. I would love to do it."
Josh Venable, longtime host of The Adventure Club and now the morning DJ and program director at Z-104.5 The Edge in Tulsa, is also lending a hand — though, for now, his role is a bit undefined given his day job. If nothing else, Venable's been schooling Gimarc about music made this century — "anything past 1994," as Venable put it Friday.
"Gimarc changed my life," Venable said. "He was my mentor. He gave me my first job when I was 17. And now to be called and told, 'I need your help on something,' I jumped up and down. I am all in."
Venable and Gimarc have spent many hours in recent weeks comparing playlists, adding songs to a 3,750-cuts-and-growing library, debating bands and trying to define who the station's for — nostalgists craving a hit of the Smiths and the Jam, younglings for whom Nirvana is classic rock or adventure-seekers for whom there's no difference between Belle and Sebastian, Chicano Batman and Run the Jewels. The way Venable puts it, Fuzz Box is shaping up as a cross between Rock and Roll Alternative and The Adventure Club.
"You hope the Venn diagram is a large overlay," he said. " You hope someone who hears The Judy's goes, 'Won't they play something from this century?' This isn't about nostalgia but turning some of the older people on to newer stuff. You should have classic bands and great one-hit wonders Gimarc specializes in and everything that came after. Wonder Twin powers, activate."
Fuzz Box is expected to launch June 30 on Vokal. You can listen on the website initially, followed by an app.