In the late sixties when I was listening to pop music, there was a small country station in North Jersey, WJRZ in Hackensack that played country. The pizza place across the street from where I lived had it on all the time. I actually like it. Artists like Conway Twitty, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash ,
Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, Don Williams would ring in my ear while sitting at the counter with a school friend and eating pizza.. That was my first introduction to country music.
Few stations in New York played country during the 70s, There usually was one. I was re-introduced to country in 1978 when I got my first radio job of WSUS in Sussex County NJ. This station was called "town and country radio" because of it's unique blend of pop and country music. I didn't mind playing country and for some strange reason this format worked for them at the time.
In 1982, I got a job at another country station and really grew to love this music. It was a time when The Judds, George Strait, Janie Frickie, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Alabama and Dan Seals dominated the country charts. The country music in the 80's had a unique sound. Pure country without the twang. I loved it!
Today the format is very popular but the music has gotten much more rock oriented with even some hip hop added. It's all a matter of taste but I really don't care for the rock influence. I realize that it's an alternative for the very very different and sometimes "offensive" music of today and it does fill a gap for ages 35+ but I prefer country music that sounds like country.
There's a new station here on Delmarva called US 98.5 that plays country music of the 90s and 2000's but without the rock! They tell the audience frequently that you will hear country only, no rock. So you won't hear artists like Jason Aldean or Florida Georgia Line and any song that leans towards rock. This is a unique approach and it's a station that I set as a preset in my car. I do enjoy it and their sound really makes a difference!!