Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #217

Radio: April 20, 2018

One of the real treats of listening to KRTH (101.1 FM) in years past was the mid-day shift hosted by Brian Beirne, known to his many fans as “Mr. Rock and Roll.”

He gave himself that nickname -- it’s a registered trademark -- after listeners told him he should call himself “Mr. Something,” but it relates to the fact that he is a walking encyclopedia of early rock and roll music, the artists who recorded the songs, and the producers who put it all together.

For many years, Beirne was KRTH. His show was among the top-rated at the station and he was the voice of the station during much of his tenure while it was owned by RKO Radio (a name I’d like to bring back when I buy my first station ... But I digress).

Listening to Beirne, much like listening to his contemporary Johnny Hayes on competing KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM), was akin listening to the curator of an audio museum. He brought meaning to the music, told background stories on songs and the meaning of lyrics, and brought artists into your home as friends. No wonder he spent 29 years at the station until he retired in December of 2004 ... one of the longest single-station tenures in the history of radio.

Since he left radio, Beirne has spent his time as a promotor of concerts by artists of the early rock era ... the same music he played in his early days at KRTH .. through his company Legendary Shows.

Earlier this week I received an email from Mr. Rock and Roll. “I wanted to share with you and your readers a special evening I am doing May 17 at the Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont,” he wrote.

And what a show it is. May 17 at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater at 455 West Foothill Blvd. in Claremont, Beirne will tell the stories of his life as a Rock and Roll disc jockey, intimate and personal stories of artists, the history and evolution of the music he played, and first-hand stories from artists he knows personally. I imagine that will include the story of the time when John Lennon and Ringo Starr called in to his show on KRTH to request a song. Yes, they did.

Tickets are on sale now. Call 909-626-1254, extension 1.

Sound Playlist

Reader David Alpern checked in with a nice internet link.

“Knowing how much you enjoyed 100.3 The Sound - here is something I have been using at times to access the station’s music.

“This was assembled by a The Sound listener, and is at https://tinyurl.com/TheSound-End.”

What is “it?” A Spotify playlist of the final Sound A-Z as heard during the final weeks on the late-great classic rock station programmed by Dave Beasing. The Sound dropped classic rock for syndicated Christian rock (and few listeners) in November.

The playlist includes almost 2000 songs and is -- theoretically, at least ... I have not verified -- exactly the same songs in the same order that were played as the station wound down ten years of existence. In order, every song from A to Z. Styx’ A.D. 1928 (which sounds awkward without Rockin’ the Paradise) to U2’s Zooropa

You need a Spotify account to access the full list and the music.

Bell Passes

Art Bell, the architect of the syndicated overnight radio program that focussed on UFOs, conspiracy theories and the paranormal, died April 13th at the age of 72 at his home in Nevada.

His show started as a local political talk program on KDWN/Las Vegas in 1978. First called West Coast AM, the program changed focus and name to what it is now about ten years later and as it moved into syndication with affiliates nationwide, including KFI (640 AM) locally.

He retired from and returned to Coast to Coast or later offshoots numerous times.
 
No cause of death was given, pending the results of an autopsy. Fitting with the nature of the show he launched and hosted for so long, one reader emailed, “he’s not truly dead. He’s just watching us from a radio studio flying overhead.”

Showman that he was, I bet Bell would get a laugh out of that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #216

Radio: April 13, 2018

Flannigan Passes

He only spent a sort time in Los Angeles, but a staple of the post-Drake success of RKO top-40 radio stations has died. John Mack Flannigan spent part of 1975 at KHJ (930 AM) but quickly moved to KFRC/San Francisco where he entertained the Bay Area for years and quickly became one of KFRC’s top personalities.

Airchecks can be found on YouTube and -- if you are fortunate enough to have access -- on ReelRadio.Com. Flannigan was the epitome of the format’s success. Smooth, quick-witted, solid. It was the talent of the likes of Flannigan that helped make KFRC and KHJ among the most popular music stations in the country.

A member of the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame and National Radio DJ Hall of Fame, Flannigan passed away from congestive heart failure on March 31st.

Bean Update

As mentioned in this paper last week, KROQ (106.7 FM) morning co-host Gene “Bean” Baxter has been off the air for the past few weeks. There is still no update on his condition or when he plans to return. 

In case you missed it, Baxter is on medical leave, leaving the following message on the Kevin and Bean Show Facebook page:

“I am humbled by your well-wishes, thank you. Happy to announce I am still physically the healthiest man alive but am taking time for mental health care. We’ll talk soon!”

Kevin and Bean have been a popular staple of Los Angeles radio mornings for decades.

Alive and Well

Jim Ladd posted on his Facebook page that he is indeed “alive and well”

“Hello to EVERYONE checking in on social media!,” he wrote March 13. “I know you have been wondering where I am so let me say...I will be back on air real soon and will post the date and announce show returning on Deep Tracks same bat-time, same bat-channel”

Imus Walks

Longtime JJ and talk host Don Imus may not have wanted to leave his show -- cutbacks at beleaguered Cumulus brought on the demise of his contract -- but he actually left on his own terms.

After a monologue that included a recap of his career and thanks to his listeners, he abruptly left the studio, making the station run best-of segments for the last three hours of his four-hour show.

Correction

“Old news,” says KFI (640 AM) news director Chris Little. “We reverted to our full bandwidth about 3 years ago when we did away with the in-band on-channel (IBOC) system on KFI.”

Little was referring to a small line in last week’s mention of KFI’s birthday, in which I stated that KFI is still limiting the frequency response of its signal even after dropping the digital HD system.

Impossible, I responded. I don’t hear the splatter of the analog signal onto 630 or 650 AM. And it still doesn’t sound full on my better radios.

Then he reminded me ... years ago as a way to “improve AM radio,” a broadcast standards group adopted rules that called for limited analog frequency response of AM stations to help minimize cross-channel interference.
This limit set by the NRSC - National Radio Systems Committee -- limited analog radio to a 10 kHz maximum bandwidth. Still much better than many radios, but a far cry from the old standard that allowed 20 kHz. Of course most AM radio barely pass anything past 4 kHz anyway, which is why most people think AM sounds so bad.

Regardless, I pulled out my GE Super Radio and ... Little is right. KFI sounds pretty darn good. A little harsh due to some unrelated processing designed to help the ratings system “hear” the station correctly. But much better than I thought, and I stand corrected.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #215

Radio: April 6, 2018

Country music star Trisha Yearwood has launched a new show on SiriusXM’s Garth Channel 55. Entitled Trish’a Take 5 the concept has Trisha picking four songs related to a chosen theme, then will let listeners pick the last song of the five.

The debut program April 2nd featured the theme “autopilot,” and the songs included Little Red Corvette by (country superstar???) Prince and Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. Obviously the program will not be exclusive to country artists.

The program will air Mondays at 2 PM (Pacific time), then repeat Wednesdays at 10 a.m., Fridays at 6:00 a.m., Saturdays at noon and Sundays at 5:00 pm.

Stagecoach

Go Country 105.1 FM is keeping traditional (local) call-in contests alive; ending Sunday April 8 they are expected to give away 36 passes to the Stagecoach country music festival to the designated caller each time the contest runs during the past week.

The Inland Empire’s K-Frog (91.5 FM) is doing something similar, offering passes to designated callers between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.  through April 22nd.

I commend both stations for using an easy, simple contest to hook listeners; I am surprised so few stations do this any more.

The concert will be held in Indio during the weekend of April 27-29, and includes such artists as Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, Kacey Musgraves, Lee Brice, Ashley McBryde, and many more.

Promotion

Longtime KFI (640 AM) Bill Handle Show producer Michelle Kube has moved up in to a new position: Executive Producer for the entire station. Replacing her in the morning producer spot is Alex Razo.

Kube has been with KFI 24 years; 23 of those connected in some way with Handle. Her new duties will be overseeing every show -- host and producer. That’s a lot of ego-balancing, and I wish her well!

Anniversary

KFI itself has something to celebrate: it is about to begin its 97th year of broadcasting.

It was March 31, 1922 when KFI officially received it’s license to operate; the station went on the air a couple weeks later on April 16. It is said that the original broadcasts were more of owner and founder Earle C. Anthony yelling “can you hear me” into a microphone; radio was in its infancy and few owned radios at the time. 

Due to very little sources of man-made interference in the early days of broadcasting, KFI’s original 50-watt transmitter could be heard quite far at night. Today, with more interference but 50,000 watts, the station can be heard all the way to Fresno during the day and through much of the Western United States at night. 

At one time the station sounded beautiful in analog AM stereo and later through digital HD Radio, but more recently the HD was turned off, the frequency bandwidth was reduced and other technical adjustments mandated by owner iHeart have given the signal a grainy harsh sound. But it’s still one of America’s most power radio stations! It would be fun to hear an on-air biography of the station.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #214

Radio: March 30, 2018

Andy Chanley, the first and last voice heard on the late-great album rocker The Sound (now KKLQ, 100.3 FM) has found a new home: The New 88.5 FM. He replaces afternoon drive personality Sky Daniels, who leaves the 3 - 7 p.m. shift to concentrate on his programming and management duties. 

In making the announcement, Daniels said in a written release, "As 88.5 FM continues its rapid growth, I knew my responsibilities as GM and Program Director would intensify. Looking for my replacement on-air required finding someone with passion, great knowledge of the Triple-A format, and relentless drive.

“Andy has been a stalwart at Los Angeles music discovery stations such as 100.3 The Sound, KACD Channel 103.1, and Y107 (KLYY). He understands, and welcomes, the challenge of providing a deeper musical experience to listeners."

Triple-A refers to the music played on 88.5, and is the format that The Sound aired when it began its ten-year journey before evolving into classic rock. It stands for “Adult Album Alternative,” and in this case is sort of a modern version of the old KNX-FM (now Jack KCBS-FM, 93.1): lighter-rock album cuts from established and emerging artists. 

Personally I’d like to hear a little harder rock occasionally, but that’s just personal opinion. Core artists include Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Alabama Shakes, The War On Drugs, The National, and Sheryl Crow.

For his part, Chanley said, “I'm overjoyed, and this station sounds so good. Don't tell Sky, but I'd do this for free ... if free bought pull-ups." 

Chanley is the second former Sound personality to find a new home at 88.5: Mimi Chan’s “Peace, Love and Sundays” airs every Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00.

Classic Country

Saul Levine has brought classic country music back to Southern California via digital HD radio.
Go Country Classics can be heard if you own an HD radio, vis the Go Country HD3 stream, and replaces the adult standards “Unforgettable LA” formerly found there. Eventually it -- and Unforgettable ... as well as the other formats Levine provides -- will be online at www.mountwilsoninc.com.

Levine is an example of the power of local radio station ownership. He makes all his money from Go Country 105; the remaining formats and streams are provided essentially as a public service ... to my knowledge he barely covers the electricity bill -- and I’m not sure he even does that -- from L.A. Oldies K-Surf (1260 AM and 105.1 HD2), the now online Unforgettable format, classical and now classic country. Even Go Country itself is a format long abandoned in Los Angeles by the major group owners; Levine tends to find worthy formats he believes are missing from the local airwaves and finds a home for them.
He could have sold 1260 AM years ago, and in fact could have sold Go Country itself and retired decades ago. But he keeps running the stations because he believes in radio as an art form worth far more than the dollar value of the properties he owns. His giant competitors could learn something from him. As could the FCC and congress.

Predictions

Forbes -- and others -- are predicting a massive sell-off of radio stations by iHeart Radio as the company works its way through bankruptcy proceedings. Among the reasons given by Forbes: it has to. Basically, the current model of radio is dead. Deader than dead.

“Here’s the new model, writes Forbes contributor Gene Ely. “It’s the old model, what radio used to be all about and still is for many radio companies. You don't corner the market -- you can't. Instead you deliver value.

“The new-old model is local, local, local — stations deeply involved in their communities with local on-air talent that shows up at events and plays the music local listeners want. The DJs read the news. They talk about last Friday night’s high school football game. It’s the only way traditional radio can compete with digital.

“The question going forward will be: How many stations can iHeart manage under such demands? Bet the number will be well below 850.”

Hmm ... where have a heard that before? Oh yes, I remember. Here. I love being right.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #213

Radio: March 23, 2018

The show finally dropped: iHeart Media, owner of 850 radio stations nationwide including eight in Los Angeles, announced March 14th that it had entered into a court-supervised restructuring through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

This just weeks after giving bonuses to top-level executives.

Interestingly, many observers miss the point. CNN reported, for example, that “The company has struggled with falling revenue. It was down in 2015, barely grew in 2016 and fell in the first nine months of 2017. This has come amid declines in the radio ad business and growing competition from streaming rivals like Spotify and Pandora.”

As if the the declining revenue was just a random event, and that the massive $20 billion debt it assumed in a leveraged buyout years ago would have not been a big issue had this random event not occured. What is missed is the reason for declining revenue: the very business model that is iHeart Media.

When the cap was lifted on the number of stations a company could own nationwide, the argument was made that economies of scale would allow greater format variety, better programming, better marketing, and more.

Instead, as companies overpaid for stations and the economies of scale never materialized, large owners such as iHeart cut talent, cut programs, added more commercials, and - operating essentially as monopolies - stopped truly competing. Some markets don’t even have local personalities, instead using recorded voices from other cities or satellite feeds.

Even in large markets like Los Angeles, most stations don’t have personalities hosting shows part of the day; few stations do after 10 p.m. daily. In some cities morning shows are repeated in the evening; in others, “music mixes” are played via computer at least one shift.

When all this started, listeners, in response, looked for alternatives. Satellite radio, online services such as Pandora, and of course iPods and the like all capitalized on radio’s failure. With few exceptions, radio evolved into a background listening service, causing ad revenues to plummet. In other words, it wasn’t a random event: the likes of iHeart caused it.

So while this move will give iHeart some breathing room, unless it is forced by creditors to sell most of its stations, I don’t see this as a good move at all. We need local. iHeart is the antithesis of local in far too many cases.

As someone posted somewhere, when retailer Toys R Us is allowed to die but iHeart is not, something is wrong with the world.

Yet, In Another Time ...

In the days when one owner could not own more than seven stations nationwide, stations did compete. They had to, even after midnight, when the ratings are not being taken, because owners knew those listeners may transform into ratings later in the day.

From Airchexx.Com comes an example of just that: a sample of the late, great Big Ron O’Brien from WNBC/New York in the wee hours of the morning.

O’Brien was part of the KIIS-FM (102.7 FM) air staff that set records for FM station ratings in the mid 1980s. This recording happens to be from WNBC circa 1982; I believe he was less than a year away form his arrival at KIIS, though he had already been at and left Los Angeles from his tenure at KFI (640 AM).

What makes this aircheck so impressive is the time. O’Brien was a top-tier talent, and WNBC had him on at 4:00 in the morning. I don’t know the reasons - perhaps he was filling in, a recent hire getting used to the WNBC format, or he ticked off the program director. Regardless, NBC apparently felt it important enough to run talent at that time of day, and O’Brien was a true talent.

Regardless, it’s a fun listen. Check it out at https://tinyurl.com/BGRonWNBC.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #212

Radio: Friday, March 16, 2018

KROQ (106.7 FM) morning team Kevin and Bean are raising money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund and Cedars-Senai NICU this year through the now sold-out 10th annual “Kevin and Bean’s April Foolishness” show, a charity event being held this year on Saturday, March 31st at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

On hand for the show will be Doug Benson, Adam Devine, Bryan Callen, Jeff Garlin, Gabriel Iglesias, Mike Relm and Sarah Tiana. Over the past nine years, the show has raised more that $1 million for charity.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund serves United States military personnel suffering the effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Cedars-Sinai NICU is designed to address the needs of critically ill babies, premature newborns or infants requiring close observation.

Podcasting Growth

Over the air radio is still king as far as listening entertainment goes, but podcasting is on the move. A study from Edison Research and Triton Digital reports that 44% of people aged 12 and over have listened to a podcast and 22% say the car is the place they most often listen.

Podcasting is akin to television’s digital video recorders, offering on-demand entertainment. Radio digital recording can be accomplished on line as well, using various programs. I wonder if or when an easy-to-use (per haps portable) audio recorder will be developed for recording radio stations on the fly. Or if there is a market considering what is available on line.

Go to most radio station websites and you can usually find recordings of the station’s best bits form that day. Will podcasting replace radio? Doubtful. Will it complement it? It already does.

Dismissed

A 2017 lawsuit filed against SiriusXM personality Howard Stern and the United States government by Judith Barrigas has been dismissed by a U. S. District Court.

The suit stemmed from a phone call that aired on Stern’s show in which Barrigas’ conversation with IRS agent Jimmy Forsyth -- she had called to ask questions related to taxes -- was heard over the air on Stern’s show when Forsyth’s own call to Stern got taken off hold and run live.

Forsyth didn’t realize that he was off hold with Stern, Stern and co-host Robin Quivers didn’t realize at first what was going on when they overheard the conversation, and Barrigas had no knowledge anything was unusual until someone called to tell her that her conversation that included her telephone number was heard by Stern listeners nationwide.

In the end, Judge Allison Burroughs ruled March 9th that Stern didn’t intentionally air private information, and that the IRS agent’s “inadvertent disclosure” was covered by an exemption shielding the government from liability for actions by an employee.

Short Takes

As I write this, a Monday midnight deadline to make a deal with creditors had come and gone with no word on the fate of iHeart Media as it moves toward bankruptcy. That’s too bad. I was hoping we would hear the good news that giant corporate McRadio was over and local owners would return.

Against hope, an eviction notice was sent to the Ports O’ Call Restaurant in San Pedro. The eviction includes the internet podcasting LA Radio Studio next door that the restaurant’s owner has been supporting in the public interest for the past few years. Negotiations continue, though so perhaps all is not lost. A public meeting regarding the development will take place March 20 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Warner Grand Theater on 6th Street in downtown San Pedro.

K-Surf now has an FM translator, so people in the area of coverage - Calabasis to Reseda - can hear oldies on 98.3 FM. I’m not sure how the coverage of the FM signal compares with the AM, which also carries a digital HD stream that sounds phenomenal. The station can also be heard on line and as a secondary HD channel on 105.1 HD2, if you own an HD radio.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Radio Waves Podcast #211

Radio: March 9, 2018

Apparently I am the last to notice when a new channel comes on to SiriusXM satellite radio. Admittedly I do spend too much time in the ‘70s and on The Pulse. Ironically, the music on this new channel is one of the formats I would run (will run?) if I ever get my hands on a radio station of my own ... preferably AM, as I want to prove you can still program an AM music station successfully. More on that later.

Pop Rock channel 17 made its debut on SiriusXM back in January. The satellite service describes it as “fun, upbeat music that (comes from artists who) started in the world of rock then crossed over to became massive pop hits in the ’90s and ’00s.”

What artists? An extensive list that focusses on the likes of Maroon 5, Matchbox Twenty, Third Eye Blind, Lit, Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, No Doubt, Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls, The Killers, Green Day and Train. Some of those I consider pop alternative; many of the artists were also those heard on The Mix (now The Fish, 95.9 FM), one of the best “top-40” stations of the era as superbly programmed by Craig Carpenter.
 
Supposedly this music influenced later artists such as Twenty-One Pilots, which is fine as long as I don’t have to actually listen to Twenty-One Pilots. Pop Rock is now one of my go to channels on SiriusXM.

Flashback Top-40

Banana Joe Montione was part of some great radio stations during his career, including the last great version of KHJ (930 AM) as programmed by the last great KHJ programmer, Chuck Martin. He was heard for a time on KIIS-FM (102.7) as well.

Now he’s creating content that can be aired on stations through his Banana Joe Radio Group. The latest creation: Flashback Top-40, ready to roll to stations nationwide -- though not available locally as of yet.

What is it? Hits from the ‘70s through the ‘90s with a top-40 sound ... “a modern version of the great top-40 radio sound so dominant during the eras we cover,” he told industry radio news site AllAccess.Com

Interestingly, as I stated in a column last year, this is another format I would run on a station if I had control ...
AM Improvement

I have long held that bad programming on AM stations is the primary reason that so few people tune in to the band at all. As warmed-over political talk formats, all (yawn) sports, religious broadcasts ... took over from the popular music and variety formats that were the early successes of many AM stations, listeners had to leave. Indeed, the last decent ratings of many stations from KHJ to The Mighty 690 came when they played top-40 music.

I know that technical issues make it hard to compete with FM. Interference from all sorts of items from cable boxes to computers all wreak havoc with AM reception. But even without those problems, with the current formats found on AM stations in most cities, it’s still a lost cause. My position: programmers and owners pushed AM listeners to FM, in much the same way that today’s programmer and owners are pushing people toward satellite and online listening.

Yet I still believe that if you give people a reason to listen, they will. K-SURF (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2) is a case in point. A station that doesn’t even cover much of the LA Metro area and has absolutely no promotion earns a rating higher than does KABC (790 AM) ... and most other full-power AMs in town.

My opinion doesn’t sit so well with some of the members of a Facebook group, ironically dedicated to fans of AM radio. There I was told that nothing I said would work, that music on AM has absolutely no chance of competing at all today.

Even formats that are not available elsewhere? No, some said. Which basically means that initiatives for AM improvement, via whatever technical means are possible, are moot.

Is that true? I still doubt it. But I am curious: if a station in town played a format you absolutely love -- be it the formats already mentioned above or something else like standards, heavy metal, progressive rock, or uncluttered top-40 -- and it was only found on AM, would you listen? If not, what would get you to listen to something on the AM band?

Of course purists know that AM can sound great as far as fidelity if you listen on a good analog radio (say an old tube model or a more modern wide-band AM stereo receiver) or an HD tuner. But I’m taking the worst case - what might get you to listen to AM -- if there is anything -- assuming you have to listen to it on a typical radio available today?

Send me your comments. Perhaps as iHeart goes bankrupt, we can make some radio magic out of the ashes ...