Friday, December 27, 2013

Radio Waves Podcast #16

Former KFI (640 AM) talk host Bryan Suits made his KABC (790 AM) debut on Dec. 16, replacing local host John Phillips and the syndicated Geraldo Rivera with his 9 a.m. to noon weekday shift.
His first week was perhaps a little tentative, not quite up to the level I am used to with Suits. But I believe that is due to getting his feet wet at KABC and trying out an entirely different shift than what he had at KFI, which was most recently weekends and previously included evenings. But the topics were local, Suits is a pro, and I believe his hiring was a great decision on the part of KABC management.

In fact, just having Rivera gone makes mornings that much better. I expect Suits to work out quite well. But the move begs the question: what of John Phillips?

Phillips is one of the best hosts in Los Angeles when it comes to rationally discussing conservative-leaning politics. His KABC show was a nice alternative to KFI’s syndicated “Rush Limbaugh Show” when they both aired in the same time slot. It was the cutting of Phillips’ show to one hour and the addition of Rivera to the lineup that destroyed any chance KABC had of competing with KFI.

Yes, Suits is a great addition, but if it means losing Phillips, the net effect on KABC will be negligible. That is unless Phillips is given, for example, the noon to 3 p.m. shift. In fact, if KABC had a weekday lineup of Doug McIntyre (with more serious news coverage), Suits, Phillips and Larry Elder, that would be a fairly solid way to start the new year. The station still would be stuck with Mark Levin — his contract still has time to run — but perhaps someone like former KFI host Joe Crummey could be brought back to town to take over at 6 p.m.

Levin could then be switched to a slot after midnight when his low ratings won’t count against the station in overall calculations; Nielsen does not measure listening between midnight and 6 a.m.
Perhaps KTLK (1150 AM) host Stephanie Miller could be tried out in the evening? With KTLK’s upcoming change to conservative talk, she’s certainly available. If I was a programmer, I’d consider trying to convince Tom Leykis to come back to the traditional airwaves; his talents would add much to KABC. Or how about KFWB (980 AM) newsman Phil Hulett, whose podcast “Phil Hulett and Friends” is ready-made for a station that wants to compete?

KFI is formidable competition, and it will take a steady programming hand and smart promotion, along with some engineering improvements, to truly make a dent in its armor. Does KABC management have the guts to do so? Time will tell.

This being the last column of 2013, I want to wish you a very happy and healthy new year. If you have story ideas, questions about the whereabouts of a radio personality, a station you want to know more about, or just want to tell me about your love of radio, I’d like to hear from you. I’ll try to include as many ideas and letters in the column throughout 2014.

Richard Wagoner is a San Pedro freelance writer covering radio in Southern California. Send him email at

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Radio Waves Podcast #15

Holiday programs abound on KUSC and other stations

KUSC (91.5 FM) has some special programming coming up.

Monday, the station will present a 1966 performance of Handel’s “Messiah” at 9 p.m. with Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. Then on Tuesday, beginning at 7 a.m., is the annual live presentation of “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols,” the Christmas Eve service of readings and carols from Cambridge University, featuring the 30-voice King’s College Choir.

At 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Jim Svejda’s “The Evening Program” offers up some traditional holiday entertainment including Dylan Thomas reading his “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and a complete performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” with Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

Online Christmas

Looking for a Christmas flashback? Look no further than the Internet. Ken Borgers’ online tribute to former Long Beach jazz station KNOB (now KLAX, 97.9 FM) — — will once again present the sounds of the season beginning at noon Christmas Eve and running through midnight Christmas Day.

The 36-hour special will be highlighted by a reading of the classic tale “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” read by the late Los Angeles jazz radio personality Chuck Niles.

This recording will be presented six times throughout the webcast: noon and 6 p.m. Christmas Eve, and midnight, 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. Christmas Day. The rest of the time will be filled by traditional Christmas carols and holiday music harkening back to an earlier, more relaxed time in Southern California.

Then on New Year’s Eve, big bands will be heard as the web station presents “A Big Band New Year’s Eve,” from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Host Borgers will ring in the new year with recordings of live performances from the past. The programming is commercial-free.


Q As a former producer (operator) at CKLW, another Boss format station, I could not help but notice the omission of any mention of Bill Drake or Gene Chenault in your recent column about KHJ. When I was working at CKLW, they were the only programmers we heard about. Just wondering.
I had occasion to go to L.A. a year ago and was shocked that my demographic — age 67 and ’60s music — does not appear to exist in your fair city. Just curious.
— Colin Kennedy, Woodstock, Ontario

A I believe your letter may win the award for the longest-distance reader of the column; I assume you read it online.

CKLW, based in Windsor, Ontario, and serving Windsor and Detroit, was indeed a Boss station, legendary at that. Anyway, no disrespect was intended for either Drake or Chenault, who were also instrumental in the success of KHJ and others using the “Drake” format. The focus of the column was solely on Ron Jacobs’ book and my reading of his memos included in the book, so I intentionally left out Drake and Chenault. In the past, I have discussed their contributions many times.

As to the lack of ’60s music in the Los Angeles area, that is the direction radio is going, for better or for worse. Think about this: The 1960s started almost 44 years ago. If music from 44 years prior were played in 1965, you’d be hearing songs from 1921.

Radio, being the youth-driven medium it is, doesn’t want to skew that old, so the oldies stations have moved up in years to the 1980s. May sound weird to you and me, but it’s the radio business truth. And it is one reason for us to have iPods and satellite radio.

Of course the exception to this rule is my son, Sean, who learned to play guitar through songs from the 1960s and ’70s, especially Led Zeppelin. So not everyone likes the 1980s.

Richard Wagoner is a San Pedro freelance writer covering radio in Southern California. Send him email at

Monday, December 9, 2013

Radio Waves Podcast #14

In this edition of "Radio Waves" Mike Stark & radio columnist Richard Wagoner discuss the upcoming changes at KFI, KTLK and KABC that will shift around from station to station, many of LA's favorite talk show personalities, including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Radio Waves Podcast #13

The discussion on this edition of "Radio Waves" starts with the programming genius of KHJ programmer Ron Jacobs and moves to Clear Channel Radio's dire economic situation which will likely bring on a new series of company wide layoffs right around Christmas time.