Thursday, December 18, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #63

This edition of LA Radio Waves is our first "live" version of the show.  We cover the column and a lot of different radio topics, leading up to our marathon of our "career spanning" radio personality interviews, which can be heard until January 6th on the "stream".......

It was almost two years in the making, but it finally happened. Dave Beasing, programmer of The Sound (100.3 FM) was (with the help of general manager Peter Burton) able to convince Mark Thompson -- aka “Mark” of Mark and Brian fame -- to return to radio. He’ll be paired with Andy Chanley in the morning shift beginning some time in February. Current morning man Joe Benson will take over Chanley’s mid-day shift at that time as well.

“Mark in the Morning” (I sincerely hope they come up with a better name for the show by the time it hits the airwaves) will air 6-10 every weekday morning, promising, according to the press release, “a rich mix of music and fun conversation, celebrity interviews, comedy, and the type of spontaneous moments that happen naturally when Mark Thompson and a radio microphone are in close proximity.”
I know what you’re thinking. It’s either “I can’t wait to hear him.” Or “I hate that he’s coming because I like hearing music.”

And I understand both sides. Mark and Brian (Phelps) were a staple in Los Angeles for a quarter century on KLOS (95.5 FM). They were very popular. But they played almost no music, which gave competitors like The Sound itself, ironically, a chance to gain listeners by playing the songs that KLOS to this day still does not in the morning. 

Which begs the question: Why do this? The Sound is currently the top-rated classic rock station in town ... why startle the audience by turning off the morning music?

One thing is being left out, though: Who says music won’t be part of the morning? Beasing says that music will indeed be part of the morning show, though he did not get specific. My hunch is that Chanley -- a music expert -- will handle those duties while also acting as a sidekick. At least I hope so.

Some of the most entertaining morning shows have been a combination of music and entertainment. Lohman and Barkley, London and Engelman, Robert W Morgan and the like graced the airwaves of Los Angeles in the past. Currently Kevin and Bean on KROQ (106.7 FM) are music intensive AND have entertaining talk. In my opinion, music helps make the bits better, since they are a transition and buffer. Frankly, I’ve never cared much for most all-talk morning shows.

Plus, Beasing is not stupid. If listeners want music, he’ll give it to them. In the meantime, he freely admits that in a year he’ll either be thought of as a genius or a moron. 

I’m just wondering what confusion will result from the fact that another Mark Thompson can be heard on KFI (640 AM) afternoons 1-3 p.m. as half of Thompson and Espinoza? 

Sounds of the Season

Ken Borgers and David Grudt are once again presenting Sounds of the Season on Borgers’ internet tribute to the original KNOB (now KLAX, 97.9 FM). You can find it at

It’s a 36-hour program that starts at noon on Christmas Eve. A highlight of the annual program is a reading of the classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by the late, great LA Jazz DJ Chuck Niles, to be heard this year six times: noon and 6 p.m. December 24th; and at midnight, 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. December 25th.
Then on December 31st, hear A Big Band New Years Eve from 4 p.m. to 1 p.m. This program features recording of Big Band concerts including Duke Ellington and many more. harkens back to Sleepy Stein’s KNOB/Long Beach, playing straight-ahead jazz 24 hours a day. Stein was the owner of the original KNOB, launched in 1957 with 320 watts at its original frequency of 103.1 FM. One year later, he was able to increase power just a bit ... to 79,000 watts ... by moving to 97.9. He sold the station in 1966.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #62

The Sage from South Central is no longer gracing the airwaves of KABC (790 AM): Larry Elder was let go from the talk station he called home for most of the last 20+ years. He was informed of the move after what turned out to be his last show on December 2nd.
Rumors of Elder being replaced have actually been around for a while. He’s been working on a month-to-month contract for the last year or two, according to sources familiar with Elder and the station. Why he was let go so suddenly and without an obvious replacement is unknown, but those same sources hinted that salary may have played an issue.
Former local talk host and current internet host Tom Leykis ( was the man who broke the story; I asked him -- halfway joking -- if he would be Elder’s replacement. “No,” came the immediate reply, “but you’re not the first to ask me,” he said. 
Regardless, for now at least, no replacement has been named.
I personally think Leykis would be a good choice, if anyone could talk him into it. There are a few issues, though, for anyone who gets the shift. Primary problem: The Kings. KABC is the Los Angeles flagship for the LA Kings hockey games, and many of the games begin during the late-afternoon/early-evening shift vacated by Elder.
While I would be hesitant to say that “no one” listens to the Kings on the radio, that statement would not be far off. Any host hoping to build ratings would be at a huge disadvantage compared with competing stations. At least during hockey season.
So who are the potential candidates? Names thrown around include Leykis and Joe Crummey, who took Elder’s place and did a stellar job last week. Rumor had the station courting John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou from competitor KFI (640 AM).
On the other hand, the station could do some switching around of the current programs. 
Here’s what is definitely true: For the first time in years, KABC has a chance to make a play against perennial talk leader KFI. KFI is vulnerable. Ratings have been off for various reasons (including questionable methodology on the past of ratings company Nielsen), and some of the shows have gotten a little too predictable.
Personally, I would have kept Elder on, but tightened up his format. Elder is an intelligent host who covers issues from a totally different angle than most. Regardless, if KABC makes the right changes, they could start making headway. They already have strong shows in the morning with Doug McIntyre, the vastly improved (compared to his early days on the station) Bryan Suits, and Mid-Day LA with John Phillips and Jillian Barberie. Get a decent show in the evening and dump the weekend infomercials and KABC could make a comeback.
Not that I am necessarily counting on them actually doing all that ...
As to Elder, if management of KEIB (1150 AM) was smart, they’d hire him. Yesterday. Not only would Elder better complement morning host Rush Limbaugh better than anyone currently on the station, he’d actually be a breath of fresh air on the station. 
Elder is more intelligent than the vast majority of talk hosts. He has a BA in political science from Brown University, received a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1977, was recruited by the 9th largest law firm just out of law school, and worked as a commercial trial lawyer in Cleveland before starting his own company and eventually switching to radio.
The combination of Limbaugh-Elder on KEIB could really pull some ratings ... IF -- and that is a big if -- KEIB management and owner Clear Channel actually want KEIB to succeed. You see, KEIB is sister to KFI. And if KEIB succeeds at the expense of KFI ... let’s just say that will never be allowed to happen. 
For now, Elder can be heard on the internet at LarryElder.Com
Career Spanning Radio
Michael Stark and I have been doing interviews with some of radio’s recent greats. Fun, career-spanning interviews, in fact, recorded at the LA Radio Studio in San Pedro. 
Beginning at 7 PM on Wednesday, December 17th, Stark will be running a marathon of these interviews played randomly. Podcasts on Shuffle, you might call it, repeated continually for about three weeks.
You’ll want to hear them too. The list includes Dave Hull, Lee Marshall (recorded fairly shortly before his death), Jeff Gonzer, Darrell Wayne, Mo’ Kelly, Gino Michelini, Dr. Demento, Cynthia Fox, JJ Johnson, Dave Beasing, Elliot Mintz, Ace Young, Jim “Poorman” Trenton, a tribute to Liz Fulton, and the just-completed super-high-energy interview that will start off the marathon: Shotgun Tom Kelly!
For information, head over to

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #61

KMET Alumni and other friends planning benefit concert for Paraquat Kelley.
Most people remember Patrick “Paraquat” Kelley from his work as a newsman at the legendary KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM). His years there included the glory days of the station under master programmer Sam Bellamy, and he is certainly one of the reasons for the station’s success.
Kelley’s training began in his younger years when he landed a job as a delivery boy at the original KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM). He got to hang out with the likes of Gary Owens, Geoff Edwards, Jack Angel, Ira Cook, Dick Whittinghill and Roger Carroll. He later worked at stations in Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and West Covina.
But it was at KMET where he shined. Perhaps it was a match made in heaven, but the time was right for his style of news on a station that took news seriously. Or at least the type of news that would appeal to the type of person who would listen to KMET.
Most stations felt that the FCC news requirement was a drag. Interestingly, successful stations such as KHJ (930 AM) and KFRC/San Francisco didn’t. Their idea was to make news as interesting as it could be. KMET followed suit.
“We decided to make the news a tune in feature rather than tune out,” Kelley told LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett. “So we’d start off the news with something that was so bizarre you’d go, ‘What?’ How could you turn that off? My lead story might be about a guy that makes jewelry out of quail dung. Nobody was doing this kind of news in the seventies. If you were in your car, you’d have to stop, pull off the side of the road and listen to this guy. That’s how we did it.”
The Paraquat nickname actually came from a news story about the herbicide of the same name that was being sprayed on marijuana plants in Mexico by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in an attempt to kill the “weed.” Turns out that remnants of the chemical were left on plants and traces were found on marijuana confiscated at the US/Mexico border. Smokers of the tainted weed, doctors were finding, could suffer irreparable lung damage. Kelley was reporting on the story when he quipped “What? Somebody smokes pot that listens to KMET?”
After that he became Paraquat Kelley, which meant that every time the news on the issue was reported, Kelley got free press. Including on competing KLOS (95.5 FM). Ironically, my understanding is that Kelley himself never did illegal drugs, including marijuana.
In 2003, Kelley was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, is a disease in which someone’s immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerves. Myelin damage disrupts communication between the brain and the rest of the body, causing problems with movement and speech. Another irony: marijuana may have a beneficial affect on MS sufferers.
Kelley is now battling advanced stages of the disease. He is confined to a wheelchair, and the mounting medical bills are putting a lot of pressure on him and his wife, Melody Rogers. So some friends, including musicians and KMET alumni, are putting together a one-night (December 14th) special event at the Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive in Agoura Hills to help raise funds for his treatments.
It’s called The Mighty Met Acoustic Flashback Honoring Paraquat Kelley. Confirmed performers include George Thorogood, Little Feat's Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett and more, but the real treats are the hosts of the event: KMET alumni Jeff Gonzer, Jim Ladd and Cynthia Fox. I’d expect more to arrive as well. Gonzer is retired, but Fox can be heard evenings on The Sound (KSWD 100.3 FM) which is one of the event’s sponsors, and Ladd is playing freeform rock on Sirius/XM satellite radio Channel 27.
Tickets for the benefit concert can be purchased through Ticketmaster (or pay with cash at the box office and save on processing fees) and range from $29 to $58. Go to or call 818-879-5016 for information and to and reserve dinner. Doors open at 6 p.m.; show starts at 7:30.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #60

Every year, Don Barrett has taken a poll of subscribers and visitors of his radio “watercooler,” LARadio.Com. The results have been trickling out over the past week or so, and as it turns out, they are a list of the heavy-hitters in Los Angeles radio. Barrett says that over 200 people participated in the poll this year.
The morning favorite was Doug McIntyre of KABC (790 AM) followed by Bill Handel of KFI (640 AM), KROQ’s (106.7 FM) Kevin and Bean, KNX’s (1070 AM) morning duo of Vicky Moore and Dick Helton, Joe Benson of The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM), Colin Cowherd on KSPN (710 AM), KPWR’s (105.9 FM) Big Boy, KRLA’s (870 AM) Brian Whitman, Ben Shapiro and Elisha Kraus, and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s Howard Stern (Channel 100).
Favorites from 9 am to 12 noon were, in order, favorite Dennis Prager (KRLA), Jim Carson (KRTH 101.1 FM), Rush Limbaugh (KEIB, 1150 AM), KABC’s Bryan Suits, KFI’s Bill Carroll, Linda Nunez and Tom Haule of KNX, Andy Chanley of The Sound, KFWB’s (980 AM) Jim Rome, Kat Corbett (KROQ) and Kychal Thompson (KSPN).
From Noon to 3 the winners were John Phillips and Jillian Barberie (KABC), Mason and Ireland (KSPN), Jim Carson (KRTH) Sean Hannity (KEIB), the wild mixture of people on KNX, Andy Chanley again (his shift overlaps), Michael Medved (KRLA), Larry Mantle (KPCC, 89.3 FM), Jack on KCBS-FM (93.1), and KFI’s Thompson and Espinosa.
And finally, just this week, afternoons came out with the winner being John and Ken (KFI) followed by Diane Thomson and Jim Thornton (KNX), “Shotgun” Tom Kelly (KRTH), Larry Elder (KABC), Julie Slater (The Sound), Hugh Hewitt (KRLA), Rich Capperela (KUSC, 91.5 FM), Gary Moore (KLOS, 95.5 FM), Deborah Howell (The Wave, 94.7 FM), and Petros Papadakis and Matt “Money” Smith (KLAC, 570 AM).
Heavy hitters, yes. But did you notice something interesting? If you go by this list, AM radio is on par with FM in popularity, and talk and sports dominated. Obviously there is a little skewing going on.
And of course, there is. The responses came from readers and subscribers of LARadio.Com, a website that tends to attract radio fans (fanatics?), probably (read: definitely) skews older than the average radio listener and in general attracts people like me. Would my votes be the same as the results? In some cases yes, but for the most part, interestingly, no. But that is because of my aversion to political talk radio.
Yet without exception (or perhaps more accurately with few exceptions), I respect and admire every broadcaster on the list. And it does make you realize that radio is still a powerful medium that reaches the hearts and minds of listeners. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week and spend time with our families, I, for one, am thankful that I can still hear my “radio family” on the air. No other medium is so intimate, so personal. 
Happy thanksgiving, and I hope you enjoy the start of the holiday season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #59

Malibu is about to get its own radio station.
Hans Laetz announced that construction will begin soon for the transmitter system that will broadcast KBUU (97.5 FM), a brand-new low-power FM designed to cover Malibu with a city-grade signal and coverage extending from the tunnel off the 10 Freeway in Santa Monica all the way to the Ventura County Line. All that with about 100 watts of effective radiated power.
The plan is to become an affiliate of National Public Radio. Yes, I thought the same thing: do we really need another NPR station when Southern California already has about 400 such affiliates? Laetz explains it this way: 
“Malibu is arguably the only municipality in all of California without reliable NPR coverage. The mountains block KCRW and KPCC and we are getting a lot of requests from Malibu people for ‘Morning Edition’ and ‘All Things Considered.’” He says the current affiliates have been supportive, but he has not heard anything yet from NPR itself.
The good thing is that Laetz isn’t planning NPR all day. Frankly, it would defeat the purpose of low-power community radio to have a national programming service. Northing against NPR itself, but my main complaint of current college-owned stations is that they are almost all professionally-run and staffed stations -- with no students involved other than as peons -- and thus are not following the terms and requirements of their educational licenses. But I digress.
Laetz appeases me when he continues. “We have some very exciting ideas for 9a-5p and after 7. We are going to let community members program their shows. Daytimes, overnights and weekends will be modern rock with a coastal twist. A little Hawaiian slack key and Texas roadhouse rock thrown in.
When will it happen? 
“Quite literally, the engineer and I are going to go up the hill with shovels to dig the hole for the 97.5 tower foundation next week,” Laetz said. “We've ordered and paid for the antenna and transmitter. We could ... emphasis could ... be on the air for testing and calibration around December 10. We are awaiting fiber lines to be trenched up the hill by the phone company and can't really go on the air 24/7  until that happens (although we could park a laptop up there and read the meters via cellphone email).
“I am telling my board of directors I plan ... emphasis on PLAN ... to do a soft rollout on Jan. 5 or so ... This is going to be fun.” 
It certainly will. More on this as it develops.
KLOS Property Sold
Not the station, just the property. The land that houses the studios of KLOS (95.5 FM) as well as the studios and transmitter of KABC (790 AM) is in the process of being sold, according to industry reports. A contract to sell the 10 acre parcel -- located in Baldwin Hills -- for about $125 million has been signed and will take 12-18 months to close.
What will happen to the land is unknown. Right now reports are that Cumulus will lease it back, but longterm the land would have to be developed to bring in that kind of cash. And if it is developed, you can kiss goodbye any chance of KABC being heard from that location ... engineers I spoke with explained that any building on the land will destroy the AM ground system buried there, rendering the KABC signal essentially worthless.
So when it comes down to it, Cumulus seems to have decided that the land underneath KABC is worth more than the station itself. Regardless, the sale will help Cumulus pay off some of its staggering debt, estimated right now at $2.5 billion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #58

Old news that I neglected to report: Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com is officially back in action after being shut down for the “last time” in 2012.
The local radio news site was only truly down a short while. After some time off for relaxation and thinking, Barrett began to do occasional updates when big or newsworthy events came around. 
Now its updated pretty much daily, or at least weekday daily. The site itself is free, though readers can support him with a modest donation that brings in extra coverage of radio events via email.
If you’ve never been to LARadio.Com, you owe it to yourself to visit. Barrett is a big supporter, critic, cheerleader, and historian for Los Angeles and Southern California radio. 
ReelRadio Limbo
The ReelRadio.Com saga continues, with absolutely no new word yet on their negotiations with the Recording Industry Association of America (aka “the evil” RIAA) to try to run “unscoped” (i.e. including full song recordings) airchecks of classic radio from the past.
The main page just mentions that “patience is a virtue.” Hopefully that means some real headway is being made in the organizations discussions with attorneys.
Shannon in LA
Scott Shannon returns to the Los Angeles airwaves ... via a syndicated program heard Sundays from 6 to 10 a.m. on KRTH (101.1 FM).
I’ve only heard (part of) it once, so far, but it is an oldies-based show featuring the top hits from a particular month and year, from what I can tell. Called “America;s Greatest Hits,” it essentially replaces the Beatles programming formerly heard on KRTH Sunday mornings.
Shannon was the creative force behind Pirate Radio KQLZ (now The Sound, 100.3 FM) back in the 1990s. Hard to believe its been that long.
Readers Revenge
You had some interesting insights and opinions on some of my recent columns. Here’s a sample:
“I would like to get in on this Christmas music pool. I believe KOST 103.5 FM will start playing all Christmas and winter songs starting on Thursday, November 13, at 12 noon.  I believe KTWV 94.7 FM will be the only other local radio station that will be playing all Christmas and winter songs, starting on Wednesday, November 12, at 6:00 p.m.  I don't think either station will start any earlier than that, they usually wait until the Veteran's Day holiday is over. 
“It will be fun to see what others think. If KTWV does play all Christmas music, I think they will stop on Christmas day, at midnight, December 26. I think KOST will stop sometime on Friday, December 26, probably around 6:00 p.m.” -- Russ, Glandale 
Regarding my living in the past and my constant talking about Boss Radio: “You think the 1980s was ‘long ago.’ I remember when KHJ was part of the Mutual Broadcasting System, and Frank De Vol had the staff band. -- Ray Sherman

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #57

November 17th is the expected launch date of the all-new, all-Catholic 93/KHJ (I sincerely hope they don’t do the lame “AM-930” type of name made popular by such stations as KFI ... AM 640).
There is somewhat of a cosmic force at work here. For those who are as insane as I am about radio (and KHJ in particular), you may remember that it was on a cold, dark night almost to the day 34 years ago -- 9 PM on November 7, 1980 -- when the suits at RKO forced KHJ to make the ill-fated switch from top-40 to country. The world of radio was never right again.

Too melodramatic?

Anyway, Immaculate Heart Radio expects to have full control of the station and change over to their syndicated religious programming sometime on  November 17th. They are planning a big launch event, which you can read about as it develops at

I suppose this means I need to start lobbying hard to try to convince them to allow me to run a weekly upbeat, positive-message pop music program to keep the real spirit of Boss Radio KHJ alive. I’m not thinking actual religious music, but pop music with upbeat, positive lyrics very similar to what KHJ tended to play during its top-40 days ... an era when one station could actually appeal to the whole family.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have the old KHJ back (with some current music), if only for a few hours a week? I’m sure the chance of doing so is nil, but still ... It could even attract listeners to the regular format. I do understand that Immaculate Heart Radio founder Doug Sherman grew up listening to KHJ. Perhaps at least he could run the old jingles.

What Went Wrong

So what went wrong in the dark days of 1980? What made KHJ change to country in the first place, only to stumble for a few years before being sold off twice and changing to Spanish music sometime around 1988?

Most observers blame FM. With better fidelity, there is some truth to it. But far more important was the revolving door of programmers, and inept upper management in the ranks of owner RKO General who essentially destroyed any real chance KHJ had to compete. As my friend Michael Stark says, bad management is not a new thing ... it goes back decades.

What did they do? First off, constantly changing focus. KHJ had one programmer -- ONE -- from the top-40 launch in 1965 to when Ron Jacobs left in 1970. Jacobs had a laser focus on everything, supported by consultants Bill Drake and Gene Chanault, who were forced out soon after Jacobs left. After that, a new programmer seemed to arrive every year or so, often tweaking the format in negative ways, but many just living off of KHJ’s past. Just as FM competition was heating up, KHJ added to their commercial load each hour. Music narrowed. Disco arrived. Talent was under-appreciated, causing some of the station’s best talent to jump ship.

When great programmers did stay around a while, the RKO suits often interfered, such as the rumored forcing of Chuck Martin -- KHJ’s last top-40 programmer and the man who brought it back from the dead -- to remove “ethnic” music from the playlist. Some felt it was a way to save face when the ratings were good and the suits had already made the decision to go country. In the end, listeners didn’t leave for FM, they were pushed.

This is all ancient history, of course, and it ultimately wouldn’t matter. In 1987, RKO was found by the FCC to be unfit to hold a broadcast license due to fraudulent billing practices and related company actions dating back years, and they were forced to divest all stations, including KHJ.
Hard to believe it was that long ago. I really do need to spend some time in the present ...

Christmas Music Pool

Anyone want to guess the correct date and time of the switch to Christmas music by KOST (103.5 FM)? Second contest: will any other local stations make the switch this year? For KOST, it’s always been a ratings booster. For others, not so much. But the temptation is always there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #56

I’ve been getting a lot of letters and emails lately regarding KRTH (101.1 FM) and their continued addition of even newer songs at the expense of even more (what some would call) oldies, especially those from the 1960s and ‘70s. KRTH abandoned music from the 1950s long ago.
As someone who spends far too much time living in the past -- one of my favorite things to do is to listen to top-40 radio station airchecks from the 1970s -- I feel your pain. To oldies purists, even the 1970s are too new; now that KRTH has added music as new as the 1990s ... well, the word blasphemy must come to the minds of some former listeners.
But some perspective is in order. When KRTH went on the air in 1972, the station played a mix from roughly 1955 through the British invasion years of the 1960s. That means the oldest song it played was 17 years old. This is now 2014. Seventeen years ago was 1997. 
The problem is that KRTH needs to move forward to avoid becoming irrelevant. Certainly there is a place for music of any era, be it the 1920s, 1940s, or the music KRTH used to play from the 1950s and ‘60s. Music I like too, mind you, even if I am too young to have experienced it when it was new.
But music from 1955 is almost 60 years old. Can you imagine KRTH playing music from 1913 when it launched?
Interestingly, KRTH is now playing much the same music it played during the era I liked. Before they went “all oldies” in 1986 or so, the format under programmer Bob Hamilton was a hybrid of current top-40, a little album rock, and oldies spanning back as far as the 1960s. It was in my opinion the best format KRTH ever ran; I liked the variety because I tend to get a bit tired of one genre. It was the station that played anything from Cream’s “White Room” to Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac.” 
For a time, they even had a great morning team in John London and Ron Engelman. Weekends were made more special with themes: Souvenir of the Seventies was my favorite, but there were others, such as the Runner Up of Rock and Roll.
I personally wish they could still do such a format. There is a lot of good music available today that doesn’t get played on the radio, and much of it would fit such a hybrid format. But that’s not KRTH of today, as much as I would personally enjoy it.
Getting back to the point, stations that stagnate don’t do well: playing the same music they played in 1972 would most certainly lead to an untimely death for the station. And the recent changes have led to some of the highest ratings the station has ever seen, so it does appear to be paying off. And if you have a digital HD Radio or don;t mind listening online, KRTH HD2 does still play music from the 1960s. 
This does open up opportunities to other stations willing to take a chance. Stations that are underachievers or total ratings failures in their current incarnations: KDIS (1110 AM), KFWB (980 AM), KRLA (830 AM), KEIB (1150 AM) and KABC (790 AM) come to mind, though there are others. Maybe a current-leaning station that plays gold -- like the station I would program if ever given a chance -- might rejuvenate the Southern California radio marketplace.
Before I leave KRTH, I want to mention that Maggie McKay has been added to the weekend/fill-in roster. McKay comes most recently from KFWB, but you may remember her from the original KRLA (now KDIS) and KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM), along with KCBS-FM (93.1 FM) before they became the jockless, soul-less Jack FM.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #55

One of the funniest people I ever met is Bern Bennett, who was a staff for roughly 60 years at CBS, beginning in 1944. He started in New York with CBS Radio, then known as the Columbia Broadcasting System, announcing the top-of the hour IDs for the radio network and traveling to all parts of New York to do the program announcing for the various big bands that performed live for some of the network shows.
As television grew in popularity, Bennett started announcing on TV too, and eventually became as well known as some of the program hosts, similar to the status of NBC staff announcer Don Pardo, who passed away this past Summer. Fans of the original Beat the Clock may recall Bennett being a big part of the show along with host Bud Collyer, and to this day I still don’t know if the overemphasized inflection -- or was it his voice breaking? -- was started on purpose or not as he announced Collyer’s name at the start of the show.
Bennett followed CBS television to Hollywood in 1960 and was heard for years on such programs as CBS’s coverage of the Tournament of Roses Parade, soap operas The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful; he stayed with those soaps even after retiring officially from CBS.
I originally met Bennett through former original KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM) music coordinator David Schwartz, who now can be found at cable television’s Game Show Network. I don’t remember the circumstances, but I believe Schwartz, Bennett, my Dad and I were off to a book signing related to game shows, one of Schwartz’ fields of expertise.
Regardless of the circumstances, Bennett immediately went into joke-telling mode; turns out that between announcing duties, there was lots of time for jokes. He had an amazing wit, a sharp mind, a great memory, and an amazing ability to tell stories. Most of the jokes I cannot repeat, due to my own poor memory and the fact that almost all of them were dirty.
He told stories about his career, the big bands, the difficulty of managing traffic in New York to make it between the venues for the live programs, the move to television, the people he worked with, and how much he enjoyed working with CBS. I found out that more recently he lived literally right down the street from me: walking distance from my house.
In his spare time, he worked with the LA County Sheriff's Department station in Lomita, acting as one of the citizen patrol volunteers. He was generous, and he loved people.
When I last spoke with him, Bennett told me about some heath issues he was having. My memory was that in his 80s, he was beginning to have occasional seizures perhaps related to epilepsy. I told him I’d help him any time. And then, suddenly, he was gone. Poof. No word.
I went to his condo ... new renters with no knowledge. Lomita Sheriff’s hadn’t heard from him either. Now and then there were clues, such as a brother that made contact with Schwartz, but otherwise, nothing. Even internet searches turned up nothing ... good or bad. I figured he moved somewhere to be with his brother, the only family I had ever heard about; Bennett himself never spoke of family, though I knew he was divorced.
So it is with sadness that I report that Bennett passed away on May 29th, 2014 at the age of 92. His death went unreported except for a short mention in actor union SAG-AFTRA’s magazine, which said he died in the morning, somewhere in San Pedro. Which means I was still close to him even though, unfortunately, I was no longer close to him. Perhaps he was in a care home.
He would have turned 93 last Sunday, October 19th. And I knew him well enough to know that he would not want anyone to be sad. So whether you were a fan or not, this might be a good time to go tell someone a joke and make them feel better. If you can make it dirty, so much the better; Bern would have wanted it that way.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #54

KIIS-FM is back atop the Los Angeles ratings pile, according to Nielsen (formerly Arbitron) which released the monthly ratings for September. The hit music station came in at 5.2, just 0.2 above second place (and sister station) KBIG. KPWR was right behind in 3rd place with a 4.7 share of the audience.
Ratings are released monthly, though unless something amazing happens I tend to report them quarterly -- Arbitron used to release them quarterly until the company changed the way it collects ratings information a few years ago -- since I think most people would get tired of every 4th column or so being just about ratings (let me know if I am wrong).
But I find it interesting that KIIS-FM’s 5.2 matches what it had in June, the month KRTH beat it with a 5.5, one of the highest ratings KRTH has earned. This time KRTH found itself in 4th place at a 4.5 -- a full point down from June and 0.4 from August ... making you wonder why there is so much volatility in ratings.
Talker KFI was back solidly in the top-10, though not in the top-three as was the norm a few years back. This time it 8th with a 3.3 share, compared with competitors KABC and KEIB (tied for 36th at 0.6) and KRLA (tied for 37th at 0.5). Turns out KFI’s real competitor may not be any of the other commercial talk stations these days; the closest talker is actually noncommercial KPCC, which was just one point below (2.3 share) and in 20th place.
The sports stations are just killin’ it. Or not: KLAC earned a 0.9 share, KSPN: 0.8, KLAA: 0.5, and KFWB, with their first month of sports, though only a short time with the full new format: 0.1, the lowest-rated station on the Nielsen list. Next month KFWB will either show some growth ... or find itself off the ratings list for the first time ever. Should be fun. 
The Sound KSWD tied Jack KCBS-FM, both earning a 3.0 share at 9th place. KLOS was 21st with a 2.2 tie with The Wave KTWV.
KNX was flat from August but up 0.3 from June, coming in tied for 13th with Hot KHHT and KROQ at 2.7.
Each rating (share) is an estimate of the percentage of listeners aged 6 and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 am and 12 midnight, as determined by Nielsen Ratings. Here’s the full list:
1. KIIS-FM (5.2) 2. KBIG (5.0) 3. KPWR (4.7) 4. KRTH (4.5) 5. KLVE (4.3) 6. KOST (4.1) 7. KAMP (4.0) 8. KFI (3.3) 9. KCBS-FM, KSWD (3.0)
11. KLAX (2.9) 12. KSCA (2.8) 13. KHHT, KNX, KROQ (2.7) 16. KBUE, KRCD (2.6) 18. KKGO, KLYY (2.4) 20. KPCC (2.3)
21. KLOS, KTWV (2.2) 23. KYSR (2.0) 24. KUSC (1.9) 25. KXOL (1.6) 26. KDAY (1.4) 27. KCRW (1.3) 28. KFSH (1.2) 29. KHJ, KKJZ, KLAC, KSSE (0.9)
33. KJLH, KSPN, KWIZ (0.8) 36. KABC, KEIB (0.6) 38. KLAA, KRLA (0.5) 40. KTNQ (0.3) 41. KPFK (0.2) 42. KFWB (0.1).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #53

Picking on KFI
I detest music beds. On any station. You know what I mean ... when a station thinks it needs to add “excitement” to its programming and management thinks the best way to do it is to add some annoying music loop to play while the DJ is talking. What it does instead is act like fingernails on a chalkboard. Note to programmers: Your listeners hate this.
KFI (640 AM) has taken it to new heights. Whenever their traffic reports come on, music -- so bad it sounds like a reject from a European “house” concert  begins. On a regular radio where AM fidelity and perhaps some welcome static covers it, you may not notice it as much. But on HD Radio or on-line, it is repulsive. No matter what, it is also a tune-out. I can no longer listen to traffic reports on KFI  they are so annoying, I have to tune to a competitor. These new traffic reports are actually worse than Kars for Kids ads and “You’re killing me Larry.”
Note to KFI: Just drop the music on both traffic and weather. It is NOT helping. Unless you are trying to send listeners to KNX (1070 AM) or KABC (790 AM). KABC has a bed too, which they should drop as well, but at least it is not nearly as grating.
What’s in a Name?
Sure you’ve heard the ads for financial planning guru and syndicated KFI show host Rick Eddleman. And the tag line ... “visit us at RickEddleman.Com. That’s RiceStellman.Com
Well, actually, no. ... If it were RiceStellman.Com, it wouldn’t be RickEddleman.Com. So using the word “that’s” is fully inappropriate.
But here’s the rub: NONE of the above websites are correct. Yet you’d never know it since Eddleman never spells his name on the air. 
His name is actually Ric Edelman. And it seems he does understand the spelling confusion, as you actually can type “RickEdleman.Com” (not two “d” letters as I have above) and most browsers will redirect to RicEdelman.Com. But RickEddleman.Com does not work, nor does RiceStellman.Com, as the website is actually RiceDelman.Com. And I still don’t understand that connection.
Quick Takes
Go Country 105 (KKGO, 105.1 FM) will have a new morning show. Beginning Monday, Graham Bunn and Deborah Mark will wake you up. Current host Larry Morgan moves to evenings to co-host with Ginny Harman, and Klaudia Aresti -- former Morgan morning partner -- leaves the station.
I forgot to tell you the results of the Tom Leykis program auction. The winner, wanting to remain secret for now, will have the show originate for one day from his house, and comes from Powell Butte, Oregon. Winning bid: $4200. 
SPERDVAC -- the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy will play host to special guest Stanley Dyrector at its meeting Saturday October 11 from 12-2 at the West Valley Library, 19036 Vanowen Street, in Reseda. Dyrector started his career as a radio actor and writer, writing many of the episodes of the Sears Radio Theater. Hear the meeting on YesterdayUSA.Com Friday, October 17 at 10:30 pm.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #52

This is the story of the big bad RIAA trying to blow the house of ReelRadio down. Or not. Depending on who you talk to and who you believe.
It all started in July, when the Recording Industry Association of America -- the RIAA -- sent a letter to my absolute favorite website -- ReelRadio.Com -- stating that ReelRadio was “out of compliance” with the statutory license they are operating under that allows ReelRadio to stream old recordings of radio stations, also known as airchecks, unscoped ... meaning including music as it was played on the radio.
ReelRadio is an online historical museum with thousands of recordings from radio stations across the country dating back as early as the 1920s. Many are “scoped,” meaning with the music removed. Many others are unscoped, and that is what the RIAA was writing about.
The original letter sounded ominous. “As part of a routine review of services utilizing the statutory license,” it reads, “we discovered that your service fails to comply with the following requirements”
Those requirements, according to the letter, include making sure that any recordings were more than five hours long and available for no more than two weeks. In addition, the online streaming player must identify the song title, artist and album the song came from as it is played.
Obviously these rules are intended for music services that stream music for the music itself. ReelRadio, on the other hand, streams music as part of a historical recording. Most recordings are recorded from mono AM radios, interference and all, and the streaming is done with ReelPlayer, basically incapable of doing the song identifications without someone entering the data song by song, stream by stream It would take continuous work for years to go through the thousands of recordings ReelRadio has in its archives.
The RIAA letter continues: “In order to continue operating under the statutory license, you must remedy these violations,” and adds a line about, “seeking any other remedies in law or equity.”
So I wrote a scathing letter to the RIAA’s Executive Vice President of Communications, Jonathan Lamy. Paraphrasing from multiple emails ... “Not so fast,” he says, “we just want ReelRadio to be part of a web page” called “WhyMusicMatters.Com.” If ReelRadio wants to continue to operate as it has been, that’s fine with the RIAA, according to Lamy.
But for reasons unknown, while Lamy tells me that, the RIAA official letters do not.
ReelRadio’s Richard Irwin, in the meantime, sent a reply asking for more time to become “compliant.” I personally disagree with that plan -- I think ReelRadio should just go back to playing unscoped airchecks as before, as I think the RIAA truly doesn’t care. But it’s not my site so my opinion is immaterial. I am not the one who received a threatening letter.
Officially the chain of events looks like this: Reelradio receives threatening letter, and responds by removing unscoped airchecks form the site. The RIAA receives complaints from ReelRadio fans and sends a “clarification” email stating that they just want ReelRadio to be “compliant” so they can be listed on the website. ReelRadio explains what they do and asks for an exemption. An RIAA attorney offers guidance on what can be done, which Reelradio determines is unworkable. ReelRadio then asks for more time to become compliant. The RIAA does not respond to ReelRadio, and has not since August 12th.
And they won’t. Lamy says they have already made numerous attempts to explain that they only wanted to do “vetting for the website (WhyMusicMatters).” In his last email to me, Lamy told me in no uncertain terms: “We’ve reached out a number of times, both formally and informally. Our General Council took the time to reach out to Mr. Irwin directly. We are not writing more letters.” 
In the meantime, the Board of Directors of nonprofit ReelRadio are still justifiably frightened of what the RIAA might do. It’s not like the RIAA does not have a history of going after its own consumers. Only in this case, the RIAA and its members actually lose out ... many times I myself have bought music after hearing a long forgotten song on a scratchy unscoped aircheck on ReelRadio. And I am not alone. Additionally, ReelRadio does indeed pay the RIAA licensing fees through the supposed noncompliant statutory license.
But until ReelRadio feels reasonable assured that they won’t be sued into oblivion, they won’t put the unscoped airchecks back. At the risk of going under anyway, since supporter donations have dropped tremendously since the airchecks went away.
Yet a solution is simple, and I call on the RIAA to do the following: Get the General Council (who I believe is attorney Susan Chertkof) to call ReelRadio and have a real conversation. Then put in wiring what Lamy has told me numerous times: That the RIAA only cares about vetting for the site, that they truly don’t care what ReelRadio does since it is an online museum, and that they understand that ReelRadio is by no means a music downloading site. 
It’s easy. And it is so very disturbing that three months have gone by without resolution to what should be a very easy solution. I call on the RIAA to do the right thing. Fix this now. There is no reason for this to continue.
Unless those who say the RIAA is essentially evil are correct.
Changes at CBS
CBS-owned KNX (1070 AM) and KFWB (980 AM) let go of programmer Andy Ludlum Money 101 reporter Bob McCormick. And over at KRTH (101.1 FM), four of the six weekend and fill-in jocks were let go last week as well: Sylvia Aimerito, Dave Randall, Christian Wheel and Bruce Chandler.
Programmer Chris Ebbott told LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett that “We are making some changes to the sound of our weekends. Will have an announcement about those plans soon.” My hunch is that lower cost has a lot to do with those changes, but I am not totally convinced of that either. Details, as they arrive.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #51

If you can stand one more column on KFWB (980 AM) ... the station finally launched its new Beast identity last Monday, September 22, along with a handful of local shows exclusive to the station.
Former LA Clipper and UCLA Bruin basketball player Marquis Johnson teams up with Fox Sports anchor Jeanne Zelasco to start the day with a love and local program weekday mornings from 5:30 to 9:00. They are followed by CBS Sports syndicated host Jim Rome 9:00 to noon. Noon to 3:00 p.m. features longtime popular Channel 4 sportscaster Fred Roggin for another local program.
Afternoons from 3:00 to 7:00 are hosted by former NFL tight end George Wrighster and veteran San Diego radio/TV host Brett Winterble in a program called “The Drive.” LA Sports Today comes on at 7:00.
At 9 p.m., it’s back to the CBS Sports Radio syndicated fare, including Doug Gottlieb at 9:00, Damon Amendolara at 11:00, and Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson at 3:00 a.m.
As the flagship station for the Los Angeles Clippers, The Beast 980 will carry every Clippers game throughout the year in addition to what station spokesman Howard Freshman calls “comprehensive, behind-the-scenes coverage” of the team.
The station will also carry NFL primetime games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, NCAA football and basketball games, a weekly look (I am a Bruin so should I say “weakly look?”) at USC athletes on “Trojans Live; time and date to be announced.
I have to say, as much as I think sports radio won’t work -- and I have a couple decades of ratings from other all-sports stations from Los Angeles to prove my point -- I have to say I am impressed with what The Beast has put together. At least on paper. I like that most of the broadcast day is local. Will it be enough? 
That’s a tough one ... I still say no. I just don’t think radio listeners in Southern California care enough about sports to tune in to sports radio to begin with. Fully 16 stations come up ahead of the combined ratings for KLAC (570 AM), KLAA (830 AM), and KSPN (710 AM). The current top of the heap, KLAC, is 29th, and that is with the Dodgers who could not be seen on most televisions this season. That KFWB is now the 4th such station in town does not bode well for its future success.
If I am wrong, though, I will certainly admit it.
The Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters saluted Carl Reiner at the luncheon earlier this month. Sitting next to me was my host, Chuck Southcott, former programmer of the late, great original KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) and the Music of Your Life format; to his left was former KLAC and XETRA (690 AM) programmer Brad Chambers. Both have been competitors; both are currently working on projects involving adult standards music: Southcott with a syndicated format available -- unfortunately -- only in other cities, and Chambers with Martini in the Morning (www.MartiniInThe Morning.Com), an internet service playing the same music.
I always wondered if the two of them got along, considering that they for years have been competitors, often at stations that seemed to be fiercely competitive.
Turns out, they are friends. I should have guessed ... both are true gentlemen. And the stories they told were almost as interesting as was Reiner! Accidental behind-the-scenes radio stories ... gotta love it.
Marotta Retiring
Rich Marotta announced last week that he will be retiring from radio, including from the show he has been a part of for the last 22 years, the Bill Handel morning program on KFI (640 AM). His last day will be Friday, September 26.
According to All Access Music Group, a website dedicated to radio (, Marotta has been doing his KFI work from his home in Reno, Nevada. 
Clear Channel is Dead
It is true. We don’t have Clear Channel to kick around any more. Unfortunately, the company that did more to damage radio than any other single company is still here, just under a different name.
Does this mean even Clear Channel executives know how much people hate them?
Regardless, the company is now called IHeartMedia. Big whoop. I would have been happier had the company just gone under so their hundreds of radio stations could revert back to being, well, good.