Thursday, March 27, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #27

I had some wonderful emails arrive almost immediately after last week’s column regarding what I miss about radio was published. So many, in fact, that I cannot possibly print them all. But I’ll shut up right now and get to as many as I can.
Elle from Venice: “OH YEAH, I remember some entertaining DJs! In the early 70s, I remember driving to work in downtown LA, sitting on the Santa Monica Freeway Parking Lot, and listening to the completely politically-incorrect Hudson & Landry. They would also play cuts off their comedy album.   Listening to "Bruiser Larue," I laughed until I almost missed my off-ramp and then had to repair my runny mascara before work. And it's still a feeling of comfort and bringing back good days when I hear Charlie Tuna's voice! Classy, always!”
From Cindy: “There is one thing that I really miss that you didn't mention. I remember years ago when radio commercials were fun and made to entertain listeners like mini radio shows, or just silly little visual vignettes. My favorite was by a couple of L.A. tire guys named Ted and Ed...or was it Ed and Ted; The gimmick was that they were going around the world to sell tires. My favorite, the Matterhorn, where they were less than impressed by the size of it but one of them noticed a giant mouse walking by...”
Russ from Glendale: “What I miss most about today's radio are the great public service shows I would listen to that were usually aired on weekends. The shows I particularly remember listening to were Powerline, SCAN, Open Door, Master Control, and my all time favorite, Ask the Professor. Are any still aired? I wouldn't even mind listening to older shows if I could find them, so far I haven't had much luck. Maybe you or your readers might know where these show are now.”
(I loved Professor and Powerline too. I have often wondered if they are still being produced).
Ardi Newton: I enjoyed your article today so much. It really did bring back old memories. I graduated from high school in 1962. Our radio stations were KFWB and KRLA. I still remember the jingle:" KFWB, radio 98, color radio, channel 98."  Some of the names I remember are Wink Martindale, Dick Whittington, and over at KMPC, Dick Whittinghill (or vice versa).  Remember Wolfman Jack and Doctor Demento?  We always had 'the news at the top of the hour'. Those were the days.” 
Keeping in mind that I was simply stating what I miss in radio, not condemning radio today, I was surprised by the responses. These letters illustrate the difference between then and now: Radio was a companion then. DJs were larger than life. Stations were so big that they influenced teen culture more than parents and teachers. As Larry Lear of West Covina wrote, “when you were almost anywhere other than in the classroom at school, you had the radio playing.”
Today? Not so much. Most kids use other forms of entertainment; if they want new music they go elsewhere. Many don’t even turn on a radio, which in many ways makes me sad. But honestly, with so many stations using canned DJs, cluttered on-air presentations and no compelling content, is it any wonder that iPods and Pandora are the choice of a new generation? Without good DJs and other important elements, you might as well be Pandora. You certainly are not doing “radio.”
Get This App ...
... demanded reader Dennis Collier. It’s a talk radio app for iPhones called “Talk Shows on Internet Radio” that brings the world of syndicated talk radio right to your phone. I have not tried it (my personal ban on most talk radio shows is still in effect) but reviews seem decent. For $3.99 maybe it’s worth a gamble.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #26

I got to thinking the other day how radio has changed over the years. Not that the subject is ever very far from my mind. I grew up in what might be called the glory days of at least two formats, old enough to remember both top-40 radio at its best as well as what was once called “progressive” and later “album-oriented” rock radio at the height of that format’s popularity.
So I know that every time I write a column regarding what I like about radio, or perhaps more accurately what I miss about radio, I am dating myself.
Not as much as I could, perhaps, as top-40 actually had a renaissance in the early 1980s when stations like Chuck Martin’s K-WEST 106 (now KPWR, 105.9 FM) or Gerry DeFrancesco’s KIIS-FM (102.7) adopted the format. Both stations were great examples of top-40 radio; while K-WEST didn’t make it, KIIS-FM shook up the industry with its amazing success, including ratings of over a 10 share ... compared with what was then and is now again considered successful: anything over a 3 percent share of the audience. But then, even the 1980s are over 24 years ago.
Aside from my memory and my rose-colored glasses, there are elements of radio that truly have been lost. Things that I miss, that I believe were some of the reasons that radio was once so important to generations of kids ... and is now so very not. Do kids listen to radio? Certainly yes. Do they love radio and identify with any station? Hardly. 
So here are things I wish radio would do better or do more often. As always, you are free to disagree as well as add suggestions. As someone who still wishes music would be played on AM radio, I have a somewhat warped reality
First: I wish more stations would play music on AM radio. Stations I loved growing up included some top-40 greats: KHJ, KRLA, KEZY. And there was even AOR, such as when Dave Forman took KEZY into an AOR/alternative format. Music can sound good on AM with a clean signal and a good radio.
I miss call letters. The great stations of the past all had them: the already mentioned  KHJ, KRLA and KEZY. And there are obviously more: KMET, KLOS. Yes, many stations still use calls, but the trend here and nationwide is to use “clever” names: Hot 92.3. Power 106. My-FM. Whatever 98.7 calls itself now. Names are OK, but they lack something in my mind. Even UCLA’s student campus station KLA lost all of its history and respect when it decided to call itself “Bruin Radio.” Yuck.
I miss entertaining DJs, or more accurately DJs who were allowed to entertain. The jocks on KHJ and KMET were all important friends to us growing up. Does anyone even know the name of the afternoon drive DJ on a typical station today? Why can’t the Sound’s talented on-air staff talk about the records they play instead of a mystery voice?
I miss weather reports. Surf reports. Talk about local things important to me, the listener. I may be alone here, but I miss news on stations other than news and talk stations. News that was important to teens and young adults is one of the reasons that KMET connected so well to its audience when Sam Bellamy programmed the station. And one reason why KMET is so fondly remembered 28 years after it left the air.
DJs who were allowed to talk about things without a music bed under them. It used to be called “clutter” when you had unimportant elements in the way of programming, now it is the way its done. Are we listeners that impaired that we need music playing while the DJ tells us the details of the upcoming hour of programming?
What about real competition? When KMET would pass out bumper stickers at a concert sponsored by KLOS. When KHJ would fly a banner over an event sponsored by KRLA. When stations would try to scoop each other in getting the latest record from the hot artists? Those competitive rivalries made radio fun for the listeners, and for the station DJs and staff as well.
Fun, easy to win contests. My friend Jeff Holyfield and I still talk of the time he won WAM -- Walking Around Money -- from Ten-Q in the 1970s calling in from a rotary-dial phone. Everything now is so convoluted it loses its fun-factor. Makes you wonder if today’s programmers ever even heard what I would consider good radio. Jeff was lucky, of course ... my parents wouldn’t let me dial long distance anyway ...
I have more, and I am sure you do too. Let’s compare notes ... send an email to me and I’ll put your thoughts in a future column.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #25

If you are wondering where “Shotgun” Tom Kelly has gone, you’ll have to visit the hospital. The popular KRTH (101.1 FM) afternoon jock had recently gone in for a routine physical, when his doctors found some blockage in his arteries. On March 8th he underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery and is resting comfortably as he recovers from the procedure. He is expected to be back on the air within another week or so, and is apparently very anxious to do so.
A great radio talent, Kelly received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year. In a future column, I plan to show you a side of Kelly that few outside of his close friends know ... stay tuned.
The last few weeks are turing out to be a tough time for fans of some Los Angeles radio legends.
Geoff Edwards, once heard on KHJ (930 AM), KFI (640 AM) and the original KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) passed away March 5th at the age of 83, due to complications from pneumonia.
Known also for his talents as host of various television game shows including “Jackpot” in the early 1970s, Edwards began his broadcast career on the radio airwaves of WOKO/Albany, New York. He later made his way to KFMB/San Diego (760 AM).
On November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Edwards was preparing to move up to Los Angeles’ KHJ where he would become program director; instead of making that trip he took a detour to Dallas where he reported on the assassination for KHJ and the Mutual Broadcasting Network of which KHJ was an affiliate. By luck or chance, it was Edwards who reached the single payphone in the Dallas police department garage where Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspect in Kennedy’s killing. KHJ and Mutual were the first to get the news.
When KHJ became top-40 in 1965, Edwards moved to KFI, then KMPC where he remained until 1979. He returned to KFI in 1987, leaving in protest over afternoon drive host Tom Leykis’ decision to destroy Cat Stevens records when Stevens, by then known as Yusef Islam, called for the death of author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy. Edwards was replaced by Rush Limbaugh.
Jim Lange, best known for introducing potential couples to each other on television’s “The Dating Game,” passed away February 25th from a heart attack. He was 81.
Like Edwards, Lange was an alumnus of KMPC ... twice: 1971-1971 and 1984-1989. He also found himself in the Bay Area at KSFO and KGO, both of San Francisco, and KKSJ/San Jose. Always a gentleman -- one of his nicknames is Gentleman Jim -- he was superb as host of “The Dating Game,” a somewhat cheesy but immensely fun show created by the king of cheesy game shows, Chuck Barris.
I can still hear him say, “...and h-e-r-e they are” as he introduced the three potential suitors to the studio audience as a young man or woman prepared to ask such probing questions as “if you were a superhero, who would you be and why?”  
Johnnie (John) Darin, veteran of such popular stations as the original KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM), the original KDAY (now KBLA, 1580 AM), KROQ-AM (1500 AM, now long gone) KFWB (980 AM), and many, many more, found out just recently that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Don Barrett wrote about him in the March 7th edition of LARadio.Com. Darin passed away March 9th at the age of 74.
According to Barrett, Darin had celebrated his birthday and New Years Eve January 31st and began experiencing severe pain. An MRI was done and the cancer was found. Friends said that even though he was on morphine he was still taking calls and having coherent conversations for short periods of time right until his death.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #24

Those of us over a certain age ... we all know who we are ... who grew up in Southern California cannot help but remember the amazing advertisements from Larry “Supermouth” Huffman.
He spent some time on Orange County radio when anyone actually cared about Orange County radio: KWIZ/Anaheim (now KNVR 1480 AM) from 1966 to 1969; and KEZY/Anaheim (now KGBN, 1190 AM) from 1969-1970.
He was the spokesman for the former shoe store chain, The Wild Pair which for some reason I remember well even though I don’t recall any of the stores being near me. He starred in and co-wrote the movie “On Any Sunday,” directed by surf film maker Bruce Brown and said by some to have done for motorcycle racing what Brown’s “Endless Summer” did for surfing.
He did some television spots for Southern California Jeep and Eagle dealers. He did some national radio advertisements for the Dodge division of Chrysler. But what most fans remember, out of all the advertising he ever did, was three words:
“Sunday, Sunday! SUNDAY!”
Those words were legendary for the radio advertisements of motorcycle, stock and funny car races in and around Southern California that Huffman voiced for what seemed like my entire childhood. Huffman’s style was so unique that Lexus even used him in a very memorable radio advertisement trying to change the perception of Toyota’s luxury-car division -- and the calm, cool and collected spokesman -- from luxurious but boring into luxurious and fun.
Friday (or perhaps I should say Friday, Friday! FRIDAY!) March 7, Huffman will be honored for his work in advertising by receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Inland Empire chapter of the American Advertising Federation, which will present the award at their “Mega Monster Advertising Awards” banquet at the Mission Inn in Riverside. It begins at 6 PM but is sold out ... fitting, I suppose, for someone of such calibre as Huffman.
Down on the Corner
KNX takes to the streets again and heads on down to San Juan Capistrano for its next edition of KNX On Your Corner scheduled for March 14... the same day as my 22nd wedding anniversary.
The station will broadcast live from the Mission Grill, 31721 Camino Capistrano (across the street from Mission San Juan Capistrano) for much of the broadcast day: 5 - 9 a.m. with news anchors Dick Helton and Vicky Moore, the Business Hour with Frank Mottek from 1-2 p.m., and the afternoon news with Diane Thompson and Chris Sedens from 2-7 p.m. You’re invited, and refreshments will be served.
The team will talk with local business and political leaders from Orange County’s southernmost communities, including Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Hills and Dana Point.