Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #35

Flashback to the year 1974.
It was August 8th, the day that Richard Nixon announced that the following day, he would resign as President of the United States of America. A short time after the announcement, a disc jockey on KHJ (930 AM) opened up his microphone, and on the fade ending of the Hues Corporation’s “Rock the Boat,” he said,"K-H-J, and your brother Tom Dooley. That’s Hues Corporation, “Rock The Boat.” And, we've all gotta do that once in a while, you know? I believe Richard Nixon, President of the United States and his close associates should be thoroughly investigated in regard to the concept, design and execution of the political assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the attempted assassination of George Wallace, and other unprecedented and heinous crimes of high treason and murder against the people of America. In case you don’t believe what you just heard, I’ll repeat it.”
He then repeated the statement, played his “Tom Dooley” jingle, segued into The Rascal’s “People Gotta Be Free,” and walked out of the studio. The version I heard of the story told of executives all being in a meeting and missing the whole thing ... wondering why he was leaving, but the end result was the same: the station made an on-air statement during the news that the views expressed by Dooley were “not those of radio station KHJ;” within minutes Tom Dooley was longer employed by KHJ or owner RKO.
Fast forward to last week. Kimberly and Beck, the morning team on WBZA/Rochester were fired May 22nd for making negative remarks against benefits for transgender employees working for the city of Rochester. I have not heard an official transcript, but All Access.Com reported that the main focus of the firing was related to this statement from Kimberly:
"The services that will be paid for under the new coverage: gender reassignment surgery, psychological counseling, because you're probably a nut job to begin with, that's my opinion, hormone therapy, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery."
All Access also reported that Kimberly later posted on Twitter: "Freedom of Speech includes the freedom to offend others. You aren't granted a right to not be offended in this life #getoverit.”
In announcing the firings, station General Manager Sue Minn said, Their hateful comments against the transgender community do not represent our station or our company. We deeply apologize to the transgender community, the community of Rochester, and anyone else who was offended by their comments.”
Now, you may be asking why I am comparing these two totally unrelated events. Am I equating a statement made against a political figure with a blanket indictment of an entire group? Hardly. I am comparing them because they both resulted in firings, not because of free speech violations, but violations of company policy.
Interestingly, Dooley actually wanted out of his contract because he hated Los Angeles, hated KHJ and wanted to leave. He knew he would get fired for his rant on Nixon. In the end Dooley was but a forgotten footnote at KHJ, hardly a memory other than for fanatics like me. I doubt that happened on WBZA. But the change in attitude is interesting. No one claimed Dooley was entitled to “free speech” in 1974. Many today are claiming that Kimberly and Beck were denied their rights of “free speech.”
But as a longtime observer of radio -- and business -- this is most certainly not a free speech issue. Companies have a right to have their employees project an image of the company, and a code of conduct that enforces that image. Disneyland has one for appearance of employees. Others are similar. If I bash newspapers (which I would never do, by the way, I am old school and love reading newspapers), do you think I‘d work here long? 
Howard Stern himself was fired numerous times in spite of high ratings due to things he said. Until he found a company that basically protected him. Companies have that right too ... to allow in-your-face on air personalities unafraid to offend.
But does anyone really have free speech when it comes to representing the company you work for? No. And no one ever really has.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #34

Liz Fulton, former newscaster, news director and sidekick to Rick Dees on KIIS-FM (102.7) passed away May 7 at the age of 61 from what is described as natural causes, though I have trouble understanding what is natural about passing away at such an early age.
She predated Dees on KIIS by two years. In 1979 while Dees was just beginning his time at KHJ (930 AM), Fulton started at KIIS-FM as a news reporter, and was later made the station’s news director. She was the consummate professional, and brought respect to the station which had been suffering an identity crisis after a series of failed formats.
In 1981, under new management, Fulton was paired up with Dees, who was pushed out of KHJ when that station changed to country music in November, 1980. And it may have been Fulton who helped Dees make his mark in Los Angeles at KIIS after a lackluster debut on KHJ. Within months on KIIS-FM, Dees -- along with Fulton and the rest of the staff -- were setting ratings records not seen on an FM station ever before.
Fulton was the George Burns to Gracie Allen. The Dickie Smothers to his brother Tom. More importantly, the Joni Caryl to Robert W. Morgan, who was earning his own huge ratings on KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) at the time and would eventually go directly against Dees from the studios of Magic 106 (now KPWR, 105.9 FM).
She also kept her job as news director, and was the voice of the station’s hourly public affairs segments when stations ran such programming.
But not everything was as rosy as it seems. In late 1990, after being fired from the station for reasons some say have more to do with how she looked than with her skills, Fulton filed a lawsuit against the station and owner Gannett alleging that she was let go because she was not ”sexy enough” for Dees and his live appearances, though on-air she was acceptable enough to earn the nickname “Rugburns” ... and while she used that as part of the suit, it seemed at the time she went along with the joke.
Indeed, the sidekicks for Dees after Fulton, as well as during her absence from 1984 to 1987 when she left to have a family, were never as professional news-wise as was Fulton, and one could argue that they did have that young sexy look that Fulton said Dees desired. I personally think Dees never had a better sidekick than Fulton, and had she stayed perhaps Ryan Seacrest wouldn’t have been able to take over the show. But that’s another column.
Regardless, Dees told Don Barrett of LARadio.Com that he had connected with Fulton again after many years and they had a good time together. Dees is expected to be part of a tribute to be broadcast live in the near future from the LA Radio Studios at Ports O Call in San Pedro. I’ll have details when that comes together; In the meantime, I’m getting tired of writing obituaries for my radio friends.
Andy Rush
I did not know Andy Rush, though he is a veteran of KNX-FM (now Jack FM, 93.1), KMPC-FM (now KSCA, 101.9 FM) and until he died, he was in the production room at The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM). He passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack; he was only 60.
The columns of the last few weeks should be a reminder to everyone: life is too short as it is, and your friends and loved ones can be gone before you expect it. Take the time to call someone you have not spoken with lately. Like Dees and Fulton, get together and bury the hatchet. “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” as my friend Lisa White always says, “and it’s all small stuff.”
It truly is.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #33

It seems I am writing too many obituaries lately. Just after the news of the loss of veteran newsman Lee Marshall (and voice of Tony the Tiger) along with the man who brought talk radio to Los Angeles via KABC, Ben Hoberman, word comes of two more deaths.

One of the few remaining Boss Jocks from KHJ’s (930 AM) top-40 days passed away last week ... just a week after Boss Radio’s 49th anniversary date of April 27, 1965. Dave Diamond was the second jock to take to the KHJ airwaves at 6 PM that day, following the Real Don Steele; he passed away on May 6 after being hospitalized for pneumonia.

He didn’t last long at KHJ, as he decided to move over to then-new KBLA (later KROQ (AM), at 1500 AM but now off the air) where the format was a little looser and he could play some album cuts. His other local radio gigs included shifts on KFWB (980 AM), the original KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM), KIIS (1150 AM) and KFI (640 AM).

His musical roots are strong ... Don Barrett of LARadio.Com tells that among other things, he published Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense and Peppermint, a #1 hit in 1967. Even bigger, he is credited in the book Can’t Get Out of Here Alive as the founder of The Doors. His work on KRLA was during the station’s attempt at playing more album cuts ... music was obviously a big part of Diamond’s life, and The Diamond Mine, as heard on some of his stations, showcased that love.

Metal Programmer

Wild Bill Scott was a DJ and programmer who was part of KROQ (106.7 FM) in 1984, leaving in 1985 to be part of the new Pure Rock format on KNAC (now KBUE, 105.5 FM). Most recently he had been a consultant for DSN Radio, founded in 2005 and based in Arizona as part of the Digital Syndicate Network (

Scott became known in radio circles nationally when he launched the Z-Rock format for the ABC Radio Networks in 1986. The syndicated format was nominated for a Billboard Award in 1990, the first and only time for a full-time heavy metal format. It lasted until 1996 after changes in direction spelled its demise.

Scott’s death is related to a stroke he had recently, and he passed away May 2nd in Auburn, California.

The Search ...

The search is on for a new programmer over at KRTH (101.1 FM) and KTWV (94.7 FM). One name that came up and that I personally think would be a good choice: Mike Wagner, former programmer of the original KRLA.

What makes Wagner such a good choice? He knows radio better than most, he knows LA and Orange County better than most, he actually beat KRTH when he programmed KRLA and they were in direct competition (especially remarkable considering that KRLA was on the AM band), and he knows how to bring out the best of his on-air staff. He’s also a darn good on-air jock.

The only problem? He moved out of state, retired from radio, and most likely wouldn’t do it.

It would be nice to see another local boy get the job, though. Someone who grew up here and knows radio. I’ll still lobby Wagner, but if he refuses, who would you suggest? Is Chuck Martin -- the last successful programmer of KHJ, formerly sister to KRTH and the station KRTH’s format is based on -- interested? He, too knows Southern California radio better than most.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #32

It was almost exactly a year ago that I wrote of the impending change of program director at sister stations KRTH (101.1 FM) and KTWV (94.7 FM), what with the retirement of Jhani Kaye. On May 21, 2013 I wrote that Kaye’s replacement would be Rick Thomas, and that Thomas -- who arrived in Los Angeles after successfully programming a cluster of stations in Honolulu -- would take over in June.
Just shy of a year later, CBS announced last week that they will be transferring Thomas to New York, where he will take the reigns of WNOW (92.3 FM), which has been without a programmer since Rick Gillette left in December.
At the time Thomas was appointed to KTWV and KRTH I thought it an interesting move, since Thomas’ expertise was “rhythmic oldies” and “rhythmic contemporary” stations. He launched or developed the formats on numerous stations including those in Honolulu, San Francisco and San Diego. I even predicted that the days of The Wave as “smooth jazz” were numbered, and that it soon would become “old school,” which it indeed did become late last year as “LA’s Smooth R&B station.”
The change at The Wave failed, to put it kindly. A weird mishmash of oldies and a name that still means either “smooth jazz” (or “that damn station that took away KMET,” depending on to whom you speak) caused ratings to tank to a level lower than KMET itself had when the decision was made to pull the plug back in 1987. Most recently the station found itself in a 4-way tie for 18th place in the Nielsens, with a 2.2 percent share of the audience.
Somewhat ironic when you consider that KRTH itself held steady, and I’ve heard rumblings that overall, staffers at KRTH liked him a lot. Of course KRTH stayed true to its history and it was always the easier station to run. Even Kaye himself, with his vast experience programming KOST for years, was successful with KRTH but could do little with The Wave.
Regardless, this opens up another rumor. My hunch this time? The Wave will be totally gone by the end of the year, and that CBS will put their CBS SportsRadio format -- currently an HD Radio sub-channel stream on KCBS-FM (93.1 HD-1, to be exact) onto the 94.7 frequency. Ratings will tank further if they do that, but I still bet it will happen.
No replacement for Thomas has been announced, but reader Joe Costanzo says he has sent tweets out on Twitter asking that Kaye be brought back. I doubt Kaye would come back, but it’s an interesting thought.
Quick Takes
Randi Rhodes, last heard in Los Angeles on former affiliate KTLK (now KEIB, 1150 AM) will end her syndicated program for her remaining affiliates on May 16. Rhodes was one of the best liberal-slanted talk programs, but ratings were just never there and political talk radio in general seems to be slowly going away ...
Ben Hoberman, the man who brought talk radio to Los Angeles when he launched the format on KABC in 1960, passed away on May 3rd. He was 92.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Radio Waves Podcast #31

Michael Stark, owner of the LA Radio Studio located at Ports ‘O Call in San Pedro, broke the sad news last Sunday: legendary broadcaster and newsman Lee Marshall passed away April 27th at the age of 67.
Very little is known about the cause of death; one post on Marshall’s own Facebook page, along with information tweeted by LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett mentioned esophageal cancer, but at press time that was not confirmed.
Most people across the United States know Marshall’s voice as that of Tony the Tiger, the cartoon spokesman for Kellog’s Frosted Flakes cereal; Marshall has been the voice of Tony since 1995 when previous Tony voice Thurl Ravenscroft passed away.
But fans know him as one of the best voices ever to grace the radio airwaves. Some call his the Voice of God, with an amazing bass depth that would make a subwoofer rumble. He hit the LA airwaves in 1970 on KHJ (930 AM) and over the years covered news for the original KDAY (now KBLA, 1580 AM), KABC (790 AM), and during the station’s short time of running financial news, KBLA. In San Diego he was with KCBQ (1070 AM); more recently he was with The Boomer, KVEN/Ventura.
But he came to Southern California a seasoned veteran, having worked at top stations such as KRIZ/Phoenix, CKLW/Ontario.
In addition to his radio and commercial work, Marshall was part of professional wrestling as the play by play voice of the American Wrestling Association along with other wrestling associations and organizations.
Just a short time ago, Stark and I met Marshall for an interesting career-spanning interview for a weekly podcast called LA Radio Sessions at the LA Radio Studios. You can hear it at In it, Marshall gives not only his own history (and recordings of his work), he gives his opinion of modern radio ... including a very positive outlook on the medium that others -- including myself -- have a tendency to put down due to corporate bloodletting.
It has been joked that if God needed someone to do a speech, he’d call on Marshall. It appears he did. Lee, thank you for all your work over the years. Your talent and voice -- along with your positive attitude -- will be missed here on earth.
Quick Picks
Wonder how Rush Limbaugh is doing over at KEIB (1150 AM)? Good and bad, depending on how you look. In listeners aged 6 and over, Limbaugh earned a 1.4 share of the audience during his 9 am to 12 noon shift. Sounds bad, but overall, the station has a 0.5. And the station had a 0.2 share during his shift back when it was a liberal talker. In the more marketable age demographic of 25-54, Limbaugh’s shift is 0.5 compared with 0.3 for the station as a whole and 0.1 back under liberal talk.
Commercial sets on your favorite station seem too long? I’ve thought so for years, and I feel that long commercial breaks not only drive away listeners, they also make each commercial worth less to an advertiser. It appears I am not alone, and Pandora is the driving force. According to Edison Research, Pandora listeners especially are more likely to prefer short breaks more often compared with fewer but longer breaks. Like early KHJ circa 1965, Pandora has short breaks as often as every three songs. Is it time for the elements of Boss Radio to make a comeback?