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.