Thursday, May 7, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #80

It’s been a while since Larry Elder has been heard on the local airwaves -- the Sage from South Central was shown the door at KABC (790 AM) last December -- but that didn’t stop him from being honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He’s in rare company. Only a handful of political talk hosts have a star: Bill Cunningham (awarded in 1960), Ray Briem (1992), Dan Avey (2006) and Bill Handel (2009), according to the Hollywood Reporter.

I actually have little information on Bill Cunningham, and his inclusion on this list may be a mistake. It seems there are two, and even the Hollywood Walk of Fame info page has it incorrectly listed as the current conservative talk host. The current syndicated host is named after the radio pioneer who earned the star as host of “Meet the Boss” from 1944 to 1952 ... hardly a political-sounding show.

Regardless, Elder was the recipient of the 2,548th star on April 27th -- Larry Elder Day in Hollywood, according to Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler. The star can be found near Hollywood and Vine, across the street from the famous Pantages Theater. On hand for the celebration were Jon Voight and Dean Cain.

You can still hear Larry via podcast -- live from 3-6 PM locally as well as on demand -- at www.LarryElder.Com

Boss Followup

Last week’s column on the 50th birthday of KHJ’s top-40 “Boss Radio” format brought out quite a few responses. One caught an error ... it was not Bill Drake who voiced the promo asking listeners to check out the competition for examples of “pre-Boss radio,” it was station morning man and official voice Robert W. Morgan. Hear it at about the 3 minute mark at

One of the more interesting emails received came from Mary Cahill, who asked why I didn’t mention KHJ’s current format, religious talk with programming from Immaculate Heart Radio, a Catholic broadcasting group.

When I explained that it just wasn’t the focus of my story but that I was personally excited to hear one of the current hosts mention “new affiliate, 93/KHJ”, she wrote back: “I also like to hear ‘93 KHJ’ - I've been listening to that station for 50 years! I arrived in the U.S. on April 29, 1965.”

Few stations can claim listenership that long. That’s impressive.
Would it Work?

The question does come up ... would a station like KHJ work today? Or is today’s radio audience so fractured that it would be doomed?
Let’s think this through. The major elements of Boss Radio were:

• Play the currently popular music.
• Limit DJ chatter, but encourage personality.
• Interesting and innovative contests to lure listeners, especially teens.
• Limited commercials so the focus is on music.
• An award-winning news department that made news entertaining.
• Quick jingles to eliminate on-air clutter
• Focus on being bigger than life, entertaining, fun and accessible.

In a word: yes. I believe successful would be an understatement.
Today’s top-40 radio -- as well as many other formats -- is as cluttered as the popular stations were prior to April, 1965. Sound beds under any talk, 10 minute commercial breaks (or longer). Worse: DJs not allowed to do much more than read cards, yet the messages on the cards themselves are part of the clutter. Quick jingles are gone, replaced by long promos.

No matter the music, a station that adopted the philosophies of original programmer Ron Jacobs, last programmer Chick Martin, or many of those in between would clean up ... just like KIIS-FM when they did exactly that in the early 1980s and set ratings records for the era. 

I dare say that KRTH (101.1 FM) and Go Country (105.1 FM) do much of that now, and that is why those two stations are among the most popular of their type in the country. Even KFI (640 AM) has elements ... their “more stimulating talk” has much in common with Boss Radio.

Good radio is good radio, and good radio would keep people from seeking alternatives such as iPods ... at least that’s my opinion. What are your thoughts?

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