Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Radio Waves Podcast #139

Radio August 19, 2016

Fans of adult standards -- the smooth sounds of Sinatra and friends -- have been without a local radio home (at least if they don’t own a digital HD radio) since KGIL dropped the format and became classical K-Mozart (1260 AM) in April, 2011. Since that time, standards have been available only on the HD3 digital stream of GO Country 105, but of course you need a special radio to hear it.

More than five years have passed, and to the rescue is ... 1260 AM, which will -- or did, depending in when you read this -- return to playing standards at 3 p.m. Friday.

Owner Saul Levine loves classical music, so I know that the decision to change was not made lightly. In fact, the change had been planned to happen a few weeks ago, but he wanted to give classical one more chance. “The advertising just isn’t there,” Levine explained, adding that the station was losing money monthly.

The new format is called The American Songbook, and will feature music about which Levine says he is also passionate: “I consider it America’s classical music.” He explained that the format will feature a distinct modern flavor with recordings made more recently that is typical on other Standards stations. “Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett will be there, of course, along with more recent artists such as Michael Buble, Steve Tyrell, and Diana Krall. Sinatra is timeless, as is Bennett,” he explained.

The kickoff to the format is a continuous loop of popular Sinatra songs which will run repeatedly and commercial-free through 6 a.m. Monday. As of press-time, there is no word on DJs or a possible call-letter change; I’ll have that information as it becomes available.

Classical will continue on 105.1 HD2, and Unforgettable will simulcast on 105.1 HD3.

Free to Retire

Paul Freeman, who started his broadcast career as a junior in high school and has been heard locally since 1970, has h8ng up his headphones and will soon join his family in the state of Washington.

A low-powered station set up in the basement of his childhood home led to his first job reading news, but he hit the big time when he landed at KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM) in 1970 soon after obtaining his broadcasting license at the William B. Ogden Radio School. KEZY was Anaheim’s answer to KHJ (930 AM) and was a powerhouse of talent throughout its history.

1976 brought him to KHJ and soon after KIIS AM/FM, which at the time was programmed by Charlie Tuna. Freeman stayed at KIIS (later on FM only, 102.7) through numerous formats: pop, disco and dance. Then came the station’s move into top-40 in the early 1980s, which saw the talented staff work its way to the top of the Los Angeles ratings.

“That is my favorite radio memory -- working at KIIS-FM when the station earned a 10 share in the Arbitron ratings,” Freeman told me. “It was so much fun ... you could feel the vibe when you stepped off the elevator on the 11th floor of the Motown Records building (where the studios were located). KIIS rocked the ‘80s ... we owned the city.”

It was during that time when he worked for his favorite programmer in his career. “Gerry DeFrancisco was amazing to work for. The best. He and General manager Wally Clark knew how to build a winning station, promote it and push us to our best.”

Clark, along with his more recent employer, Saul Levine, wound up as his two favorite General Managers. “Both Wally and Saul are so passionate about radio, they inspire everyone they are near.”

His resume includes KODJ/KCBS-FM (93.1 FM), KZLA (now KXOS, 93.9 FM), KYSR (98.7 FM), KBIG (104.3 FM), and of course KKGO Go Country 105 FM where he has worked the past nine years.

Did it take long to get used to playing country songs on KZLA and Go Country after such a long time playing pop? “I didn’t know the songs at first,” he said. “But I quickly began to like them. It is much like top-40 of years past as far as the sound, and every song has a story to tell. There are so many songs to which people can relate!”

What made him decide to retire? “I want to spend time with my family. I have five brothers and sisters all living in Washington, and I want to spend quality time with them. I just bought a house with deer in my front yard; my house is just minutes away from my sister who’s house is on a lake. 

“It’s time ... but I will miss being on the radio. It’s the only job I’ve ever had and I am very fortunate to have been able to do it all these years. It’s time to turn it over to someone else.”

“Paul has been the Afternoon Drive Time air personality since Go Country 105 adopted the Country Format in 2007, said station owner Levine. “Not only has Paul been one of the nicest persons to have around the station, but his share of audience has been among the highest through out that time to this date. Paul is always cheerful and upbeat, and that quality will be missed by the entire staff.”

Christine Martindale has returned to the station to take over Freeman’s afternoon drive show.

Airwaves: August 12, 2016

The big story of 18 months ago is the polar opposite of the big news of last week: Mark Thompson is gone form The Sound morning show, aka Mark in the Morning.

When he made his debut on February 2, 2015, it was with great fanfare. Sound programmer Dave Beasing and general manager Peter Burton were elated to convince the former half of Mark and Brian to come out of retirement.
“I wanted to make sure that they wanted what I do. That they were sure they wanted me, not something else,” explained Thompson before the show’s debut. That was always important to Thompson - being able to do the show he wanted to do.

To appease music fans, they added music. Four songs per hour, five if needed. And it worked pretty well; when Entercom bought the station from Bonneville just over a year ago, there was talk of syndication and other such deals. Personality radio was considered strong enough to move co-host Andy Chanley out of mornings in order to pair him with Christian Hand for an afternoon-drive personality-driven show.

Then something happened. It is uncertain when it happened exactly, but the buzz seemed to be off. It may be total coincidence, but I personally noted that the morning show lost something when Chanley left for afternoons in January of this year ... it just wasn’t the same without Chanley keeping Thompson in line, though Gina Grad stepped up as best she could.

“We started to get rumblings, borne out by research, that our listeners wanted more music in the morning,” Beasing told me. “So we waited until Mark was in town (he normally did his part of the program from his home in North Carolina) and sat down with him.

Beasing confirmed what Thompson said in the air. Thompson was told of the research and that they needed to add more music. “Well, then you don’t need me,” said Thomspon. “That’s not the type of show I do.”

There was a lot of emotion leading up to the announcement, and when the announcement and goodbyes were said on the air, they made for a very touching show. “I love everyone here,” said Thompson. On Wednesday, August 3rd, after a tear-filled morning, he handed over control of the show to Chanley, Grad, and his daughter Katie Thompson.

So now mornings on The Sound are Andy and Gina; Joe Benson starts at 9 a.m. instead of 10 (presumably making the entire day live unlike the daily “best of Mark” that aired from 9-10 each morning ....a pet peeve of mine, by the way). Afternoons as of press time are still up in the air, though I am sure Beasing is dusting off my resume and aircheck I submitted to him last year. I better be ready. Just in case.

All in the Family

Michael Levine has been named program director of father Saul Levine’s Go Country 105, replacing longtime PD Tonya Campos who left the station in July. The younger Levine had been performing programming duties since Campos departed.

Michael began his radio career as Director of Marketing for the station back in 2004 and was there when the country format debuted in 2007. In making the move, Saul said “It is with a profound sense of confidence that I make the announcement.”

While I am sure there will be those who call it a case of nepotism -- and perhaps it is -- I personally don’t care. As long as he is competent, he will do fine (and his father won’t put up with bad decisions!). I sincerely want Michael to catch the same bug that Saul has, in order to guarantee that stations like Go Country and companies like Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters survive. 

Saul could have sold KKGO (or any of his other radio properties) years ago and retired a very very rich man, but he decided to stay in it because he loves the business, and he loves offering programming that can’t be found elsewhere. He also likes sticking it to the big guys as well, which is a wonderful trait to have. He is one of the few remaining independent small broadcasters in the country, and I respect him highly for that.

No News is Good News

The Radio Advertising Bureau ( has announced it will no longer report radio revenue data. In doing so a spokesman told AllAccess.Com that there are companies whose business it is to  forecast and report those numbers, and they are leaving it to them. 

The purpose of the RAB is to advocate for radio as a marketing tool, so perhaps the decision is sound. I can’t help but feel the same as a commenter to All Access, though, who wrote: “Better to not acknowledge the grease spot on the garage floor than to address it and clean it up.”

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