Radio December 23, 2016
Tributes have been pouring into the KLOS (95.5 FM) website after the news that longtime rock radio personality Bob Coburn had passed away December 17th at the age of 68. KLOS is, of course, the station where Coburn spent most of his career, though he had been heard on five other local stations including KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM), KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM), KZLA (now KXOS, 93.9 FM), KPPC (now KROQ, 106.7 FM), and KCBS-FM (93.1). He also was host and later owner of the popular syndicated program Rockline.
Coburn had been diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year and had dedicated himself to fighting it as best he could. Unfortunately when it was diagnosed it was already at Stage 4; he died surrounded by family and friends.
Coburn’s radio career started slightly illegally ... using a five-watt transmitter that he and a friend used to broadcast music to their local Dallas, Texas neighborhood. They even took requests ... for a time, at least. After about three months, officials from the FCC tracked them down, presented a cease-and-desist order, and left with their transmitter.
Not that the incident dampened his desire to DJ ... he used that as his “experience” to land a job at KAND/Corsicana, Texas, which lasted for two weeks until he quit so he could attend his girlfriend’s prom. Next was KPLT/ Paris, Texas; eventually he worked his way to KPPC in 1969, then down to San Diego’s KGB (now KLSD, 1360 AM) when legendary programmer Ron Jacobs launched the station’s AOR format in 1972.
In Los Angeles he worked for another legendary programmer, Sam Bellamy, at KMET from 1975 - 1979 where he did afternoons and worked as music director, before moving on to others. He hosted Rockline from 1981 to 1994, and again from 1997 to 2014 when it ended it’s syndicated run.
Sam Bellamy told me of Coburn’s contributions to KMET and more: “Bob had a big hand in formulating the sound and success of KMET. He broke new bands, new artists ... his ear was unbelievable ... truly golden.
“He was always out listening to new bands and helping artists. He was a mentor to bands, artists and even aspiring DJs, and was a gift to us all. His energy was amazing.
“His passion directed his path. A passion for music -- he discovered some great rock and roll -- a passion for radio and a passion for life. He loved radio, loved his life in radio, and his passion propelled him to his success. He left a real mark in the industry and will never be forgotten.”
KLOS is where he spent that majority of his career, working at the station three different times, most recently as the late morning host 9:30 to noon. He’d been running “Rockline Replay” -- best of segments from the popular interview show -- for the past two years.
The station opened up its website to listener and artist tributes, which can he heard and read at 955KLOS.Com. In addition, the regular programming was dropped for most of the weekend in favor of recordings from Rockline.
Even competitor The Sound (100.3 FM) paid tribute on air and on the station website. This demonstrates the community that is or can be local radio.
Michael Stark, who runs the LA Radio Studio in San Pedro, told me, “I was never real close to BC, but having worked at KLOS during the "golden era" (as characterized by the great Michael Benner in his tribute to him), I did know him, conversed with him occasionally and found he was one of the most musically knowledgeable jocks I ever worked with. He LOVED the music.”
Cuts at KNX
Just when you thought radio was already cut to the bone, CBS -- once the crown jewel of local and national radio quickly turning into coal -- fires three from KNX (1070 AM): Linda Nunez, Steve Grad and Ed Mertz. Loyalty has no rewards in radio, especially when the owner is trying to make the stations look more profitable -- if far less listenable -- to potential suckers, er, buyers. Shame on CBS.