Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #186

Radio: September 1, 2017

Most people know Jay Thomas as an accomplished actor, with roles on such shows as Mork and Mindy, Cheers, Murphy Brown, and more. But I know him as the second morning man on Power 106 (KPRW, 105.9 FM), replacing Tommy Jaxson and Deborah Rath in October, 1986 ... nine months after the initial dance/top-40 format made it’s debut on the station.

Born Jon Thomas Terrell, Thomas died of cancer on August 24th; he is survived by his wife and three sons.

He began his radio career as a sports announcer for high school football and college basketball in Charlotte, North Carolina. His career goal was to be a stand-up comic, which he accomplished while he stayed on the radio in addition to his appearances on television.

By the time he arrived at Power 106, he had a solid resume. The combination of acting, DJing and comedy made him a perfect choice for Power, as the station looked for someone to take on perennial morning leader Rick Dees who seemed unstoppable at competitor KIIS (102.7 FM).

Through a combination of mis-steps by KIIS and momentum of the new format at Power, it worked. Thomas was the first person to knock Dees out of 1st place since Dees started dominating in 1983.

Thomas left the station in 1993 when management took Power into a different direction, replacing dance with rap. He continued with acting, but until his death was still connected with radio most recently through an uncensored talk program on SiriusXM.

Celebrating 50

Andy Barber -- that is his real name -- grew up with radio heroes like The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan and stations like the original KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM), KHJ (930 AM), KFWB (980 AM), listening from his home in the Los Angeles area as he studied to become an actor.

Acting never really happened, but he got hooked on radio, working his way to Los Angeles on the AM top-40 version of KROQ (1500 AM, now off the air) in the mid 1970s where he worked with one of his boyhood heroes, Charlie Tuna, and later at high-energy Ten-Q (KTNQ, 1020 AM) where he worked with another, Steele.

Steele, in fact, brought him his biggest thrill on the air when introducing him for the first time on Ten-Q. “He said, ‘and now on the air from Glendale, California, Little Andy Barber ... a-ha Andy, I have a connection ... he’s on Ten-Q!’
“I about peed my pants. He called my Dad to find out any idiosyncrasies and my Dad said ‘yeah he used to be called Little Andy.’ He used that and I was more shocked that he knew that than he was actually introducing me next.”

Interestingly, while he grew up locally, outside of KROQ, Ten-Q and later K-WEST (now KPWR), he’s spent most of his career outside of Los Angeles. “I always wanted to make it to LA; when I finally did, it just wasn’t like the other cities,” he explained. “It’s as different vibe.” He’s been in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the past 24 years and loving it.

Barber began his 50th anniversary on the radio airwaves last month Tulsa, still sounding great. You can hear him via his current station stream at; if you want to hear the interview I (and Mike Stark) did with Barber, head over to LARadioWaves.Com and look for podcast #185. 

More Woody

Our own Woody Show, heard mornings locally on Alt 98.7 FM, has expanded to Portland Oregon via Alt 102.3 (KKRZ-HD2) ... a secondary HD channel receivable on digital HD radios.

I’m not sure which is the bigger news -- Woody syndicating in Portland or a major station using the secondary channel to run a viable format. Are the major broadcasters finally taking note of the success broadcasters like Saul Levine have had with HD streams? Could more interesting formats be moving to HD? Or is this just a blip? Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #185

Radio: August 25, 2017
I never heard of consultant Walter Sabo before he arrived in Los Angeles in 1984 to destroy KHJ (930 AM) by instituting a format revolving around traffic reports.

I’m kidding. Truth be told, Sabo didn’t destroy the once-legendary top-40 station at all -- that honor belongs to some of his predecessors -- and while I disagree with some of the moves he made at KHJ (including changing call letters to KRTH-AM) and sister KFRC/San Francisco (radio game shows), it turns out there’s a lot more to Sabo than meets the eye.

In a recent “10 Questions With ... Walter Sterling a/k/a Walter Sabo” on AllAccess.Com, Sabo hit the nail on the head multiple times, from talk shows to weekend programming to ratings. Much of the conversation centered on compelling programming.

Sterling is the last name he uses as Sunday night talk host on WPHT/Philadelphia, where he earns high ratings by (gasp!) not talking politics on his (gasp! again) AM radio show.

On political talk: ratings for political talk stations have been essentially flat and “the few talk stations that have actual increases -- not a tenth of a share wobbles -- cover a wide range of subjects all day.”

On his own show: “In show-prep, I hyper-focus on what two friends would probably have talked about that afternoon and present that conversation. I also ask for calls and give the phone number -- surprisingly, many hosts do not.”

Sabo continues: “The closer to home, the better the subject. If you care passionately about a subject, it's not fluff, it's important ... Parent teacher conferences, losing weight, finding romance, putting out the engine light and realizing that once again you have no spare cash are subjects that elicit passion from many people.

On weekend programming: “Infomercials rob a station of about 1/3rd of its potential (number of listeners). Saturday 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. is the second highest “homes using radio” daypart. Putting infomercials on during that time easily cuts a 1 share from the total week audience delivery. 

The main point of his philosophy: offer compelling, entertaining programming always and a station will do well. AM or FM. Isn’t that the whole idea?

Speaking of AM Radio

I am a firm believe in AM radio. My feeling is that -- as mentioned above -- compelling programming will bring in listeners no matter the band. More specifically, I want to take over a money-losing AM station and successfully program it ... or at least convince the Catholics to give me a few weekend hours to play top-40 music on KHJ. But I digress.

I happened to run across a group on Facebook called I Love AM Radio and, of course, immediately joined. The first (linked) article I read?

“Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio.” (

Written by Dick Taylor, it is quite a depressing read. AM is doomed because no one listens. He doesn’t really get into why they don’t listen, but he is accurate when concludes that few radio listeners tune to AM.

But the why is extremely important. Is it interference? Yes. Is it bad radios? Yes. But there are short-term and longer-term solutions to those important issues. What any good owner and any good programmer will tell you is that compelling programming thing again. The responses to the story on Facebook were surprisingly positive and uplifting, echoing my own thoughts.
Is it coincidence that the last respectful ratings earned by KLAC (570 AM), XETRA (690 AM), KEIB (1150 AM) and others was when they played music? Why does KSUR (1260 AM), playing oldies, have a strong following in spite of a signal that doesn’t even cover much of the Los Angeles ratings zone? How are KFI (640 AM) and KNX (1070 AM) competing? They provide good programming you can’t find elsewhere.

The point is, whether it is music, news, or talk, if you provide what people want (and promote it!) they will listen. Perhaps if more programmers followed that idea, people would tune in to AM more often and receiver manufacturers would start building better radios again ... including special circuits that are able to minimize interference and improve the sound.

Chargers Update

Alt 98.7 FM dodged a bullet. According to sources close to the scene, it's been decided that LA Chargers football games will NOT air on 98.7 or any FM, only KFI. Pregame programming will simulcast on two other iHeart stations, KLAC and KEIB. I imagine the staff at Alt must be relieved.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #184

Radio: August 18, 2017

Andy Barber was a high energy Los Angeles DJ from 1974 to 1981, launching his local career at KROQ back when it was heard on the AM band (1500 AM, now dark) in 1974, moving to Ten-Q (KTNQ, 1020 AM) and eventually K-WEST (now KPWR, 105.9 FM) during it’s top-40 days under the direction of master programmer Chuck Martin.

As if it was one of those cosmic moments, I happened to hear hear an aircheck of Barber on Ten-Q last week, and contacted him to ask if he’d be interested in doing an interview. Turns out, he just happens to be beginning his 50th continuous year being on the radio airwaves; now heard on KBEZ/Tulsa, OK, he began his 50th year last Wednesday morning at 6 a.m.

And he said “yes” to the interview ... that will be happening in the next few days; look for it in this very spot within the next two weeks.

Portable Sounds

Readers often ask if anyone still makes a good radio any more. Not a fancy streaming device, just a regular radio with a knob for tuning, a knob for volume, and a speaker. 

While you don’t see them in many stores -- they were hard to find even at Radio Shack, which might explain that chain’s demise -- they are still available. And Sony even introduced a new one earlier this year, the ICF-506 “analog tuning” portable radio. It costs about $40-$50.

I put analog tuning in quotes because this is not an analog tuner as far as I can tell. As you move the dial, the stations seem to pop into place the same as if you were using a digital tuner, both on AM and FM. And on AM, the tuning dial is linear -- stations are evenly spaced throughout the band -- unlike analog tuners that give more space for the lower end of the band and space stations at the top of the band more tightly. I did not confirm, but I believe that the radio is fully digital.

Reception is excellent. Using just the built-in antennas, even distant stations on both AM and FM bands came in easily. And FM sound through the single small mono speaker was adequate. You won’t be thumping any rap tunes through this but the sound is pleasant. AM, on the other hand, is awful. Think transistor radio from the 1960s sound ... Sony totally dropped the ball here, considering how others have done better even in the past.

It runs on three AA batteries or a power cord (no storage on the radio for the cord). It would make an excellent emergency radio due to its small size and great reception, as long as you are OK with the lack of fidelity on AM.

Charging KFI

KFI (640 AM) has been named one of the flagship radio broadcast stations for the San Diego, er, Los Angeles Chargers. KFI will be airing play-by-play, while it and sister stations KYSR (Alt 98.7 FM) and KLAC (570 AM) will broadcast 10 hours of game-day programming.

Without being too obvious, I imagine that management from competitors KROQ (106.7 FM) and KNX (1070 AM) are looking forward to the upcoming season. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #183

Radio: August 11, 2017

J.J. Johnson got some big news this week: his book, Aircheck: Life in Music Radio, was selected for and is now included in the archives of both the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio and the Paley Center for Media in New York City.

Aircheck is quite a read, and paints a vivid picture of Johnson’s experience in the radio -- and music -- industry. Reviews on Amazon.Com, where the book is available in both soft cover and Kindle editions, use words like “must-read,” and I agree. It has an obvious appeal to those in the industry, but Johnson’s writing is interesting, fast-paced, and accessible to all.

Johnson’s radio career spans over five decades and started when he was just 17 when he went on the air at Clevelend’s WABQ; he eventually moved to the West Coast and worked at such legendary stations as KFRC/San Francisco. Locally he was heard on such stations as the late, great (original) KDAY (now KBLA, 1580 AM), KJLH (102.3 FM) and KACE (now KRCD, 103.9 FM). At KJLH, he acted as an on-air first-hand reporter during the Los Angeles riots via the station’s street-level studios that included a huge looking-glass window facing the street.

I asked Johnson of his reaction to being selected in not just one but two prestigious archives. "Having my book included in these archives is, obviously, an honor,” he told me. “It's also a sort of immortality. Future generations will be able to glimpse our world and get a clue as to how we thought and lived. Actual audio tells a story. This takes people behind that  audio. Naturally, I'm beyond pleased. I'm trying to contain myself!"

Will he ever do a followup? “Probably. I have a ton of stuff to clear off the proverbial table, first. As I stated in the book, it was one guy's picture of this life. I was not attempting to work in everything that happened. So, there's plenty more to tell.”

Happenings at KFI

KFI (640 AM) evening host Tim Conway and his staff got a surprise recently from morning man Bill Handel and crew: cookies.

But not just any cookies. The Conway group thought they were special teddy-grahams; turns out they were -- unknown to the night crew -- Grandma Lucy’s Organic Oven Baked Dog Treats. Yes, dog treats. See the reaction at

Neil Saavadra, host of the KFI weekend Fork Report (Saturdays, 2-5 p.m.) wants to be known as Orange County’s favorite “food influencer” as part of the 2017 Golden Foodie Awards. Voting takes place now through August 21; vote for your favorite via the Golden Foodie website at

Satellite Golf

Through August 13th, SiriusXM is offering hole-by-hole coverage of the PGA Championship from the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. The programming will air on Sirius channel 208 and XM channel 92 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Radio: August 4, 2017

KOST (103.5 FM) listeners had a big surprise in store when they tuned in last Monday. Instead of morning woman Ellen K, they heard none other than Rick Dees.

Dees, of course, was the longtime morning man on KIIS-FM (102.7 FM) and spent many years with Ellen as his sidekick/news reporter.

Ellen was out due surgery; it seems she broke her wrist while snowboarding with her family recently and the surgery was scheduled for Monday. While she recovers (recovered? ... she may be back as soon as by the time you read this) there will be a different fill-in each morning.

Daly Out

Carson Daly is gone from Amp Radio (KAMP, 97.1 FM); his last day hosting Amp mornings was July 27. The “official” reason is that he wants to spend more time with his family, telling fans on Instagram, “The truth is … The reason I’m going to stop doing radio for now is that I just want to have breakfast with my kids … I want to thank you guys. It’s been really incredible.”

At least one observer refutes that “official” reason. Claims Jerry Del Colliano through his July 31st "Inside Music Media" column, Daly’s contract was not renewed because soon-owner Entercom’s CEO David Field gave the order to CBS executives to not renew Daly’s contract. True? Hard to say, but it does seem a bit more than convenience.

No replacement was selected at press time; Daly will continue with his other duties including hosting The Voice on NBC Television and his syndicated countdown show that airs weekends on Amp.

Readers Revenge

“I have a question about KLOS. If I'm in my car around 5-6:00, I always put on the 5:00 Funnies, which usually comes on about 5:20 or so. The last few times I tuned into the station to hear the comedy, they just played music. Would you happen to know if they stopped the 5:00 Funnies, or did I just miss it --Brian Baldini

It looks like you just missed it. The KLOS website (955KLOS.Com) has the Funnies listed and available as a downloadable on-demand podcast. Find it on the main page, under the On-Air pull down menu; the Funnies were current as I wrote this.

Unfortunately I was unable to get through to anyone at the station to confirm the air time, so I will make an assumption that they are going back to being earlier in the hour, perhaps as early as 5:00 itself.

Short Takes

Kevan Weatherly is out as the programmer of Amp Radio, replaced by Chris Ebbott who also programs KRTH (101.1 FM). This is interesting because Weatherly is credited as the creator of the Amp format; he will remain as programmer of KROQ (106.7 FM) and Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1).

With KFI (640 AM) no longer using HD Radio on the AM signal, why is the audio so awful? KFI used to be one of the best-sounding AM stations on the air, in the AM stereo days. Now they seem to be narrow-band with extra distortion added into the mix.


Radio July 28, 2017

Last week’s column on the local ratings brought in a couple inquiries that I think are worth covering. The first has to do with what ratings truly measure.

“Read your article in the Pasadena Star News today. I now realize I don’t understand the translation of the rating to real numbers.

“I had always assumed from TV rating in the Times
That a 7.1 rating equaled 7,100,000 viewers. Your numbers for radio I don’t think translate to millions. Please help me to understand.” -- Terry Smith

Actually Terry has it down perfectly, at least in concept. There are a few differences though.

The TV ratings are basically the same as radio, except that radio counts actual people -- locally -- while television counts whole households -- nationally.

The rating printed last week for radio is a percentage of listeners aged 6 and over. A share of 7.1 in radio, then, with a population of 11,419,500 (Los Angeles Metro of people aged 6 and over) would be .071 x 11,419,500 or 810,784.5 people aged 6 and over tuned in on average during the ratings period. Those ratings also reflect the entire broadcast day even though you can, like television, break down the day into smaller parts.

The details can also change depending on if you are looking at total listeners or subsets; if you split the rating into demographics (men aged 25-35 for example) the available population will be a subset of the 11,419,500. Further, radio ratings are not calculated nationally (not even syndicated shows) so the total number will be less than television ratings calculations.

On television the rating is calculated the same way except that they use households rather than individual people, and they are national rather than local. The 7.1 share equating to 7,100,000 households is from old data assuming 100,000,000 households with televisions in the house in the United States; it is now 115,600,000, so the 7.1 share now translates to 8,207,600 households. Like radio, though, it is a percentage of available households (vs. actual people in radio) tuned to a show.
The second letter had to do with ratings breakdowns.

“I read your column each week and I find the ratings most interesting. This week you added something extra, the Handel 4.2 vs. the Conway 4.5 rating. Could you sometime do a column comparing each show from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the am talkers?” -- Maurice Sutton

That’s a little tricky, because Nielsen (and it’s predecessor Arbitron) don’t release detailed ratings to the public or the press. All we get are the generic “6 plus” numbers, referring to the overall audience measured of radio listeners aged 6 and older during the entire broadcast day of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight.

And the list we get isn’t even the complete list, as stations that don’t subscribe to Nielsen in the area rated don’t get mentioned even though they are on the list that stations receive, and I am not allowed to mention non-subscribing stations. So when you see different breakouts, it is usually due to a station “secretly” sending me the data.

There’s also the problem of way too much detail. There are a multitude of demographics, time slots, and even ways of looking at ratings that can make the most ardent radio geek get blurry-eyed.
That being said, I am going to see if Nielsen would allow more detail to be published here. In the meantime, I can say that of the AM talkers you mentioned, KFI dominates in all day-parts by a wide margin. Nielsen won’t let me mention specific numbers -- yet at least -- but perhaps I can give them sometime described as an algebra problem.