Columns appear in print in the U Entertainment Section of the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Radio Column December 1, 2006

Listening In

December 1, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Country music returns to LA on 1260 AM today

Country music returns to LA County airwaves today on KKGO-AM 1260, replacing the adult standards format. Although Southern California is the biggest market for the sale of country music CDs, there has been no broadcast signal airing country music since KZLA-FM ended its 26-year run with the format in favor of the rhythmic adult contemporary KMVN-FM 93.9 featuring Rick Dees in August.

In October, Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasting partially filled the void by replacing adult standards with country music on XESUR-AM 540, which covers San Diego, Orange County and can be heard in parts of LA County.

The format flip proved a boon to XM Satellite Radio which replaced KZLA as the sponsor of “Country Bash ’06” at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in October. XM offers nine country channels.

This will not be a perfect solution to country music lovers. AM 1260 has a spotty signal at night, especially for listeners in the San Gabriel Valley, some of whom may have better luck tuning to the San Diego-based simulcast on XSUR-AM 540.

Mt Wilson FM President Saul Levine has always been a big supporter of standards despite the financial challenges.

“I only made $148,000 last year with this format,” he said. “That’s barely enough to pay for the electric bill and the phone lines. The (advertising) agencies don’t want to buy the older audience.”

Levine feels certain that by catering to country music’s younger demographics, he will be able to attract enough agency ad revenue to put his two AM stations in the black this year.

Levine will continue to use programming from Excelsior Radio Networks. Happily, many ex-KZLA DJs work at the Valencia studios formerly operated by Westwood One. Former KZLA evening personality Brian Douglas is the morning man, followed by Adrienne Brooks. Starting in January, Whitney Allen will be host afternoon drive.

Mt Wilson FM’s classical station, KMZT-FM 105.1 (“K-Mozart”) will soon be broadcasting country music on its HD2 channel.

As for people who love the standards, for now, my suggestion is to subscribe to XM or Sirius satellite radio.

Jesse Jackson nabs newsmaker

Jesse Jackson’s weekly syndicated talk show “Keep Hope Alive” nabbed a big newsmaker interview when actor-comedian Michael Richards went on the program to apologize for his recent angry tirade at the Laugh Factory. Richards, best known as the actor who played Kramer on “Seinfeld” used the “n” word repeatedly in a bizarre attempt to shut down some African-American hecklers. Unfortunately for Richards, much of it was captured on cell phone video and distributed to the media.

Richards told Jackson he was raised in an African American neighborhood until he was 11 and that most of his friends were African-American. “My journey now is to go in and get to the face of what’s underneath racist language…but underneath us…underneath me, underneath me, Reverend.” Jackson’s show airs Sunday evening from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on KTLK-AM 1150. The show is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks.

KXLU spins vinyl

I can’t remember when I last heard a record skip on the air. The other morning I tuned to Loyola Marymount University’s KXLU-FM 88.9 and heard the DJ start a song by the punk rock band The Cramps. The song almost immediately started to skip and slide, the needle doing a bit of a dance on the old record’s damaged grooves. The DJ quickly moved the needle ahead to another song and played “I Can’t Find My Mind” from the 1981 LP “Psychedelic Jungle” instead. Coming on the air after the set, Stephanie apologized for the technical problems, which included their old CD players having a hard time playing homemade CD-R recordings without skipping.

KXLU-FM is one of the last college stations that allow college students to host programs and pick their own music. KXLU offers an eclectic lineup of programs, from Latin, to classical and jazz, in addition to rock music shows. It is a great place to hear the unexpected and new. Any LMU alums want to step up and contribute some state of the art CD players? A donation form is available at

ABC Radio Citadel merger on hold

The impending merger of Citadel Broadcasting with Disney’s ABC Radio is apparently on hold until next May.

Disney knocked $300 million off the $2.7 billion price but will retain a 57 percent stake in the new company, up from the previously agreed upon 52 percent.

Under the terms of the merger agreement originally announced in February, Disney would continue to mange ESPN Radio and Radio Disney (Locally KSPN-AM 710 and KDIS-AM 1110), while spinning off the ABC Radio networks and other ABC stations including LA’s KABC-AM 790 and KLOS-FM 95.5.

KRLA boosts power

Talk station KRLA-AM 870 is reaching out to an estimated 1.3 million additional ears “from Santa Barbara to Laguna Hills” with the boost of its power from 20,000 watts to 50,000 watts.

“At 50,000 watts, we are excited that KRLA is now among the most powerful AM stations in Los Angeles,” said Salem Los Angeles Vice President and General Manager Terry Fahy. “This signal improvement enables us to reach a broader audience well-suited to our programming strengths. For people in the Greater Los Angeles area who want hard-hitting truth-telling news and commentary, we deliver.”

KRLA offers the area’s most consistently conservative weekday lineup of talk commentators, with Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Savage, Mike Gallagher and Bill Bennett.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Radio Column November 17, 2006

Listening In

November 17, 2006

By Sandy Wells

K-Jazz set to welcome new management

Some jazz fans are fearful that the new management soon to take over KKJZ-FM 88.1 (“K-Jazz”) in Long Beach at the beginning of next year will convert the station into a more mass appeal jazz format, possibly into a public radio version of the “smooth jazz” format heard on “the Wave” KTWV-FM 94.7.

Nothing could be farther from the truth according to Saul Levine, the President and owner of Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasting, who won the bid to take over the management of the financially-challenged FM station off the hands of California State University Long Beach this year.

Although one of the most listened-to jazz stations in America – it has an bi-coastal rivalry with WBGO-FM in Newark, New Jersey, which serves the New York metro area – that popularity hasn’t translated into financial stability.

For that reason the university decided that it could no longer afford to underwrite the station and began soliciting bids for new management.

Levine, whose bid was accepted last month, will bring his classical music radio sales force in to sell corporate underwriting for K-Jazz, a move that will help fill the gap between subscriber support and station expenses and hopefully bringing it in line with wealthier public stations, KCRW-FM 89.9, KUSC-FM 91.5 and KPCC-FM 89.3.

Levine says he’s dedicated to keeping classic, “straight-ahead” jazz alive and well.

“We did jazz for 29 years KKGO-FM until KFAC dropped the classical format in 1989,” said Levine, who currently operates commercial classical station KMZT-FM 105.1, standards KKGO-AM 1260 and Country station XSUR-AM 540 in Southern California. “I’d like to dispel rumors that we are going to radically change 88.1. We’re going to focus on straight ahead jazz and we’re not turning it into ‘The Wave.’ But, I don’t want to play the kind of jazz that just appeals to one hundred people.”

Levine says he will look at all the programming and staff at the 30,000-watt public station when he takes over in January.

The weekend blues will probably remain in place, but some shows and air personalities may be moved around or replaced.

Levine says he plans to put country music on the HD2 channel of KMZT-FM in 2007 to supplement the programming on AM 540. He also told me he will be adding more local announcers to his country station, which currently offers mostly syndicated shows emanating from Excelsior Radio Network studios in Valencia.

Stryker named co-host of “Loveline” on KROQ

KROQ-FM’s afternoon drive host, Stryker, has been named co-host of the nationally syndicated call in show “Loveline” broadcast weekday evenings from 10 p.m. to midnight on its flagship station, alternative rocker KROQ-FM 106.7.

(Photo: KROQ's Stryker)

“Loveline” the long-running radio call-in show focusing on the issues of young people and sex, relationships, and health was started by KROQ DJs Jim “Poorman” Trenton and “Swedish Egil” in 1983. Trenton invited Dr. Drew Pinsky on to the show for medical information a year later. Drew, who was a USC medical student when he first joined the show, is currently a board certified internist and addiction medicine specialist. The previous co-host, Adam Corolla, left in 2005 to take over the West Coast edition of the morning show vacated by Howard Stern. Stryker has been a fill-in co-host since then.

“I am beyond excited to be a part of ‘Loveline,’ ” said Stryker who will continue to host his 4-7 p.m. shift in addition to his role on “Loveline.” “I'm also honored to work with the man who is responsible for the fantastic run and success of the show, Dr. Drew. I grew up with the show and now to be a part of it is truly mind blowing.”

Stryker began his career in Tucson as morning host and music director at KFMA-FM. He moved to Los Angeles in 1996 to take over nights at KROQ. He eventually moved into afternoon drive.

“‘Loveline’ has become an entirely new show with an upbeat and positive host who makes the show accessible, young and fresh,” said Dr. Drew. “Stryker's enthusiasm, knowledge and attitude have brought the show back to its roots which is the caller.”

“With Dr. Drew as the heart and soul, ‘Loveline’ has consistently been the highest rated show on KROQ since its debut over 20 years ago,” said Kevin Weatherly, Senior Vice President of Programming CBS RADIO and KROQ Program Director. “Stryker has already proven himself to be a star on KROQ. His energy, passion, and presence on ‘Loveline’ is the perfect complement to Dr. Drew.”

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Radio Column November 3, 2006

Listening In

November 3, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Talk radio takes dive in latest ratings

It looks like a lot of people hit the collective mute button on LA’s talk stations this summer – and that’s not a good thing in radio.

Talk commentators – many of whom have been pressing the illegal immigration issue since the huge rallies and demonstrations in the spring – may discover that the “hot button” is more like an “eject button” when it comes to LA listeners, despite the inherent drama in the topic and its profound relevance to everyday life in Southern California.

National Public Radio claimed last month that its audience nationally has grown about 1 percent while commercial news/talk formats have seen their audiences decline by about 2 percent.

It’s possible that some radio listeners may be gravitating to the cable news channels, which have become increasingly similar to talk radio both in substance and style.

In overall ratings measured by Arbitron, four of the top six stations in LA are broadcasting in Spanish:

1. KLVE-FM 107.5 Spanish Popular “K-Love”
2. KSCA-FM 101.9 Mexican Regional “La Nueve”
3. KIIS-FM 102.7 Top 40 “Kiss FM”
4. KLAX-FM 97.9 Mexican Regional “La Raza”
5. KBUE-FM 105.5/KBUA-FM 94.3 “Que Buena” (tie)
5. KROQ-FM 106.7 Alternative Rock “K-Rock” (tie)

Talk station KFI-AM 640, which tied for No. 1 in the spring with KLVE-FM 107.5, dropped to No. 8, in a tie with bilingual KXOL-FM “Latino 96.3” a reggaeton-based format beginning its broadcast day with a program pointedly dubbed, “The Morning Invasion.” Talk Radio KABC-AM 790 maintained at No. 17, even as it lost two-tenths of a rating point. News/talk KRLA-AM 870, KLSX-FM 97.1 and Progressive Talk KTLK-AM 1150 also modest declines in overall listening.

Traditional oldies radio didn’t fare too well, K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) slipped with its 70s-focused format, dropping from a tie at 13 to a tie at No. 15. Spanish oldies “Recuerdo” KRCD-FM 103.9/KRCV-FM 98.3 plunged from No. 9 to No. 14.

In morning radio, “Piolín por la Mañana” on KSCA-FM was No. 1 again, ahead of Renan Armendarez Coello on KLAX-FM and Omar and Algeria on KLVE-FM who shared the No. 2 spot. KROQ’s Kevin and Bean were at No. 4, Bill Handel dropped from No. 2 in the spring to No. 5, followed by Ryan Seacrest on KIIS-FM at No. 6. Ricardo "El Mandril" (The Baboon) Sanchez moved up to No. 7 from No. 11 in the spring, and tied with Big Boy on KPWR-FM 105.9 “Power 106.” No. 9 was shared by Mark and Brian who play no music on classic rock KLOS-FM 95.5 and Jack FM KCBS-FM 93.1, which offers lots of classic rock hits without a DJ.

KNX-AM 1070, which has been evolving from a news station - it still calls itself “news radio” - to a combination of talk shows and news blocks presented in an informal manner. In morning drive, anchors Dave Williams and Vicky Moore moved from a tie at No. 18 to No. 14, ahead of KABC’s topical McIntyre in the Morning, which slipped from No. 15 to a tie at No. 16.

Country music revived on 540 AM

Missing the country music since KZLA-FM 93.9 became “Movin’ 93.9” with Rick Dees? The signal’s not too great for LA County listeners, but AM 540 flipped from adult standards to contemporary country a couple of weeks ago. The station’s strongest reception areas are in Orange County and San Diego.

Ex-KZLA evening host Brian Douglas is now morning man, followed by ex-KNX weather reporter and San Antonio country personality Adrienne Brooks in middays. Other highlights: Big Time Saturday Night with Whitney Allen tomorrow from 7 p.m. to Midnight and Paul Freeman, Sunday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. followed by The Grand Ole Opry Weekend Special from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The adult standards and old time radio dramas remain on KKGO-AM 1260.

Alfred Molina stars in Oscar Wilde play

When actor Alfred Molina lent his voice to Oscar Wilde’s famous play, “An Ideal Husband” in 1997, he was not quite the major film star he is today. LA Theatre Works’s “The Play’s the Thing” presents a broadcast of the witty English comedy from 1895 tomorrow night (Saturday) on KPCC-FM 89.3 at 10 p.m. Jacqueline Bisset, Martin Jarvis, Rosalind Ayres, Yeardley Smith, and Miriam Margolyes are also in the cast. Wilde explores the plight of a promising politician desperate to hide a secret in his past. The broadcast includes an interview with the director, UCLA Professor of Theatre Michael Hackett.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Radio Column October 20, 2006

Listening In

October 20, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Award-winning KNX reporter Luis Torres looks to new life in theatre, public radio

Luis Torres, award-winning radio journalist, filmmaker, record producer and aspiring playwright, is a man of two contracts.

Thanks to one good contract, Torres has been to take early retirement from his nearly quarter-century career at KNX-AM 1070, allowing him ample time to pursue a new life as a writer and playwright. He also has a contract with the prestigious Mark Taper Forum to complete a musical based on the songs of the brilliant 1990s album by the East LA band Los Lobos, “Kiko.”

“It’s a love story basically. I extracted characters from some of the songs on the album,” says Torres of his collaboration with songwriter and longtime friend Louie Perez. “They are really extraordinary songs.”

Torres, who plays guitar – “well enough to know how poorly I play” –produced an album for the band ‘a million years ago.’

“It’s an exciting process working on a play. I’ve written non-fiction most of my life. We’re in the final stages of the last draft.”

The show is “in development” with an eye towards a major production in 2008 at the Taper.

Torres is also in discussion with KPCC-FM 89.3, the non-commercial public radio station based in Torres’ hometown of Pasadena to work as a radio journalist. While he has a few reservations about moving into the world of public radio where he finds the “slightly elitist tone a little off-putting” he is nonetheless interested in reconnecting with his passion for news and the stories that continuously bubble up in what he calls the “cauldron that is our city.” He has worked there in the past as a substitute host on “Talk of the City.”

Torres’ career at KNX came to an end after he was called into a meeting with the new News Director Julie Chin about a month and a half ago. He was told he wouldn’t be doing any more reports on Latino affairs in Los Angeles.

“I had been doing three to four minute pieces on Latinos in LA about writers and musicians. The idea was to get people ‘in the tent’ in this city that is 50 percent Latino. I asked her, ‘Is this for the time being? Is it permanent?’ I was told, ‘I don’t have to justify myself to you.’ It was clear to me what the atmosphere there would be.”

After a brief period of reflection, Torres, a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, winner of a George Foster Peabody Award, five Golden Mike Awards, a duPont-Columbia award, an Edward R, Morrow Award and four Greater Los Angeles Press Club Awards, decided to “look for other things to do.”

“I was there for over twenty-five years – I took three years off to teach – and much of my time there was terrific. I think I’m a good reporter and this is a great city. The last couple of years hadn’t been all that much fun for me anyway – and I don’t mean that in a frivolous way, but it was not fun.”

For one thing, he found it frustrating that reporters were being asked to cut the time of their reports in half, doing in 30 to 40 seconds what they used to do 60 to 90 seconds.

Torres says he finds the change of direction at KNX puzzling, likening it to the ‘kids in the sandbox’ approach to journalism he sees on the KTLA-TV channel 5 morning show. Whatever the ultimate goal is, he thinks KNX should make up its mind.

“If you’re going to be a news organization, do news. If you’re going to do something else – call it something else.”

In the meantime, Torres says he having the time of his life, catching up on reading, working on his new musical and helping his wife complete her book, “Teatro Chicana” about Latino activist theatre in the 1970s.

“I’m very happy,” says Torres.

Howard Stern for free online

Sirius Satellite radio is offering some prime content for free over the Internet for a two day period next week to launch its Sirius Internet Radio (SIR).

To publicize the availability of SIR, listeners on will be able to hear The Howard Stern Show and Stern’s two 24/7 channels without having to pay the subscription fee on Oct. 25 and 26th, as well as commercial-free music, talk, entertainment, and sports programs. Listeners can go to to register for a free trial of Sirius.

“Howard being available live for the first time ever to a worldwide audience is an unprecedented event in the history of radio,” said Scott Greenstein, Sirius President, Entertainment and Sports. “Listeners can now get what they have been missing: Howard at the top of his game and more than 75 channels of the best radio on radio.”

Friday, October 13, 2006

Radio Column October 6, 2006

Listening In

October 6, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Hip hop Syphe and Eric DLux move up to Power 106 drive time

Hip Hop Power 106 (KPWR-FM 105.9) made the official announcement last week that it had decided to promote from within to fill its afternoon drive 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekday show.

“After an exhaustive national search, I couldn’t be more excited with the results!” said Emmis VP of Programming and Power 106 Program Director Jimmy Steal. “Syphe and DLux have been simply done an outstanding job filling in and I’m pleased that we were able to promote within.”

“Syphe” and “Eric DLux” filled in during the search for a new team and were so popular the station management decided to give them the job, according to a station spokesperson.

(Eric DLux and Syphe)

Both Syphe and Eric were raised in the Los Angeles area. Syphe attended Pasadena’s Blair High School but sidestepped college to focus on hip hop music production and mixing. He credits include a sound track for a Nike commercial. Eric DLux attended Carson High School.

They started out as part of Power 106’s street team known as “The Flava Unit.” About a year and a half ago, they got a chance to host their own weekend and overnight programs, eventually being promoted to evenings.

The pair joins long-time afternoon personality Tito, the real life janitor-turned radio sidekick, who keeps the atmosphere light with his homespun humor and distinctive Mexican accent.

Syphe and DLux fill the shoes of the Goodfellas – who kept the station in the top tier of the afternoon ratings for seven years. Romeo and Dejai have since moved from Power 106 to hosting evenings on R&B/hip hop KDAY-FM 93.5.

The 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. timeslot will be covered by Miguel Barrozo who arrives from San Francisco’s popular KYLD-FM on Oct. 16.

“This is a dream come true! I’m looking forward to moving to Los Angeles and joining Power 106!” said Borrozo.

Satellite vs. HD

Although satellite subscription radio has managed to acquire about 14.4 million subscribers, or about five percent of the American population over the last few years, new research indicates the growth may be tapering off.

A new study released by Bridge Ratings found that 48 percent of consumers with XM or Sirius satellite radios in their car did not plan to renew their subscriptions after their three to twelve month free trial ended. About 30 percent who purchased their radio at retail – either after market for their car or a home radio also did not plan to renew.

The Stern factor also appears to be fading. After all the hype last fall leading up to the launch of the Howard Stern Show on Sirius, Stern has managed to capture about 1.2 million subscribers. That’s about half of his estimated 2.5 “most loyal” terrestrial radio listeners, according to the study. By the end of last month, the Stern effect was accounting for less than 20 percent of Sirius sign-ups.

One analyst quoted by the study said that U.S. carmakers, struggling to maintain market share, are less generous in their promotion of satellite radio.

Another factor slowing satellite radio’s ascent may be the growing awareness of HD radio, which offers many extra channels at no cost.

Once you’ve invested in a radio with HD reception, you’re done. There are no subscription fees. You now have a radio that can pick up two HD signals where there was once one channel. For instance, you can hear HD KMVN 93.9-1 (“Movin’ 93.9) playing Rick Dees and rhythmic adult contemporary music (the same as on FM), while its HD second channel on 93.9-2 offers the KZLA country format (without the DJs). If you like pre-Beatles, “good time” oldies which K-Earth 101 no longer plays, you can hear them on KRTH-FM’s second HD channel: 101.1-2; and still listen to what the FM version of K-Earth 101 plays in pristine HD by tuning to 101.1-1. More than thirty Los Angeles-area stations are broadcasting in HD now, or will be soon.

Bidding with Star 98.7’s ‘Lounge for Life’

Last night, Star 98.7 (KYSR-FM 98.7) held a concert at the House of Blues in West Hollywood to benefit City of Hope Hospital’s breast cancer research. On the bill were Ray LaMontagne, Jewel, Train and Teddy Geiger.

Today, the station begins running an on-line auction to benefit the hospital where you can bid for autographed guitars from the Dixie Chicks, John Mayer, Snow Patrol, Jewel, INXS and many other items on the STAR 98.7 website:

The Star 98.7 Lounge presented live in-studio concerts since 1996. Many of the performances are available on the station’s CD collection which you can purchase online at the Star 98.7 website.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Radio Column September 22, 2006

Listening In

September 22, 2006

By Sandy Wells

KFI’s John and Ken at ‘war’ with LA’s mayor

Two of radio’s most politically provoking personalities now see themselves as being in a state of ‘war’ with the mayor of Los Angeles. For KFI-AM 640’s John and Ken Show, who rate their effectiveness on how often they can goad the high and mighty into taking their bait, this may be their biggest catch to date.

At the 4th Annual Impact Awards luncheon sponsored by the Hispanic Media Coalition honoring Latino broadcasters in Beverly Hills last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa congratulated Spanish radio personalities such as KSCA-FM’s Eddie “Píolin” Sotello, for organizing the peaceful pro-immigration rallies last spring. He then paused and took a moment to scold the KFI afternoon talk show hosts, addressing them directly, “while the cameras are rolling.”

“Two people who get on the radio everyday, who share a commitment to dividing America, who demonize our immigrants,” said Villaraigosa. “Let us say to them, ‘Shame on you; shame on you for dividing America.’ But make no mistake, like the people we honor today, we will stand up, we will speak out, we will do it the right way, speaking out on behalf of an America that is bigger and better then the rhetoric that you put on your radio waves every single day.”

That afternoon, John and Ken were broadcasting from a special screening of the immigration-themed film “Border War” in Orange County. They broke in with the story of the mayor’s comments, adding that a KTLA-TV reporter was on the way to get their response.

“It was like a declaration of war,” Ken Chiampou later told KTLA-TV’s Willa Sandmeyer. “There was emotion and anger in his voice. But he did the same thing that all politicians do. He referred to the issue as the United States as ‘a nation of immigrants.’ He completely only talks about immigration, never dividing into the categories you have to divide. There are legal immigrants and there are illegal immigrants.”

KFI Program Director Robin Bertolucci did not offer a comment on this latest political imbroglio involving her drive time duo. Instead she handed me off to John Kobylt, who usually plays ‘bad cop’ to Ken Chiampou’s more reasonable ‘good cop’ attitude during their on air ruminations about the latest political or cultural outrage.

Kobylt admitted that he was initially surprised that the mayor, so often the target of their invective in the past, had picked that day to publicly condemn their show’s position on immigration.

He told me he felt Villraigosa was really just politicking in the typical way so many politicians do, by pandering to their base when they are in front of a friendly audience and unnoticed by the mainstream media.

“Villaraigosa had been off our radar for a while as we focused on Phil Angelides and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I wondered if he wasn’t just throwing meat out to the Spanish media crowd, not really noticing that Channel 5 was there. It’s jut like when (former) governor Davis signed the illegal drivers’ license bill with only Hispanic media there and our reporter Eric Leonard found out about it. These politicians are often trying to skip it by English media … (Villaraigosa is) firing up his base because he wants to run for governor.”

Kobylt explained that the mayor may not have considered that KTLA-TV would be there to cover the award being given to their own Carlos Amezcua for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. Then, that story got upstaged by the mayor blasting the KFI hosts.

“The channel 5 news director thought this would be a big deal. Why he thought he should lead with the story, I don’t know.”

Typically, local broadcasters like to ingratiate themselves with those in power. John and Ken have made a name for themselves doing just the opposite. In their early days, as radio hosts in Trenton New Jersey, they openly ridiculed the state assembly after reading an article in the local paper about a huge tax increase that had been quietly voted into law in an after midnight session. They kept up the heat. Eighteen months later, they took credit for getting about a third of the state legislature voted out of office.

For Kobylt, the real scandal these days is the existence of a cowed and intimidated body politic, afraid to speak plainly to those in power. He feels that their show and its million-plus local audience, is making a difference in how people think about politics.

“The pc bubble has burst,” said Kobylt. “The stories that used to be scandalous aren’t any more. It’s a change of reality. The most common comment we get from listeners is ‘You say what we’re thinking.’ But they’re afraid to say these things. It’s about speaking the obvious truth. There’s a whole professional ‘lying class’ out there. Our whole niche is cutting through the b. s. and getting out the truth.”

Friday, September 15, 2006

Radio Column September 8, 2006

Listening In

September 8, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Remembering radio’s ‘Living Legend,’ Huggy Boy

I called up KRLA-AM 1110’s Huggy Boy show the Saturday night after my girl friend and I got engaged and made a request. Huggy answered the phone himself and taped me dedicating “I Got You” by James Brown to my future bride. Then he told me, “Sure, buddy, I’ll get it on for you.”

I remembered that night after I learned that Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg had died last week at the age of 78.

The sincerity and warmth in his voice stayed with me. Huggy Boy was definitely not your average DJ. Maybe possessing that reservoir of sincerity available to give to each and every one of the thousands who called him was one of the reasons he remained a popular figure for six decades in Los Angeles radio.

When he worked at K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) – his last radio gig – his difficulty fitting in to the straight-jacket standards of the station modeled after “Boss Radio” KHJ-AM, the super-slick top 40 powerhouse of the 60s and 70s – was plain to hear. His creative energy and playful attitude, the signature stack of “low rider” oldies he used to woo and win his huge nighttime audiences at KRLA-AM 1110 – where he often humbled his mighty FM competitor in the ratings – were all, sadly missing. Huggy Boy, an anomaly in a profession that celebrated anomalies – was out of place on K-Earth 101. Too bad the station just didn’t let him do his own thing, chat with the listeners for as long as he wanted, play his signature R&B hits, and sing over the songs when the spirit moved him.

I remembered my interview with “The Mayor of East LA” in 1998, just after he’d signed on to work at K-Earth 101.

He told me his last song on KRLA, which had switched from all oldies to a talk format, was “Don’t Let No One Get You Down” by War.

The noise of the traffic outside the window of his first floor apartment near East LA made it hard for me to understand him as he often seemed to mumble his words. I often asked him to repeat what he’d said as I strained to catch everything, not really trusting my tape recorder to catch the words my ears missed.

Huggy Boy told me how he made his name hosting the “Harlem Hit Parade” from midnight to 4 a.m. on KRKD-AM 1150 from Dolphins of Hollywood record store at Vernon and Central. He became one of a handful of cultural white disc jockey spinning “race records” that actually appealed to people of all races in Los Angeles.

Later, at home, going over the tape, I was astonished to find his voice and words come across as clear as a bell, a voice made for the microphone.

Huggy was never one of the slick well-connected DJs who transitioned easily from the role of playing the hip sounds for the young crowd into a record industry job or a seat on “Hollywood Squares” or a lucrative career doing voice-overs.

After a decade and a half of playing contemporary music ended in the mid sixties, he made a go at some other lines of work, including a stint as a strip club entrepreneur, a job he did not like. In the early 80s, he reemerged in Southland radio, playing requests and dedications on XPRS-AM 1090 before launching a 14-year reign as a DJ on KRLA-AM 1110.

The last time I saw Huggy was at a tribute held for him in the City of Industry in 2003. Hundreds of people came out that night to see the man who, although no longer on the air, was still a “living legend” in the world of rock and R&B radio. He was frail and obviously in poor health, but his spirit was still strong and he hadn’t lost the ability to command a room full of admirers.

He graciously asked me to say a few words of introduction. Unprepared, I could only manage a few platitudes about his legendary popularity. I wanted to say more, but I didn’t want to steal the occasion by launching into a long discourse about what I felt his significance was as a pioneer of R&B and rock n’ roll radio.

I wanted to say something like – “to me, Huggy, you are one of a handful of originals who blazed a trail for thousands of DJs and pop impresarios to come. You were out there doing it when no one knew how to do it or whether the music would last another six months, making up the rules as you went along – spinning the R&B rock sounds that simmered until the heat boiled over into a major cultural revolution. It was lead by radio personalities such as you – what the mainstream press condescendingly called the ‘Pied Pipers of Rock and Roll.’ But it was really just the start of something very big, something that continues to this day.”

There, now I’ve said it. I wish you well Huggy, up there in rock and roll heaven.

Huggy Boy in 1994 (second from left) with (L-R) fellow KRLA personalities Mucho Morales, Dominick Garcia and actor Jimmy Smits promoting the film "The Cisco Kid."
(Courtesy Dominick Garcia)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Radio Column August 25, 2006

Listening In

August 25, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Rick Dees on new ‘Movin’ 93.9 replaces country music

It was a radio “sneak attack” last Thursday when “America’s most listened country station” KZLA-FM 93.9 was “blown up” and replaced by a new rhythmic pop format called “Movin’ 93.9.”

Although morning host Peter Tilden had been off the air - ostensibly on vacation - and a slightly subdued overnight host Blair Garner was in his place with unusually tight-lipped co-host Ashley Paige, there had been no indication otherwise from anyone anywhere that Emmis Communications execs were ready to pull the plug on the music of Faith Hill, George Strait, Toby Kieth and Jo Dee Messina; or, for that matter, to be the ones to bring ex-KIIS-FM 102.7 Rick Dees’ legendary morning show back to the LA airwaves.

The ratings for Country KZLA weren’t stellar – they were tied for No. 20 with KLSX-FM 97.1 in the most recent ratings of listeners 12+ – but the station was still very profitable, according to general manager Val Maki, who also oversees Emmis’ hip hop Power 106 (KPWR-FM 105.9).

“Our research company – Coleman Research – researched the market place and saw there was a big opportunity for this type of music and for Rick Dees,” said Maki about the decision to go with Movin’ 93.9. “We’d had a lot of growth in revenue for six years, until the last year [with KZLA]. But that was a tough year everywhere.”

The new rhythmic pop contemporary blend promises to focus on the music of artists such as Beyonce', Gwen Stefani, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Black Eyed Peas, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Gnarls Barkley. Described as “The Mix That Makes You Move,” Movin 93.9 is not unlike a rhythmic pop version of retro pop-rocker Jack FM (KCBS-FM 93.1).

“We're overjoyed that Rick Dees will be joining Emmis Communicationsand Movin 93.9,” said Jimmy Steal of the stealthy format flip. The Emmis Communications VP of Programming added, “Rick's passion for Los Angeles’ morning radio is legendary and his live and local show is a perfect fit for Movin 93.9. …. He’s the perfect complement to this exciting new format.”
Dees was continuing his impressive ratings track record at KIIS when he was dropped to make room for Ryan Seacrest in early 2004.

“Emmis is the perfect fit,” said superjock Dees of his new home on the air. “I've been presented with many opportunities, and the new Movin 93.9 gets me excited like I've never been before!”

Although Maki denies this is their goal, Dees and Movin’ 93.9 are certainly well positioned to pose a challenge to Clear Channel’s FM formidable pop music cluster: KIIS, KBIG-FM 104.3, KOST-FM 103.5, KHHT-FM 92.3 and KYSR-FM 98.7. By aiming for its top performer, Top 40/rhythmic KIIS, Movin’ 93.9 may cherry-pick listeners not only from the other Clear Channel “flanker” stations meant to attract the remaining mostly young females and soccer moms who don’t listen to KIIS, but from KIIS itself. Some listeners may decide that Movin’ 93.9 mix – reminiscent of KIIS in the 90s – ‘does it all’ for them.

As for the exit of the country format here, as with every contemporary music format, it lives and dies by the new music that’s available, and country music hasn’t been all that strong lately. In an ethnically diverse area such as Los Angeles, you need to appeal to a fairly wide audience, and without the Urban Cowboy phenomenon of the 80s, or a new Garth Brooks to draw folks in besides those weaned on country and who know and accept no other kind of music, there’s little that can be done.

The country music version of KZLA should be available to fans via Internet streaming as well as on Movin 93.9's HD Radio side channel. Go to for information.

Will another LA station take up the country music format? CBS Radio runs a popular country station in Chicago – and of course “K-FROG” (KFRG-FM 95.1) in the Inland Empire – but would they try it here with KLSX-FM 97.1 or KFWB-AM 980? Or will one of the three sports stations in town will give it a go: KLAC-AM 570 (it used to be country), KSPN-AM 710, or KMPC-AM 1540?

Power 106 looking for new afternoon superstars

“Power 106” has been advertising for a new superstar DJ team to fill the shoes of the once top-rated Goodfellas – Romeo and Dejai - who exited the station recently. Station General Manager Val Maki says they’ve been looking at people who don’t necessarily have radio experience – but are deeply immersed in the hip hop lifestyle. The station has been searching outside the radio community – even placing an ad in the actors’ magazine Backstage West. Maki says they’ll be announcing their selection soon.

New Star 98.7 lineup includes Richard Blade at night

Clear Channel’s decision to restore the post 10 a.m. DJ lineup to Hot AC Star 98.7 (KYSR-FM) couldn’t have come at a better time as it faces some competition from Emmis Communication’s new rhythmic pop hits Movin’ 93.9 (KZLA-FM 93.9).

“Lisa Foxx and Richard Blade have enormous equity in the Los Angeles market and Tom Mitchell is just ‘great radio’ said Star 98.7 Program Director Charese Fruge. “I’m thrilled to have talent of this caliber on my team. I’m confident that they will make the connection with the Star 98.7 audience.”

The new lineup after Jamie, Jack and Stench in the morning is; Lisa Foxx, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., newcomer Tom Mitchell, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Richard Blade from 7 p.m. until midnight.

Mitchell has worked at radio stations in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Boston, and Las Vegas.

“I have always wanted to work in LA radio, and I can’t think of a better station than Star to do so,” said Mitchell.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Radio Column August 11, 2006

Listening In

August 11, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Study shows NPR listeners lean Democratic

People who listen to news/talk programs on public radio stations such as KPCC-FM 89.3 and KCRW-FM 89.9 are 18 percent more likely to lean Democratic or identify themselves as Democrats than the population at large, according to the new study “Public Radio Today 2006” released by Arbitron.

That doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering that just about everyone I know who listens to non-commercial radio is a Democrat. But then again, this is Los Angeles County. Not exactly a Republican stronghold.

Nationally, public radio listeners who also listen to news/talk on AM stations are 44 percent Democratic versus 36 percent Republican. On the other hand, more than half of the people who tune in just to AM radio talk shows are Republican or lean to the right politically and only 30 percent are Democrats or lean Democratic.

The study shows that 26 million people across the country are tuning into public radio every week. Most are 35 or older and slightly more are male than female.

“Public radio is home to a unique mix of formats,” commented Mike Powderly, Senior Account Manager, National Radio Services, Arbitron Inc. “While news/talk is the leading format for public broadcasters as well as for commercial radio stations, public stations serve different audience segments for music than their commercial colleagues. Classical Music, jazz and album adult alternative are the leading music formats among public radio stations. This is in contrast to the leading music formats on commercial radio: adult contemporary, contemporary hit radio and urban.”

Last fall, Arbitron had reported NPR’s audience was stagnant or declining for the second year in a row, after years of strong growth. The news sent NPR execs into some serious soul searching.

However, last fall’s disappointing report was offset by a more recent survey by The Media Audit, which said that NPR was the fourth-most listened to format in the country, behind news/talk, country music and contemporary hit radio (CHR). Even more encouraging, the report also said that NPR was the most successful format of any in the top ten at converting listeners into “loyal” listeners. Nearly 60 percent of NPR listeners surveyed said that they listened to NPR “most often,” indicating the kind of loyalty sought after by radio executives.

Jack hires Freddy Snakeskin

Ex-KROQ DJ Freddy Snakeskin has joined the Jack FM (KCBS-FM 93.1) staff as a writer-producer for the retro-rocker. That has fueled speculation that Jack FM might be adding another voice to the on-air presentation. But no, says station spokesperson Chad Fitzsimmons. Snakeskin is just there to help write those witty liners voiced by Howard Cogan the voice of Jack and to run the controls. Jack is actually run as a live station with human beings pushing the buttons, something programmers feel gives the station a better sound than if a computer was simply firing off the songs and commercials. Still, all the music, commercials and announcements are stored in a computer hard drive as is standard for the industry now.

Ex-KROQ-FM Tami Heide is heard voicing station “Jack-tivities” about concerts and other stuff, but Jack remains the sole host. Cogan voices scores of fresh lines every week, all of them unique to the LA version of Jack and not shared by the other Jack stations around the country featuring his attitude-laden quips.

Sports reporter blues

There was apparent recent belt-tightening at news stations KFWB-AM 980 and KNX-AM 1070 with three ‘WB sports reporters getting pink slips; Joe Cala, Geoff Witcher and Bob Harvey. Almost immediately, Cala was rehired by sister station KNX (the stations are housed in the same building), according to Additionally, sports station KSPN-AM 710 local sports anchor Dave Stone was released from his gig reporting the sports headlines. While he had his job with the Disney-owned station, he was working for the same company that employs talk superstar Sean Hannity, carried locally by KSPN sister station KABC-AM 790. Hannity has mentioned Stone on the air as the guy who as program director for a talk station in Huntsville, Ala., gave him his first job in commercial radio. Aside from the sports changes, KNX also released news reporter and commentator Michael Ambrosini.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Radio Column July 28, 2006

Listening In

July 28, 2006

By Sandy Wells

King of ‘Old School’ Art Laboe moves to weeknights on Hot 92 Jamz

LA’s King of Old School, Art Laboe is now headlining the evening lineup on KHHT-FM 92.2 “Hot 92 Jamz.”

“Art is the quintessential personality for this station,” said Hot 92 Program Director Mike Marino about the new “Art Laboe Connection” airing weeknights from 7 p.m. to midnight. “He has a very rare connection with the audience, reaches across all demos and ethnicities and his wide appeal is documented in the ratings success he consistently achieves in the weekend show he’s had on Hot for the past five years.”

Laboe is also very popular among LA’s Latino community with a familial on-air style that makes him a hit with people of all ages. It is no accident that much of contemporary hip hop incorporates samples of classic R&B hits dating from the 70s and before. Laboe has been compiling and selling collections of “Oldies but Goodies” since he popularized the phrase on his radio show back in the late 1950s.

“This is the first daily radio show I’ve done in 19 years, so I am pretty excited about it,” said Laboe.

Sean Andre now moves into a split shift. His popular evening show “The Quiet Storm” is shifted to mid-night to 3 a.m. In addition, Andre’s “At Work Requests and Dedications” now airs weekdays from noon to 3 p.m.

“By moving Sean to the noon to 3 p.m. slot, we position ourselves for some tremendous growth in the daypart,” said Marino. “Until now we’ve kept the focus on Hot’s unique music mix in mid-days by running jockless.”

Interactive is the new buzzword in FM music programming as stations seek to create closer bonds with their listeners and develop more loyal, long term listeners. For KHHT as well as for the newly reformatted KKBT-FM 100.3 “The Beat,” the answer has been to place more personality presence between the songs with listener phone calls.

KFI is nation’s most listened to AM station

The Spring Arbitron ratings just out show that not only was talk station KFI-AM 640 tied for No. 1 in Los Angeles with Spanish Adult Contemporary KLVE-FM 107.5 “K-Love” – not just among news and talk stations – but among all stations. KFI also continues to be the most listened to AM station, talk or otherwise – in the nation, beating out New York’s WABC-AM for the honor.

It’s quite an achievement, especially considering the station has been operating below its authorized 50,000-watts of power since its tower was destroyed when an airplane crashed into 19 months ago. Plus, no AM station has reached the top in LA since talk station KABC-AM 790 dominated the market in the 1980s.

Elsewhere in the ratings of people 12+, top 40 hits KIIS-FM 102.7 tied with Mexican Regional KSCA-FM 101.9 for No. 3. Smooth jazz KTWV-FM 94.7 (“The Wave”) gained a full ratings point to move from No. 11 in the winter to No. 5. Alternative rocker KROQ-FM 106.7 edged up from No. 8 to No. 6, followed by soft rock KOST-FM 103.5 at No. 7, Mexican Regional KLAX-FM 97.9 at No. 8 and Spanish oldies (“Recuerdo”) KRCD-FM 103.9/KRCV-FM 98.3 at No. 9. No. 10 was split three-ways among hip hop KPWR-FM 105.9 (“Power 106”), 80s/90s rock KCBS-FM 93.1 (“Jack FM”) and Mexican Regional KBUE-FM 105.5/KBUA-FM 94.3 (“La Que Buena”).

KSCA-FM morning talent Píolin (below)

KSCA-FM’s Píolin por la Mañana dominated the morning drive again, followed by Bill Handel’s show on KFI.

In the “listen at work” mid-day period, The Wave jumped nearly two points to the No. 1 spot.

Afternoon drive was dominated by KFI talk show hosts John and Ken who bounded a point and a half from No. 9 to No. 1.

KIIS-FM owned the nights with a massive 6.2 share – down from 6.9 in the spring, but still way ahead of its nearest competitor, K-Love.

Paris says ‘Mais Oui!’ to American music radio

I spent my recent vacation in London and Paris with the family. Although I gave up driving and reading any email for ten days, I couldn’t help tuning around on a little radio I bought near London’s Piccadilly Square. Half-way around the globe, I heard some LA radio flavors on European airwaves.

In England, I caught KABC-AM 790 host Al Rantel’s voice on a Talk Sport promo for Mike Mendoza’s show. (Rantel and Mendoza keep up the U.S.-U.K “special relationship” with a cross-Atlantic (and continental) simulcast Friday evenings, sharing views and callers from the two nations “separated by a common language.”)

British talk host Mike Mendoza
KABC anglophile Al Rantel

The French may not think much of President George Bush, but they appear to have an enormous appetite for all things American when it comes to pop music radio.

In Paris, I heard AM radio DJ, Georges Lang, whose program “Beach Party” comes on station RTL every night at 11. He serves up American top 40 hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I heard him play an old KBIG-FM station ID: “It’s 12 o’clock in the west”! Lang reveres Southern California top 40 radio stations and DJ legends Rick Dees, The Real Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan and Mr. Rock and Roll.

American music – including lots of club music and hip hop – is everywhere up and down the Parisian radio dial. The pop music DJs almost all sound like Ryan Seacrest speaking French. Paris also boasts its own full-time Radio Latina at 99.0 FM!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Radio Column July 7, 2006

Listening In

July 7, 2006

By Sandy Wells

KNX veteran news anchor Dave Zorn looks back

After nearly 25 years with KNX-AM 1070, veteran reporter and news anchor Dave Zorn officially retired from the CBS affiliate. Although he has been out of the afternoon drive spotlight for more than a year, his departure marks a milestone not only for the reporter but for the station as well.

Zorn was honored at the LA Press Club earlier this month with the award for Best Radio Documentary for a series he made last year with KNX Assistant News Director Ronnie Bradford about their return to Vietnam on the 40th anniversary of their tours of duty there.

“The award also comes at a special time for me since I’m retired and moving away. It’s nice to finish strong in a business where, I’ve always believed, you’re only as good as your next review,” said Zorn. “This is a good one to go out on, personally and professionally and we’re very grateful.”

In a recent email interview, Zorn says he’s going to miss his colleages at KNX.

“The truth is that behind the scenes the people I worked with at KNX were some of the wittiest, playful and downright nutty people I’ve ever known. I think there is a dark gallows humor that people can call upon to keep stressful situations from escalating into something dangerous. The best example I can think of is M*A*S*H. You have to ask yourself, ‘when the going gets tough, do you want to be around Frank Burns or Hawkeye Pierce?’ It was ALL fun.”

Zorn was a bit ‘star struck’ arrived in Hollwood for his first day at KNX in 1981.

“I came to KNX from KTAR radio in Phoenix where I had been Director of News and Programming for three years. The reputation of KNX was well known to me and, for that matter, anyone who knew anything about radio news. The whole day was a head-spinning event: Getting a tour of the landmark Columbia Square building on Sunset Blvd where so much radio history had been made; being introduced to the staff by the man who hired me, News Director Gregg Peterson; meeting George Nickolaw, who was already a legend as Vice President and General Manager of KNX; and looking out the newsroom window and seeing the world famous Hollywood sign. I knew right away that getting the job was one thing but proving myself worthy of it was yet another. All of a sudden I was swimming with some pretty big fish in a very large pond and I had to do better than just treading water.”

Zorn described the most difficult aspect of anchoring the news in the busy afternoon drive period - one of radio’s peak listening times.

“Keeping calm, controlling the chaos that often surrounds you, cutting through the myriad newsroom distractions in order to get to what is really important in the news, and never, repeat NEVER, forgetting the listeners. They haven’t tuned in to hear me They aren’t interested in hearing about my problems...they have enough of their own. I tried to give them a friendly, authoritative voice that they could trust to keep them informed.”

Last year, a terrifying, life-changing health crisis convinced Zorn that it was time to retire.

“The decision was made for me on September 29, 2005 when I died. Sudden cardiac death is what the doctors call it. I thank God every day for the firefighters and paramedics of Ventura County Fire Station No. 36 in Oak Park who were in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and expertise to keep me alive until I could be transported to Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. There, a similar group of dedicated professionals opened a 100 percent blocked artery, inserted a stent and stabilized me in less than a half-hour. Shortly after getting a room in the hospital’s C-C-U, I went into cardiac arrest. For about the next six hours a team of doctors and nurses worked on me, bringing me back to life several times. In all, I was defibrillated 42 times. I’ve been told that the death rate in cardiac arrest cases is 95 percent. The chances of coming back repeatedly are very slim indeed. The repeated electro shocks left burn marks on my chest for about two weeks. No complaints. I’m just glad the hospital didn’t bill me for the electricity they used on me.”

Zorn leaves a business that is going through major changes driven by technological innovation.

“All-news radio as I knew it for 35 years of my 37 year career will never be the same. But, what is the same today as it was 35 years ago? When I started in 1969, nearly every AM radio station had a news department. Granted, there may have been only one or two reporters on staff, but you were able to get news once-an-hour on your favorite radio station. All-news has always been the most expensive format because of the salaries. When you have a newsroom with anywhere from 20 to 30 people on average, you’ve got a big nut to crack every month. The benefit of all-news radio ‘way back then’ was summed up: ‘Hear it now, see it tonight and read about tomorrow morning.’ The 24/7 cable news cycle has tipped the scales the other way. Today, you can hear it AND see it now on cable and even most newspapers have their own websites featuring news updates around the clock. I have some suggestions for making all news radio viable again but I’m afraid they would be looked upon as the last gasps of some ‘old breed’ newsman who is more interested in telling stories on the radio than selling stories on the radio.”

Zorn and his wife Carolynn are moving to their new retirement home in Arizona.

“So, I’ll ride off into the sunset - or, since we’re heading east to Phoenix, into the sunRISE - spend more time with my family, especially my wonderful grandchildren (6, so far), and enjoy every additional day God gives me. Two hundred and sixty-seven and counting.”

Asian immigration, history in US focus of new series on KPCC-FM

A superb new series about Asian immigration is begins on public station KPCC this weekend. “Crossing East” focuses on the usually overlooked history of immigration to this country from the lands across the Pacific Ocean. The eight-part series is hosted by Star Trek star George Takei and Margaret Cho.

The first public radio history of Asians-American begins with a look at the first immigrants. Many were sailors on the formidable galleons of Imperial Spain or ship builders and traders who settled in the Northwest.

Other highlights in the series include the experience of Asian immigrants working on the sugar plantations of Hawaii, the racist Exclusion Act of 1882 and the refugees arriving from the devastation of wars in Indochina.

The series, produced by Peabody Award-winning Producer Dmae Roberts and MediaRites, in association with Public Radio International, airs on KPCC-FM 89.3 Sundays, 8-9 p.m., July 9 through August 27.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Radio Column June 23, 2006

Listening In

June 23, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Phil Hendrie leaves radio show for TV acting career

The Phil Hendrie Show airs its final live broadcast tonight on sports station KLAC-AM 570. The multi-voiced, riotously funny talent that entertained on KFI before being transferred last year to Clear Channel’s sports talk station is signing off tonight to focus on his acting career.

Hendrie was recently seen on the NBC sitcom “Teachers” but the show was cancelled after six episodes. He is said to be developing a new show for NBC.

I believe the real reason Hendrie is quitting is because radio giant Clear Channel moved him from top-rated station KFI to KLAC where Lakers games often preempt his program. Yes, he’s syndicated on 80 stations, but KFI was his major venue, the one that reached all the Hollywood creative types. He needed to have that exposure on a consistent basis. As it is, he’s better off just focusing on developing a TV show that matches his talents.

Born in Pasadena and raised in Arcadia, Hendrie attended Pasadena City College for two years. After doing some odd jobs in Florida, he found his way into radio, working as a DJ for 15 years. In LA, he was heard on K-West, KNX-FM, KLSX-FM and KFI. He began developing his stable of characters while working for a talk station in Ventura County. He polished the act where clueless callers interact with his outrageous “guests” and fictionalized station personnel in the Midwest and in Florida before returning to the LA area to join KFI in 1996. He has done voice acting for the animated TV series “Futurama” and “king of the Hill.”

KLAC will run recordings of previously aired Hendrie shows at his regular time from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. through September.

Government funding of public radio under attack … again

There are clearly people in the U.S. congress who are unhappy with everything public broadcasting stands for from its content to the fact that its costs continue to be underwritten by the American taxpayer. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting draws criticism from Republicans despite its own efforts to correct a “tilt to the political left” in its publicly-funded programming.

This is why a Republican-dominated House Appropriations subcommittee voted to cut $115 million from the CPB budget the earlier this month.

While America originally followed a different path from her cousins across “The Pond” in the U.K. by adopting the advertiser supported model to pay for radio and TV instead of a user tax, times are changing. The market for subscriber-based or non-commercial content is growing. The fact that satellite radio – both XM and Sirius – continues to attract subscribers suggests that there is a hunger for more programming that isn’t dependent on advertiser support.

One plan to save publicly funded radio being bandied is the brainchild of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) founder Jeff Cohen and Vassar Professor William Hoynes. They suggest that a trust be established to pay for public broadcasting funded by a tax on advertising or commercial broadcast license sales. They say that such a tax could generate $1 billion in annual funding for “a robust, truly independent” public broadcasting system.

One major advantage to creating a trust is that CPB would cease to be a political football that continues to be kicked about by politicians looking to score big points with voters over a relatively miniscule slice of the Federal budget.

Beloved radio mom dies

A favorite feature of KABC-AM 790 talk show host Larry Elder’s show was his weekly on air discussion with his mother. Sadly Viola Elder died June 12 at the age of 81.

Elder dubbed her “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.” Every Friday afternoon, Elder would spend some time towards the end of his program sounding her out on the major events of the week and soliciting her reviews of the latest films, which she rated by the number of “gavels” (the more the better) she gave them.

Viola’s common sense commentary, homespun humor and unfailing wisdom made her a favorite of listeners coast to coast, many of whom called in to say that they had adopted her as their own radio “mom.”
At her memorial service, Elder referred to his mother as his “best frien

Monday, May 29, 2006

Radio Column May 26, 2006

Listening In

May 26, 2006

By Sandy Wells

“Fly Jock” Joyner joins new “Rhythm and Talk” KKBT-FM 100.3

Tom Joyner, the famed “Fly Jock” is returning to the LA radio airwaves on urban station KKBT-FM 100.3. Joyner is already listened to in 115 cities – including Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Miami, and Washington D.C. – by about eight million people. The Radio Hall of Famer is about to add one more big enchilada – Los Angeles.

The “Fly Jock” grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama. His father was one of the famed Tuskegee airmen of World War II. After getting his degree in sociology, he went into radio, first as a newsman, then as a successful music radio personality.

At one point in his career, he was simultaneously offered two jobs, one as a morning man in Dallas and the other as an afternoon DJ in Chicago. Rather than choose one, he accepted both. He maintained his commitment by flying between jobs, an accomplishment which earned him much publicity and the nickname, “The Fly Jock.”

Joyner currently resides in Dallas, but a KKBT spokesperson said Joyner is purchasing a house in Los Angeles and will be flying out here to do his programs on a regular basis. He also said the Joyner plans to do two extra hours exclusively for LA listeners every day. Angelenos last tuned into his program on R&B oldies KACE-FM 103.9 before the station was sold six years ago.

The Tom Joyner Show is syndicated by Joyner’s company Reach Media, which is owned by KKBT’s parent company, Radio One and is distributed by ABC Radio Networks. Joyner’s arrival headlines a major shift in KKBT’s programming designed to target an adult audience with a mix of talk and urban contemporary music.

Over the past several months KKBT management says it conducted market-wide research on the music preferences of urban radio listeners. They concluded that people who like hip hop music were already “getting enough of it from KPWR-FM 105.9 “Power 106,” KIIS-FM 102.7, KXOL-FM 96.3 and KDAY-FM 93.5.

In addition to Joyner, the new “Rhythm & Talk” format will feature strong “foreground” personalities such as Ananda Lewis, Michael Baisden and Free.

“This is the future of radio,” said 100.3 The Beat Program Director Tom Calococci. “[It’s] a proven musical formula combined with compelling, passionate, community minded hosts. It is the best of both worlds…great music and content.”

It’s also a move that puts it squarely in competition with Inglewood’s less-powerful urban adult contemporary station, KJLH-FM 102.3.

Steve Harvey joins KDAY-FM

Such is the bizarreness of radio that Steve Harvey, who would be anyone’s first choice to head up a black-oriented entertainment talk and music format such as the new “Rhythm and Talk” format on KKBT, will be taking on the new morning show starting next Tuesday at the struggling old school/hip hop station KDAY-FM 93.5. The TV/film star and comedian charged out of the gate with spectacular ratings on “The Beat” a few years ago. He departed in 2005 to develop his own national morning show.

Premiere Radio Networks launched “The Steve Harvey Morning Show” into national syndication last October. It is currently heard in 25 markets including New York, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia.

KDAY, now part of Magic Broadcasting/Styles Partners, boasts former KIIS-FM general manager and Clear Channel Market Manager, Roy Laughlin as part of its new management team. He’s been working to boost the signal’s reach by combining two signals on 93.5 FM; one in Redondo Beach (KDAY) and the other in Ontario (KDAI).

“This 70 percent signal improvement for the newly syncrocast 93.5 KDAY and 93.5 KDAI has been in the works for over a year but was only completed a week ago,” said Laughlin last week. “The signal improvements are dramatic and exponentially improve this radio signal in the No. 1 radio market in the world.”

KDAY claims young Hispanics whose primary language is English prefer “Hip Hop Hits from multiple eras as their No. 1 music genre choice as do African Americans 18 to 49.”

The station predicts that by fall, its audience will be 40 percent Hispanic, 38 percent African American and 22 percent “Other/ Mixed Origin.”

John and Ken on TV

KFI-AM 640 afternoon talk hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou were interviewed by KNBC-TV reporter Conan Nolan last Sunday morning on Channel 4 News Conference. The subject was immigration.

Kobylt told Nolan about a million people tune in to them every afternoon between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and that most people listen for about 40 minutes. Chiampou said most of their listeners are suburbanites from Orange County and the Inland Empire.

“They are pretty much family people, he said. “They have taxes to pay. They have steady jobs. They have kids to raise. They have a lot of problems with the way things work in society and immigration is a big example.”

Kobylt added that the audience is mostly white collar, but the callers are predominantly blue collar. And the immigration issue is bigger than anything else.

“This is something that is affecting the school system in many towns. It’s affecting the emergency rooms in the hospitals It’s affecting the traffic enormously. The average person has to deal with the effects of illegal immigration morning to night. All the family members are affected.”

John and Ken said they jumped on the immigration issue back in January 2004 after President Bush announced he was going to push for an amnesty plan. Kobylt said that’s “when people went berserk.”

Kobylt said “You are not going to believe the backlash if the House passes an amnesty bill.”

“And it will all be good for ratings?” asked Nolan.

“That’s right, we always root for chaos,” replied Kobylt.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Radio Column May 12, 2006

Listening In

May 12, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Two FM morning shows return to LA radio

They’re BAAACK!!! Jamie, Jack and Stench ended their unexpected month-long hiatus from KYSR-FM Star 98.7’s

K-Earth 101's Gary Bryan (KRTH Photo)

morning show this week. Hot Adult Contemporary station’s trio of jokers made an exultant return Monday. Even traffic guy Chris Hughes seemed giddy with joy as he improvised rhyming songs about the latest freeway conditions.

After disappearing from the official Star 98.7 web site, Jamie, Jack and Stench fans kept abreast of their radio idols partly by reading about Jack on Star 98.7 General Manager Craig Rossi says the exit of all the DJs was done to draw attention the “re-launch” of the station as much more focused on new music. But thousands of complaints from listeners made him reconsider his decision to take out the morning team. He says their return was clinched after a 48-hour station poll taken just a week and a half ago attracted 900,000 votes “overwhelmingly” in favor of bringing Jamie, Jack and Stench back on the air.

Jamie will be temporarily off the air again in a few weeks for maternity leave. It will be her first child. Megan Mullalley of “Will and Grace” fame and Extra TV’s Dayna Devon are slated to be among the fill-in hosts.

Star 98.7 continues to place a lot of focus on its music, using its interactive web site to offer downloads of songs and videos, plus garner info on listeners' music preferences. Rossi says he’s hoping the refreshed Star 98.7 will keep folks tuned in for longer periods of time.

Star 98.7 personality Lisa Foxx is back as an evening host, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Other time slots will be filled by new and returning talent, including long-time fave Richard Blade.

In the world of oldies radio, Gary Bryan has been reinstated as the ambassador to the workday replacing Hollywood Hamilton and crew in the K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) morning show. Bryan returns to prestigious post Monday after more than a year in afternoon drive – a position he was shifted to before K-Earth 101 Program Director Jhani Kaye came on board at the beginning of this year.

“It’s an honor to be entrusted with morning drive on K-EARTH 101 by people like Maureen Lesourd, Jhani Kaye and the CBS RADIO team. I feel a real connection with the audience and I look forward to serving them again as the host of the morning show,” said Bryan.

Former K-Big (KBIG-FM 104.3) personality Joshua Escandon takes Bryan’s place in the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. slot.

Star 98.7 DJ reborn on The Fish

Former-Star 98.7 personality Lara Scott’s life as a DJ was born again on Christian Contemporary “The Fish” (KFSH-FM 95.9) this week where she now hosts the midday slot.

“I love the music and The Fish lifestyle, and am excited to join the team,” said Scott. “The station reflects my faith and values and I look forward to being able to combine my passion for radio with the positive music and message of The Fish. It's been a great six years at Star, but I'm looking forward to this new season in my life.”

Scott is also heard on Delta Radio’s in-flight programming and she was recently honored to be selected to record the in-flight programming for Air Force One.

Spanish radio and KIIS-FM big winners in winter ratings

It was a mega winter Arbitron book for Hispanic radio in Los Angeles area radio. The ratings show that, in total, Spanish language radio stations added about half a million listeners.

That said, the biggest station in the market was English language top 40 mainstream KIIS-FM 102.7 which topped them all with a 4.9 share among all listeners 12 and older, up from third place in the fall. Spanish Adult Contemporary KLVE-FM 107.5 remained in No. 2, followed by Regional Mexican stations KLAX-FM 97.9 and KSCA-FM 101.9. Talk station KFI-AM 640 kept its 4.0 share but slid one notch down into fifth place. Soft rock KOST-FM 103.5 was No. 6, down from its Christmas music-driven No. 1 rank in the previous book. Regional Mexican KBUE-FM 105.5 was No. 7. Alternative rock KROQ-FM 106.7 dropped from No. 5 to No. 8. Jack FM (KCBS-FM 93.1) regained its momentum and jumped up to No. 9. The no-DJ retro-rocker tied with Spanish oldies KRCD-FM 103.9, which shot up from No. 20.

KIIS-FM with JoJo (7 p.m. – 10 p.m.) and Odm (10 p.m. – 1 a.m.) ruled the evening airwaves, posting a 6.9 share. Left trailing in their wake were the usually very strong Hot 92 KHHT-FM 92.3, urban KKBT-FM 100.3 and hip hop and R&B Power 106 (KPWR-FM 105.9) and KROQ-FM. KROQ and KKBT each lost more than one full share point.

In the morning show sweepstakes, Píolin was No. 1 at KSCA, Bill Handel in second place at KFI, American Idol mega star Ryan Seacrest in third at KIIS, followed by El Cucuy de la Mañana on KLAX in fourth and Kevin and Bean on KROQ in fifth place. “Jack FM” scored an impressive 2.9 share to place at No. 11 by just “playing what we want.” KABC-AM 790’s McIntyre in the Morning, KLTK-AM 1150 K-Talk’s Stephanie Miller and KRLA-AM 870’s Laura Ingraham all showed improvement, with Miller’s liberal take on current events upping the audience intake by half a share point.

Adam Corolla, saddled with unenviable task but nevertheless golden opportunity of succeeding Howard Stern on talk station KLSX-FM 97.1 crashed but didn’t quite burn, diving from No. 7 to a tie at No. 31. His counterpart on the East Coast, rock star David Lee Roth is already toast. He's been replaced by the highly obnoxious but ratings-proven Opie and Anthony. The KLSX morning show plunge didn’t take anything away from midday’s “Triplets” Heidi, Frosty and Frank,” who actually improved their ratings.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Radio Column April 28, 2006

Listening In

April 28, 2006

By Sandy Wells

KLOS PD finds room to grow playlist in post Arrow 93 world

A year after the sign-off of Arrow 93 (KCBS-FM 93.1) and its rebirth as Jack FM its KLOS-FM 95.5 is seeing the light.

(left) KLOS Midday DJ Cynthia Fox, (right) KLOS Program Director Rita Wilde

KLOS Program Director Rita Wilde says it’s not just her station that is letting the sun shine in. Other station programmers in LA are feeling safe to come out from hiding and bask in expanded music playlists.

Perhaps the “Dark Ages” of pop/rock music radio are over.

Wilde says KLOS has doubled its offering of classic rock songs over the last year, moving from about 400 “in rotation” to about 800.

“With Arrow, it was always neck and neck. We shared about 60 percent of our playlist with them,” says Wilde about the cut-throat competition in which neither station could afford to let down its guard and playother than very well-tested album cuts.

“It’s rare in a market to have two classic rockers go head to head for so long,” observed Wilde.

Although the factors that went into Infinity Radio’s (now CBS) conversion of Arrow to Jack are open to some speculation, Wilde believes that Arrow 93 made a fatal error when it went head to head against KLOS’s long-running Mark and Brian Show with Jonathan Brandmeier.

It was the second go around for the Chicago personality in Los Angeles. He had a stint as a midday host on talker KLSX-FM 97.1. Another effort to match Mark and Brian failed when the Seattle-based Bob Rivers lasted just 11 days.

But now with Jack, the expanded playlist genie seems to be out of the bottle and that is really improving the sound of commercial radio generally.

Wilde says she sees other stations in the market, such as top 40 KIIS-FM 102.7, oldies KRTH-FM 101.1 and KYSR-FM 98.7 all increasing the number and variety of songs.

“I think it’s healthy,” she says. “We’ve probably doubled our playlist. We have a huge heritage and catalogue.”

KLOS has added an 8 a.m. Sunday show called “The Deep End.” Nick Michaels, who does the vocal imaging for the station, does his best to exploit the station’s vast collection of album rock from the late 60s and 70s.

“When was the last time you heard ‘Heard it in a Love Song’ by the Marshall Tucker Band?” says Wilde about one of the cuts Michaels aired recently. I couldn’t think of any time recently, as I attempted to scan my memories of listening to the radio since the song’s release in 1977.

Wilde has been kicking around the idea of creating a new slogan for KLOS: “Who Needs Jack When You Have Jim?”

She means Jim Ladd, the nightly 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. host who is allowed by virtue of his proven ear for programming and his late night hours, greater leeway in picking his own music.

Cynthia Fox features “deeper cuts” (less-well known by popular artists) In Tune at noon. Uncle Joe Benson has a regular afternoon feature “The Vault” out of which recently emerged another classic rock gem, “Maggie’s Farm” by Bob Dylan.

It’s obviously no secret that with millions of dollars of ad revenue pegged to the capriciousness of audience surveys and Arbitron’s quarterly ratings reports, nothing is just slipped into the CD player. Everything is tested and everything seems untried is a potential risk. It is music radio’s cross to bear, the legacy of decades of success.

Right now, Wilde is busy getting ready to launch KLOS’ HD station, “Fusion Rock,” which will be the first bilingual rock format.

“I’m really excited about it,” says Wilde about the preparations for the new channel aimed at specially-equipped HD radios. “We all have memories of college radio working 20 hours a day – never getting tired – because we love it and we are excited. There are no rules.”

Spanish-language artists such as Mana, Jaguares and Ozomatli will take their place alongside well-known Anglo bands such as AC/DC and Metallica.

“Santana opened for Mana a few years ago at Arrowhead Pond. People were singing along with Mana,” said Wilde. “I’d never heard them played on any stations. Spanish rock bands are not that exposed. I think it will be unique to (air them on Fusion Rock).”

Wilde, who is in her 23rd year with the station, is optimistic about the purchase of KLOS and other Disney-owned radio outlets by Citadel this year.

“I’m looking forward to it. We have a chance now to really reinvent radio. Citadel people are really very passionate about radio, as I am. I’m not scared at all. I welcome the change.”

KLOS prehistory: LA’s first all-news station

KLOS has been banging out rock tunes since 1969. Before that, KLOS was licensed as KABC-FM and simulcast with sister station KABC-AM 790. In 1967, the FCC required FM stations co-owned with an AM sister station to broadcast at least 50 percent original programming. In 1968, LA’s first 24/7 news radio station was launched. All-news KABC-FM relied heavily on the resources of the ABC Radio Network to fill the day. Following the launch of news stations KFWB-AM 980 and KNX-AM 1070 later that year on the still-dominant AM band, KABC management decided to cash in on the growing popularity of FM “underground rock” and KABC-FM was reborn as KLOS-FM.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Radio Column April 14, 2006

Listening In

April 14, 2006

By Sandy Wells

New pop alternative music in focus as Star 98.7 changes format

The personalities are gone; Jamie White, Jack and Stench are on permanent hiatus from morning drive and Bradley is no more in the afternoon (his contract ran out). And, a station announcement said there will be no radio personalities until further notice. Goodbye also to most of those ’80s hits. “Star 98.7” KYSR-FM 98.7 has ceded that ground to the Jack FM juggernaut (KCBS-FM 93.1) and is now focusing on exposing the exciting new crop of pop “alternative” artists.

“The next evolution of this format is here and Star 98.7 will lead the way in Southern California,” said Star 98.7 Program Director Mike Marino, in a statement. “This new generation of artists has joined the format’s established artists in embracing the art of great storytelling in their music, and our listeners have told us they want to hear more of it. Star 98.7 will celebrate by featuring top artists from our playlist in signature live on-air Star Lounge performances on every Monday in May.”

Its new slogan launched this week is “Today’s Music Alternative.” Featured prominently now are artists such as James Blunt (“You’re Beautiful” Natasha Bedingfield (“Unwritten”), Jamie Cullum (“Catching Tales”) and Daniel Powter (“Bad Day”).

Hits from established artists such as Greenday, Nickelback, Alanis Morissette, U2, The Killers and Train are also in the mix.

Station spokesperson Robert Lyles explained that the new approach is taking the station back to its “roots” as a more contemporary-oriented pop music station.

This may bring the FM station some better ratings, plus give exposure to all these gifted young artists that otherwise depend on word of mouth, iTunes and MTV to get their names out into the public.

“We’re thrilled about the compelling new music coming out for our format, and the results of our on-air music search yesterday confirm that there’s an audience for it,” enthused Star 98.7 General Manager Craig Rossi. “We’re also seeing that the power has shifted to the listener when it comes to audio entertainment choices, so Star 98.7 is going to provide lots of opportunities for listeners to tell us what they want from their radio station. And, they can connect to very cool interactive features through web offerings like the Stripped Music performances, Videos on Demand, NEW!, The Music Store downloads and lots of other on-demand content.”

As I wrote in this column earlier this year, the exit of Howard Stern has really opened the door for music radio’s resurgence. The pressure on programmers to counter Stern with a morning comedy show is gone, and now other options are being explored. We’ll see if Star 98.7 is up for the challenge.

Wanted: one full-time all-news station for Los Angeles

Now that baseball season is here, and the Dodgers games are being carried on KFWB-AM 980, there is no fulltime radio news outlet in the Southland.

Former news station KNX-AM 1070 is developing a full slate of daytime (9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Mon. – Fri.) business-consumer talk programming including “Money 101” and the “KNX Business news Hour” with Bob McCormick, Westwood One’s “Real Money” with Jim Kramer and business news with Frank Mottek.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Radio Column March 31, 2006

Listening In

March 31, 2006

By Sandy Wells

KPCC names new ‘Talk of the City’ host

Former public TV co-host and local columnist Patt Morrison will join KPCC-FM 89.3 as the new permanent host of the weekday public affairs talk show “Talk of the City” starting April 10th. Morrison has been a frequent substitute host on KPCC’s “Air Talk” with Larry Mantle.

The announcement followed the Pasadena station’s decision to move longtime host Kitty Felde to a new post as a reporter with the public news/talk outlet.

“Patt brings encyclopedic knowledge of the city, a contact list that goes on forever, and a distinctive personal way of relating to listeners,” said KPCC program director Craig Curtis. “Adding Patt to our regular schedule is a real coup for KPCC.”

Morrison is a regular commentator on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” (carried by KPCC) and has published a best-selling book on the Los Angeles River. She was a founding host of KCET-TV “Life and Times” for which she won six Emmys and six Golden Mike awards. She is currently the president of the Los Angeles Press Club.

“I've enjoyed my substitute gigs on KPCC,” Morrison said. “I'll probably find the difference between subbing and having your own show is the difference between baby-sitting your friends’ kids and having your own. There is always something new to learn and write and say about California.”

Felde told me her focus was often on stories and issues in the less-well-known and less-glamorous cities and towns of the Greater Los Angeles area. Morrison, with her extensive background writing about Los Angeles city politics, will likely take the program in a more LA-centric direction.

Talk of the City airs weekdays from 2 – 3 p.m. on KPCC-FM 89.3

KSCA’s Píolin helps draw massive crowd to political rally

The power of radio to influence politics was again on display last Saturday as well over half a million people jammed the streets and area around Los Angeles City Hall to protest pending legislation to clamp down on illegal border crossings and potentially penalize undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S.

As a witness to the event, I can say that the crowd’s response to the local radio DJ’s, such as KSCA-FM 101.9’s Eduardo Sotelo El Píolin, was more enthusiastic than to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Píolin drew roars of approval as he addressed the crowd in Spanish about the HR 4437 penned by Rep. James Sensenbrenner and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December. At one point, he dramatically released a dove into the air and said in English, “God Bless America.”

According to event organizers, other local Latino air personalities tapped to publicize Saturday’s rally were Ricardo Sanchez El Mandril and Pepe Garza from KBUE-FM 105.5, Hugo Cadelago and Gerardo Lorenz KTNQ-AM 1020, Omar Velasco from KLVE- FM 107.5 Renan Almendarez Coello and Mayra Berenice from KLAX-FM 97.7, Humberto Luna from KHJ-AM 930 Francisco Galvez Pacorro from KRCD-FM 98.3 and 103.9 and Colo Barrera and Nestor Pato Rocha from KSSE-FM 107.1 and 97.5.

KLSX post-Howard Stern fallout

The ratings for the new morning show on KLSX-FM 97.1 show don’t look too encouraging up to this point. On the eve of the release of the Arbitron winter quarter audience estimates (in about four weeks), the numbers show that a large segment of former Howard Stern listeners are not adopting his successor, Adam Carolla for their morning radio listening.

KLSX went from 7th place in morning drive (6 a.m. to 10 a.m.) in the fall to 13th place in the first phase of the Arbitrends (November, December and January) to 25th place in the second phase of the winter quarter. Stern signed off from over the air “terrestrial” radio December 16th.

The sort-of good news is that a Jacobs Media poll taken in late February showed that 70 percent of Stern’s former audience of about 12 million is hanging in there with terrestrial radio. About nine percent of his “regular listeners” have taken the plunge and bought a Sirius receiver and subscription while another 19 percent say they plan to do so.

The poll suggests that a sizeable chunk of Stern fans are making their peace with other commercial radio morning shows.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Radio Column March 17, 2006

Listening In

March 17, 2006

By Sandy Wells

K-Earth 101’s new PD mining for new gold in old veins

New ‘old’ songs are finding their way on to K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) these days. Jhani Kaye, the recently appointed program director of the CBS oldies outlet, is currently taking some small, short term risks in hopes of a big dividend in the long run.

“We’ve expanded the playlist,” said Kaye. “We examined our song scores. All songs on our station are run through panels of listeners who prefer oldies. They get to rate the songs in a research environment.”

As a result, says, Kaye, new additions have been popping up on the K-Earth 101 “Soundtrack of Southern California,” such Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain,” Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” and “Call Me” by Chris Montez.

The risk of adding songs that the previous programming shunned as too obscure or “low scoring” on the research is offset by the benefit of keeping oldies fans tuned in for longer periods of time, a benefit that is valued by advertisers. And what I always hear is how frustrated oldies fans have been with the excessive repetition of staples such as “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers and “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch” by the Four Tops.

“Generally, expanding the playlist takes the ratings down,” explained Kaye. “But that happens with more with contemporary music stations. With oldies, you have a limited universe. The oldies format is its own entity and you have to have an expanded playlist so you don’t burn out your core library.”

Kaye has taken some of the top scoring songs and stopped playing them so often to keep the station from sounding like it’s always playing ‘the same old song.’

“When you play the lower-scoring songs is when people say, ‘Oh yeah! Ooh!’ It screams variety when you catch listeners from left side, when you play songs they believe they haven’t heard for a long time.”

Kaye is also adding the long “album” versions of favorites, such as the Doors’ “Light My Fire” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Kaye hopes to grow the oldies brand name that K-Earth 101 has established. For starters, that means not tampering too much with the talent lineup.

“I like to listen to the lineup for a long time, get to know them before making any adjustments,” says the veteran programmer who guided soft rock adult contemporary KOST-FM 103.5 for more than two decades. Joshua Escandon – midday personality on KBIG-FM 104.3 until a year ago – is the only new hire so far.

The current personalities, which include Hollywood Hamilton and the K-Earth 101 Morning Crew, Jim Carson, Gary Bryan, “Shotgun Tom” Kelly and Christina Kelley have all been very supportive, says Kaye.

“They are a great team. They all want to win in the worst way.”

Kaye joined the K-Earth 101 team in January after winding up a stint as Clear Channel’s Director of AC Programming for LA, where he supervised both KBIG-FM and KOST-FM. He says he was enticed to fill the programming position vacated by Jay Coffey by the history of the station and its association with the legendary “Boss Radio” KHJ.

“In my radio career, I’d been a disc-jockey in Los Angeles. The one station I always wanted to be on in LA was KHJ. KHJ is gone but the great inheritor of the Bill Drake sound was K-Earth 101. I love the songs. Bill Drake is a great resource for us. I get to speak to him on the phone – talk about programming issues – he’s such a gentleman. It was a great time for me to have a new experience in LA radio and work for a property I respect and love.”

The sound of K-Earth is changing but also sounding more like its antecedent, the top 40 version of KHJ. In addition to finding some neglected oldies and adding more 70s hits, he has dusted off some of the old jingles and vocal imaging recorded by Bill Drake back in the 60s and 70s. That lends an air of authenticity to the station. Kaye is also tweaking the sound processing to make the music more “natural sounding” and, he hopes, entice people to stay tuned for longer periods of time.

Kitty Felde takes on reporting duties

Public radio KPCC-FM 89.3’s Kitty Felde wrapped up a five-year run as full-time host (plus four years as the Friday host of the same) of “Talk of the City” a couple of weeks ago.

“They took my radio show away from me for no reason that I can discern,” the still somewhat shell-shocked award-winning reporter told me this week. “I have no idea what happened. I was blindsided by it. There was no reason given other than they wanted to shake things up.”

Well, part of the shake up means Felde will soon be working out of KPCC’s downtown LA offices as a reporter. But the station, despite its tepid commitment to local long-form programming, has shown an admirable determination to cover Southern California news with a large and ambitious news organization.

Felde, who covered the O.J. trial for KCRW-FM 89.9 and has been in public radio for twenty year, is confident she’ll regain her footing.

“I have a way of talking to people, of making complicated issues sound interesting and showing how policy issues affect real people.”

Now that’s an attribute any news department worth its salt should be souring the four corners of the earth to find.