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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Radio Column January 26, 2007

Listening In

January 26, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Talk radio, oldies and soft rock rebound in latest ratings

The redesigned oldies legend “K-Earth 101” (KRTH-FM 101.1) made impressive gains in the fall ratings period, going from a tie at No. 15 to a tie for No. 10 in the latest Arbitron survey of listeners 12 and up. It is vindication for new Program Director Jhani Kaye and indicates there are plenty of listeners ready for a more 70s-based mix of oldies. Kaye’s previous station, adult contemporary KOST-FM 103.5 which is now programmed by Stella Schwartz, also had a great book, jumping from 11th place to a tie for 4th.

The congressional elections were a boon for talk stations. Clear Channel’s conservative/populist KFI-AM 640 went from a tie at No. 8 to a tie a No. 4 and ABC Disney’s mostly conservative KABC-AM 790 moved up from No. 17 to 15. Liberal KTLK-AM 1150 (also owned by Clear Channel) inched up a tenth to No. 31, tied with Salem ’s very conservative KRLA-AM 870.

Country music fans found a new home across county lines. The Inland Empire ’s “K-Frog” (KFRG-FM 95.1) jumped from No. 40 in the LA Metro survey to No. 28, thanks to the “flip” of KZLA-FM 93.9 from country to rhythmic adult contemporary “Movin’ 93.9” (KMVN-FM) last August. We’ll have to wait for the next ratings results to find out how well newcomer Country AM 540 and 1260 succeeds in attracting the disenfranchised country music fans of LA and Orange Counties .

K-Earth 101 Morning Man Gary Bryan

The top rated stations overall were Spanish contemporary “K-Love” KLVE-FM 107.5, then Regional Mexican KSCA-FM 101.9 which tied at No. 2 with Clear Channel’s top 40 KIIS-FM 102.7. The No. 4 spot was shared by two other Clear Channel stations: KFI-AM and KOST-FM. Regional Mexican KLAX-FM 97.9 scored at No. 6, followed by CHR Rhythmic “Power 106” (KPWR-FM 105.9) at No. 7, alternative rock KROQ-FM 106.7 at No. 8 and smooth jazz “The Wave” (KTWV-FM 94.7) at No. 9. “K-Earth 101” and Regional Mexican KBUE-FM 105.5 tied at No. 10.

K-Earth 101's midday guy Jim Carson

Climbing back into the morning drive top ten were Mark and Kim on KOST-FM up from No. 12 in the summer to No. 8 and “K-Earth 101”’s Gary Brian, who shot up from No. 16 to tie at No. 9 with the adult hits format of “Jack FM” (KCBS-FM 93.1).

KSCA-FM’s “Piolín por la Mañana” held on to No. 1 in morning drive. English-speaking radio’s top performer was KFI’s Bill Handel at No. 2 overall, then at No. 3 KLAX-FM’s Renan Almendarez Coello, “American Idol” star Ryan Seacrest on KIIS-FM at No. 4, Omar and Algeria on KLVE-FM at No. 6, Kevin and Bean on KROQ-FM at No. 7 and Power 106’s big-voiced Big Boy at No. 8. In talk radio, KABC-AM’s Doug McIntyre, KRLA-AM’s Laura Ingraham and KTLK-AM’s Stephanie Miller all gained audience share. Notwithstanding LA’s need for straight forward news reporting and frequent traffic updates, news stations KNX-AM 1070 and KFWB-AM 980 lost audience share in the morning, down two tenths and one tenth respectively.

In the 7 p.m. to midnight period, Art Laboe, whose request and dedications show on “Hot 92 Jamz” (KHHT-FM 92.3) dominates the city with the No. 1 show on Sunday nights, did not improve the ratings picture for the urban AC station with his new weeknight show. KHHT-FM was down from No. 4 to No. 7. If listeners are missing the soft R&B of “The Quiet Storm” (now starts at midnight), the ratings suggest they weren’t going to “The Wave” which dropped down from No. 7 to No. 12 nor to “The Beat” KKBT-FM 100.3 - now KRVB-FM “V-100” – which dipped from No. 14 to 21. Night owls may be tuning to the 70s flavored hits on “K-Earth 101” (up from No. 19 to 15). In talk radio, KABC-AM gained 1.6 points, raising Al Rantel, Mark Levin and “Ask Mr. KABC” from No. 16 to No. 10. KFI-AM’s John Ziegler and George Noory also improved, growing nine tenths of a point from No, 10 to a tie at No. 5 with KOST-FM.

Ask Mr. KABC showed big gains in the evening ratings for KABC-AM 790

NPR news aims for younger audience

National Public Radio is getting set to launch a new news show for younger audiences patterned after “Morning Edition,” which has grown to be a daily habit for 13 million listeners since its inception in 1970. However, the young, college educated FM listeners of that time are now pushing 60. Even at the ultra politically correct NPR, the people in charge know they’ve got to cultivate the young to stay relevant in radio.

“Morning Edition is a tremendous success and a daily priority for millions of Americans, but one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to news and information,” said NPR Chief Executive Officer Ken Stern. “The 25-to-44 age group is underserved by the media and seeking smart, thoughtful content relevant to their lives. With more than seven million of them already embracing public radio and the public service it offers, this is a logical opportunity for NPR.”

A two-hour morning drive time radio show is planned for September through NPR radio stations, their digital HD radio multicast channels, the Internet and on satellite radio. No word yet on whether KPCC-FM 89.3 or KCRW-FM 89.9 will participate.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Radio Column January 12, 2007

Listening In

January 12, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Star 98.7 pairs KIIS-FM’s Valentine with Foxx in new morning show

Lisa Foxx moves into new time slot on Star 98.7

Star 98.7 KYSR-FM 98.7 repeated history last week when it removed the morning show starring “Jamie, Jack and Stench,” (Jamie White, Jack Heine and Mike Roberts). The trio exited the Hot Adult Contemporary station billing itself as “today’s music alternative” last April so management could make room for more music-focused programming. However, a big email response caused the management to pull a Donald Trump-like move, giving them a “second chance.” Now that’s over with for good. Or bad, depending on how much you liked or disliked White’s brand of goofball humor.

Sean Valentine moves from KIIS-FM to Star 98.7

Starting next Tuesday, KIIS-FM 102.7’s lightening-witted Sean Valentine joins midday host Star 98.7 DJ Lisa Foxx for the new 5:30 am - 10 am morning show. Valentine spent the last ten years spinning top 40 pop hits for Star 98.7’s sister station, including the last eight as host of the afternoon drive shift. He’s also a regular at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, and has entertained the U.S. armed forces stationed overseas for the USO.

Foxx has been a mainstay on Star 98.7 for nearly ten years, hosting virtually every timeslot. Lately she has been heard hosting the “All Request Workday” weekdays from 10 am to 3 pm. A California native, Lisa honed her on-air skills with gigs in San Jose and San Francisco before coming to Los Angeles.

Both hosts are adept at managing fast-paced shows where music is the focus. Star 98.7 General Manager Craig Rossi says he expects there will be a pretty even blend of music and chatter.

Sean Parr headlines as DJ on country AM 1260 and 540

Sean Parr does mornings now on AM 540 and 1260

On his first day back on the air this week at AM 1260 and 540, prompted by traffic reporter/sidekick Robin Banks – who also worked with him on KZLA-FM 93.9, country music DJ Sean Parr retold the story of the last minutes of the FM country station.

“The boss came in to the studio,” Parr recalled. “He never did that. He never came into the studio. He asked how I was. I knew something was wrong. I asked is everything okay? He told me that in five minutes this station as you know it will be no more.”

Parr, at the mike, with his daughter visiting in the studio, was stunned, but not speechless. He said he asked the boss if he could say goodbye to the listeners, say something to explain what was happening. His boss told him to be a “radio professional” and play one more song without comment, for that would be his last. Shaken, with emotions welling up as the reality began to sink in, Parr picked Keith Urban’s, “Tonight I Wanna Cry” which he played at 10:18 a.m. He was then called into a staff meeting where the grim details were spelled out.

Later, he says he did get the opportunity to say goodbye to some of his listeners. But it wasn’t on KZLA. Morning DJ’s Scott and Tommy on the Inland Empire country station, “K-Frog” (KFRG-FM 95.1) which reaches parts of LA and Orange Counties, invited him to come in and talk about the demise of LA’s only country station on the morning of August 17th.

Parr’s presence in the morning gives the AM station a local show to anchor a broadcast schedule that features other country radio talents such as Whitney Allen, Brian Douglas, Paul Freeman and Tonya Campos, all former KZLA DJs.

Mt. Wilson Broadcasting President Saul Levine says he plans to add more local shows to the lineup of AM 1260 and 540.

Bonaduce joins Carola on KLSX-FM

Danny Bonaduce hooked up with morning man Adam Carolla and Teresa Strasser last week on KLSX-FM 971. The “Free FM” talker has struggled to recapture anything close to the ratings dominance it enjoyed in the morning with Howard Stern at the helm. Nevertheless, Carolla has survived, unlike his hapless East Coast counterpart, David Lee Roth, who was removed last year after less than five months on the job. Bonaduce, who also lost a morning radio job last year, as co-host with Jamie White on Star 98.7 KYSR-FM 98.7, is back in the saddle after a year starring on his own MTV reality TV show “Breaking Bonaduce.”

“If you asked me why I wanted to join Adam’s show, my first reaction would be to say poverty, followed quickly by the fact that I’m a big fan and have a lot of respect for his work,” said Bonaduce in a statement. “There’s nothing quite like doing live radio especially with a veteran like Adam. Having done his show in the past I know that there is something unique about what we bring to the table.”

‘La Raza’ morning man arrested after domestic quarrel

Spanish language radio superstar “El Cucuy” Renan Almendarez Coello had a run-in with the law over the holidays. Police say the “La Raza” KLAX-FM 97.9 morning man turned himself into to police last week on suspicion of making criminal threats over the phone to his wife and later to police on New Year’s Day as officers were investigating reports of a family fight at his home. Police say there were traces of blood at the scene Monday and that they took a knife as evidence. His wife was not injured. After being booked Wednesday, Almendarez posted $50,000 bail and left the police station with his lawyer.

The Honduran native has enjoyed a huge following among Spanish-speaking listeners in LA since his days on KKHJ-AM 930 (now KHJ). His popularity soared when he moved to mornings on KSCA-FM 101.9. Last spring, he played a key role in publicizing the massive rally in downtown Los Angeles to protest a House bill that would have criminalized illegal immigrants.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Radio Column December 29, 2006

Listening In

December 29, 2006

By Sandy Wells

Top radio stories of 2006

KZLA vanishes; Rick Dees returns on new KMVN

It was a strange day in August when the country music format vanished at KZLA-FM 93.9. The new “Movin’ 93.9” was born by stealth, with not a hint of things to come offered by Emmis Comunications, the corporation that owned LA’s only country outlet. Many country music lovers felt outrage, once they got over the shock of hearing Madonna and the Black Eyed Peas instead of Toby Keith and Sara Evans, not to mention the loss of morning DJ Peter Tilden. The silver lining in the cloud was the announcement that former KIIS-FM morning man Rick Dees was coming back to wake up Los Angeles.

Huggy Boy dies

Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg died this year following a period of failing health. The 78-year-old pioneer DJ who began spinning R&B hits in the 1950s from Dolphin’s record store in South LA evolved, in his later career on KRLA-AM 1110, into a radio institution among LA’s Latino communities. The Ohio native’s unpretentious presentation of “low rider” oldies with its emphasis on soul and R&B classics plus requests and dedications connected with people of all ages.

Comedy and sports don’t mix well

Can comedy and sports work as a talk format? KLAC-AM 570, made a half-hearted go of it with two comedy acts that ended up going nowhere, or in the case of Phil Hendrie, into TV sitcoms. Chicago’s mighty Mancow was heralded as a kind of new and improved Howard Stern. However, Mancow’s high-energy clowning cacophony sounded like it needed to be on FM as he is heard on his home base station in Chicago where higher fidelity and stereo help sort out the voices amid a pounding heavy metal soundtrack. But I give him credit for packing more entertainment bits into a show than any other radio morning man I’ve ever heard. And they were often very funny. Hendrie, moved from a high-profile evening slot on KFI-AM 640, was often preempted by sports on KLAC’s evening slot. He is now developing his comedy for TV. And KLAC is now programming sports shows with Joe McDonnell in the evenings and “Roggin and Simers Squared” with KNBC-TV’s Fred Roggin and sports writer T.J. Simers with his daughter, Tracy.

Country music on AM

Independent broadcaster Saul Levine came to the rescue of country music fans after KZLA changed to Movin’ 93.9. He “flipped” the format of his AM stations first XESUR-AM 540 and later, KKGO-AM 1260, trading Ferrante and Teicher for Brooks and Dunn.

Jhani Kaye programs K-Earth 101

I had to scratch my head over this one. K-Earth 101 (KRTH-FM 101.1) hired one of radio’s pre-eminent adult contemporary “soft rock” programmers with KOST-FM 103.5 and KBIG-FM 104.3 to reinvent the legendary oldies station. Jhani Kaye started in January. Like a glacial ice flow moving south, the music has changed to the point where except for the old jingles and a smattering of 60s classics the oldies sound has almost melted away. Kaye inserted ex-KBIG personality Joshua Escandon into early afternoons, giving the station a decidedly AC flavor during a key “listen at work” daypart. He also put Gary Bryan back in mornings. Hollywood Hamilton went back to New York radio after a year of waking up Angelenos with the Four Tops and Righteous Brothers.

Tough act to follow on KLSX-FM

KLSX-FM 97.1 Program Director Jack Silver has had his work cut out for this year. Programming a station with top-rated Howard Stern as the morning guy was like owning an Arabian oil field. With Stern gone to Sirius, Adam Carola has faced the daunting challenge of trying to keep as many Stern fans tuned in while developing his own following.

Behind the scenes drama at Star 98.7

Hot Adult Contemporary Star 98.7 KYSR-FM 98.7 has endured some tabloid-style sturm and drang this year, beginning with the firing of practically the whole air staff in order to put the focus back on the music. That move led to thousands of emails reportedly demanding that Jamie, Jack and Stench be given back their morning show. Management put the trio back on and also hired DJs Lisa Foxx, Tom Mitchell and Richard Blade to put some more personality between the records. The year came to a calamitous end when KFI’s Bill Handel, another morning host from the local Clear Channel cluster based in Burbank, burst into the Star 98.7 studio while the on-air lamp was lit, and loudly and profanely went off on Jamie for yelling at his kids, who had strayed down the hall while visiting their Dad’s show. There were a lot of “beeped out” words during that incident.

Revolving doors on urban radio

More evidence that personality is makes for compelling music radio surfaced as Urban AC “Hot 92” KHHT-FM 92.3 put weekend syndicated Art Laboe on a weeknight schedule with his signature requests and dedications. Laboe, a LA veteran broadcaster, helped Huggy Boy get started in the business in the 1950s. Comedian Steve Harvey, who was a huge hit on KKBT-FM 100.3, “The Beat” reemerged on old school hip hop KDAY-FM 93.5. KDAY also added Tha’ Goodfellas following their successful run of afternoons spinning hip hop hits on Power 106 KPWR-FM 105.9. Earlier this year, “The Beat” replaced morning man John Salley with Tom Joyner as it transformed from a hip hop and R&B to Urban Adult Contemporary sound. Joyner exited this month as the Beat’s new program director Kevin Fleming replaced him with KJLH-FM 102.3’s Cliff Winston.

Radio Column December 15, 2006

Listening In

December 15, 2006

By Sandy Wells

KKBT ‘The Beat’ drops Tom Joyner show

Urban contemporary station KKBT-FM 100.3 “The Beat” is returning to local programming in the morning as it disconnects from the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show after today.

KKBT Program Director Kevin Fleming was on the verge of making it official with an announcement this week that afternoon drive talent Cliff Winston would be named as the next personality to step into the high-profile position.

Before he was picked up by “The Beat,” Winston had developed a solid local following hosting the morning show at the Inglewood station owned by pop/R&B icon Stevie Wonder, KJLH-FM 102.3. His move to 100.3 earlier this year immediately fueled rumors that he was in line to replace Joyner’s program, which was not moving the ratings in the right direction.

“It was difficult for him to find an audience,” said Fleming of Joyner, who programmed the now defunct oldies R&B outlet KACE when that station carried the syndicated show. “That was five or six years ago. There wasn’t satellite radio or iPods then.”

Fleming is convinced that he must focus on developing local personalities to compete for LA’s fickle listeners and feels that Winston is the man to do it.

“He’s an entity in this marketplace and that’s a positive” said Fleming reflecting on the changes he hopes will stem the audience erosion the station has suffered this year. “The bleeding has stopped, we’re making changes; we have to inform the marketplace of who we are.”

Fleming edited the radio industry music tip sheet “Urban Buzz” between radio gigs. He feels the appeal of the urban adult contemporary sound of KKBT will continue to grow, displacing what he sees as hip hop’s fading popularity.

“You can only eat fast food for so long,” says Fleming, explaining the new focus on local personalities and music aimed to satisfy the musical tastes of Southern Californians. “People need to have a meal. You can have a home cooked meal here. That’s what we’re all about now.”

Fleming says KKBT’s music mix will be more ‘mass appeal’ than the similarly-formatted KJLH.

“The Beat” will soon add Shirley Hayes from Chicago’s WNUA-FM to fill the 9 a.m. to noon slot soon.

New female morning host captains the KJLH-FM “Home Team”

As former KJLH-FM 102.3 morning man Cliff Winston gets set to move into morning drive on KKBT-FM 100.3 ‘The Beat,’ one of his former “Home Team” players has moved up to take his place.

Adai Lamar is now counted alongside former “Beat” personality Diana Steele on KHHT-FM 92.3 as one of two female music DJs hosting the key morning drive time period. She is also the only African-American woman currently at the helm of a morning radio show in the market.

Lamar aims to “Entertain, Inform and Enlighten” on her daily 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. program. In keeping with the station’s objective to be “the community station,” drawing her listeners from LA’s vast melting pot, Adai and the Home Team broadcast community affairs, local job announcements and listener calls.

KJLH-FM's Adai Lamar

The Texas native graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in broadcast journalism. After starting her radio career at a station in Oklahoma City she moved to Hollywood where she worked for music star Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds before returning to the airwaves at KJLH.

Lamar is being promoted as someone who delivers “the viewpoints and experience of an attractive, young, single, professional African-American woman, something you won’t hear elsewhere headlining any other morning music show in L.A. radio.”

Adai hopes to move into some TV work in addition to radio. She is currently developing a segment for her show called “Adai in LA: The diary of a single black female living in the City.”