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Airwaves: June 12, 2009

Slim One Bring up a Topic

Uncle Ricky’s Reel Top-40 Radio Repository -- a website (www.reelradio.com) featuring recordings of radio stations dating back to the 1920s -- this week features a great aircheck of The Slim One on HitRadio KKHR (now Jack-FM, 93.1) from October, 1985. And while the aircheck itself it great listening ... I think I like KKHR even more now than I did then ... it is a discussion in the comments area that caught my eye.

What happened to the variety once found on top-40 radio, and demonstrated on this recording?, asks one listener. “Today you almost certainly would never hear Money for Nothing and Part Time Lover on the same station. What is the reason? Why did top-40 variety as it was known vanish from the ether around this time?”

Great question, and one I have pondered for a long time. Truth be told, variety among many formats was better before the mid 1980s, about the time that radio began to lose its way. Remember when K-EARTH (101.1 FM) played Bruce Springsteen and Lighthouse in the same set? And their weekends were “can’t miss” events because you never knew what was coming up? When KOST was sappy but still listenable? When KIQQ (now The Sound, 100.3 FM) had songs in common with album rocker KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM), top-40 KIIS (102.7 FM), alternative KROQ (106.7 FM), and country KLAC (570 AM)?

I know I live too much in the past, but I miss that style of top-40. I like hearing different genres of music, and I like them mixed together, as when KHJ (930 AM) or K-WEST (now KPWR, 105.9 FM) played the current hits spiced up with their “time machine” feature. Arguably you can still find that sort of variety on Jack-FM, but I also miss the excitement of the promotions and the bigger-than-life DJs, something that the Jack format doesn’t provide.

I still wonder if that type of radio could work: high-energy presentation using high-profile talented personalities with a variety of music borrowing from various genres. Am I really that dated?

Mail Bag

Two names keep coming up in your e-mails and letters. Larry Elder and Al Rantel. As in, where are they and when are they coming back to the local airwaves?

Rantel has been off the air due to health reasons for quite some time, and he was expected to be back at KABC (790 AM) in May. Obviously that didn’t happen, and it has me a little concerned. Supposedly the station is simply waiting for a doctor’s OK, but the lack of news on the popular talk host is disconcerting. I will try to contact the station again for an update.

As to Elder, his website says to expect an announcement “soon.” He left KABC in December and has been concentrating on his syndicated newspaper columns, but I know he’s itching to get back on the air. Where? Hard to say, since LA talk is fairly locked up. Perhaps Saul Levine might open up a local shift on KGIL? (540 and 1260 AM, 105.1 HD-3).

Alice Stone of Pasadena writes, “Was so pleased to read that classical music will be back on 105.1 HD-2 in your June 8th column. In March of 2007 we bought an HD radio to receive 105.1’s classical music ... and then it went away. I’ve just hauled out the HD radio out of storage and we’ll go through the exercise of setting it up again.”

I think your letter is a perfect example of what station owners need to do to get people to buy HD radios: give them something they can’t get elsewhere. Classical, standards, eighties rock ... something different. Just like FM did in its infancy. But you also need to promote it ... programmers, are you listening?

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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