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Airwaves: December 3rd, 2010

The Last Interview


It’s the morning of December 8th, 1980. At the time, KFRC/San Francisco was one of the most highly-rated and respected top-40 music stations in America -- it would be almost six years before owner RKO would hire a consultant named Walter Sabo to totally destroy the station ... which he did in one year.

But in 1980, KFRC was the number one station in the Bay Area by a long shot, and its signal was the only one to fully reach all parts of The City. What better station to help promote a new album?

So programmer Dave Sholin and staffers Laurie Kaye, Ron Hummel and Bert Keane board a plane to New York. They arrive in the Big Apple and head straight over to the interview location, an apartment building called The Dakota. It’s about 12:30 PM when they are led into the apartment for the interview, an interview arranged by Geffen Records designed primarily to help promote the launch of the album Double Fantasy by John Lennon.

It would be Lennon’s last interview.

Just hours after the conclusion of the interview, and a short time after the four KFRC employees left Lennon and Yoko Ono at their recording studio -- they gave the couple a lift in the limo before heading off to fly back to San Francisco, Lennon was gunned down by Mark David Chapman.

Sholin didn’t learn about the murder until he landed back in San Francisco and was listening to his car radio; the event changed the best day of his life into his worst. He became an instant national celebrity, going on Good Morning America to give the details of the Last Interview. The interview itself, obviously changing in focus, was edited down to a three-hour program celebrating the life of Lennon, and was aired on KFRC as well as many other RKO owned and affiliated stations nationwide.

In memory of the Lennon’s death, ReelRadio.Com is presenting the original three-hour radio program interview on its Aircheck Channel stream, located at www.reelradio.com/aircheckchannel. The plan right now is to stream it four times between the hours of 9 AM and 9 PM on Wednesday, December 8th. It will be for subscribers only, but the subscription rate is ridiculously low -- as much as you want but as little as $15 per year for unlimited access to hundreds of radio station airchecks.

Additionally, beginning December 5th, ReelRadio will have available the entire three hours of the Dr. Don Rose morning show that originally aired on December 9, 1980. Portions of the Sholin interview were played on Dr. Don’s show as well. For that go to the main page of www.reelradio.com.

While I’m on the subject, for radio junkies like me, ReelRadio is a treasure chest full of memories of great radio from the past. If you’re looking for an unusual gift for your favorite radio geek, this might be just the ticket.

Epilogue

One of the things that struck me while listening to the three-hour interview was that this interview would not take place today. Radio like that -- done by a station that had a personal relationship with every one of its listeners -- is long gone. There are no stations that are bigger than life any more ... stations like KFRC, KHJ and even early KIIS-FM; I challenge today’s programmers to bring it back. Takers? The future of radio itself may depend on it.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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