Airwaves: November 1, 2013
Remembering the Might Met
“The whole thing had to go.” -- former KMET programmer Frank Cody, in an interview with the LA Times in 1987.
If you didn’t live in Southern California during its heyday, it is hard to imagine what made KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM) so popular -- and so special to listeners.
When you list the attributes, such as the personalities, the music, the concert promotions, the Fish Reports with a Beat, those who never experienced the station often don’t get it. “Yeah we had that in Philadelphia,” they say. Or, “a fish report?”
Those who experienced it, those who listened, knew they had something special. This was their station. The station that appealed to their post-Vietnam War sensibilities and that treated them with respect. This was their voice. This was their information source, and KMET took news very seriously.
KMET’s history is longer than many realize. They launched in 1968 as an automated, middle-of-the-road station. After a blow-up at then underground rock KPPC (now KROQ, 106.7 FM), legendary personality Tom Donahue and his wife Raechel convinced owner Metromedia to put the KPPC format on KMET.
Early FM was a tough sell, though, and the early days of freeform radio were truly that - free form. You could hear anything, from jazz to rock to whatever, that limited the potential audience.
Shadoe Stevens took over programming in 1974, followed by Sam Bellamy, who was Stevens assistant, in 1976. Those changes, along with the rich variety of album-rock music and personalities who refined their craft over the years became the catalyst for one of the most beloved stations in Los Angeles radio history.
Under Bellamy, one of the few female programmers at the time, KMET became the top-rated FM station in town in an era when AM still reigned supreme. KMET eventually became the top-rated station over all. It wasn’t until Bellamy left in 1983 that the armor began to crack. A revolving door of inept programmers who didn’t “get” KMET -- all were from out of town -- along with the competition from newcomer KROQ -- brought KMET down. Cody, who was already over his head when he arrived in 1986, decided to dump the whole thing.
As I said, unless you heard it, you didn’t get it. Well, now you can hear it. Again. The Sound (100.3 FM) is having a KMET weekend beginning Friday afternoon.
It all starts with Jeff Gonzer and Ace Young taking over at 3 PM, followed by Cynthia Fox at 6. Other details and personalities are still being worked out at press time, but I know that Saturday will have Rick Lewis from 1-3 PM, and at 5 PM, Jim Ladd will hold a roundtable discussion including former KMET stars Gonzer, Young, Fox, Paraquat Kelley and Jack Snyder.
And it just wouldn’t be KMET without Dr. Demento: He’ll be on Sunday night at 6.
According to Sound programmer Dave Beasing, “everyone went through their shoeboxes of tapes and found some incredible highlights including Paraquat Kelley setting off an M80 in studio, lots of Fish Reports with a Beat, the night John Lennon died, Dr. Leon, Flo & Eddie, and more.”
The station is giving away 300 KMET t-shirts, and you can get in on those by texting “KMET” to 21003 ... they’ll tell you how to enter the drawing.
It should make for a great weekend. All I can say is Whoo-Ya!
Copyright © 2013 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
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