He came to Los Angeles in May, 1965 as the first morning man on RKO General's all new Boss Radio 93/KHJ. In May 1997, he left his current post at KRTH (101.1 FM) to devote his full attention to fighting lung cancer that probably arose due to his 35 year smoking habit. And now, in May 1998, Robert W. Morgan has passed away.
Morgan died last Friday night, May 29.
Perhaps one of the best morning personalities Los Angeles radio has ever had, Morgan originally wanted to become an attorney. But, as he told Don Barrett, author of Los Angeles Radio People, he decided "that being a disc jockey was a lot more fun than spending the rest of my life in a courtroom."
He was born in Calin, Ohio on July 23, 1942 and arrived at KHJ after successful runs in San Francisco, Fresno and Monterey. At KHJ, he was part of a team that included the likes of Gary Mack, Dave Diamond, Johnny Williams, Roger Christian, Don Steele, Sam Riddle, programmer Ron Jacobs, and consultants Bill Drake and Gene Chenault. Their mission: make KHJ -- then an embarrassment within the RKO General Broadcast Division -- a success.
Within six months, KHJ was number one in Los Angeles. And Morgan was one of L.A.'s most popular radio personalities. In addition to mornings, he was also "the voice of KHJ" from 1965 to 1970 when he left for a job at WIND/Chicago.
He returned to KHJ in 1972, only to leave one year later -- along with Drake, Chenault and Steele -- for the greener pastures of KIQQ (now Mega, 100.3 FM). In 1975 he moved to KMPC (now KDIS, 710 AM) first for weekends, later replacing Dick Wittinghill in the morning shift. 1984 brought him to Magic 106 (now KPWR, 105.9 FM) as part of that station's desire to expand their morning ratings. When the station changed formats in 1986, he returned to KMPC, where he stayed until his move to KRTH in 1992.
In a way, his move to KRTH was fitting: KRTH was once the sister station to KHJ (in fact simulcasting some of KHJ's programming in the early days of Boss Radio), and their format consists of music that was popular during the same time period. In other words, Morgan retired playing the same music he played when he first arrived in Los Angeles.
I mentioned in this column last year, while covering his retirement, that in spite of his reputation for being gruff, I found Morgan to be a genuinely caring person who supports his friends and keeps his word. That brought a call from him asking where I obtained that false information.
We both laughed, but it tended to show exactly what I meant. On the exterior he was tough, demanding, and perhaps to some people even a jerk. Yet in person, one on one, he was a really nice guy.
I'll never forget when he sat down to talk with me and the rest of the Magic 106 interns at a Good Morgan Breakfast Broadcast in 1986. It was then that I realized that his wit, humor and intelligence that showed on the air was not an act, it was the real thing.
Take care, Robert W. We'll miss you.
Morgan's death is a big loss to Los Angeles radio, but his voice will live on forever. If you want to hear and remember samples of his work and read a detailed biography of his career, point your web browser to Uncle Ricky's Real Top 40 Radio Repository, http://www.reelradio.com.