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Radio AM to FM: December 1, 2000

Goodbye KRLA?

For all intents and purposes, KRLA (1110 AM) left the airwaves two years ago when, on November 10, 1998, station manager Bob Moore fired the entire air staff and set into motion his lifelong dream of making KRLA a talk station, culminating with an official format change from the music the station played for almost 40 years on November 30.

So perhaps it should not matter that new operator ABC -- an ownership change will not officially take place until FCC approval, expected in early 2001 -- apparently thinks nothing of dropping the call letters of the once-legendary top-40/oldies station as it launches a new all-sports format today ... call letters that date back to September 1st, 1959, two days prior to the launch of the all new Radio Los Angeles. On September 3rd, 1959, KRLA became the first major competitor to then-dominant top-40 station, KFWB (980 AM).

At press time nothing official was announced. But a search through the FCC web site ( found that on November 21, Infinity Broadcasting -- current owner of KRLA -- requested the call letters KSPN. Considering that KRLA is adopting an ESPN sports format and that ESPN is indeed owned not by Infinity but by ABC, it makes sense that Infinity requested the new calls on behalf of ABC.

If true, it marks the end of a long road for the KRLA. Once known as KPAS (for Pasadena, its city of license) in the 1940s, the station became KXLA in 1947 before adopting the KRLA calls in 1959.

KRLA played second fiddle to KFWB for a few years until personality Bob Eubanks mortgaged his house in order to sponsor The Beatles in a concert at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964. That concert made KRLA L. A.'s official Beatles station, and propelled KRLA to the top spot in the Los Angeles ratings, a spot it held until KHJ (930 AM) decimated all competitors in 1965.

KRLA held on, though, through various format adjustments. Top-40 stayed until the 1970s, followed by a try at album oriented-rock (remember Sie Holiday?) After that it was a semi-generic almost middle-of-the-road format until Art Laboe launched Hit Radio 11 and helped build KRLA back into a ratings powerhouse in the mid 1970s.

Laboe's KRLA: oldies and specially selected current songs, eventually evolved into a personality-driven oldies format that lasted -- essentially unchanged, sometimes better sometimes worse -- until Moore pulled the plug in 1998.

Today KRLA evolves into ESPN Radio, and it apparently means the end of the road for the KRLA calls, at least on 1110 AM. Will they turn up on another station? Perhaps. At one time the calls were being proposed for an FM station, running the old KRLA oldies format. I highly doubt that will happen, at least for a few years.

And perhaps it just doesn't matter.

Looney World

RadioDigest.Com's Los Angeles radio correspondent Tomm Looney has a new full-time position on KXTA (1150 AM), so he's thinking of hanging up his pencil due to a very real conflict of interest. Of course he's had a conflict of interest for a while now, as he's already been employed by KLSX (97.1 FM) and KFWB. But this one's full-time.

A decision is expected shortly. RadioDigest.Com, already hanging by a thread with updates few and far between (it even missed one of Looney's recent filings), must be anxiously awaiting the decision ...


Copyright © 2000 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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