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Radio AM to FM: April 16, 2004

You could hear the music on the AM radio ...

My friend Victor just bought a 1957 Chevrolet 210 station wagon that he plans on restoring. Looks nice, and the engine sounds great. Victor explained that it still had the original tube AM radio and that it worked, at least for a while. After it was on for a time, it started to lose volume. Probably a bad tube.

As we discussed the car at the local coffee place (he ran into me as I was walking my dogs to get coffee), I asked if he was going to get the radio fixed. I fully expected him to say no, that he was going to replace it with an AM/FM stereo. To my surprise, he said "yes." As it turns out, one of his favorite stations is KLAC (570 AM), which plays music that can only be found on the AM band.

As we talked, it got me thinking. The signals in some cases may be weak, but AM radio in Southern California is about the best its been in years. You actually have a choice of music stations, and there are indeed enough decent stations to fill up the presets.

Here are my best bets:

XSURF (540 AM). As noticed by many who have written in, Oldies 540 plays music that KRTH (101.1 FM) and KOLA (99.9 FM) don't touch: the early years of rock and roll. No, it's not perfect, but it IS interesting.

KLAC. Great except on weekends when every quack in the world gets a chance to sell their wares, KLAC plays standards: music from real singers and musicians. The personalities are pleasant, and the station is absolutely fabulous for listening while working in the garage. Too bad the signal is mono, in spite of the fact that they play many current standards.

KFI (640 AM): I still miss the days when KFI played top-40 music to half the United States under the direction of John Rook, but as a talker it is one of the best in the country. From Bill Handel's thoroughly-researched news pieces in the morning through John and Ken's afternoon rants and Phil Hendrie's characters, you won't go wrong. The weekend must hear: The Mind Hunter, Saturdays at 7 PM.

KABC (790 AM Stereo): LA's oldest talk station, KABC has some wonderful alternatives to KFI's programs, all a bit kinder and gentler. At night the award-winning Mr. KABC takes all calls unscreened, and Doug McIntyre's Red-Eye Radio is an overnight sensation.

KDIS (1110 AM Stereo). Top-40 for the under 16 crowd that happens to appeal to a slightly older audience as well. It's certainly not Boss Radio, but the personalities are entertaining enough ... and it's the only local AM station playing primarily current music.

KSUR (1260 AM). Like KLAC, K-SURF plays standards. Yet you would never confuse the two stations ... unfortunately I cannot actually pinpoint what the differences are. Like KLAC (and Oldies 540), this station should be in stereo; alas it is not.

To make the list complete, I'd like to request the following: a nice real top-40 station that could take on KIIS-FM (102.7), such as a return of The Mighty 690 or KHJ (930 AM), and an alternative-leaning rock station such as KEZY "1190 Rock" of the late 1970s.

Falling Arrow

Mark my words, the end of Arrow is near. Joe Benson is being moved to afternoons on Arrow 93 (KCBS-FM, 93.1) to make room for more morning talk with the Jonathon Brandmeier beginning Monday.

Not that I have anything against Brandmeier, but placing his show on Arrow proves that the executives at the station have no clue about their audience. We don't want talk in the morning, we want music. Brandmeier plays none. We don't like that.

Arrow will be history within a year. Two, tops.


Copyright © 2004 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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