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Airwaves: July 14, 2006

Playing the Hits

Most people who know me well know I'm a little crazy when it comes to radio. I'm one of the few who still believe in AM music radio, for example, and I'm still awaiting the return of top-40 to 93/KHJ (930 AM).

For the uninitiated, KHJ was the premiere top-40 station in Los Angeles from 1965 to 1980, with a history dating back to 1922. Fast moving, involved in the community, and featuring a topnotch news department, it dominated its format throughout many of those years, and even when bad management of programmers brought it down, its influence continued to be felt.

I am not alone in my fondness. One example is another 93/KHJ ... in American Samoa.

American Samoa? You read that right. And like its Los Angeles inspiration, it is the region's most popular hit radio station. How did it come about? Turns out it was a storm in Mississippi back in 1994.

Larry Fuss was looking out the window of his Mississippi radio station after an ice storm. He saw streets covered with ice, fallen trees and other debris. The electricity was out all over town, and would be out for a week. Fuss thought to himself how nice it would be to own a station on a tropical island.

So he and his Mississippi partner Kirk Harnack got together with Samoan Smitty Lutu to launch a new radio station. They built a new transmitting facility in 1999 and began test broadcasts. May 2000 brought new studios and offices, and 93/KHJ was officially born almost 35 years to the day that top-40 "Boss Radio" debuted on LA's KHJ. The partners decided to call their new station KHJ in honor of the legendary Los Angeles top-40 giant.

The call letters are actually KKHJ-FM, and the station broadcasts with 1,100 watts, covering the island of Tutuila, where 95 percent of American Samoa's population resides.

Unlike the original, there's no Charlie Tuna (currently waking up KBIG 104.3 FM listeners every morning). But there is a Charlie Tafuna on weekends ... no joke. His station bio proudly proclaims that "after almost five years of unemployment, Charlie Tafuna is back!"

Mornings are handles by John Raynar and morning diva Lupe Lu. Raynor's bio says he fell off a passing cruise ship and was passed out on the beach when station personnel found him. They cleaned him up and put him on the air.

Want to hear it for yourself? You can, with a computer and the internet. gives you a link to listen live. The music is current hits, with a few oldies mixed in on weekends. It's kind of a trip hearing the call letters in english again, and the jingles are even modern versions -- what you might expect if KHJ/Los Angeles still played current hits.

I wonder if they have any on-air openings ...


"I've been trying to find out whatever happened to KABC's (790 AM) TalkRadio Idol winner Bruce Tannenbaum. He was an enjoyable and engaging personality, and he worked rather steadily on the station after winning the contest in June of 2004. But he has since disappeared from the airwaves. What happened to him?" -- Wayne Bergeron, Torrance

Stephen Sheldon from KABC provided the answer: "Bruce hasn't been on our airwaves for a while, but he remains part of our large roster of fill-in hosts. I hear he actually pursuing a career in comedy here in LA, so he might be found on the standup circuit somewhere. But I'm not sure."

So there you have it. Thanks, Steve.


Copyright © 2006 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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