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Airwaves: September 8, 2006

Huggy Boy Passes

Los Angeles Radio lost a true living legend last week when Dick "Huggy Boy" Hugg passed away at the age of 78. Hugg had been in poor health for the past few years following a stroke and an accidental fall; his death was due to internal bleeding.

His career in radio, though not continuous, spanned over 50 years, and he is credited with helping to spread the popularity of rhythm and blues by introducing it to white teenagers in the early 1950s.

His first radio gig came about after a conversation he had with Art Laboe -- another local legend -- as Laboe broadcast from Scrivner's Drive In at Sunset and Cahuenga in Hollywood. Laboe told, "Huggy Boy wondered in one night about two in the morning ... he heard the show and asked how he could become a DJ."

Laboe told him to do what he did: get a sponsor and have them pay for the time on a station and do a show. "Next thing you know, he's on the air from Dolphin's of Hollywood record store," Laboe said.

That was on KRKD (now KTLK, 1150 AM) in 1951. Hugg went on to numerous other stations including KWKW (then at 1300, now at 1330 AM), KGFJ (now KYPA, 1230 AM), the original KBLA (1500 AM, now dark), XEPRS (1090 AM) and KRTH (101.1 FM). His longest stint, however, came on the original KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM), where he worked from 1983 until he signed off the oldies format on November 27th, 1998. Coming full circle, it was Laboe who got him that job. It was at KRLA that I met him in person.

Knowing nothing about me, Huggy Boy walked into the KRLA studios as I waited to interview someone else. I did not know much about him, other than his show was a blast to listen to. Hugg had a sound all his own -- KRLA programmer Mike Wagner essentially let him play and do almost anything he wanted, and Hugg took advantage of that freedom. He played an amazing variety of oldies and doo-wop, constantly put listeners on the air, talked over the vocals on many records, and had an obviously great time with the whole thing.

So he sits down next to me in the lobby of the station and starts talking as if we've known each other for years. As I recall, I didn't even know who he was at first but he didn't care. He just liked talking to people I guess. He told me about his show, about the station and especially about his listeners. He truly loved his listeners. I seem to recall him being excited to be part of a Christmas parade in East Los Angeles, but I can't recall definitely.

I left that day with a huge amount of respect for him and his craft. Interestingly, I don't even remember who I was there to interview.

After KRLA, Hugg went on to KRTH. But it was never the same. The uptight management of KRTH wouldn't let him have any real freedom, and he wilted. His last on air shift was in 2002.

Funeral services will be held today at 1 PM at the Sky Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. The public is welcome to attend.


Copyright © 2006 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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