Airwaves: September 7, 2007
Ron Engelman, half -- along with John London -- of the brilliantly funny morning team of London and Engelman, passed away August 29th from lung cancer. He was 68.
Engelman began his radio journey in 1961, working at such stations as KBOI/Boise, Idaho and KLIF/Dallas, Texas. It was at KTLK/Denver, Colorado where he paired up with London, forming the team that would eventually make it to KRTH (101.1 FM) in 1979.
When master programmer Chuck Martin brought most of the on-air staff from KHJ (930 AM) to KWST (now KPWR, 105.9 FM) in 1981, he convinced London and Engelman to make the move as well, bringing such bits as The New Leave it to Beaver, and Fantasy Island to an entirely new audience. The humor was at times biting, but generally very clever. Even my friends who preferred album rock would listen to KWST's top-40 when London and Engelman were on. The show (and the station) was my personal favorite.
The team stayed at KWST as the station changed to Magic 106, did a little television, then left for Florida and later San Francisco before splitting up for good. My understanding is that they never spoke to each other after the split.
Engelman is survived by his wife, four children and two grandchildren.
I've been into radio most of my life. One of my earliest memories is of my first transistor radio, given to me by my Aunt Ina: a Realtone 10-Transistor AM. On it I listened to KHJ, KGBS (now KTNQ 1020) and KEZY (now KXMX 1190).
My FM experience came from playing with the house tube intercom, which included only FM. That Sonic Servant FM was a wonderful plaything for me; it was there that I discovered KOLA/San Bernardino (99.9 FM).
Back in the 1970s, KOLA was an automated top-40 station. Interestingly, even back then I knew it was automated. Was it the weird "jingles" consisting of the sound of a soda being opened and a voice saying nothing but "cola?" Nah. It was probably the way they played The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace sixteen times in a row when I was home from school with chicken pox. Why I listened to it that many times I do not know.
At the time I didn't even know that KOLA wasn't local to me in San Pedro. They had -- and still have -- quite a signal.
In any event, KOLA has come a long way since that time. In late 1989 they switched to oldies and eventually brought in live personalities. And the ratings just kept on coming: currently KOLA comes in a strong 5th place in the Riverside-San Bernardino Arbitrons. Not bad for a station that has had only two formats since I have been old enough to know FM radio.
KOLA is a powerhouse oldies station. Musically, they are far more interesting to me than LA's KRTH, and the personalities all really seem to be having a great time. KOLA is definitely one of Southern California's best oldies stations.
Copyright © 2007 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
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