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Airwaves: August 29, 2008

The Boss is Back.

at least for a day. In Fresno.

Back in 1965, programmer Ron Jacobs along with consultants Bill Drake and Gene Chenault brought Boss Radio to KHJ (930 AM), then an ailing middle of the road music station. Within months and lasting for almost a decade, KHJ dominated the ratings and literally changed the sound of top-40 radio forever.

But Boss Radio, or the elements of Boss Radio, did not begin in Los Angeles. The genesis actually happened in 1962, in Fresno, when Jacobs was hired as PD at KMAK in order to take on Chanault’s KYNO. KYNO was the top station in Fresno with 60 percent shares of the audience as determined by Hooper Ratings; Chenault was the manager.

After Jacobs was hired for KMAK, Drake was brought in to program KYNO. And the battle began:

KMAK started a contest with a $1500 cash jackpot; KYNO decided to give away $2000. KMAK hid a “golden key” somewhere in Fresno worth $2500; KYNO spread fake keys throughout the city. It went on and on for two years, until Jacobs finally got fed up and headed back to Honolulu. KYNO won the battle of Fresno.

Eventually, Drake and Chenault were brought down to Los Angles to run KHJ, and ultimately the entire RKO chain of stations. Drake’s choice for programmer at KHJ? None other than Jacobs, who impressed Drake so much during the Battle of Fresno. The rest, as they say, is history.

Well, history is coming back for a day. KYNO, currently the lowest-rated station in Fresno, has a new owner named John Ostlund. To get publicity for the station and its new news/talk format that debuts next week, Ostlund is staging a blast-from-the-past that will recreate the sound of KYNO’s glorious past on Monday, labor day.

If you happen to be driving near Fresno over the holiday, tune into the Big 13. In the meantime, let’s hope a real top-40 station with the energy of the 1960s and ‘70s will someday return to the airwaves in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t it be great to hear KHJ, KRLA, KMEN, or KFWB again ... even if just for one day?


When I was young, we had a rotary telephone. That made calling into radio stations for contests amazingly difficult ... besides being against the house rules which forbade making long distance calls in the first place. I don’t think I ever got anything but a busy signal by the time I was able to rotary dial my favorite station.

So my brush with greatness comes from San Pedro High’s Jeff Holyfield, who in 1977 was able to get through to The New Ten Q (KTNQ) and win $50 of WAM -- Walking Around Money. And he did it on a rotary phone as well.

I’ll always look up to Jeff.

Not Ready Yet

The new KFI (640 AM) tower is fully assembled, leaving some to speculate that the station will be broadcasting from it by Labor Day.

Not gonna happen. There is still much work to be done on the ground system -- the radial wires that are buried underground around the tower and help radiate the station to your radio.

Look for the new tower to be operational and on the air by about mid-September, if things go well.


Copyright © 2008 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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