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Airwaves: July 17, 2009

Finally ... Redux

Last week’s Finally a KMET Friday on The Sound (100.3 FM) was a great tribute to the legendary rocker known as The Mighty Met. Less re-creation than celebration and remembrance, it helped bring back memories of why KMET was such a dominant force in album rock radio during its heyday of the mid ‘70s to early ‘80s under the direction of master programmer Sam Bellamy.

From the Fish Report with a Beat to great songs played by Dr. Demento, the day was an absolute blast, and judging from the e-mails I received, it went over well with the audience.

So why am I so sad?

I am sad because radio like that doesn’t exist any more. Today’s programmers and owners just don’t get it. They don’t get what KMET was, and I include former KMET management who essentially destroyed the station after Bellamy left the programming post.

While today The Sound says it’s “all about the music,” KMET wasn’t about music at all. At least not in the traditional sense. Certainly the album cuts were important, but more important was the personality of the station - the attitude. The irreverent persona that came from giving the air and support staff the freedom to be themselves and act as a counter to the slickly produced stations that formerly dominated the radio scene.

KMET wasn’t about the music, it was about the listener’s lifestyle. Personalities treated listeners with respect, shown in just one case when Ace Young signed off last Friday’s morning newscast with the old tag line “... as KMET informs Southern California.” They bent the rules of their own station, as when Frazier Smith told of being fired for covering the Rose Parade instead of playing their top-1000 countdown (he was rehired 10 minutes later).

The looser KMET got, the higher the ratings went. Yet through it all, that one ideal -- respect for the listener -- held firm. Ratings held until corporate meddling stopped the freedom.

I firmly believe that KMET would still work today. I also believe that The Sound should move in that direction ... and even consider taking on the calls if it works. The personalities on Finally a Friday last week all still sounded topnotch, including Jeff Gonzer, David Perry, Rick Scarry, Billy Juggs, Rick Lewis, Smith, Young and the good Doctor.

There is absolutely nothing close to it on the radio right now, and I believe that it would bring credibility back to album rock radio. That’s right, album rock radio, not classic rock. This format would work -- dare I say would only work -- playing current music along with classic cuts as the great KMET once did.

It would also help KLOS (95.5 FM)) recover from the doldrums it finds itself in, as an interesting paradox often occurs in radio: more than one station in a format actually brings more listeners to the format and often lifts both stations to higher ratings. This is due to the friendly rivalry and competition that makes both stations better.

Even doing it on the HD-2 channel would be nice. Maybe we could convince Bellamy to program again!

Weenie Roast

Speaking of KLOS, it seems that current management wins the Weenie Award for not allowing any of its former KMET jocks from attending the Friday event ... even forbidding them -- Jim Ladd, Bob Coburn, Cynthia Fox and Denise Westwood -- from going to dinner with the group the night before the event, according to Gonzer.

Kind of figures, though. KLOS was always more corporate and safe than KMET even during the height of their competition. But with all due respect -- they survived and KMET did not -- it showed paranoia by not letting them take part.


Copyright © 2009 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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