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Airwaves: March 26, 2010

If I Ruled the Radio World ...

I don’t work in the radio industry. Oh, sure, my original plan was to do so. While at UCLA I worked at student-run KLA and interned at Magic 106 and Power 106 for a couple years, and I even got a job offer with KMMT/Mammoth Lakes. I turned it down because I didn’t think I could afford to work there for $800 a month.

I began writing this column in 1987 as a way to cover local radio as well as keep in contact with programmers and owners in order to secure the perfect beginning radio job, whatever that meant. But I have been interested in radio ever since I was about 10 years old and my Aunt Ina gave me a Realtone transistor radio.

Over the years I have studied it and followed it. I know good radio, and I make no pretenses otherwise in this column: I write about what I think is good,and what I wished was on the air. And while this may sound weird to anyone without similar interests -- it certainly is to my wife Jean -- I even “announce” songs that I play in the car. My mind is home to the best-programmed (and most popular) station in the world.

So occasionally the question comes in, essentially asking: if you could program any station any way you want, what would you do?

Actually I want to program not one station, but a few. I believe that many formats are missing in action and I would want to fill that need. Standards and Big Band, for instance, would most certainly be one on one of my stations. Album rock with a “KMET-attitude” -- if not the original air staff -- would be on another.

But my passion is Drake/Chenault-style top-40. Radio done fun, in the vein of KHJ, KFRC/San Francisco, KCBQ/San Diego, KEZY/Anaheim and WCFL/Chicago.

My format would be an adult top-40. A mix of the best of all genres focussing on current hits from varied artists like Uncle Kracker, Ke$ha, Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Kings of Leon and Green Day. Little rap, but some. Spiced with oldies twice an hour including songs you virtually never hear from Jan and Dean, The Righteous Brothers’ “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” and the Plimsouls. And I would actually play requests.

The presentation would be upbeat and positive. Fun -- there’s that word again -- would be the order of the day. I want people to feel good when they tune into my station. Personalities would be topnotch with the freedom to do what they want, as long as it is within the bounds of the station’s ideals. Commercials would be limited to no more than two per break ... a boon for advertisers who normally get lost in this era of 8-commercial sets.

Rick Dees or Charlie Tuna would do mornings with someone like Liz Fultan or Lee Marshall doing morning news. Pat Garrett would take on late mornings, followed by greats like Paul Freeman, Sue Hall, Shana, Maggie McKay, and of course, Bobby Ocean, one of my favorite DJs of all time. As a special treat, on holidays, the interns would take over the airwaves and give the regular staff the day off.

Public affairs and news would be an integral part of my station, because I believe that keeping listeners informed is a primary reason radio stations exist ... even if the FCC doesn’t agree. Jingles would be mandatory, as would saying the actual call-letters. I’m partial to “KHJ” ... hey, it’s my mind. I’d even move the studios back to 5515 Melrose in Hollywood, where they belong.

One required element of my plan ... I want the station on AM to prove that a well-programmed AM music station can still compete. Now ... to get some backers ...


Copyright © 2010 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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