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Airwaves: October 29

Yearly Invasion

Sunday is Halloween, which means it’s time for the yearly invasion from Mars called War of the Worlds, first broadcast on the Columbia Broadcasting System in 1938 as part of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater on the Air.

The original broadcast was replayed by KNX (1070 AM) -- the CBS radio Los Angeles affiliate -- every year until 2003 when the station made an ill-fated move to drop their highly popular Drama Hour. Since that time other stations have taken up the cause.

This year KPCC (89.3 FM) presents a special version starring Leonard Nimoy and other actors from the original Star Trek and Star Trek The Next Generation. It’s produced by the LA Theater Works and was originally broadcast last year on Halloween. Hear it Saturday at 10 PM.

War is an “eyewitness account” of a martian invasion in a small town; apparently it was realistic enough in 1938 that some people were fooled into believing it was a real news broadcast. While it was originally reported that there was widespread panic, it now seems that the reports were overblown. Regardless, the original broadcast was one of the most famous of Welle’s career, and the program has been remade on both radio and television.

You can hear the original broadcast on such internet websites as

Speaking of Drama

For many years I have wondered why a station doesn’t try broadcasting old time radio as a format.

Certainly the programming is available. There are huge amounts of well-preserved recordings available, including free downloads and streaming on the internet and for sale on CDs and cassettes through such stores as RadioSpirits.Com. And since every program out there is now in the public domain, it would cost virtually nothing to run the shows.

I would bet a low or unrated AM station would do well to become the home of radio drama in Los Angeles. Might even be a good format for a small FM or an HD stream.

I am not alone in my opinion. Just today I received a letter from reader Linda Avila Acosta of Rosemead, which read,

“The other day I was  reminiscing with my 94 year old mom about the soap operas of the mid-fifties; she'd work around the house while listening to the soaps. My first reaction was ‘Why hasn't radio hit upon the idea of returning to soap operas as listening entertainment?’”


Randy Michaels was let go from the Tribune Company last week. Michaels -- the same Michaels who helped destroy local radio stations while heading the radio division of Clear Channel -- apparently worked the same magic at Tribune, where he was in charge of the company’s broadcast properties.

That’s one down. Too many to go, but we’re trying ...

Survey Says

Remember those song surveys that you used to be able to pick up in record stores or record sections of department and music stores? Well, you can’t see the original scans with artwork, but you can see the top-30 and top-40 music lists for KFWB, KRLA, KHJ and KFI as well as stations in a few other cities at


Copyright © 2010 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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