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Airwaves: Rick Dees (Sunday, May 8, 2011)

Rick Dees still playing the hits after 32 years in Los Angeles

In the 32 years since Rick Dees arrived in Los Angeles, he has only worked at three stations: KHJ, KIIS-FM -- where he spent an amazing (almost) quarter-century waking up Southern California -- and Movin’ 93.9. On May 4th he added a fourth, Hot 93.9 FM.

It was just over two years ago that Dees left Movin’ due to a station sale and format change, and more than seven years since he left the employ of Clear Channel Communications, replaced on KIIS-FM by Ryan Seacrest.

So I asked him if he thought it would ever really happen; if though he would make it back to morning drive, and on another Clear Channel station.

“I have to admit right now it feels a little weird. Great but just a little strange,” he told me. “But I am so excited to be back and so excited to be working with old friends again. We have some amazing people here, including Greg Ashlock (Clear Channel Los Angeles Market Manager), John Ivey (Los Angeles Programming Manager) and Ron Shapiro (Hot 92.3 Assistant Program Director).”

“We have some of the most talented people in the business, and we have a mutual admiration for each other. At the same time it is humbling to have had my name in the survey.”

The survey Dees is referring to was one done by the station asking listeners who their favorite radio personalities were. Two names dominated -- Art Laboe (heard on the station nightly) and Dees.

Humbling, perhaps, but not unexpected. You don’t have a 23-year run on one of America’s most popular radio stations without building up a reputation. A reputation for good, clean -- at least usually -- family fun. Someone you can listen to as you drive your kids to school.

At Hot 92.3, he’s bringing back old favorites, some with a twist ... Candid (Smart) Phone, celebrity gossip Dees Sleeze, and the cast of idiots including Willard Wiseman.

“We’re embracing all the new media and ways to communicate and will incorporate them into the show. Tweets, Facebook, texting, you name it,” Dees said. But some things will always be the same -- we will be authentic and relevant. We’ll talk about the things that matter to people. And of course we’ll entertain with humor.”

Humor is where Dees shines, of course. And if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that he himself always stays clean, leaving the more risqué humor or double entendres to one of his alter-egos, such as the aforementioned Wiseman. Not that it ever gets out of hand -- Dees is a master of clean humor and like Jerry Seinfeld can make you laugh over everyday events. “I want to be there when Justin Beaver’s voice changes,” he quipped during our talk as just one example.

Is it a hassle getting up early in the morning again after being allowed to sleep in the last two years? “Others arrive earlier than me,” he explained, “it only takes me a few minutes to get to the studios, and I am always arriving at the last minute. Always have. But I’m used to getting up early and I’m used to it always being dark when I go to work, so really, nothing’s changed.

Also not changing is the music; much of what is played on Hot 92.3 was originally played -- when new -- when Dees was on KIIS-FM during the 1980s. Does it get tiring? “Not at all,” he said. “This is some of the best music, and I actually love it.”

To celebrate his return to the local morning airwaves, Dees threw the first pitch at the Dodger game last Wednesday. It was a throwback day, so to speak, with the Dodgers and Cubs both sporting old school uniforms ... the perfect way to highlight the old school tunes Dees is playing on Hot 92.3.

You can hear Dees weekdays from 5 AM to 9 AM -- technically he’s on until 10 but the last hour is 60 minutes of continuous new old-school -- on KHHT, Hot 92.3 FM.


Copyright © 2011 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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