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Airwaves: January 21, 2011

Power-Packed Birthday

It was 25 years ago this month that the total dominance of early and mid- ‘80s KIIS-FM (102.7) took a hit. On January 11, 1986, also-ran Magic 106 dropped adult contemporary music in favor of rhythmic top-40 and dance music along with a new name, Power 106. I remember Magic/Power personality Mucho Morales telling me that he wanted a station like this in town for years, and he predicted it would be a great success. He was so-o-o right.

Partly due to overreaction on the part of KIIS-FM, which adjusted its format to more closely align itself with its new competitor and ended up alienating some of its audience, Power single-handedly brought KIIS down from the near-10 share ratings it had been enjoying. Slowly the power turned, pardon the pun, and KIIS was never the same again.

I was there at the time as an intern. I had worked with some of the great personalities at Magic 106 -- Sonny Melendrez, Robert W. Morgan, Laurie Allen, Brian Roberts, Charlie Fox -- as well as some wonderful people behind the scenes. But while the Magic format had its appeal, it was never really given the freedom from management to fly. Songs were added late because no one wanted to “offend” listeners with unknown music, so often songs were burnt before being added to the playlist. But it was fun to intern there.

I didn’t initially share Morales’ enthusiasm for the new Power format. The music was not my style, and I thought it would be a failure. Boy I was wrong. Listeners went crazy calling in to tell us how much they liked the new sound, and unlike under Magic, the programmers were allowed to pretty much do what they wanted. I even recall some of the staffers going to local dance clubs nightly because they would hear new music to add to the station as soon as the next day. It was an amazing thing to see the change in the station and the results in the ratings that showed up almost immediately.

To celebrate the great success of the station -- within just a few months the station was among the top-rated stations in town (though it would be later when they actually overtook KIIS-FM) -- and to showcase some of the artists played on the station, Power hosted a PowerHouse party at the Palace in Hollywood. As one of the unpaid interns I was to walk around the VIP section upstairs and make sure people were having a good time. I recall there was an open bar until 10 PM ... people had a great time. The momentum was there, the vibe was there. Power had it made. I think I met Janet Jackson. But I can’t recall for sure.

Over the years the station has had its ups and downs, as well as numerous format incarnations as it evolved into an urban-leaning top-40 hip-hop station. Again, not my style, but obviously appealing to its audience. After stumbling a few years back, Power is a solid top-10 station (currently #7 overall with a 3.5 share of the audience; KIIS-FM is 2nd overall with a 5.5 share) and a reputation for being the place to go foe new hip-hop sounds and special mixes.

To all the people who helped make Power what is is, was and became, including some of the early personalities such as Brenda Ross, Morales, Jeff Wyatt (also programmer), The Baka Boyz, Jay Thomas and more, along with current stars Big Boy, Yesi Ortiz, Eric D-Lux, DJ Felli Fel, Mando Fresko and the rest of the staff: congratulations on your 25th birthday! Make it a good year.


Copyright © 2011 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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