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Airwaves: January 20, 2012

Recreating Classic Top-40 Radio

Tired of repetitive music on your radio spun by a DJ who may not even be in the city your station broadcasts from ... and may even be prerecorded?

Richard Kaufman sure is. And it drove him to create Ricky the K’s Solid Gold Time Machine way back in 1998 to serve the internet universe with a recreation of 1950s and ‘60s era top-40 radio.

Back then it was subscription-based. Now it is free, and he does the show live every Friday night from 6 - 9 PM local time at

I’d call it East coast top-40 radio more than West coast, which may be due in part to Kaufman’s childhood: he grew up in New Jersey and says his influences include 1960s New York stations WABC, WMCA, WMGM and WINS. The difference might escape some, but like the image of that era of California, DJs on West coast top-40 stations tended to be a bit more laid back on the air.

Regardless, Kaufman does an impressive recreation of the East-coast sound, bigger than life and with plenty of echo and reverb. That’s by design ... literally, as the studio he uses for the show is specially built using many vintage pieces of equipment, from microphones to vacuum tube sound processors.

If he sounds like he should be on the air, keep in mind that he was. From the early 1970s New York radio (WPIX-FM) through the early 1990s on KOMA/Oklahoma City, Kaufman has years of on-air and station ownership experience. His internet show is a labor of love, for now, as the commercials he runs are all vintage (very fun to hear) and thus can’t possibly pay the bills. But he hopes to syndicate the show to traditional radio stations looking for a way to attract an audience that has been under served for years.

The music he plays runs from 1955 through 1971. 1955 because it is considered by many as the first year of rock and roll; 1971 because, as Kaufman puts it, 1972 is when when music changed to become more middle of the road and, well, “boring,” as he sees it. It also happens to be an era of music that is hardly found on radio these days and certainly not on a show with a live DJ spinning the tunes.

The playlist has over 3000 songs; ten times the number on a typical oldies station. Kaufman says it takes 180 hours before a song gets repeated on his show. Figuring three hours per week that amounts to 60 weeks -- more than a year -- before a repeat comes along. I suppose that means that technically it isn’t top-40, then, but it also means that many songs once popular yet seldom played get some exposure again.

Due to music licensing issues, the show is not podcast and must be heard live (though there are numerous ways to record internet audio for your own use). He does have samples of the show available along with a link to the live “broadcast” at You can also follow the show on Facebook (search “Ricky the K”) and Twitter (

Cruz-ing to AM

You may know David Cruz from his past work on KNBC-TV’s Channel 4 News. Now you can know him as the afternoon drive personality on KTLK (1150 AM).

The program began January 16th and runs 3 to 6 PM. Cruz is an award-winning anchor/reporter who is known for his investigative work running the gamut from exposing child predators to and exposé of dangers posed by consumer goods. His radio program promises -- according to the press release -- a “fresh new look at Southern California.” Good, because the old look is getting tiresome ...


Copyright © 2012 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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