Bay Area Radio News: Spring 1991

From The Bay Area Radio Digest

One of the great "truths" in radio is that the only thing that will never change is that things will always change.

Change was a constant thing in Bay Area radio during 1990, and if the first three months of 1991 are any indication at all, the trend toward change isn't about to change.

In 1990, one thing didn't change: KGO-AM's vise-like grip on the top spot in the local ratings. Behind KGO, much jockeying took place, with KCBS going from mostly-talk to all-news, K-101 bringing back Don Bleu to morning radio, KNBR continually fine-tuning its format, and venerable KABL dropping its sleepy-listening sound for something more modern.

Already in 1991, we've seen X-100 (KXXX-FM 99.7) make the transition to KFRC-FM under its new owner, Bedford Broadcasting of Lafayette. The new KFRC-FM, with Kevin Metheny as its program director, is playing a tightly-focused mix of hit oldies (early sixties to early seventies, with a smattering of "roots" tunes from the late fifties thrown in), with Harry Nelson — formerly with KFRC-AM during its Top 40 days — running the morning show.

Nelson's sidekick is newsman Michael Knight, who stood guard over X-100's morning program following mass layoffs in mid-January by the previous owner, Emmis Broadcasting, which put nearly the entire staff of the station — including the (Bill) Kelly and (Al) Kline morning team — out on the street, as they did at KFRC-AM ("Magic 61") when they took over there in June. Kelly and Kline have bounced back by signing on at KHQT ("Hot 97.7") in San Jose, putting (Terry) Sterling and (Tom) Steele out of their morning jobs there.

Among the few holdovers from X-100 is Chuck Geiger, who (along with Metheny) produced a splendid aural retrospective on the history of radio, focusing on the Top 40 era, which the station broadcast during the transition into KFRC-FM over the first weekend in March.


Just as KSOL decided to bring in ex-KMEL morning man Ron Engelman to compete with his former "Zoo"-mate, John London, London announced he would be moving to L.A. and taking the morning job at KKBT-FM ("The Beat").

London and Engelman had brought the "Morning Zoo" format to KMEL in 1985 after tearing up Tampa, Fla., as a team in the early eighties. They split bitterly in 1988 after a power struggle won by London, and Engelman subsequently moved on to WZOU-FM in Boston.

Engelman returned to the Bay Area in May to be part of KSOL's rebuilt morning crew, joining Mark Gunn (formerly afternoons at KSOL) and Kelly Foxx (just in from WLOL-FM, Minneapolis). The switch put both morning leadman Tony Fields and sidekick Marcos Gutierrez out of work … for the time being.

Replacing London at KMEL — not an easy spot to be in — is the task given to Bill Lee, who has been wooed away from WQHT ("Hot 97") in New York City. And yes, he is the same Bill Lee who worked at KFRC-AM a few years back. Come to think of it, has anybody around here ever not worked at KFRC?

London, meanwhile, takes his proven record as a solid ratings builder (as well as being a first-rate broadcaster in every respect) to Los Angeles, where he will be competing in not only the glitziest, but also the most competitive town in all the radio world. Having watched London's rein at KMEL, during which time the station was consistently rated among the top three in the Bay Area, there is little doubt he will make a big impact on talent-hungry L.A.

London's departure isn't the only one to occur in recent weeks: after fifteen years of hearing the same voice each morning at wake-up time, it is very, very strange to no longer hear Keith Lockhart at sunrise on KKHI. At his request, Lockhart — perhaps the most popular classical music morning man in radio history — has moved to weekend afternoons. Bill Lueth takes the station's morning chair, moving in from Public Radio in Omaha … Also, longtime KNEW morning jock Jon Wailin was unable to come to terms with the station on a new contract and decided to try free agency. Replacing Wailin is Tom Benner (ex-KSAN, KNBR, KKIS, KRTY). Replacing Benner at KRTY in San Jose is the station's program director, Bill Macky … Speaking of KRTY ("San Jose's Country 95.3"): its owner, Royal Broadcasting, has been placed in receivership by the Santa Clara County Superior Court, which will operate the station until the Media Venture Partners brokerage firm can find a new owner for it.

Rising star Richard Sands, program director at Live 105 (KITS-FM), has added duties as operations manager, while the station's star promotions director, Julie Bruzzone-Galliani, has decided to move on. Gabby Medecki, who had been at KBLX, moves to Live 105 to handle promotions from here on … KQED-FM, which surprised everyone with an outstanding sixth-place showing in the Winter '91 Birch Ratings (with war's end, their numbers dropped from 3.3 to a still-respectable 2.7 and 13th place in Spring), has named Raul Ramirez as its news director. Ramirez, a 17-year veteran of Bay Area news, had been assistant metro editor for the San Francisco Examiner and, before that, assistant city editor for the Oakland Tribune … The surprise of the Spring Birches is KDIA, which had been wallowing with nearly microscopic numbers for what seems like years (maybe it has been years…). Suddenly, Spring, and a stunning jump to 2.3, up from .9 in Winter. Don't look now, but The Boss is back!

Tori Campbell, news director at Livermore-Pleasanton's KKIQ, was recently honored with an Excellence In Journalism Award from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Al Hart and Peter Laufer of KCBS were also honorees. … Joe Regelski, one of the few holdovers after the sale of KOFY-FM to Viacom, handles the news desk at Double 99Julie Stevens of KEEN in San Jose was honored as Billboard magazine's Program Director Of The Week in their March 16 issue … KGO-AM is a nominee for both the Legendary Station and Major Market Station Of The Year Award from the National Association of Broadcasters, the winner of which will be announced in mid-September. Other local nominees: KJAZ, in the adult alternative category, and "Magic 61", for adult standards.

Keep an eye (or at least an ear) on Larry Chiaroni, new weekend anchor at KCBS. He was previously program director and afternoon talk-show host at KSRO in Santa Rosa, and if you're looking for a guy whose stock will continue to increase in value, you've got one here … Old KOFY-AM hands Ken Dito and Jason W. Fine have been heard doing spot duty on KGO-AM … Another KOFY alumnus, Myles Cameron, now has steady work at K-101 on the weekend night shift.

Isadora Alman, who hosted a "personal relationships" talk program on KRQR until displaced by Kevin The Rat's call-in sports show, is now a frequent guest on Alex Bennett's show on Live 105. The success of Live 105 has led station management to find new and improved studio space, including more room for Alex's live studio audiences. The facility, at Third and Harrison in The City, will be ready for occupancy shortly … Frank Terry has moved from evenings to mid-mornings at KSAN following Terry Rhodes' "retirement" from radio. Karen Dee has been brought in at KSAN to fill the 6-10 p.m. weekdays shift formerly occupied by Terry. Dee most recently worked alongside Don Bleu at K-101.

Things That Make You Go Hmm

Fifty cents in change to the first person who can explain the difference in the slogans of two of my favorite stations: KSFO/KYA-FM ("The-e-e-e Oldies Station") and KFRC-FM ("The-e-e-e Oldies Station"). I think it has something to do with how long you hold that one "E." … And why do the news people at our all-news stations (you know who you are) do the news for each other? "In other news, Lois…" "Jim, in the Mission District…" "The Nimitz looks awful, Valerie…" I thought radio was communicating with us out here!

Old friend Les Malloy, recipient of our first Lifetime Achievement Award last year, was unceremoniously let go by KEST a bit ago. He had been the host of "Freeway Funnies" for two decades at the San Francisco station — which he had owned for many years — and can still be heard on various commercials locally … KEST recently brought KOBO-AM, Yuba City-Marysville, back on the air after a lengthy silence. KOBO now relays KEST's programming to the northern Sacramento Valley.

Howard Cosell took two weeks off in early June to undergo cancer surgery, returning to the mike on June 17 with his "Speaking Of Sports" segment on ABC Radio … Remember Big Tom Parker from KFRC and KYUU? He's now operations manager at KXL-FM in Portland, Ore., as well as a talk-show host on KXL-AM … Elsewhere in Oregon, former KRQR staffer Dave Numme is now program director at KCLX in Eugene … Been wondering where X-100's Supersnake has gone? (Me, too.) Try KKFR in Phoenix, Ariz., where he's working the afternoon beat.

The More Things Change …

KWSS of Gilroy (but claiming residence in San Jose), the hip teenage step-child of old, evil, smelly KFAT, has new ownership as a result of a station swap between Nationwide Communications and Shamrock Broadcasting, which also operates KABL AM & FM in the Bay Area.

Shamrock, in turn, then sold KWSS to Marty Loughman, who had managed the company's station in Denver. KWSS moved from contemporary hits to classic rock as KUFX ("The Fox") after transitioning the first weekend of March by playing every conceivable version of "Louie Louie" known to humankind for forty-eight straight hours. (Included were a stream of humorous station ID's, including "At home, at work, or in your car … Louie 94.5".) … Watsonville's KPIG-FM, which tried to be KFAT for a while, found that the format simply couldn't bring home the bacon (sorry) and has segued into contemporary hits as KTHX ("The Heat") … I miss KFAT.

The satellite-fed "Music Of Your Life" nostalgia format, beamed to stations across the country by Unistar, was cancelled this Spring. KLIV-AM in San Jose, which had done well with the format, has decided to go all-news via Unistar's CNN Headline News feed (simply the audio portion of the cable TV news program), and now announces itself as "San Jose's News Station." … Narragansett Radio had planned to sell both KSJO-FM and KSJX-AM in San Jose to Greater Pacific Radio Exchange for a bit more than six-million dollars, but the deal was called off at the last moment. KSJX, which had been simulcasting KSJO, is now being programmed separately as "X-Rock 1500" … Next to change hands: KSFO and KYA-FM. King Broadcasting of Seattle, which owns the stations, has decided to unload all of its broadcast properties. Start stashing away those pennies.

And Another Thing…

The daytime-only AM sister of San Rafael's KTID-FM has been made over into KAPX, known now as "The Apex" and "The Station Of The Stars," playing a pop standards format reminiscent of Magic 61. Among the station's new air staff: Al "Jazzbeaux" Collins. KOFY alumni Bob Gowa and George McManus have joined the stations as program director and news director, respectively … KAPX is among a dwindling handful of daytime-only AM stations in the Bay Area. (The others are KNBA in Vallejo, KAZA in San Jose and KRRS in Santa Rosa.) Daytime-only is an archaic method of broadcasting that dates back to the 1920's — it's done to protect the nighttime signals of other stations on the same frequency — but with modern technology it should be done away with entirely, and soon.

For the first time in a long time, the Bay Area will be adding new stations to the radio dial during the next several months. In the South Bay, a new FM station at 96.1 mhz. has been licensed to Morgan Hill, while new AM stations will debut shortly at 1580 khz. in Santa Rosa and at 840 khz. in Napa … All of this is tentative, of course. The National Radio Club, quoting the "Inside Radio" newsletter in a recent issue, noted that a total of 208 AM stations across the United States have simply chosen to go off the air, reflecting the frailty of the economy of late. How strong is AM in the Bay Area? Stronger than in most metropolitan areas, what with KGO, KCBS, KFRC-AM and KNBR all posting consistently good ratings, but that's only a handful out of nearly a hundred stations on the air here.

The Broadcast Department at San Francisco State University is forming an alumni chapter. (The school has given us, among others, Carter B. Smith, Dave McElhatton, Jim Eason, Van Amburg, Barry Simmons, Cheryl Jennings, Lynn Jiminez, Stan Burford, Jack Hanson and Ronnie Schell.) Professor Stuart Hyde asks all former students to contact him with their current address, in care of the University.

The new Bay Area Green Pages ($12.95 at newsstands), featuring environmentally-correct products and services, includes listings for several local non-commercial radio stations. Most notable: KALW, KPFA, KALX, KFJC, KUSF, KSJS and KZSU … Station KCEQ-FM at Acalanes High School in Lafayette recently garnered national attention when senior student Andrea Fuson stayed on the air for 36 straight hours as part of a fund-raising campaign to help the station buy a new transmitter. You say you want to help, too? Good for you. Call the school at (510) 945-6016.

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