Johnny Holliday:
From Rock To Jock


1260/KYA's Johnny Holliday (center) and Chris Edwards (second from left) meet Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees
1260/KYA’s Johnny Holliday (center) and Chris Edwards (second from left) meet Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees

Ed Hider followed Gene Nelson in the mornings. Hider used scores of voice tracks and sound effects. A typical Hider bit was a loud voice repeating, “I hate washing dishes! I hate washing dishes!” His act was just wild and crazy on the air from nine until noon. I think Ed guessed that Kester didn’t like some of his looseness, so Ed would talk back to the voices sometimes just to drive Howard nuts.

Kester finally told me to fire Ed — while Hider was on the air. I pleaded, “Howard, Ed Hider is a wonderful, talented personality. You don’t want to get rid of him.”

“I don’t like the things he’s doing,” said Kester. “I want him fired now.” I refused to do it.

After the shift, Ed Hider and Howard Kester parted company, and that firing — by Kester — was one of the biggest mistakes KYA ever made.

Really, it was an AVCO decision to fire Hider, since AVCO had hired Kester in the first place. AVCO had purchased stations in Cincinnati, San Antonio, Dayton, Columbus, and even my next home, WWDC-AM, in Washington, D.C.

In fairness, I am sure that Kester felt the strain of running a station that was losing its dominance. KYA suddenly had competition after KFRC and KMPX climbed on the scene. Kester’s responsibility was to ensure that KYA kept up with the times, which were a’ changin’.

The music scene was fluid and moving unpredictably — especially after the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was released in the 1967 “Summer of Love.” To be honest, I didn’t think much of “Sgt. Pepper’s” when it hit. I was so much into Top 40, and the songs were so different that I remember thinking it was weird. I guess I was wrong.

Dick Starr, brought in from WFUN/Miami, followed Johnny Holliday as program director of KYA. Starr passed away in 1982 at age 41 of cancer.
Dick Starr, brought in from WFUN/Miami, followed Johnny Holliday as program director of KYA. Starr passed away in 1982 at age 41 of cancer.

After holding down the programming job for about a year, I finally — and firmly — told Kester I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was much better on the air and had problems disciplining guys I was working with, all friends of mine. I really didn’t have the energy or disposition to be a strict PD. So Dick Starr was brought in from Miami as the new program director. I went back to focusing on my radio show.

At KYA, Clint had commanded everything, but he also listened to us. He cared about what his employees thought and felt. I’m sure his religious upbringing gave him an added understanding of how best to deal with people, since his father had been a minister in Buffalo. At one time Clint’s dad owned almost all the radio stations up there.

Kester, however, annoyed us all.

For instance, he nagged us to let him play softball with the Oneders. We reluctantly agreed. The first game out, he slid into base with such force that he almost broke the third baseman’s leg. This was unnecessary. It was a public relations event, for God’s sake, and he was out there getting everyone all riled up. The fans were ready to charge the field and throw things at our general manager.

He was constantly on us — picking and pushing. You can’t do that and expect to get a good performance out of your talent. I really blame Kester’s clueless management style for much of why KYA eventually went down the tubes in ratings.

On a positive note, Ed Hider and I became friends. I was proud to watch him go on to become a top comedy writer for folks like Cindy Williams, Soupy Sales, and Joan Rivers. He’s a funny, funny man and has done very well for himself.

beatles_kya_concert-ticket_xEd was with me when KYA brought the Beatles to Candlestick Park in 1966. the group’s last tour and concert. The tickets cost $5, $6 and $7, available by mail from KYA, No. 1 Nob Hill Circle, San Francisco.

I vividly remember cutting the promo spots about how the “Beatles’ new sound system” would make sure everybody heard the Fab Four. (It didn’t.)

But it wasn’t until my co-author faxed me a San Francisco Chronicle article written by my friend, Ben Fong-Torres, listing me as an emcee that I remembered taking part in the show.

Wow. How could I forget that? It would be the Beatles’ last concert on their last tour, although nobody knew that then. It still baffles me that I initially had such a hard time remembering the concert. Ed Hider recalls, “Oh yeah, you were there all right.” Luckily the memories have returned in time for this chapter.

beatles_candlestick-posterGene Nelson and I came out on stage and exchanged a few wisecracks. I announced the first act, The Remains. (I wonder where they are these days.) They kicked off the evening with “Hang On Sloopy.” Bobby “Sunny” Hebb was next in line and dedicated “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” to Joan Baez, who was there with her sisters, Pauline and Mimi. The Cyrkle and the Ronettes, minus Ronnie Spector, did brief sets before the moment everyone was waiting for erupted. It was Gene who actually announced the Beatles, and they calmly walked from the dugout, in double-breasted Edwardian suits, and launched into “She’s A Woman.” I remember that George Harrison wore white socks.

Of course, fans were there more to see the Beatles than listen. Fong-Torres reported, “The San Francisco show was a relative flop for the group … 25,000 seats sold out of a possible 30,000 … and a money-loser for its promoters.” “The wind was so strong that it blew the sound towards the East Bay,” Gene recalls.

Knowing the way I operate, the reason the memory of this Beatles concert was diminished is because Gene was the king of the station, or at least he thought he was. I was probably disappointed that he — and not I — had been selected to lead the Beatles introduction. I was most likely wishing I were playing in a Oneders game rather than being stuck playing second banana on a windy night in friggin’ Candlestick Park. So I blocked it all out.

Whenever I hear from a listener who remembers me at that last Beatles concert, I find I’ve made a new “best friend” for life. Ed Hider tells me that the Beatles escaped the park that night in an armored car with a police escort. I can almost remember that.

Click here to purchase your autographed copy of "From Rock To Jock" by Johnny Holliday and Stephen Moore
Click here to purchase your autographed copy of “From Rock To Jock” by Johnny Holliday and Stephen Moore

Today, there is an increasing number of men and women who can participate in sports broadcasting. Back in 1967, it was a much smaller circle. There weren’t as many teams. Cable didn’t exist, and fewer games were televised. To be among players and coaches was exhilarating, and I wanted to be there.

So when I was finally settled at KYA, I contacted Scotty Stirling, the public relations director for the Oakland Raiders, to see whether they needed a PA announcer.

“Funny you should call. Yeah, we can use you,” he told me. Scotty is now an NBA scout, and I still run into him on the road, most recently at a tournament in Maui.

I later spoke with one of the San Francisco Warriors PR guys and landed a job as their announcer as well. The Holliday luck continued. I was on a roll.

Working the microphone for the NBA Warriors’ and AFL Raiders was a huge opportunity for me. I got to call the games, introductions, statistics, and note the players who scored. The perks that came with PA announcing were enormous. Number one, I was seeing every game — the top of the NBA and the best of the AFL before the football leagues merged — night in and night out.

My press pass gave me access to meeting people that the average Joe couldn’t meet. Talking with — and about — the athletes, getting close to them, and becoming part of that magic circle of sports was gratifying. I was a member of a very special fraternity. I also had one of the best seats in the house.


Copyright © 2002 by Johnny Holliday and Stephen Moore. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with the permission of the authors.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x