RADIO IN THE AFTERNOON
As the sun starts to set over our city’s many interchanges, giving a puce hue to the cloud of nitrous oxide that hangs over us, L.A.'s bone-weary commuters drag themselves into their cars for the long, arduous drive home.
It’s afternoon drive time--that arbitrary radio time zone between 3 and 6 p.m. A different mood prevails from that of the manic morning deejay whose hot hits, hip hype and superunbelievableincredibleoutrageous giveaways work on the Type-A commuter’s nerves like a Thermos of espresso.
For the record:
12:00 a.m. April 20, 1986 IMPERFECTIONS
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 20, 1986 Home Edition Calendar Page 99 Calendar Desk Type of Material: Correction
RADIO RESIDUE: The hostess of KFOX’s morning drive-time show “South Bay Sex,” Registered Nurse JoAnn Woodward, wrote to correct our recent afternoon drive-time radio compendium for calling KFOX (93.5) an AM station when it’s really FM....Frank Martin of San Francisco griped about our picking on KROQ Program Director Rick Carroll when we should have been singing the praises of “irreverent” but subtlely “intellectual” afternoon deejay Freddy Snakeskin....Our compendium skipped KGGI-FM (99.1) of Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, noted station General Manager Steve Virissimo, who claims energized 99-One’s afternoon ratings beat some L.A. outlets....Jerry Jacobs, journalism professor and adviser to Cal State Northridge’s KCSN-FM, complained because there wasn’t a single mention of the station’s student-written afternoon news programming, which has won numerous Golden Mike awards.
Afternoon drive time is the hour of beautiful music, headin’ home jazz or maybe a Dodger game. The most unsettling offering to be found is a three-cut power set from Led Zeppelin. But even “Stairway to Heaven” seems to lose its amphetamine effect when the sun kisses the horizon and the 400 cars up ahead are crawling along Ventura Freeway like arthritic armadilloes.
The news stations hawk a few headlines and then settle in with mini-documentaries that don’t require much attention. National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and American Public radio’s “Monitoradio” specialize in the kind of news that chain-smoking metro editors like to call “back of the book stuff”; contemplative interviews with gandy dancers, radical biochemists or maybe a poetess who lives in the North Woods with five pet wolverines as her only companions.
Being able to drive home to Love Songs Along the KOST or Bubba Jackson Jazz over KLON or Bill Keene’s mellow mai-tai traffic reports on KNX makes L.A unique.
Here, then, is the best and the worst of super-pluralistic L.A. radio--as it sounds at the end of another perfect Southern California day: hypnotic, solipsistic, sooooo wondrously soporific. . . .
“Hey! Wake up, dude! You almost ran into the rear of that panel truck!”
KABC-AM (790)--Close on the heels of shrink talk with psychologist Sonya Friedman or psychiatrist David (“Let-me-tell-you-this-my-friend”) Viscott is “Sportstalk” with Bud Furillo, from 4 to 7 p.m.
The show used to provide a good mix of sports news, interviews, taped bits and callers when ex-jock Tommy Hawkins shared the airwaves with ex-newspaperman Furillo, but Hawkins left the station last month following a contract dispute. Without the Hawk, Furillo’s ego runs amok--interrupting callers with irrelevant comments, oozing his love for the Dodgers, playing songs for Pedro “the Warrior,” etc.
Traffic reports come every quarter hour from KABC’s own Jorge Jarrin in Jet Copter 790 and from Metro Traffic’s Stacey Binn. Lee Marshall--who’s a much bigger presence since Hawkins’ departure--provides top of the hour news briefs, ex-KFWB reporter Barbara Esensten does short features. Phil Gainsborough discusses finance and Dodger announcer Ross Porter offers a daily commentary.
KACE-FM (103.9)--Listeners are told that it’s “all in the mix” at this 1,650-watt, Inglewood station, and the mix on deejay Pam Robinson’s afternoon program generally is pop, soul, blues and jazz--Lou Rawls to Stevie Wonder and just about every black pop singer in between.
KACE caters to a 25-and-up audience that is 60% black, according to the programming staff. Sportscaster Ron Dungee interrupts the music at 4:35 p.m. and there’s a news brief at 5:48 p.m.; otherwise it’s all Pam and music.
KALI-AM (1430)--KALI could use a bit of salsa picante to liven up its bland Taco Bell menu. KALI may call itself Radio Variedades , but “variety” is one thing this Spanish-language station lacks. The play list ranges from contemporary pop (Daniela Romo, Antonio de Jesus) to “all-time hits” from the ‘40s, but it’s doubtful most younger Latinos can handle what KALI dishes out during p.m. drive time.
Deejay Humberto Gutierrez is hard to find among all the ads, but Arturo Gonzalez’s newscasts are definite pluses. On occasion, KALI has in-studio guests. Since the station sponsors its own concerts, listeners also get concert ads ad nauseam .
KBIG-FM (104.3)--Not totally Muzaked, KBIG has Rita Coolidge singing the Peggy Lee standard, “Fever,” and smooth Teddy Prendergass to balance its mainly instrumental versions of down-beat rock classics. The “easy music to help you get home” is made even more bland by the commercials for Mercedes-Benz and Bank of America.
Weather and a good news report are delivered on the hour. Deejay Anita Garner talks between records without a hint of a yawn.
KBOB-FM (98.3) (simulcast over KGRB-AM (900)--Robert Burdette, owner and manager of these two San Gabriel Valley stations, has worked tirelessly for years to convince listeners that “KMPC is not the only Big Band game” in town.
While Burdette seeks approval of a new location for the station’s more powerful new transmitter, laconic deejay Gary Floyd plays as many as six nostalgia cuts in a row from the likes of Keely Smith, Billy May and Les Brown. Despite the current weak signal, KBOB can usually reach downtown L.A.
KBPK-FM (90.1)--KBPK is training students for a “spectrum of careers in radio,” according to station manager Jim Bain, and that includes on-air trainees with a penchant for music recorded since 1979.
The 10-watt educational outlet located on the Fullerton College campus puts training its volunteers before pleasing its listeners. Try to get a 20-year-old to play Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow, moans Bain, and you know how hard teaching can be. We’re more likely to hear Mr. Mite, Ambrosia or, very occasionally, Anne Murray.
KBRT-FM (740)--Rich Buhler hosts “Talk From the Heart” from 2 to 6 p.m. on L.A.'s premier all-religious daylight-only station. Buhler’s call-in show, which has such subjects as health, drugs and alcohol . . . but not necessarily in the spiritual sense.
The polite, older-brotherly Buhler, who sometimes lets callers ramble on, deals with such heady theological dilemmas as: Is answering a sneeze with “God bless you” a violation of the Lord’s name-in-vain proscription of the 2nd Commandment?
KBZT-FM (97.1)--Do these call letters look strange? They should. They spell out K-BEST (BZT, get it?), a slightly more upbeat version of the station’s recently dropped “Z” designation, KHTZ (K-HITS). KBZT still plays hits--current and oldies--but now deejays occasionally awaken from the stupor of their adult contemporary format.
The station switched Myles Cameron from lunchtime to the 3 to 6 p.m. spot. He’s regular FM deejay--capable, pleasant but not as hyperactive as morning man Charlie Tuna. The play list includes the latest from Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Wham! And Klymaxx with oldies from the Main Ingredient and Earth, Wind and Fire.
KCRW-FM (89.9)--Once a sleepy unknown hidden inside a converted classroom on the campus of Santa Monica College, KCRW has grown into one of the finest and most eclectic public radio stations in the country under the guidance of ex-KPFK program director Ruth Hirschman. You can take in everything here from top drama to outrageous rock ‘n’ roll, the sounds of Africa, jazz and the always amusing antics of “Tuesday Night Live,” a.k.a. the weekly Santa Monica City Council meeting.
From 3 p.m. 4 p.m., KCRW offers “KCRW Playhouse”: mysteries, biographies, science fiction, horror, comedy, even hour-long productions from the BBC.
Then NPR’s newsmagazine “All Things Considered” runs till 7 p.m. Parts 2 and 3 from the NPR network feed run from 4 to 5, with an entire rebroadcast of the 90-minute program from 5 p.m. to 6:30.
KCSN-FM (88.5)--Tired of the antiseptic country sound of KLAC-AM and KZLA-FM? This public station, broadcasting from Cal State Northridge, offers what program director Mike Turner dubs “MOT” or “Middle-of-the-Trail” music. It’s a 50-50 mix of country-Western classics from the likes of Hank Snow, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams Jr. and the more contemporary tunes of Willie Nelson, Alabama, Crystal Gayle and the Oak Ridge Boys.
MOT Music rides KSCN airwaves from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed by “All Things Considered” until 6 p.m. The rest of the day is split between classical sounds (Monday through Friday, 7 to 11 p.m.) and rock ‘n’ roll (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.).
KDAY-FM (1580)--Hey, every day’s a party at the big Fifteen-Eighty!
Deejay Greg Mack entertains the urban masses from 2 to 7 p.m. with a blend of straight black ‘n’ soul tunes, R&B;, dance and rap songs--with a dash of pop for flavor. There’s no news, just an on-the-hour bumper report from Insta-Traffic and an occasional short interview with a black personality.
There’s less crossover material than on many of the other urban-formatted stations in town, but plenty of upbeat personality. Thursdays at 5 p.m. is the “Campus Top 10,” which showcases the hottest dance music on high school campuses.
KDUO-FM (97.5)--Some call this format DOM (Dentist’s Office Music), but station management prefers “easy-listening,” with tinges of soft vocals by the likes of Gordon Lightfoot and Olivia Newton-John.
Deejay Doug Harding mixes and matches vocals with instrumentals and delivers the news and traffic eight minutes before each hour. Otherwise, he only mentions the artist’s name or give the time.
Harding gets a break from his grueling six-hour afternoon shift when ABC network breaks in with Paul Harvey and “The Rest of the Story.” Although the San Bernardino station’s 72,,000 watts sends a clear signal from San Diego to Ventura, its chief audience and most of its advertisers remain close to home.
KEZY-FM (95.9)--The emphasis here is on rock as Jeffrey W. (“the boy with all the songs”) puts out Dick Clark Bandstand bliss while commuters pile up on the freeway. He adds a little song trivia but Carl Karcher--Mr. Carl’s Jr.--offers more personality in his commercials touting his baked potatoes. The recurrent KEZY tag line, “Better hits for ’86!” includes force feeds of an Eddie Murphy disco hit, loads of Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Bryan Adams.
KFAC-FM (92.3) (simulcast over KFAC-AM (1330)--One of the few stable formats in all of Los Angeles radio, KFAC has been offering uninterrupted classical music since 1938, and not without good reason. There’s not one Michael Jackson record among the station’s 40,000 LPs, 1,000 compact discs and 1,700 hours of tape.
Each afternoon at 3, program director Carl Princi hosts “World of Opera"--a show he inherited 32 yares ago and expanded from a half-hour to an hour. From 4 to 6 p.m., Tom Dixon switches to instrumentals by Beethoven, Bach and the boys.
Both stations carry Mutual Broadcasting’s news on the hour and, beginning at 5 p.m. daily, the Mutual roundup is supplemented by 12 minutes of local news (“Los Angeles and the West”) and Tom Franklin covers business briefs.
KFI-AM (640)--Steve La Beau anchors from 2 to 6 p.m., joking telling freeway traffic riddles (Question: “If I told you to take the exit that would indicate the end of your day, which exit would you take?” Answer: “Sunset Boulevard”) and asking listeners to “sing for your supper.” The latter gimmick teams listeners in singalong duets with hit records, with winners earning a free dinner at a local restaurant and the worst of the lot getting howling-hound effects.
Newswoman Randi Allison delivers top-of-the-hour headlines; sportscaster Chris Roberts gives “Athletic Briefs”; Tracy Miller follows up with a 90-second update of Hollywood news in her “Celebrity File”; and veteran traffic-copter jockey Bruce Wayne gives freeway conditions every 15 minutes.
KFOX-AM (93.5)--During afternoon drive time, country entertainer Paul Bowman puts cowboy boots on this low-power Redondo Beach station (3 to 6 p.m.). He plays basic country-Western and bluegrass, refraining from crossover hits and generally spinning records that tell tales of cowboys losing their cowgirls, horses or both. Local country bands often drop by to chat. Bogus traffic reports are broadcast by “Sage Brush,” an imaginary character who hovers over imaginary freeway tangles. Bowman finishes with a short news update just before signing off at 6 p.m.
KFRN-AM (1280)--This Long Beach outpost of the Oakland-based Family Radio Network mixes music, drama, public affairs and news . . . all with a Christian slant.
There’s “Transition” with Bob Swenson at 3:45 p.m. then “Focus,” a news magazine, and “Evensong,” an instrumental music program from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Frequent traffic reports and four-minute news bites delivered every half hour round out drive time. If newscaster Lisha Johnson was broadcasting on any other format, her voice might be described as seductive. But she ends each report with: “That’s the news, now here’s the good news,” and launches into a Bible quotation.
KFSG-FM (96.3)--This station wields an almighty 54,000 watts, which is more than most religious stations. KFSG also differs from the run-of-the-mill Christian outlet by keeping its announcers quiet for the most part and playing mostly contemporary, upbeat music.
Christian rockers Amy Grant, Sandy Patty and Steve Archer dominate the play list with news breaks every hour on the half hour. The station doesn’t offer traffic reports, so tune in if you don’t care why you’re stuck on the Hollywood Freeway.
KFWB-AM (980)--Southern California’s original all-news-all-the-time station is anchored in the afternoon by Jim Burson and Judy Ford. Daring listeners to give them 22 minutes so that they can give them the world, they deliver headlines ever 20 minutes and traffic reports every 10.
Don Wells has live sports at a quarter to and a quarter after each hour, Ed Hart offers local business reports and there’s “The Wall Street Journal Report” at 6:55.
KGER-AM (1390)--"Inspiration Radio to Southern California” asks listeners to set their dials for peace and listen to an assortment of taped shows with titles like “The Family Altar,” The Voice of Prophecy” and “Counseling With a Purpose.” Most of the programming--usually consisting of brothers, reverends and pastors offering up their versions of biblical lore--last 15 minutes. A single news segment airs at 4:05 p.m.
KGFJ-AM (1230)--While its AM stereo signal is just dandy, KGFJ’s rappy jive is deadly. Its slogans are “where the strong songs play,” and “the music that matters the most.” The only thing that’s better than its sound is its imagination, Bland Buppie deejay Kevin Fleming plays Prince, Janet Jackson, George Clinton, Patti Austin and the New Edition except for his “slow jam” session, which sports soft, tedious instrumentals.
Ralph Sutton joins the Flem-man at five to the hour with headlines, weather and sports. CHP Officer John West cops a few minutes for traffic conditions and Lee Bailey stars in “Radio Scope,” a decent entertainment feature at 4:20 that includes “Feedback Line,” where Bailey answers an entertainment related question.
KGIL-AM (1260)--Unfortunately, Sweet Dick Whittington days of dispensing delightful drive-time drivel at this San Fernando outlet are history. The station switched away from nostalgia programming and since July 15 has been a news/talk bastion. Afternoons belong to Carole Hemingway, ex of KABC talk fame, who’s back in town gabbing it up after a couple years of exile in New York.
KGIL-FM (94.3)--For a while they called themselves K94.3, probably to alert listeners that the static they were stumbling over on the way to KMET (at 94.7) was in reality a radio station. It isn’t real powerful, but it’s still “rockin’ easy in the Valley.”
Kate McEldowney presides over an easy listening/adult contemporary format. You’ll find Barry Manilow, John Cougar Mellencamp, Dream Academy, Olivia Newton-John and virtually any other soft rocker who comes to mind. News updates are brief and the station gives away tickets and trips and stereos. But if you want to win, don’t refer to the station on the air as the Mighty Met.
KIEV-AM (870)--Glendale’s all-talk station is a part-time broadcast broker that now broadcasts 24 hours a day. It offers an interesting alternative to the other all-talker KABC’s Dodger glut each afternoon.
Self-proclaimed financial expert “Buzz” Schwartz, for instance, talks IRAs, Keoghs, and investment from 2 till 3:30 p.m. He’s followed by “Computer People,” a live half-hour show by Russ Parks that interviews computer industry big-bytes.
At 4 “The Paul Wallach Show” gives tips to the up-scale hungry. Wallach, a 10-year station vet, and sidekick Steve Knight deal with personalities and food. KIEV also offers early race results from Santa Anita at 6 with Bill Garr.
KIIS-FM (102.7) (simulcast over KIIS-AM (1150)--If any station owns the town, for better or worse, it’s KIIS. Big Ron O’Brien handles the afternoon shift at Los Angeles’ top-rate station. His approach is far less manic and outrageous than the station’s superstar, morning man Rick Dees, but he has an easy rapport with his audience. O’Brien counts down the week’s top 40 songs on his shift ever Friday and his afternoons are uncluttered by newscasts but jammed with traffic reports.
There are also uninterrupted 30-minute music sweeps each and every hour. Put it all together and you get an 8.8 rating for all listeners over the age of 12, 6 a.m. to midnight. In Arbitron lingo, that means many more than a million KISSers out there in Southern California. Its nearest competitor is KABC, which scored a 6.0 in the most recent Arbitron report.
KIKF-FM (94.3)--The 3,000-watt cow country signal of KIKF, beamed from atop a Garden Grove bank, falls short of downtown Los Angeles, but it does bring a little progressive country to Orange County city slickers. Some of the tunes have a banjo’ twang while others carry a horn section (Jim Reeves is turning in his grave).
Drive-time deejay Don Jeffrey, who offers a bit more gab than his KZLA counterpart, stops spining the likes of Crystal Gayle and Kenny Rogers for news at 5 p.m. and “One-on-One,"a taped sports segment from Terry Driscoll at 5:30 p.m. Traffic reports come every 15 minutes from the CHP.
KIQQ-FM (100.3)--Until last August, this was still a very hip rock/pop outlet, ripe with innovative sounds. Then--K-LITE was born.
What’s a K-LITE? It’s the radio equivalent of drowning in feathers. As operations director Bob Sky puts it, “Lite listening, lite favorites.” But it’s not restricted to “You Light up my Life.” It’s radio to put you into a trance.
It’s the product of a mass-produced format beamed out of Hollywood on the Transtar satellite to about 60 stations nationally. It differs from your typical automated-set-up in that deejays (Scott Painton handles afternoons) do a generic show, with each station in the net adding its own touch of personalized time and weather and jingles.
The music is strictly easy listening--such light hitters as Bread and the Carpenters. Somehow it makes sense that the society that’s invented lite beer, lite cheese and lite corn chips would eventually come up with lite radio.
KJLH-FM (102.3)--Los Angeles’ highest-rated black station--once a beacon of good contemporary black music--now calls itself “L.A.'s dance music station.”
The Stevie Wonder-owned Compton station stocks stock pop performers like Janet Jackson. Drive-home deejay Frankie Ross offers a 45-minute commercial-free music jam each afternoon , but what you get is a bunch of ear-numbing instrumentals littered with station identification blurbs.
Stick around after 6 and you’ll be stuck in the 60-minute “traffic jam,” which is the station’s version of KGFJ’s “slow jam.” Contests promise big bucks--you could actually win $1,000. If you listen to this mediocre station for more than ten minutes, you should win something.
KJOI-FM (98.7)--All laid-back radio stations are measured by the KJOI yardstick.
It’s the kind of music piped into mental-hospital operating rooms during frontal lobotomy surgery, strictly down-tempo--75% instrumentals, 25% soft vocals (fewer vocals than on easy-listening rival KBIG).
“We know people aren’t out there saying, ‘Gosh, I can’t wait to listen to KJOI so I can hear the instrumental version of ‘Billie Jean’,” says Bob Griffith, KJOI vice president and general manager. “What we are is environmental radio. If you’re coming here for entertainment, you’re going to be disappointed, because we’re not in the entertainment business. We’re in the mood-adjustment business.”
“Mood shaper” Casey Hayes soothes the listening public from 2 to 7 p.m., saying as little as possible and refraining from disturbing anyone’s delicate emotional balance while he says it. There are news headlines on the hour, no traffic reports, no ski conditions, no concert tickets to the 98.7th caller, but Claudine St. Claire slips in two newsy 90-second reports, show biz at 4:30 and the Afternoon Financial Page at 5:30.
KKGO-FM (105.3)--No station jazzes it up 24 hours a day like KKGO, rolling out a format that program director Jeff Gehringer dubs “Full Spectrum.”
“We don’t emphasize just one style of jazz but everything from Chuck Mangione to Joe Williams, Stanley Jordan to Sade,” Gehringer says. “We don’t stick just to the mainstream stuff. We play it all.” They’ve been doing it the same way since 1959.
During afternoons, Bill Stevens keeps things moving from 3 to 4, while Joe Huser fills in behind the mike from 4 to 7. Both serve 30-minute nonstop jazz sweeps every hour, but during afternoon drive Huser adds headline news, traffic reports, business updates designed to serve the station’s predominantly well-heeled audience.
KKHR-FM (93.1)--KKHR--the HR standing for Hit Radio--is a low-energy version of KIIS, with little more than a quarter of its direct competitor’s listenership figures. There’s no news and no traffic, just a steady if bland diet of the nation’s current hits mixed with a smattering of oldies--some as ancient as 1981. Jack Armstrong presides over the afternoon shift, whose show sounds much like the rest of KKHR, which is to say like KIIS without Rick Dees.
KKLA-FM (99.5)--Pop Christian music now blares where media minister W. Eugene Scott once filiblustered . KKLA’s frequency was Scott’s North Hollywood radio home, KHOF, before the Federal Communications Commission booted him off the air last fall.
Now there is “Music of Faith,” hosted by veteran L.A. deejay Scott O’Neil from 3 to 7 p.m., with news at the top of the hour, financial reports at 5:30 and a commentary on handicapped issues at 6:55 by Jonie Erickson Tada.
Rita Kiefer announces a Christian calendar of events and gives a Christian ski report when it snows. No Christian traffic reports yet, but the promotions are Christianized: Deejay O’Neil recently promised the 25th caller two tickets to see actor Dean Jones in “St. John in Exile.”
KLAC-AM (570)--Cleveland-based Malrite Communications Group took control of country music last year when it bought KLAC-AM and its powerful FM sister, KZLA.
Malrite juggled the on-air staffs, but not the country format--current country pop and a few oldies. Afternoon deejay Scott Carpenter keeps listeners cool with his pleasant humor. Lyle Kilgore does news and sports and every 20 minutes the syndicated Metro Traffic gals--Stacey Binn and Tammy Trujillo--report the freeway snarls. Old Dan the Weatherman is a character straight out of “Tender Mercies.” The AM outlet also carries the Lakers and the Kings--a fact that affects drive time when the pros play back East.
KLON-FM (88.1)--Broadcasting from Cal State Long Beach, this 1,200-watt college station is a textbook example of how to fill a vacuum with great programming by mixing students, professionals and that sterling national treasure, National Public Radio.
Deejay Roy Daniels plays “straight-ahead” (no synthesizers, commuters or doo-wah electronics allowed) jazz until 5 p.m. each weekday.
KLON has a professional full-time staff of five who write political features and cover local news each evening at 5 p.m. on the half-hour shows, “FM 88 Evening Edition.” The show, heavy on Long Beach city news, is produced in the same spirit as “All Things Considered” which follows at 5:30 p.m.
KLOS-FM (95.5)--Much of the personality seemed to disappear from this album-rock power when Frazer Smith departed the morning shift a two years ago. But it has still maintained a certain consistency that fellow rocker KMET has lacked.
In control is Geno Mitchellini, a high-energy but essentially colorless deejay. Michael Benner cuts in with news at 4:55. Traffic updates are occasionally flip: “Somehow a car is upside-down on the San Diego Freeway heading north Don’t ask us how these things happen, we just report ‘em, folks.”
On the music side, there’s plenty of Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Beatles and early Bruce (most rock stations are on a first-name basis with Mr. Springsteen). They still give away plenty of Porsches and concert tickets and money and albums and bumper stickers during the afternoons, with a comedy seg, “5 O’clock Funnies,” positioned nicely just before 5 p.m.--when it’s needed most.
KLVE-FM (107.5)--On L.A.'s only FM Spanish-language station, Martha (she gives no last name on the air) handles drive-time duties like a quiet pro.
She plays a lot of female singers, from Beatrice Adriana to Angela Carrasco. And while that’s OK, KLVE’s contemporary Spanish and Top 40 format leans toward upwardly mobile trendiness. Four or five commercials between album cuts isn’t unusual, a metro traffic report is delivered almost every 15 minutes, with news headlines from squeaky-voiced newswoman Sylvia Botello at quarter to the hour.
KMAX-FM (107.1)--Beset with a weak signal, KMAX’s drive-time programming is entirely in Spanish and of a dubious religious nature. On one show a preacher from East L.A. buys KMAX airtime to scream about the Pope, Protestant leaders and the Anti-Christ. Another features a Catholicism-knocking ex-priest who opens with the ironic disclaimer, “We don’t want to offend anyone.”
“Brother Vic” says it costs him $90 for every 14 minutes he’s on KMAX. “Won’t you help?” he then pleads. Less spiritual listeners might pay twice that to get him off the air.
Not recommended for the impatient or short-tempered.
KMDY-AM (850)--Comedy (as in KoMeDY) is king here every day from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. When it went on the air on April Fool’s Day, 1984, this was the nation’s third all-comedy radio station. Now it’s the only survivor, says program director Bob Zidel, who’s had the last laugh on all the skeptics.
J.L. Martinez works from noon to 6 p.m. daily, though his job is mainly to introduce the next rack and then get out of the way of comedy cuts from the likes of Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, George Carlin and taped stand-up routines from lesser-knowns. Live guest interviews add some spice.
KMDY’s only weakness is its limited signal. With the station and its transmitter located in Thousand Oaks, it can only be heard clearly in Ventura County, parts of the San Fernando Valley and beach areas such as Malibu. But finding it is worth the search.
KMET-FM (94.7)--The once Mighty Met seems to be a station in perpetual transition. First it was a straight album-oriented rock (AOR) dispenser. Then, presto!--it became a heavy-metal station. Now it’s yuppified album-oriented rock specializing in 1960s Baby Boomer pablum.
None of it has worked. The jocks still dare you to turn the volume up to 10, but arch-rival KLOS has nearly twice as many listeners as Club Met. Deejay David Perry at least has the mildly entertaining Pat (Paraquat) Kelly, the city’s most-famed rock ‘n’ roll newscaster, to help. Kelly does on-the-hour newscasts, if you can call them that, and supplies other semi-newsy tidbits. A slow news day is when nobody overdoses on anything.
Ski reports still precede the local weather updates, followed by the most schizophrenic mix of album rock on the planet. Some of the heavier cuts make it easy to realize why Nancy Reagan backed out of the Concert that Counts.
KMPC-AM (710)--Wink Martindale may be best known as a cheerful, steady game show host, but his bread and butter has always been radio. as such, his middle-of-the-road voice fits in nicely with the middle-of-the-road nostalgia cuts that L.A.'s perennial Big Band station delivers during drive-time.
At 5:30, Jim Healy’s weird 30-minute sports report of half-baked truths, rumor, innuendo, charges, countercharges and sound effects takes over. Everything from the front office to the playing field is fair game. No human is sacred enough to be spared the Healy knife.
Healy aside, KMPC is really the only nostalgia game in town. Since KPRZ (now KIIS-AM) dropped out, it’s the only major station playing a steady diet of big bands and contemporary tunes on the dial. KMPC also has another distinction: It’s the only L.A. outlet regularly playing music from five different decades.
KNAC-FM (105.5)--Sam Freeze, known affectionately around his station as “The Freeze Disease,” spins what KNAC calls “pure rock.” That’s a euphemism for heavy metal, as in three-chord guitar riffs and primal screams loud enough to cause permanent brain damage.
It’s been that way since Jan. 8, when the Long Beach station caused a minor Yup-roar by departing from its hip new-wave format of the last six years. Talking Heads and REM have blown away by such head-bangers as Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne and Motley Crue. Traffic reports start at 4 p.m. with concert news also a daily feature.
KNHS-FM (89.7)--Carol Shakely teaches “Radio Broadcasting” at North High School in Torrance and KNHS (K-North High School) signs-off at 3 p.m. except for Wednesdays when it uses all its 10 watts to play student trainee music until 8:30 or even 9 p.m. That’s the night that North High students can call in requests over 323-KNHS.
One of three training high school radio stations in the country, KNHS’ students often do “discomentaries”; a text and music mixture that tells the life of a group, such as the Beatles, or an individual artist. It makes a nice break from the usual student programming, which Shakely calls “teen-age eclectic"--music from the likes of the Descendants and PKG.
KNJO-FM (92.7)--KNJO throws its soft rock at the lucrative 25-to-45-year-old audience cruising home to their semi-posh ranchitos in Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Westlake Village. Deejay Pete Turpel works afternoon drive, handling news, commercials and contests all tailored to the Conejo and Simi Valleys.
The “Pet Report” attempts to match lost owners with found pets, or vice-versa. Even the stock market report at 6:12 concentrates on major business that operate in and around Thousand Oaks, such as IBM and Jaffra cosmetics.
KNOB-FM (97.9)--A subtle change in format last September thrust this formerly generic middle-of-the-road Orange County outlet to the forefront in the programming of adult contemporary love songs. This is the hugs and kisses spot on the dial. If it ain’t love, it ain’t played on “The Nob,” whose jingles proclaim that it’s the station “For Lovers Only” and “Heartbeat 98.”
Even the newscasts (on the hour during afternoon drive) and traffic reports (at 20 after and 10 till) are chock full of love. The late afternoon/early evening L-jay, or “love jockey,” is personable Michael Harris, an incredibly lovely human being.
KNX-AM (1070)--It’s competitor KFWB beat KNX in the last ratings, but KNX still seems to win almost all of the journalism awards. It copped a Golden Mike for Best Newscast Longer than 15 Minutes for the 15th straight year and picked up a prestigious DuPont Award for its documentaries.
KNX--a little chattier and chummier than just-the-facts-ma’am KFWB--drops in three-minute commentaries from such CBS personnel as Brent Musberger, Dan Rather and Joyce Brothers and at 5:55 delivers entertainment tidbits from movie numerologist Gary Franklin.
Barry Rhode and his bass voice anchor the afternoon, and between 4 and 6 he’s assisted ably by veteran sports reporters Tom Kelly and Keith Olbermann at 15 and 45 past the hour. Weather and traffic come from Bill Keene and Donna Dower every 10 minutes.
KOCM-FM (103.1)--It used to be strings ad infinitum at this Newport Beach-bsaed purveyor of “contemporary easy listening” (a la KBIG and KJOI). But afternoon deejay Carolyn Sidders (noon to 6 p.m.) swears things have been spiced up.
“We’re not nearly as instrumental as we once were,” Sidders says. A human voice can occasionally be heard singing, and there are regular news and stock market reports (including a market wrap-up at 3:55 p.m.), twice-hourly traffic reports, a 5:30 p.m. ski report and even a marine weather update on conditions in Newport Harbor and, on Fridays, at Catalina.
KOLA-FM (99.9)--Serving San Bernardino with heavy metal and pop rock, the all-automated KOLA plays Ozzy Osbourne’s “Shot in the Dark” to the Hooters “Day by Day.” Ted Ziggenbush’s recorded show runs from 3 to 8 p.m. with the recorded news at 3 p.m., which is repeated at 4 and 5. Some of KOLA’s commercials betray its target Inland Empire audience: “Our shotgun is just $159.95! And we’ve got ammo on sale in cartons of 500!”
KOST-FM (103.5)--Continues in the fine soft-rock tradition that once made KNX-FM the mellow legend of Los Angeles. Deejay Bryan Simmons keeps the contemporary fire smoldering softly from 3 to 6 p.m. News arrives at 20 minutes past the hour, with traffic reports from Bruce Wayne’s “Eye in the Sky” broadcast twice hourly during drive time. Bruce also reports on traffic for sister station KFI on the AM dial.
Between old Elton John and a new Starship, public affairs reporting gets a nod with vignettes called “Viewpoints on the KOST.” One station spokeswoman explained it thus: “You know, it’s man-on-the-street stuff asking people what they think of earthquakes, like that”
KPCC-FM (89.3)--Afternoon drivers get a combo of news, swing music and public affairs from KPCC, the Pasadena City College station. Student deejays host an hour of big band/swing music until 4, when “All Things Considered” is broadcast. News is updated at two minutes to 4 and 5 p.m.
Students regain control at 5:30 with “The Evening Edition,” a home-bred product anchored by Larry Mantle that thoroughly covers local San Gabriel Valley news and national and international news. The station is negotiating to move its campus transmitter to Mt. Wilson and increase its wattage from 75 to 4,000, which will give it a reach well beyond the San Gabriel Valley.
KPFK-FM (90.7)--You never know what you’ll hear on this left-of-center subscriber-supported station. How many other stations carry whole programs about organic gardening or nuclear mortality?
You can set your clocks by two shows: the 3 p.m. “Newsfeature,” a half hour of interviews and documentaries covering such issues as Central America and AIDS, and “Calendar,” a five-minute menu of coming events heard just before 6.
But the rest of the lineup changes daily, with programs such as “Feminist Magazine,” “Wizards” (which takes a critical look at the moral implications of technology) and “Socialist Perspectives.”
Transmitter problems that haunted it are supposedly a thing of the past, but the management and its various governing boards are constantly at each other’s throats over programming and finances. It’s annual budget of $500,000 is what some rock deejays earn.
KPWR-FM (105.9)--Yes, KMGG, known for so long as “Magic 106,” pulled a magic act of its own last year and disappeared, leaving confused listeners with the burning question: “What station will Magic Johnson promote?”
The station’s owners, Emmis Broadcasting moved out the adult contemporary in and moved in the urban contemporary, or what one station executive calls “a funky Top 40" sound. And along with the switch in format came a change in call letters to KPWR, as in POWER--which meant adios for General Manager, Program Director and morning deejay Robert W. Morgan. Talk about a PWRplay.
When he’s not out throwing his PWR around, Mucho Morales--formerly of KRLA--plays what amounts to slick disco rhythm and blues between 3 and 7 p.m.
KPZE-AM (1190)--Formerly KEZY-AM, this Anaheim beacon is all-Christian now. Permanent programs like “The Bible Answer Man” and “Health and Happiness” (hosted by Jack Elliott), and short-running religious series, fill the 3-6 p.m. slot.
Ironically, there is no news, weather or traffic on the station that was Orange County’s first and last experiment in all-news. It was just two years ago that KEZY was briefly known as KNWS--the O.C. answer to KFWB and KNX. But the Arbitrons show no mercy--only listenership--and neither measured high enough.
KQLH-FM (95.1)--From 3 to 7 p.m. deejay Chad Perry takes all easy-listening music lovers for a ride with his mellow pop sounds. The Riverside station is heavy on dedications (sometimes interstate) and ends each by saying they are broadcast “from the station that loves you both.”
Mutual News tops the hour, but there are no traffic reports. The station recently boosted its frequency to 50,000 watts so it can now beam its “loving and gentle” music to the better part of L.A. It shares the Pet Patrol, an aural bulletin board for lost and found pets, with its weaker sister, KWRM-AM.
KRLA-AM (1110)--Old radio deejays never die, ,they just retire to a life of Golden Oldies at this once-mighty home of rock and pop nostalgia. With Art Laboe, Dick (Huggy Boy) Hugg, Wolfman Jack, Humble Harve (also the station’s program director) and the Real Don Steele manning the mikes, it’s a virtual rock ‘n’ roll heaven.
KRLA’s not like it used to be, of course. The Beatles are no longer four pink-cheeked lads. The station isn’t even in Pasadena anymore. But it’s fun to pretend.
Ol’ dependable Johnny Hayes--a fixture on the station for nearly 21 years--finishes his noon to 4 shift then the Real Don Steele takes over and spins everything from Little Richard to Creedence Clearwater Revival to Frankie Valli (without the Four Seasons) until 8. The musical range is roughly 1955 to ’75, though Steele clearly appears to be caught in a 1966 time warp. Lou Henry reads the news and Rhonda Kramer supplies regular bumper-to-bumper updates.
KROQ-FM (106.7)--Just when the radio world thinks it’s buried this Pasadena avante-pop underdog forever, it rises from the ashes to dominate again. It tied for sixth among all L.A. stations in the latest Arbitron survey, not far behind KLOS and with a comfortable margin over KMET.
“We’ve gone back to playing the core artists who helped launch us,” insists Program Director Rick Carroll. Those include Adam Ant, Fine Young Cannibals, the Divinyls, the Bangles and Siouxsie and the Banshees, to name but a few. The mix is 80% current stuff, 20% oldies or “recent current” (as new oldies are referred to in the biz).
Afternoon king of “The Roq” is Freddie Snakeskin, who deftly rolls a record and flings out free tickets to an Untouchable concert as only K-Rock jocks can.
KRTH-AM (93)--KRTH occupied the spot on the dial once occupied by KHJ, legendary Boss Radio. Nowadays, those call letters have vanished and KRTH’s play list draws from the first 10 years of rock ‘n’ roll--1955 to ’65.
It’s all a little bit sad. Venerable KHJ, the prototype 1960s hitmaker, seems to have bitten the dust for good with “Smokin’ Oldies"--creaky pop like “Alley Oop,” “Sealed With a Kiss” and “Under the Boardwalk.” The afternoon man is delightful Brother John Rydgren--recovered from a stroke he suffered on the air a few years ago.
KRTH-FM (101.1)--Once a purveyor of oldies and current hits, KRTH-FM has been all oldies for seven months. There are still “Super Sixties” weekends and other treats, but weekdays now promise nothing more recent then 1975.
Former KHTZ air-man Steve Scott now holds down afternoon drive time. Contests come and go, but the music is--and always has been--the star. There’s just no other spot on the dial where you can hear Bill Haley and the Comets followed by the Supremes and James Taylor.
KSAK-FM (90.1)--It’s only 3 1/2 watts of power, beamed from Classroom 13 in bungalow 14 of Mt. San Antonio College but album-oriented-rocker KSAK has its own request line, by golly.
Call “595-KSAK” on your car phone and afternoon deejay Aaron Lemos will do what all those big-time jocks say they will do--actually play requests and do it as quickly as he can hang up the receiver and scrounge for the record.
If he has it. KSAK’s a college station after all. Lemos and the other deejays get two chances each hour to play what theywant. The rest of the time, management calls the shots. Jay Calig and Joe Badalewski review movies for the “Cinema Safari” segment of Lemos’ program.
KSBR-FM (88.5)--Once this was the only place between Long Beach and San Diego where you could find “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” Now it’s the Saddleback College home of “commercial-free music and news from Mission Viejo.”
During afternoons, someone called “Runner Boy” holds forth, shuffling such jazz fusionists as Jeff Lorber, Lee Ritenour and Shadowfax with a retinue of New Age jazz/rock/techno artistes from the Windham Hill catalogue.
Runner Boy dedicated “Snowline” to all those “powder hungry freaks chomping at the bit out there.” Then he was on to double entendre weather and in-with-the-hip-crowd traffic reports followed with Ricky Lee Jones.
KSKQ-AM (1540)--Formerly all-country KZLA. “La Super KQ” is now all-Spanish, replete with bouncy jingles and breathless senoritas singing “Musica, Mario, Musica!”
Afternoons belong to Suave Mario Lopez, who plays ballads by Spanish and Latin American crooners like Miguel Gallardo or Lolita, tossing in an occasional dash of Puerto Rican tropical salsa. With 50,000 watts and an AM stereo signal, KSKQ has the potential of reaching a broad cross section of Southern California.
“La Super TN-Q” down the dial accused “La Super KQ” of stealing its style and logo last year, but there’s really no comparison. “La Super KQ” appeals to the crowd that relishes four songs in a row, news, weather and sports with a zippy, no-nonsense style.
It’s the only L.A. station where Rudy La Scala’s monster hit, “Mi Vida Eres Tu” (the theme from the hit TV novella, “Cristal”) is heard regularly.
KSPC-FM (88.7)--KSPC is a training ground for students from all five Claremont Colleges seeking radio careers, but this 3,000-watt station has another mission as well, says General Manager Kathy Tryce.
Self-produced albums by unknown bands, dubbed by Tryce as “progressive alternative music,” compose the format. What that means is most of the music played on KSPC is performed by amateur musicians and bands signed to small independent labels. Drive-time audiences are not likely to hear new or under-exposed music elsewhere.
KSRF-FM (103.1)--Not long ago K-SURF by-the-sea in Santa Monica was 3,000 watts of beautiful music. Today it’s mellow 1960s fare: Mac Davis gives rock ‘n’ roll the best years of his life, Bob Dylan asks his sweetie to lay across his big brass bed and Neil Diamond says hello over and over to a friend who is apparently hard-of-hearing.
Deejay Nick Taylor is the low-key afternoon deejay from 3 until 6. There’s two minutes of news 52 minutes after the hour and traffic reports from syndicated traffic reporter Stacy Binn thrice hourly.
KTNQ-AM (1020)--Without the madcap Humberto Luna (the Latino Rick Dees) holding forth during AM drive time, this station is a yawn. Afternoon deejay Pepe Barreto, who cautions listeners to fasten their seat belts in case the cumbias go to their feet, is energetic but no match for Luna and his Lunatics.
Musically, the sound is threadbare Vicente Fernandez and Los Babys (who are now pushing 50). KTNQ gives away tickets to the circus and concerts and Metro Traffic reporter Paco Rodriguez and news/weathercasters Luis R. Gonzalez and Sylvia Botello claim to put “the world and community at your feet.”
KTSJ-AM (1220)--"The Sound of Joy,” a live hour of contemporary Christian music hosted by Leona Labrador, splits the verbal fodder offered in the afternoon by this all-religious station. People are invited to ask questions related to the Bible during “Open Forum,” but the program is taped in Oakland and isn’t exactly open to calls fro listeners.
Located in Pomona, the 250-watter’s signal travels no closer to downtown L.A. than Covina. A five-minute news/weather break at the top of the hour is, of course, taped.
KTYM-AM (1460)--If you miss the roadside chapel services of yesteryear, take heart. This is your station. There are about 14 preachers including E.W. Wilcox, Doyle Hart and Fred Price who’re ready to tell you the Good News during their 15-minute taped messages.
The Inglewood station loses some of its power at sunset, dropping back from 5,000 to 500 watts, so don’t be surprised if a speaker stops in mid-message.
KUCI-FM (88.9)--The 24-watt broadcast-classroom of UC Irvine plays jazz in the A.M. and “alternative music” in the afternoon, which means esoteric rock from bands like the Replacements.
Student deejays work the same day ever week and get to choose what they play, so it’s anybody’s guess what you’ll hear. News, weather and sports at 6 p.m. but no traffic watch--just regular campus parking reports for the captive car radio audience searching for a place to land.
KUSC-FM (91.5) (simulcast on KCPB-FM (91.1)--What can you say about a station that tempts listeners to stay tuned by offering “Hungarian dances from Brahms”? Yet it works.
Deejay Dennis Bade begins his shift on L.A.'s most-listened to classical music at 1 p.m. and continues playing someone’s favorite on this public outlet until 5:30. Then Monitoradio, a half-hour news program produced by the Christian Science Monitor, begins. The station keeps tabs on classical concerts and hosts the popular Saturday evening “A Prairie Home Companion.”
KUTE-FM (101.9)--Cowboy Gene Autry bought KUTE last December, but that doesn’t mean it will switch from cool R&B; to cornpone.
Program director Bill Watson says instead he plans to “mold and polish what had already existed.” Basically, that means more soft rock, soft rhythm and blues, soft pop and soft jazz, all aimed at a soft 25-to-45-year-old listener. The format, developed originally five years ago at an Oakland station, is called “the Quiet Storm.”
Drive-time deejay Lawrence Tanter speaks low and little from 3 to 7. Pamela McInnes, the same air-watch traffic reporter who does duty for sister-station KMPC, reports from the air on the half-hour and hour, preceded by two minutes of news headlines.
KUTE’s only got 650 watts of power, but its transmitter is located high up on Mt. Wilson, so letters come in from listeners as far away as San Bernardino, Lancaster and Huntington Beach.
KWIZ-FM (96.7)--Zipping down the Riverside Freeway and Barbra Streisand’s “Somewhere” blaring in the Porsche, Orange County Yuppies may well wonder where they are tuned when deejay Doug Ray tells them they are listening to “the station that cares about Orange County.”
Well, from 2 to 7 p.m. Ray gives them traffic, weather and commercials that “make affluence affordable.” Between Kenny Rogers, Chicago and Phil Collins, Ray tells lame jokes about Joan Rivers.
KWKW-AM (1300)--While it’s true the “Double KW” plays the best Mexican music (Juan Gabriel to Los Tigres del Norte), it also dispenses the drivel (a Spanish version of “Look for a Star,” the theme from “Circus of Horrors”).
Between songs and lots of commercials, Alfredo Rodriguez dishes up corny give-aways. Guess the combination of a strongbox and win $1,000. How about 13 lottery tickets that can make some lucky listener a millionaire? Good luck.
A community calendar at 4:30, weather and traffic reports bring a bit of sobriety to the otherwise silly proceedings, but “La Mexicana” still runs from the gimmicky to the sublime. A rather sordid ad for an abortion clinic “located near the Million Dollar Theater” in downtown Los Angeles is occasionally sandwiched between commercials for Baby Pants and “Disney on Ice.”
KWOW-AM (1600)--"All the hits, all the time” is the motto of this Pomona station who’s also right on target with its special blend of “magical oldies.” There may be nowhere else in the L.A. Basin where you can count on hearing Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” followed by the Dovells’ 1961 hit, “The Bristol Stomp.”
Deejay Jeff Robbins chats to the drivetime audience between “Money,” “Chain Gang” and the Mindbenders “Groovy Kind of Love.” Programmed for aging flower children, KWOW’s signal doesn’t penetrate much beyond the San Gabriel Valley.
KWRM-AM (1370)--Deejay Don Lucky helps listeners “cut the rug” (or car mat) with his Big Band sounds, aired from 2 to 6. Diane Keply and Dave Christianson bring news breaks at the top of the hour. KWRM’s Pet Patrol announces about 10 missing or found pets per day and lists them once an hour. As a member of the Dodger radio network, KWRM plays ball during drive time when the Lasoradas go East.
The Corona-based, with a 5,000-watt signal that can’t reach downtown L.A., KWRM’s heard mainly in Riverside County. Period. There are no traffic reports, but they wouldn’t reach the problem interchanges anyway.
KWVE-FM (107.9)--Once a mild-mannered soft-rocker, San Clemente’s KWVE is now the broadcast ministry for Calvary Chapel in Cost Mesa. With bright pop-gospel music between homilies, it’s programming suited to drive-time vespers.
“Manna for Today,” for example, features the Rev. Raul Ruiz giving his chapter-by-chapter exegesis of the Gospel According to St. Luke in daily half-hour doses. No ranting or raving or pleas for mail-in contributions--a rarity on any religious radio station.
K-WAVE calls itself “a wave of living water, an ocean of God’s love, wave after wave, FM 107.” Amen.
KXLU-FM (88.9)--Loyola/Marymount University’s campus station doesn’t reach far beyond LAX, but commuters on the San Diego Freeway can tune in and find out what alternative rock ‘n’ roll is all about.
KXLU’s earned a reputation for being on the cutting edge of the new, the esoteric, the off-center--everything from the Blue Daisies to Savage Republic, Brian Eno to Cluster. Deejays switch as often as the musical direction but each Thursday Nick Nax unwraps the newest new new sounds on “Prime Cuts” from 4 to 5 p.m.
KYMS-FM (106.3)--Christian and Top 40 meld on Jaime Mayberry’s afternoon show from 2 to 7 p.m. She informs her listeners about upcoming local events between songs and at 4 p.m. is joined by newsman Curt Morris, who provides the news, weather and traffic reports every half hour. Stan Unruh gives a three-minute sports commentary at 5:30 p.m. Located in Santa Ana, its signal travels to most southern parts of L.A. County and as far west as LAX.
KZLA-FM (93.9)--"More music, less bull” goes the new slogan at KZLA. Station management says the country outlet will be less service-minded than its AM sister, KLAC, which means no news or traffic can detract from fast-talking unobtrusive Jim Rose’s contemporary country play list. Milsap, Jennings, Nelson and Gayle--what more could you expect from the “home of country stereo music?”
XEGM-AM (950)--This Spanish-language station really worries about its listeners. Almost every quarter-hour it urges them to “drive carefully,” “work safely” and “don’t burn yourself while fixing supper.”
The music on “Radio Todo” (Radio Everything) features that Mexican bad girl extraordinaire Lupita D’Alessio, moaning “Insatiable” (no translation necessary) and the crown prince of Mexican ballads, Jose Jose.
Commercials urge you to “try chimichangas at our cafe” or to be “a Herbalife salesperson in your spare time.” Broadcast from Baja, the station maintains a storefront office in Hollywood. During NBA basketball season, XEGM announcers do a play-by-play account of Lakers’ futbol de salon games.
XPRS-AM (1090)--A Spanish-language snoozer beamed from Rosarito Beach in Baja, it calls itself “Radio Express” but it plays sloppy, beer-drinking music--despite deejay Amalia Gonzales’ drive-time cheerfulness. Its strong signal washes over Los Angeles, but the format’s ratio of one-song-to-too-many commercials makes for noisy bordertown radio at its worst.
Amusing commercials include learn-at-home cassettes that promise, in Spanish, to teach listeners “perfect English” for $50. Or how about a shiny new accordion, just like the one Ramon Ayala plays? Be the first one in your barrio to play just like the Latino Lawrence Welk.
XTRA-AM (690)--No longer the Mighty 690, XTRA is still a blast from the past, when AM was king and “Duh Wolf-man!” was down below the border where he belonged. Now it’s “69 Gold” with classic oldies, punctuated by a short bio on the performers and a little trivia that only nostalgic rockers can truly appreciate.
On Sam Phillips’ birthday, for instance, XTRA programs Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and other Sun Records alumni in tribute. Deejay Michael Boss digs out real rock relics too, such as “Signs” by the Canadian Five Man Electrical Band and “Sweet City woman” by the Stampeders.
Boss does give time, temp and traffic--but only for the San Diego area--even though the 690 signal is strong enough to be picked up by commuters as far north as Santa Barbara. Diane Smith gives the ski report, also heard on XTRA’s FM sister, 91-X.
XTRA-FM (91.1)--91-X, the Baja’s self-proclaimed “cutting edge of rock,” seems to have become a victim of its own trend-setting. Berlin, the Fixx and Talk Talk are passe to the mix, yet 91-X still programs them, albeit on compact discs nowadays. Feargal Sharkey may indeed be new music, but drive-time deejay Steve West rattles off a mile of credits before and after the plays even one cut off the album.
Music is occasionally interrupted with a bizarre ski report about Jackson Hole, Wyo. But then it’s back to another 45-minute set of the Motels and Oingo-Boingo.