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It’s Still EGBOK on KABC-AM Morning Show : Radio: When Bob Arthur departed ‘The Ken and Bob Company’ last year, Ken Minyard asked Roger Barkley to replace him, and ‘everything’s going to be OK.’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ken Minyard, who has occupied the morning drive slot at KABC-AM (790) for 17 years, had a gut feeling all along that everything was going to be OK when his popular show took an unexpected turn last year.

“I was never really worried,” Minyard said, referring to the retirement of his longtime partner, Bob Arthur, and his replacement by radio veteran Roger Barkley. “I had a tremendous sense that Roger should be the guy that should step in.”

The morning show’s trademark phrase, “Everything’s Going to be OK,” seems indeed to apply to the 5-9 a.m. program. “The Ken and Barkley Company” is a livelier version of its predecessor and, despite some initial complaints from loyal Arthur fans, has gained in the ratings since Barkley came on board.

The show finished in second place in the most recent Arbitron ratings survey. It was fifth among morning shows during Arthur’s final months there.

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Minyard and Barkley plan to celebrate their one-year anniversary Tuesday with a special broadcast from the Improvisation Comedy Club in Santa Monica.

“They have a special synergy,” said KABC General Manager George Green. “Ken is like ‘Peck’s Bad Boy,’ and Roger is like Mr. Righteous, with a naughty feeling underneath.”

The show’s pace and topicality have been stepped up, Green said, and it consequently attracts a broader, younger audience than its predecessor. KABC has traditionally been very successful with older adults, but has for the past several years been working hard to reach a younger audience too.

“We’re getting rid of our geriatric image and replacing it with a fast, hip show,” Green said.

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The program has segments like “stuff most people don’t know about,” “weirdities in the news” and “cheap and sleazy gossip.” Under the last category, Minyard has lately been reading excerpts from Geraldo Rivera’s tell-all book.

“We would never have done the Geraldo thing before,” Green said. “They step up to the line a little more these days and we have to pull them back.” Bringing Barkley to the venerable talk station was Minyard’s idea. He had long been an admirer of Barkley, a popular radio personality in Los Angeles for more than two decades with his former partner, Al Lohman.

When Minyard learned that Arthur planned to retire, he met with Barkley over lunch and then suggested to Green that Barkley fill in when Arthur was on vacation.

The two clicked right off.

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“We came up in radio at the same time and our styles really gel,” Minyard said. “We make each other laugh.”

“We both grew up in small Midwestern towns and have a similar frame of reference,” Barkley said. Barkley is from Odebolt, Iowa: population 1,000. Minyard is from McCallister, Okla., with a population of 17,000.

“That’s why I have the more metropolitan outlook,” Minyard quipped.

Like Minyard, Barkley knew well what it was like to be part of a famous broadcasting duo. He and Lohman had an abrupt and bitter breakup in May, 1986, while at KFI-AM. Lohman is working at an easy-listening station in Palm Springs, KPLM-AM.

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“We’ve never talked since,” Barkley said. “We said everything we had to say to each other. It was painful, the breakup. I trust and hope he’s happy and fulfilled.”

Following the split, Barkley worked for a couple of years as the morning personality at then-beautiful music station KJOI-FM. When the station switched formats in 1989, Barkley found himself without radio prospects for the first time.

“I was suddenly faced with the realization that after 30 years in this market, it was really tough to find a place for what I do,” Barkley said. “And, by golly, the next thing I knew, Bob Arthur decided to give up getting up at 3:30. It was sort of serendipity.”

Minyard said that he still misses Arthur, who now lives in Albuquerque, and has “all nice memories” of their years broadcasting in tandem.

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“The marriage analogy is an apt one,” Minyard said. “You probably spend as much intense time together as you do in a marriage. It’s like when you have had a relationship for that long and it ends and it’s kind of painful to talk about it.”

At first, some of Arthur’s diehard fans were unsettled by his leaving the show, Minyard said, judging from calls and letters.

“But they didn’t feel so strongly about it that they turned off,” Minyard said. “Now we get really good comments. It’s all worked out for the best.”


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