When radio program director Tony Coles was hired to help KIBB-FM (100.3) get off the ground, an objective of his was to find a celebrity to serve as one of the dance-R&B; station’s regular deejays.

In New York City, singer Isaac Hayes and the performing-songwriting team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson host popular music-oriented radio shows. Coles was confident that it was a concept that could also succeed in Los Angeles.

Soon after the station debuted last August, veteran soul singer Chaka Khan paid a visit to the Burbank-based station for an on-air interview. It didn’t take long for the bells to start going off in Coles’ head.


“Chaka was talking on our morning show and they put some listeners on with her,” recalls Coles. “She handled them so well and she’s got this tremendous voice. After she got off the air we thought, ‘Wow, she would actually make a pretty good deejay.’ We never thought she would do it. But we thought, ‘Hey, it never hurts to ask.’ ”

Khan initially balked at the startling idea of hosting a regular radio program. But after receiving encouragement from her sister-manager, Tammy McCrary, she agreed to a trial period in which she would co-host the station’s “Romance After Hours” program for six weeks.

That experimental phase concluded in mid-March with both Khan and the station, which is known as the New B100, excited about developing a more long-term relationship.

The late-night show (which airs Mondays through Thursdays from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) appears a natural fit for the gregarious and sultry voiced Khan. During the music-heavy program, she and partner Rick Hummer field song requests and dedications from listeners. The mood is usually light, loving and a bit sentimental.

The program consists mainly of soulful ballads from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s that range from Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1979 hit “After the Love Has Gone” to Toni Braxton’s current “Unbreak My Heart” single. Not surprisingly, the program will occasionally toss one of Khan’s own slow songs into the romantic mix.

For Khan, 44, digesting the mechanics of hosting a show--from learning how and when to present station identifications to handling the numerous listener phone calls--was a challenge.


“The first week [I did the show], I was on pins and needles,” she says. “But I’m lucky to have [Coles] and Rick. Rick’s got a lot of experience. With his help and support I’ve really jumped leaps and bounds. He gave me the self-assurance that I needed to relax and go with it. That’s all it is. It’s basically learning how to relax.”

Now the big challenge for Khan is trying to balance the radio show with her singing career. She’s still very much an active performer. Khan is planning a world tour that will probably commence in the summer and she hopes to land an HBO special. Last fall Reprise Records released a compilation called “Epiphany: The Best of Chaka Khan.”

Khan and Hummer prerecord shows for those nights when the vocalist is out of town. She says it’s not a difficult process, since the duo receives so many listener dedications and requests per night. Most of them cannot be aired during the course of one program.

But when Khan hits the concert trail for her world tour, she hopes to do part of the radio show from the road. When possible, she would like to be heard live via satellite.

Last February, Khan broadcast “Romance After Hours” from New York City, where she was performing at the Grammy Awards. While in the Big Apple, she landed in-studio interviews with Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, Brandy and Rosie O’Donnell.

“We had some really big celebrities in the studio with us,” Coles recalls. “We were able to accomplish in a couple of days what would take the average radio station weeks to put together. Not only does Chaka know these people, but she has their home phone numbers. She calls them up and says, ‘Hey, would you like to be on the station today?’ They walk into the interview feeling incredibly comfortable because it’s like walking into a friend’s house.”


As an interviewer, Khan believes she’s benefited from years of being queried by music journalists.

“It’s tough to think of what unique questions to ask people,” she says. “I know how boring it can get to answer the same question over and over again. So I try not to come from there. Hopefully, it’s working.”

Known for her powerhouse voice, which she displayed with the ‘70s-era group Rufus and subsequently as a solo artist, Khan admits to feeling somewhat constricted by the playlist she’s required to follow. She would like to expand the show’s format to include other styles such as jazz, which was her first musical love while growing up in Chicago. (She’ll be appearing at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl on June 14.)

A “new artist” segment highlighting up-and-coming and underappreciated performers is another item on Khan’s wish list.

“There’s a lot of artists, and major artists too, who have albums out and nobody knows about it because they’re with a crap record company,” she says. “I’m in a good position [to help these artists get exposure].”

Khan’s presence may lead to a syndication deal for the “Romance After Hours” show. Coles says the station is currently talking to interested companies about that very possibility.


Locally, the program helps balance out the New B100’s generally more upbeat daytime and early evening programming, which offers contemporary and classic dance/R&B; material. (In fact, a much more effervescent Hummer hosts a harder-edged show that precedes “Romance After Hours.”)

“We wanted to make the station a little bit different at night because a lot of our competitors [like KPWR-FM (105.9)] have softer music at night that has done very well,” explains Coles. “We’re really excited about the show. Listener response has been incredible. The listeners really identify with Chaka, and [her presence makes the show] very different than everything else in Los Angeles.”