They couldn’t stop talking Sunday--the day the music died.
After nearly 40 years of Elvis, Fats Domino and the Four Tops, Los Angeles radio station KRLA-AM (1110) pulled the plug on rock ‘n’ roll music. And listeners weren’t happy.
“It’s a sad day. We’re recording you as long as we have empty tapes,” telephoned a listener named Sherry from Garden Grove.
“My dad always taught me 1110 was No. 1. Now 1110’s gone,” said David of San Gabriel.
“We’re gonna miss you. We’ve been listening to you all our lives,” moaned a Long Beach caller named Carl.
That kind of anger and angst would have made a perfect topic for, gulp, talk radio. Which is precisely what KRLA became this morning.
It fell Sunday to the city’s longest-tenured radio personality to preside over the end of local radio’s longest-running rock music format.
Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg, a disc jockey since 1950, spent 14 hours playing old favorites and listening to people say goodbye.
For his final song at midnight, Hugg picked “That’s All” by the Midnighters from KRLA’s library of about 6,000 tunes, all rock or rhythm and blues.
He earned his nickname from a teasing broadcast engineer way back in 1951, during Hugg’s first job in radio. Now he has landed a job at KRTH-FM (101.1), a rival that specializes in oldies.
Between songs Sunday, Hugg promoted his new 9 p.m. to midnight show beginning Thursday on KRTH. Because the two stations are now owned by the same company, CBS, Hugg even got away with playing the KRTH jingle along with KRLA’s.
“We’ve gotten calls all week long from people actually crying,” said Hugg, 70, of Pico Rivera.
“One lady said she lit candles and prayed for me during my last morning show. I said, ‘Lady, I didn’t die! I’m just going uptown.’ ”
Upscale is what Hugg really means. The clearer, cleaner FM stereo broadcast signal has been the favorite of music listeners for at least 25 years.
But it was the AM broadcast band that was hot in 1959, when KRLA went on the air playing nonstop rock music from a Pasadena hotel. The station competed first with KFWB-AM (980) and later with KHJ-AM (930) for teenage listeners. Both of those stations changed programming formats years ago.
In the early days, youngsters would hang out at the hotel, hoping for a glimpse of their favorite KRLA disc jockeys. Darryl Evans of Sherman Oaks remembers taking two buses from the San Fernando Valley to reach the station.
“I’d knock on the glass window and try to get in,” he said. “I lived that station seven days a week--I’m surprised I got through high school.”
Evans parlayed his interest in KRLA into his own broadcasting career; these days he syndicates his own oldies music show. So on Sunday, Hugg invited him into KRLA’s current mid-Wilshire studios to say goodbye.
“KRTH plays the same 300 tunes over and over,” Evans opined, bemoaning KRLA’s demise. Not to worry, replied Hugg. Officials of the two stations have given him the OK to bring copies of some songs heard only on KRLA, he said.
KRLA engineer Jay Corrales assisted Hugg during the final hours of the final show. Corrales, of Monrovia, began working for Hugg for free in 1990, pulling song cartridges from the station library and answering phone calls.
“I know all these songs by heart,” Corrales said. “This is the station my family listened to. I grew up listening to it. It’s a sad day.”
Hugg, who worked at 10 Los Angeles-area radio stations before joining KRLA in 1984, said Sunday that his switch to the FM dial with its wider listening audience may be his biggest career move yet.
“This may be my big shot. I’ve been up for a star on Hollywood Boulevard. My fans sent in $8,000 for it a few years ago,” he said. “Maybe now I’ll get it.”