Al Lohman, the broadcaster who teamed up with Roger Barkley in 1963 and, as Lohman and Barkley, reigned for nearly two decades as Southern California’s top radio comedy duo, has died. He was 69.
Lohman, whose silly, impromptu humor and even sillier cast of character voices lightened the morning commute for thousands of Southern Californians, died Sunday in Rancho Mirage of complications from bladder cancer.
First teamed at KLAC-AM (570) and then at KFWB-AM (980) before settling in at KFI-AM (640) in 1968, Lohman and Barkley spent years at the top or near the top of the morning drive-time ratings.
“For over a quarter-century, Al Lohman carved out a special place in L.A. radio history,” said Don Barrett, author of “Los Angeles Radio People” and executive editor of LARadio.com.
“He was funny, enormously popular, and yet so unassuming,” Barrett said. “His teaming with the late Roger Barkley made mornings tolerable and fun for so many of us for so many years.”
“He was always very funny, a great entertainer, and just one of the nicest guys,” said broadcaster Gary Owens, who met Lohman in 1957 when they were both working in radio in Omaha and later introduced Lohman to Barkley on the sidewalk in front of Wallach’s Music City in Hollywood.
Inspired by the comedy of Bob and Ray, Lohman and Barkley served up a mix of music, news, commercials, banter and unwritten and unrehearsed comedy bits.
The dry-witted Barkley played straight man to the off-the-wall Lohman, who created a large stable of zany characters who made up the Lohman and Barkley “staff.” One was human interest man Ted J. Balogna, who commuted daily from Brawley in his used firetruck with his wife, W. Eva Schneider Balogna, the poetry editor, hanging on the back; another was farm reporter Maynard Farmer, who was prone to being kidnapped.
There also were the gluttonous food critic Leonard Leonard (author of “Eat, or You Will Die”), whose muffled and wheezing delivery sounded like Mike Roy, who at the time was the jovial gourmet chef at KNX-AM (1070); reporter Cecil Hudspith, who tooled around in his Hudspithmobile, which doubled as a lending library; and Judge Roy Bean, staff musicologist and classical actor, who was from Texas, where he led a polka band, the Beans on the Plate Orchestra.
Lohman also tapped the show’s sponsors, most famously Longo Toyota, for comedy bits.
Lohman and Barkley regularly entertained listeners with a wacky version of a soap opera, complete with a dramatic theme played on the organ: “Light of My Life: The True-to-Life Story of Men and Women Living Their Span of Years in a Typical, Small Midwestern Community, Pine City.”
“I wouldn’t call what we do satire,” Lohman said in 1975, when the team was at the height of its popularity.
“It’s a sort of funny nihilism. It’s the idea that we shouldn’t get too uptight about things because it’s all pretty funny.... Our basic outlook, I think is that somehow the world will bumble by.”
Born in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, Lohman said he inherited a sense of humor from his parents.
“As a kid, I was always doing something silly,” he told The Times in 1980. “Later I wanted to do it for a living, but in Iowa at that time there were no nightclubs so you couldn’t go on the stage. Radio was the natural outlet.”
He worked at a radio station in Storm Lake, Iowa, while he was in college.
After two years in the Army, during which he worked on Armed Forces Radio while stationed in Panama, Lohman landed a job as a disc jockey at a radio station in Omaha around 1957.
He later worked at stations in Denver, Dallas and at WABC-AM (770) New York before heading to Los Angeles in 1962. Barkley, the new program director at KLAC, hired Lohman to be the station’s morning DJ.
Fate intervened in 1963 when Metromedia purchased KLAC and fired Barkley and the low-rated Lohman.
One day, Lohman and Barkley were sitting in a bar speculating about the two guys from Cleveland that Metromedia planned to hire to replace Lohman in the morning slot.
“I said, ‘Al, you’re out and I’m out, so why don’t we do a team act and audition for your old morning job?’ ” Barkley said later.
“Well those guys from Cleveland must have been bad, because we won the job.”
It took a while before the team of Lohman and Barkley began paying big dividends for listeners.
When KLAC went to an all-talk format in 1967, the duo moved to KFWB, and when that station went to all news in 1968, they found a permanent home at KFI.
Lohman and Barkley made two forays into local weekly television, including a KNBC-TV Channel 4 variety comedy show from 1967 to 1970 that won them two local Emmy Awards, and a syndicated comedy-variety show in the mid 1970s that lasted a couple of years.
They also appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Hollywood Squares,” and in 1969 were hosts on an afternoon NBC game show, “Name Droppers.”
In 1985, they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Lohman and Barkley often compared their professional relationship to being married.
“We’ve been together in Hollywood longer than most marriages,” Lohman told The Times in 1973.
But the marriage unexpectedly came to an end one morning in May 1986, when Barkley phoned in his resignation to KFI, shocking management, listeners -- and his partner of 23 years.
Barkley said at the time that he and Lohman had been “getting along all right,” but he was “getting to a point in my life where I had to make a change. The strain of it--the hours, the stress and the tradition--was getting to be too much for me.”
“It was a complete surprise, a complete wow-er,” Lohman told The Times. “I really still don’t understand it, though I’ve had a few days to mull it over now. If he’s got a problem with it, I still don’t know what it was. But so far as I know, he wasn’t unhappy with me, nor I with him. I guess it just got to him, finally.”
Lohman’s daughter, Kim, said Monday that her father and Barkley never spoke to each other after the breakup, “which is a shame because I think they really loved each other.
“I think it was a painful loss for both Roger and my dad.”
After the breakup, Barkley became solo host of a morning show on KJOI-FM (98.7) then teamed up with Ken Minyard on KABC-AM (790) from 1990 to 1996. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1997 at age 61.
After short stints at a Simi Valley station and at KRLA-AM (870), with Emperor Bob Hudson, Lohman returned to KFI in 1987 as co-host of a morning show with Owens.
A year later, however, Lohman and Owens were let go by KFI, which had changed to a heavy news and talk format.
Lohman did voice-overs and commercial work, returning to radio in 1990 to do a morning show on KPLM-FM (106.1) in Palm Springs.
He later became morning man at KCMJ-AM (1270) in Palm Springs and did other work for the station’s local affiliates through most of the 1990s.
Lohman, a Rancho Mirage resident, was frequently asked to emcee big band nights and other events in Palm Springs, said Gary De Maroney, director of program operations for Morris Desert Media, which owns KCMJ.
“So many people grew up with him, his icon status was large,” said De Maroney.
“He was a man full of life and knew how to live it and express it. He could take the most serious situation and make you smile.”
Lohman is survived by his wife of 44 years, Mary Ann; a son, Al Lohman III, of Branson, Mo.; his daughter, Kim, of Thousand Oaks; and his sister, Martha Braithwaite of Sioux Falls, S.D.
A memorial service is pending.
The family requests that any donations be made to the American Cancer Society.