On Wednesday morning, veteran KROQ-FM on-air personality Kevin Ryder, best known as cohost of the alt-rock station’s long-running “Kevin & Bean” show, opened what listeners assumed would be another edition of his morning radio program with an announcement.
“Yesterday, I got a phone call that I and everyone here on the morning show at KROQ was fired,” said Ryder, who had been with the station for 30 years.
“All of us,” he repeated, his voice pinched with anger, naming cohosts Allie Mac Kay, Jensen Karp and nicknamed compadres including the King of Mexico, Beer Mug and Old Man Ruben.
Ryder, aware that he and his posse had pranked his listeners dozens of times over the decades, felt the need to clarify: “This isn’t a joke. It actually happened.”
Though the news caught most listeners off-guard, the shift was the latest in a series of recent behind-the-scenes maneuvers at KROQ-FM (106.7). Once among the top-performing drive-time slots in the market, "Kevin & Bean” in 2019 fell from the fifth to the 14th most popular shows among listeners ages 25 to 54. Last month, Kevin Weatherly, the station’s longtime programmer and senior vice president for parent company Entercom, left his position for a job with music streaming service Spotify.
Weatherly’s departure followed the 2019 retirement of Ryder’s longtime on-air partner, Gene “Bean” Baxter. After Baxter left, “Kevin & Bean” was renamed “Kevin in the Morning With Allie & Jensen.”
Despite the off-mike action, on the air that final morning, Ryder said the mass firing “was a surprise to all of us.” His voice filled with emotion, he expressed his love for his terrestrial radio tribe, many of whom grew up with him. “You guys have been incredibly loyal and loving and giving,” Ryder said, “and many of you have literally grown up with us, because Bean and I are incredibly old.”
Neither Ryder nor Mac Kay responded to requests for comment. In a statement, cohost Karp said, in part: “I’m happy with the time I was able to spend contributing to a legendary morning show, and I’m extremely disappointed with how it ended over the phone, especially considering how hard it will be for the entire team to find work during this pandemic.”
Ryder was less diplomatic in his antipathy toward Entercom, the media company that acquired KROQ after merging with CBS Radio in 2017. Based in Philadelphia, the publicly traded Entercom is the second-largest radio station owner in America, behind IHeartMedia. Entercom owns more than 200 stations, including five in the L.A. market, among them newser KNX-AM (1070), commercial pop station KAMP-FM (97.1), a.k.a. 97.1 Amp Radio and KCBS-FM (93.1), a.k.a. Jack FM.
“The new people in charge now, they weren’t here for the building of the World Famous KROQ,” Ryder said during his farewell. “I don’t think it means anything to them. It’s a numbers business, and there’s no family aspect to it anymore. It’s only numbers.”
Ryder and Baxter were unknowns when they debuted on KROQ on New Year’s Eve, 1989. Neither had ever done a morning show before, but across the 1990s, the team and the station ascended to become national power brokers. In Los Angeles, “Kevin & Bean” first hit the coveted No. 1 ranking in 2003. As its stature grew, the show helped launch the careers of late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, podcast giant Adam Carolla and comedian Chris Hardwick.
On Twitter, Kimmel expressed outrage at the way Entercom handled the situation. “Shame on you, @kroq ‘management’ for caring so little about the people who gave you so much. Especially now.”
As rock music was supplanted by hip-hop and pop music on the commercial charts, KROQ’s ratings fell, and across the years, noted DJs including Rodney Bingenheimer, Richard Blade and Jed the Fish left the station. In February, KROQ ranked No. 15 in the Los Angeles market, according to Nielsen.
Entercom declined to comment about the circumstances of Ryder’s departure. In a statement, a company spokesperson wrote that KROQ’s commitment “is to provide our consumers with the most compelling content and best listening experience that we know they expect from us. We’ve taken a deep look at our station, and have made some recent changes.”
Ryder and company’s replacements are afternoon drive-time hosts Kevin Klein and Ted Stryker.
“ ‘Kevin & Bean’ set the bar high for mornings on KROQ,” Mike Kaplan, Entercom’s senior vice president of programming, added in a separate statement. “We’re looking forward to this next chapter in the station’s history and think our listeners will enjoy getting to see a different side to Stryker and Klein as they start their day.”
Baxter’s and Ryder’s exits couldn’t have been more different. Baxter was given the radio equivalent of a ticker-tape parade when he left the show in November. In an interview with The Times, Baxter was asked about KROQ’s place in the market. He didn’t pull any punches.
“I hate to shoot my own station in the foot, but it appeals to an older demo that would much rather hear the Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers songs that they grew up with than too much new music,” he said.
Ryder was less diplomatic. On the air, he vented about the timing, and how it will affect the team: “Our boss said, ‘You know, there’s never a good time for this.’ No — but there is a bad time for this, and it’s during a global pandemic when all the businesses are basically shutting down. It’s not a great time to be looking for a job.”