As a kid growing up in the 1960's and 1970's in
Pasadena, California, I was heavily influenced by "Boss Radio" and the
Los Angeles personalities that made the Drake format work, especially
Humble Harve and Machine Gun Kelly. After graduating at John Muir High
in Pasadena, I attended Pasadena City College and received my First
Class Phone. While pursuing my education in radio, I was on a parallel
track pursuing acting, taking lessons from a veteran character actor
named Harrison Lewis who lived in Hollywood in an old bungalo, complete
with a mini stage. Harrison was an old man and had a neat old Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. Never saw it in person, just a photo.
About the same time my head shot (see picture at
right) was being rejected by talent agents because the "Blue-eyed
Blonde look" was "in", I bailed out of acting class when Harrison
wanted me to rehearse a romantic scene in which I played the man and he
would be "playing the woman." Who did he think I was? James Spader? I
suddenly remembered that I had to be somewhere else -- and I was late.
I may have been young, but I wasn't stupid.
Realizing that film and television acting at
least, wasn't going to be my bag, and neither was drumming (which I had
been practicing since I was 9-years-old), I took off to become a radio
personality... My flair for the dramatic lived on, however, and was
instrumental in the celebrity impressions and original character voices
I would eventually create for my "theater of the mind" approach to
radio. My characters could be anything I wanted them to be. Blonde,
brunette, white, black, rich, poor, educated or dullards. And they were
all of those things... and more..
While attending P.C.C. I met Chuck Van Horne, a.k.a. "The Flying
Dutchman" in one of my classes. Chuck had already been a success in
radio, working in San Bernardino at KMEN, among many other stations. I
was in awe of having a guy in class who had actually been "on the air"
somewhere. Chuck had just come back to finish up his degree. Chuck was
also teaching at Don Martin School of Communications in Hollywood and
introduced me to school director Steve "Boogie Down" Brown. Both of
these guys sensed my genuine ambition and helped me create a decent
aircheck after a few months of intensive instruction at Don Martin's,
which had developed a great reputation over the decades as one of the
few, legitimate, broadcasting schools that actually carried some clout
in the business.
Both Steve and Chuck played a major role in
helping me avoid spending years "in the bush" and I credit them with my
quick ascent to the major markets, which took place a scant 9 months
after starting my professional broadcast career in Monterey in 1978 at
the age of 18. Here's the rest of the career, along with a few
airchecks and anecdotes about each station I worked for as I remember
MAY 1978 to JUL 1978: Music Research and Promotions Assistant: KRLA AM — Los Angeles, CA
A fellow student at Pasadena City College, Victor Hyde, was a
board op at KRLA and helped me get a job screening listener calls,
which was code for deciding who spoke English fluently enough to be put
on the air with their requests. At the time, KRLA was a big hit with
the Latino community in L.A., playing a lot of low rider faves and
doing listener "dedications". I last spoke to Victor around 1993, I
think. He'd been a roadie for The Pretenders and up to that
point at least, had an interesting career map over the years. Art LaBoe
was consulting the station at the time and his son called one evening,
looking for his father, presumably. For whatever reason he called on
the request line and in the ensuing moments struck me as being one of
the most unusually arrogant jackasses I'd ever had the displeasure of speaking with. When I asked "Who's calling, please?" he shot back with "I'm Art LaBoe's SON. Who the f___ are YOU?!".
Hey, whatever. Still, the overall experience of working at KRLA was
fun. Johnny Hayes was on the air, and Sherman Cohen and Guy Zapolean
were working in programming at the time.
I remember being awestruck one evening, leaning over the railing up
stairs and looking down on the linoleum tile flooring below, picturing
the Beatles walking through the station some 15 years before, when Bob
Eubanks was glad-handing and back slapping the Fab Four on their tour
of America as they were getting ready to play the Hollywood Bowl. Very
cool. There was kind of a quiet magical feeling about the place when it
was night time, the lights were off, and the place was quiet except for
the control room monitors.
About this same time (while still working the phones at KRLA), I
started doing automation voice tracks for a guy named Ron Lewis (no
relation to my former acting coach Harrison Lewis). Ron was
running a radio syndication company called "The Innovation Organization"
out of his garage in Simi Valley and had a very impressive client list.
He was also operating a local cable-only radio station from that same
garage called Q-96. I remember thinking
that was pretty darned cool. To be running your own radio station from
the garage that other people could actually tune in to. Who cares if
you only have four listeners? To download the full jingle package,
click the calls above. Ron was a quirky guy, but I liked him. He had
the first Sony Betamax I had ever seen, and was amassing quite a
collection of "provocactive" titles, if you know what I mean. I was
saddened to learn from mutual radio acquaintance and fellow jock Larry
McKay that Ron Lewis passed away in 1992 or 1993 following a stroke
while still in his 40's.
JUL 1978 to JAN 1979: Air Personality & Production Director: KIDD AM — Monterey, CA
Fresh out of broadcasting school, Billy Moore
was the first PD who ever hired me for an on-air position. Billy's
kindness, talent and guidance, along with the aforementioned efforts of
Steve Brown and Chuck Van Horne, shaped my future in broadcasting
tremendously. I had a great time in Monterey, living on my own for the
first time and learning my trade. Billy was an excellent guide to high
quality production values -- and remained so until his death on August
4th, 2005 at the age of 62. Billy's voice can be heard on the aircheck.
The cocking gun sound is authentic. Billy sent me on an errand to a gun
store in Monterey with a tape recorder and the instructions to record
the sound of a Winchester rifle being cocked, when he couldn't come up
with the right "pushbutton" sound effect from an actual car radio. It's
a cool sweeper and a great memory of "guerilla production" in terms of
how it was created. Can't find the right sound effect? Roll your own!
After losing contact with Billy for about 11 years, I tracked him
down in 1989 and after renewing our friendship, hired him to do promo
tracks for KIST in Santa Barbara when I was Ops Manager there . Billy
and I stayed in regular contact until he passed away. I sure miss my
friend... Billy was a kind, gentle soul who touched the lives of many.
He was one of the closest friends I've ever had. Phillip Morris and the
tobacco industry hooked him early and killed him dead, just like they
killed my grandfather, father, and another very close friend of mine in
the business, Steve Irwin (no relation to the Croc hunter) on March
25th, 2003. Like Billy, Steve was just 62 years old. Please stop
smoking -- or better yet, don't ever start.
My portion of the aircheck is painful to listen to, but take note
the tight board work, which was really pretty good in retrospect. When
compared to my later air work, this makes for an interesting contrast
in terms of my voice. It should also provide hope to anyone just
starting out. Met a few neat old radio guys up there on the Monterey
peninsula. Mike Moyse was one of them. As I recall, he was losing his
sight progressivley after being hit in the face with fire extinguishing
chemicals in an auto racing accident some years earlier. He was one of
those guys that knew everything about everyone on the radio. In August,
2005 I received an e-mail out of the blue from Mike's adoptive
daughter. She told me her Dad died in 1986 at the age of 37. If anyone
has any old Mike Moyse airchecks, please let me know so I can forward
the info to his daughter.
Learning my craft under the guidance of Billy Moore.
Seeing salesman Buddy Lowe wandering through the streets dressed like Santa Claus (the first black Santa I had ever seen).
Living on my own for the first time and finding new girls to date,
including a hair dresser whose smoking turned me off, and a tall
Australian named Juliet whose heart I inadvertently broke. She was
looking for her Romeo. I was looking for my next radio gig. Radio won.
Working at a nightclub for teens called "Bassackwards", which paid
better than my radio job. The owner was just a year or two older than I
was, but very business saavy. I was extremely impressed with that kid.
Very sharp. He opened another club down the coast about the same time I
took my next radio job. I wound up working for him again there, also,
and stayed until I went to work in L.A. The money from the club gig
helped me to survive, since the pay in radio in the smaller markets is
so terrible. But I didn't care about the money. At least, not yet.
Catching sight of Clint Eastwood exiting his red Ferrari and
walking over to our building to visit his dentist (whose chair was
right below the air studio).
The excitement that I felt when Mike Moyse was able to tune in KACY
in Oxnard via the "skip" waves on AM, one night the week before I left
to go work there.
The sound of fog horns and sea lions from my little studio apartment with a glassed in porch on Eddie Burns Lane.
Having my sister Donna come down from San Francisco to help me turn
that $170 a month hovel into a home with a few coats of paint, some
curtains and a lot of elbow grease, which we used to remove the actual grease from the walls in the kitchen.
The novelty of living in a place with a pull-chain toilet, and a
dope smoking hippie for a manager upstairs. Nice guy though, and a
great apartment that he got for free for looking after the "Sunshine
Helping fellow Don Martin alum Don St. John aka Don Edwards aka Don Pratt get his first job at the same station.
Sitting in my apartment with Don one evening, making fun of the new guy that the station hired, who was fresh out of the Columbia School of Broacasting.
This guy was so terrible, he'd cue up zero intro songs, wow into the
opening because nobody had ever taught him that you had to cue records
a quarter turn before the sound begins on the record groove (so the turntable had the chance to ramp up to speed), and then he'd talk
over the zero intro, adding insult to his own injury. I'll never
listen to the opening of "Another Day" by Paul McCartney the same way
Hearing that the terrible new weekend guy was going back to "teach"
at Columbia School of Broadcasting after he was let go at 63 KIDD.
Newsman Jack Parr's sneaking a fifth of bourbon into the news room
frequently, and nobody seeming to care too much about it, after finding
the empty bottles in the trash can.
Riding downhill and balancing with "no hands" on my Honda 350 Scrambler motorcycle.
Having to get by on a gross amount of $650 per month, doing PM Drive.
Having my parents follow me on the nine hour drive from Pasadena to
Monterey and on my newly purchased motorcyle, which I had not been
riding for very long. By the time we got to my new apartment in
Monterey, my hands were numb from the cold and my parents were both
white as a sheet from the long drive behind me. I'll never forgive
myself for putting them through that.
Having to push my motorcycle all over town because it kept breaking down.
Watching the all night guy, Booker T., looking down and slowly
shake his head from side to side in the office area when Billy was
asking him how I did on my very first night on the air... I thought I
Getting called into the General Manager's office at eight in the
morning after a fellow jock got a little too "touchy-feely" with an
underage girl at the Del Mar County Fair the night before after asking
me to give her younger sister a ride home. I wound up having to speak
to the girl's irate mother on the phone from the GM's office the next
morning, assuring her that nothing untoward had happened to her eldest
daughter. I was furious that the other jock's "antics" had landed me
in hot water and that I had to bail him out and straighten up HIS
mess... I shouldn't have been too concerned. This very GM wanted to
hire me back as PD a few months later when Billy Moore left the
station. I passed. I didn't want to back track. Los Angeles was my
goal, and I was focused on getting there.
Being awakened early in the mornings by the jackhammers of a
construction crew under my floor that was hired to install a new
foundation in the ancient apartment building I lived in.
Getting sick my last day on the air, and being unable to finish my
shift with another half hour to go after throwing up into the trash can
Having my newly purchased VW bus, loaded with all my posessions,
have an engine failure on my way out of town to accept my next radio
job in Oxnard. The used car dealer in Monterey that I bought it from
probably knew it had a cracked block. A Mexican mechanic named Angel,
proved to be just that, as he worked tirelessly through the weekend,
completely rebuilding my engine. He was also nice enough to accept some
personal items like a new Scuba diving regulator I had as collateral
until I could come up with the balance that I still owed to him.
Leaving behind my beloved 1967 Triumph Spitfire Mk3 sports car,
which had developed transmission trouble and sustained damage I was
unable to afford to repair. My friend and co-worker Don Edwards (Don
Pratt) sold it for me for a couple of hundred bucks a few months later.
After having a couple of dreams in ensuing years about finding my old
car under a tarp somewhere, I finally decided to do something about it
a few years ago, and got myself another one.
JAN 1979 to JUN 1979: Air Personality & Public Affairs Director: KACY AM — Oxnard/Ventura, CA
KACY 152 -- "The Music People". My second full-time radio gig was a
good stepping stone to L.A. I was hired by a PD named Don Sinclair. On
my way down the coast to take the job, GM Don Davis fired Sinclair and
replaced him with an over-fed, long-haired, leaping gnome
named Jim Barker. Sinclair told me that Barker, formerly Music
Director, had "stabbed him in the back" to get his programming gig. Oh,
that's just terrific. I wondered if I even still had a job!!
I remember meeting with Barker for the first time. I was hired for
the all-night shift, which I wasn't crazy about just coming off of
afternoon drive -- but I was pleased with the market size jump, so I
went for it. Anyway, Barker looks at me and says "Get used to your new
name. We're going to call you Jason Daniels". When I asked why, he said that he wanted to give me "a name with more punch
to it". I told him that I thought it sounded like a name for a hair
dresser and that if I was going to do the all night shift, I was going
to keep my name that I'd already been using, because I had already been
successful with it up the coast. He sort of winced and smiled at the
same time and said "well, if you feel that strongly about it..." I told him "yes, I do" and spent about four months there -- as Jeff McNeal.
I was quickly promoted to evenings, when the evening jock by the
name of Don Johnston was tragically killed on his motorcycle while
fleeing the police at high speed. He whacked into a chain link fence.
The poor guy just eeked out a living for himself and lived out of his
old black VW van much of the time. He had been excited about doing some
work in L.A. dubbing English voice overs over foreign films. Poor guy.
He'd just bought that motorcycle and wasn't even wearing a helmet. No
wife or kids, at least. I received a strange e-mail a few years ago
from a friend of Don's who was espousing some sort of conspiracy in
which Don was being chased by some bad guys and the police were
actually trying to help him when he was killed. I guess we'll never really know.
Tom Lynch was an old-timer doing afternoons and I liked him
tremendously. He'd been with the station for many years and was one of
those guys who are content to stay in the smaller markets and be the
big fish. Tom mooned me once from the transmitter room on the other
side of the glass while I was on the air, and I've never seen an uglier
ass before or since, thank goodness.
Some strange guy from England named "Lord Tim"
did a brief gig or two there. He claimed to be the "real" fifth Beatle
and a friend of the Rolling Stones or something. We used to make fun of
Lord Tim behind his back. We liked him though. He was such an
eccentric, and had the genuine British accent and all that.
Barker hired some woman whose name I can't remember to do the all
night shift, Donna something, maybe. But she had red hair and a temper
to match and really wasn't very pleasant to be around. In fact, she was
so disagreeable that we barely acknowledged each other when the shifts
were changing. I didn't want to hear about her problems and just wanted
to get off the air and go home. I thought she was a little weird.
Little did I realize...
One night, after I got off the air at Midnight, I went to the FM
side to make a phone call to a friend when the whole station went dark.
The FM automation went down, the lights, everything. Even the phones.
Just then, Donna let out this bloodcurdling scream and came running
back saying that I had to "protect" her. she then began a wild
rant about how our PD, Jim Barker, was coming to kill her, out of
revenge apparently, because she had "spurned his advances" and she had
told his wife about it, etc. Shades of Diabolique. The Barkers,
who had a child they named Aubrey after the song by Bread, rented a
room to Donna or something. I didn't really believe her story, but SHE
seemed to believe it. I didn't understand at the time that she was
psychotic, but I would soon find out.
After nervously watching the parking lot for any signs of a crazed
Jim Barker for about 20 minutes, I got the heck out of the building and
went home, adreinalin still pumping, slightly shaken by the strange
event. The next day, Don Davis called us all into his office and wanted
to know what the hell was going on. I relayed the story as I was told
it by Donna as Jim Barker nervously twitched in the corner of the room
and I left soon thereafter.
Donna never made it back for her next shift. I found out later that she was involuntarily committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital
for observation for a few days after making death threats against
Barker, Davis and yours truly. Don't ask me why she wanted to kill me.
Nice little station -- especially when Donna was canned and never
returned, with a knife or a gun or whatever. Funny when you think that
it was owned by Children's Television Workshop. There was a big ugly
mural of Sesame Street characters in the front lobby. Just the thing
you want to see when you come in to work every day. A giant mural of
Big Bird, Ernie, Burt and alphabet blocks...
Ordering pizza from a local place that really knew how to make pizzas. One
night, according to Don Martin alum Jeff McMurray (Fred's nephew), I
accidentally knocked the transmitter off the air when I opened the
transmitter cabinet door to warm the pizza with the heat from the
massive 50kw transmitter tubes (!) after the delivery driver had gotten
lost and it was lukewarm by the time we got it. I must have tripped
some sort of a safety switch. Jeff said "we sat there staring at
the hotline for a couple of minutes, knowing that you were going to be
killed. When nobody called, we just laughed our asses off."
Taking tower meter readings -- from the three towers themselves, in
a field of waist high weeds in the middle of the night while I was on
the air playing long songs like Elton John's "Funeral For a A Friend",
CCR's "Heard It Through The Grapevine" and Rod Stewarts "Do Ya Think
I'm Sexy." Those long, 7-10+ minute songs were life-savers. It was
kinda scary out there in the dark in those weeds though, especially
when someone told me about a girl being raped out there some time
Seeing an older guy with white hair and a beard, named Charlie
something, who mainly tended the FM automation, getting fired after
inadvertently saying "f__k" on the air at four in the morning one day.
I figured he was in there solid, being a distinguished, older guy with
experience. I figured wrong.
Running the production board to record a public service program
featuring a "fire and brimstone" black preacher and a half dozen of his
flock, chanting "Amen", Hallelujah" and singing spirituals. It was a
kick in the pants and surreal. I had to surpress myself from breaking
out in peels of giggles and laughter.
Actually working with a guy that Barker had successfully re-named
"Jason Daniels" at another station in Los Angeles the following year.
The name actually suited this guy, too.
The vision of a bleary-eyed Don Johnston emerging from his VW bus,
that he would frequently sleep in overnight at the station parking lot.
He'd crawl outa there with his hair all akimbo, looking like a guy who
just slept all night in his van.
Finding out that the PD who had hired me for the job just the week
before had been fired while I was driving down to take the new job.
Learning of Don Johnston's sudden, tragic and senseless death.
Sure, I had wanted to be promoted to a better shift, but not like
Driving all the way to Oxnard from Pasadena where I had been
spending the weekend with my parents, only to learn I had been let go,
the Monday after I had given the station two weeks notice as a
courtesy, because I was starting a job in Los Angeles. When I went into
Don Davis' office demanding an explanation for this slight, he just
looked up from his desk, smiled, and said: "Well, that's just our
station policy." I shot back "Well, your station policy SUCKS". A few
moments later, in a feeble attempt to soothe my anger, Barker came
running out after me in the parking lot, offering to give me a few
albums (in lieu of the next two weeks of pay, which I wasn't getting,
either). "Get out of my way unless you want to get run over", I
growled. I'd later have my "payback" with Don Davis for cutting me
loose with no pay after I had professionally and courteously given the
station two weeks written notice... But fortunately, I would never see
nor hear from that strange little man, Jim Barker, again.
JUN 1979 to APR 1980: Air Personality, Promotion & Production Director: KUTE FM — Los Angeles, CA
Bill Stevens was the PD that gave me my first break in Los Angeles
radio. I used to drive to Pasadena from Ventura each weekend to visit
my folks and old friends and I'd drop off a new aircheck at the
station in Glendale almost every week for a critique from Bill, who was
kind enough to offer his advice. After several weeks of these sessions,
he hired me to do 6pm to midnight at the disco station. This was a huge
break for me. I was actually on the air in Los Angeles!! When I was 15,
I had figured it might take me ten years to break into the L.A. market
as a personality. I had achieved my goal six years ahead of schedule
and just nine months after starting radio. The second aircheck that is
included here is from my very first night on the air in Los Angeles.
I was doing Midnight to 5 AM to get used to the board and the
formatics. The aircheck is a scoped hour between 2-3 AM. This was a
very challenging gig, in that we had to synchronize the beats of the
songs and fade from one to the next -- just like they were doing in the
Disco's at the time. So we had to do our best to find matching BPMs
during the segues. That part time gig at Bassackwards prepped me well
for this, but looking back on it, the whole concept was pretty strange,
but cutting edge for the time. Note the dated reference to winning
"LP's". This was a good 4 years before the first compact discs were
introduced and vinyl was still king. There's an interesting contrast in
terms of smoothness of delivery and confidence between my first night
on the air and when the air check at the top of this section was
created. The next several months would mark a real change (for the
better) in my delivery.
Shortly after I came on board, Inner City Broadcasting brought out
their New York star, the infamous (think "payola") Frankie Crocker, to
make KUTE 102 number one in L.A. Just like he did at WKTU. What
management and Frankie apparently didn't realize was that L.A. isn't
New York. He immediately alienated the full-time air staff by demanding
that they stay an hour or two after their shifts to do production. He
quickly fired Promotion Director "Lucky" Pierre, put former PD and
morning man Bill Stevens on the all night shift, took Lon Thomas from
afternoon drive and turned him into a morning show BOARD OP (how
demeaning) and Frankie did the morning show himself, flanked by two
attractive young women that some on the staff jokingy referred to as
"hookers with day jobs". The relationship that Frankie had with them at
times seemed downright pimp-like - bordering on the abusive. He'd
scream at them all the time. I remember standing in the lobby one
morning while Crocker was on the air and hearing him blurt loudly:
"Rochelle!!! Where in the HELL is my NAT KING COLE!!" Apparently, he
wanted to throw a little 50's smooth jazz vocals into the otherwise
At one point, Frankie decided that he needed a Production Director
and being a lowly weekender, I threw my hat in the ring. He hired me
for the gig. I was elated, since it was an AFTRA station, which meant I
would be receiving full-time scale, which was about $36k a year at the
time -- a far cry from that $650 a month I'd been earning just a year
earlier in Monterey. Well, that lasted about two weeks. I went from a
four hour production shift at union scale to just dubbing spots for
nine hours a day at minimum wage, once accounting got wind of what the
job entailed. So... I quit and went to work for Mike Wagner at KIIS FM,
doing weekends and fill (more on that below).
A few months later, Frankie fired long-time midday personality
Chris Roberts, who had threatened to punch Crocker in his surgically
straightened nose and Crocker had his assistant call to ask me to come
back to the station and work full-time on the air. Being my first
opportunity to work full-time in Los Angeles at that luscious
union scale I had been tantalized with earlier, I accepted the offer
and thus became the "only full time teen-aged disk jockey" in Los
Angeles. I was nineteen at the time. I started out doing 8-midnight,
followed on the air at midnight by Bill Stevens, the PD who originally hired me for weekends
(the irony was not lost on either of us) and was quickly promoted to
Noon to 4 and additionally, Promotions Director after "Lucky Pierre"
had also been given the boot.
Meanwhile, a mutiny was brewing. The old staffers that still
remained conspired to have Frankie Crocker fired and eventually did --
but not before three of them were fired in a most dramatic
fashion -- in an airstaff meeting with everyone else present. The day
of that meeting, a memo circulated by management requested a meeting
regarding "An important announcement about the PD of KUTE".
Thinking that Crocker was being fired and shipped back to New York, the
original staffers gathered, giggled, high-fived and carried on -- even
buying Kentucky Fried chicken to celebrate in a little informal lunch
"party" before the meeting. That is, until Crocker walked into the
room. Franklie gave off a Darth Vader-like vibe and when he walked into
a room, it seemed like the breath just got sucked right out of your
lungs and the air temperature dropped by at least ten degrees. No
matter what else can be said about the man, he really did have
Months later, after Bill Stevens had regained his authority in a second, successful
coup attempt, he brought back "Lucky Pierre" and limited my role on the
air significantly when he hired my former idol-turned-rival Humble
Harve Miller for my shift. Not wanting to take a step backward, I left
for "greener" pastures. Before leaving, I helped Chuck Van Horne get
his first gig in Los Angeles -- doing mornings at KUTE 102. I was very
proud to help someone who had helped me so much in my early stages of
development as a personality.
Collecting $500 in cash from the manager of Osco's Disco on La
Cienega, for showing up with Motown recording artists on occasion. This
was the easiest way to make extra money that I'd ever experienced. It
was wonderful. I met Rick James, Tina Marie, Harold Melvin and the
Bluenotes, and several other popular acts of the day. It was wild.
Going roller skating with the staff in our gaudily embroidered
satin jackets that featured a Southern Californa scene including surf,
palm trees, roller skaters and a Rolls Royce with Frankie Crocker's
name on the license plate. I had the Cat's Pajamas insert my name on the plate for my jacket, but never pointed this out to Frankie, naturally.
Hearing about David Don's romantic relationship with "Mork and
Mindy's" Pam Dawber. Don was the all night guy, who was also a
struggling actor, and he used to smell the candy bars through the
wrappers in the "honor snack" box, rather than succumb to the
temptation of actually eating them. That way, he wouldn't gain
weight. Nice fella that David Don. I saw him in a commercial or two
over the years, but that's been about it.
Musing over Joe Green's (John Peters) "happy go lucky" persona, influenced by his absorption by "EST".
Hearing the daily tirades of Lee Bailey, who hated Frankie
Crocker's intrusion more than anyone, right up to the day he was fired
in that staff meeting. He was the quintessential "angry young man". His
rants were the stuff of myth and legend. I would run into Lee Bailey two decades
later at a Guerrilla Marketing seminar in Northern California.
Helping my friend and mentor, Chuck Van Horn, land his first gig in Los Angeles -- doing the morning show, no less.
Learning that one of my all-time radio idols had clay feet -- and a
dirty little secret. I inadvertently heard Humble Harve relating some
rather ah, personal stories of his time in the joint after his
conviction for murdering his wife in the late '60's. He was talking to
a groupie on the phone with the door to the studio open. The door to
the production room was also open and so I learned things about the man
that I'd wished I'd never heard that involved blood, knives and feces.
Getting pressured by Humble Harve to get more than his fair share
of the Osco gigs. By this time, I was the Promotions Director and I
placed all the jocks in equal rotation to collect the extra cash that
was flowing from the disco each week, which was the only fair way to
handle it. Harve said "Hey man, I need the bread. I don't want to have
to go over your head, but I will if I have to." Evidently, he did.
Nothing like the feeling of getting bullied by one of your heroes.
Being displaced from my full-time airshift by the cash-starved
Humble Harve, and getting relegated to occasional all night shifts by
Bill Stevens after he successfully engineered the coup against Frankie
Crocker and regained his former position of authority. I guess this was
probably my first real taste of radio politics - as one of the pawns.
APR 1980 to SEP 1980: Air Personality: KHTZ FM — Los Angeles, CA
San Diego radio staple Gene Knight was up in L.A. working with his
buddy and PD, Bobby Rich. Gene would listen to me on his way to work
and after he noticed I was no longer on the air full time at KUTE 102,
he called, introduced himself, told me he liked my work, and asked if
I'd be interested in talking to Bobby about an opening at KHTZ. To this
day, I think that was one of the nicest things that a perfect stranger
has ever done for me. Bobby took a liking to me and hired me for the
6-10pm shift and I left KUTE. A few months later, Bobby was fired by GM
Tim Smith and after several weeks, I could read the handwriting on the
wall. I quit before I could be fired and went back to KIIS FM. I was
grateful to have the chance to meet and work with another long-time
radio legend that I'd grown up listening to -- Charlie Tuna. He
completely ignored me for the first few weeks I worked there whenever
we'd pass in the halls. Then all of a sudden one day, he smiled and
said "Hi guy!" The sudden friendliness was almost startling. I enjoyed
a few long chats in the production room with Charlie about the "old
days" of L.A. radio. Ten-Q had just been sold off, but the orange shag
carpeting on the walls of the studio remained. The building itself was
creepy, having been a former mortuary. The station moved while I was
there into state of the art facilities on Wilshire Blvd behind the Red
Onion restaurant. Or was it Purple Onion? Eh, I can't remember. I
experienced my first and last "lost weekend" that involved copious
amounts of alcohol, loud music and Hollywood hot spots on the Sunset
strip while working at KHTZ. I was too young to know any better and too
stupid to care. Call it an "indiscretion of youth". I was just
19-years-old and out to have a good time. A really good time. I think John Lennon's "Lost Weekend" lasted a couple of years. Mine was literally just the weekend. Heh.
The great 8" x 10" glossy photograph that Dave "Baby" Montoya
showed me that he took of The Real Don Steele flipping off a consultant
when 10-Q was still on the air. I loved that a jock could have that
much power over a consultant, who were usually overpaid and typically
wielded far too much authority over the jocks. This particular
consultant looked like a wet dog in the presence of the snarling,
gesturing Steele. That man was a God in radio.
The time at the brand new studios behind the (whatever) Onion on
Wilshire Blvd., when Pat Gaffey was in the control room shooting the
breeze with me. Realizing that he had just one minute to run around the
building to the news booth on the other side (they were too stupid to
build a simple door between the studios), he ran all the way. When it
was time to crack open the mic and read the news, poor Pat was
hopelessly out of breath. Ever tried reading before when you can't
catch you're breath? Try it sometime. The resulting newscast was so
hilarious that I had tears running down my face I was laughing so hard.
Pat sounded like he was having a coronary, gasping, choking and
breathing so hard that I fielded several calls from anxious listeners
who wondered if Pat was in need of immediate medial attention.
Uh... There are others, but I'm afraid these aren't for public
consumption. At least, not on the Internet. Maybe in my autobiography
General Manager Tim Smith firing Bobby Rich and replacing him with
Jim Conlee, who had been gunning for Rich's job. This reminded me a lot
of the Jim Barker thing at KACY in more ways than one. Conlee, who had
been a friendly guy a week or two before at the party I threw, suddenly
developed the all-too-common "Little Caesar" complex. In short, he
turned into a very unfriendly guy in short order, and I knew my
days were numbered at the station. So I bailed out. I had not yet been
fired from any job and I wanted to keep my record intact. I saw the
writing on the wall. And it was greasy. Time to go.
SEP 1980 to SEP 1982: Air Personality: KIIS FM — Los Angeles, CA
KIIS FM PD Mike Wagner had worked with Steve Brown at KDES in Palm
Springs, among other places. I used the connection to make my
introduction to Mike, who was kind, supportive and very helpful in
shaping my talents. I worked off and on at KIIS FM for two years, with
brief gigs at KUTE 102 and KHTZ in between. I think I worked under six
PD's and four or five different formats while I was there. I was there
when Rick Dees was first hired by that good 'ol Atlanta boy Don Benson,
and I still worked there while doing mornings in San Bernardino. It
wouldn't be uncommon for me to do the morning shift at KGGI and drive
to L.A. to do afternoon fill in at KIIS FM. I also worked Sunday nights
at KIIS FM and would have to drive to San Bernardino to do my morning
show at KGGI. I fell asleep at the wheel more than once and awoke one
time, whizzing down an offramp at high speed, not knowing where the
heck I was. I was very lucky that someone put that off-ramp there for
me to drive on as I drifted off the freeway. Lots of good memories from
KIIS FM. The funniest is the recollection of fellow part-timer Joe
Daniels waiving a gigantic dildo at me while I was attempting to read a
live :60 spot. Someone gave the 2-foot whopper to to newswoman Liz
Fulton at the station Christmas party as a "gag" gift. Sure made me
laugh. Years later, Liz would sue the station for sexual harassment
after Dees dubbed her Liz "Rug-burn" Fulton on-air. Hope she remembered
to tell her attorney about the dildo.
We had some weird groupies at KIIS FM. One of them turned into a
stalker. Her name was Norma, and Joe Daniels would always try to reason
with her and tell her not to keep calling the station. Whenever she'd
call me, I wouldn't say a word. I'd simply hang up. Not much
satisfaction for her in that. Joe, on the other hand, would argue
with her and of course, this just fanned the flames. I tried to warn
Joe that he should stop trying to get through to her, but he wouldn't
listen, and kept getting drawn into these pointless arguments about why
she kept calling. Eventually, Norma tried to run Joe off the road one
evening after his shift while he was driving home, and Norma showed up
at a KIIS FM event somewhere and punched out Liz Fulton when she tried
to come to Joe's aid when Norma started harrassing him. It was out of
control. I think the station eventually got a restraining order against
There was also a really weird program that PD David Moorehead
instituted, in which the management staff would critique new song
releases live over the air. Sort of a public "music meeting". Some guy
(Moorehead, I think) was always complaining about the "hand claps" in
every song. Of all the PD's, Mike Wagner was my personal favorite, but
I had a lot of respect for Gerry DeFrancisco. He was a very bright guy.
Being on the air in Los Angeles, in Hollywood, 19 floors above the
street. I loved looking out that window and being on a leading radio
Shooting the shit with Joe Daniels, A.J. Martin and other regular
part-timers, with the exception of Craig "O.P." Powers, for reasons I
will describe later.
Celebrity softball games. Those were a blast. It was the first time
I'd seen someone with really badly capped teeth. Tanya Tucker, who was
dating Glenn Campbell at the time. Her teeth literally looked like
little Chicklets gum.
Watching Rick Dees bring in his boxes full of carts one weekend get set up for his morning debut at KIIS FM.
The steady stream of celebrities that would come through the
station on promotional tours or whatever. I wish I could find that
photo of me with the Go-Go's. I told Belinda Carlisle that I dug her
leather jacket. She said "I'm wearing rubber underwear, too." Kinky.
Seeing this geeky, skinny kid from Canada with severe acne come in to the station to promote his awful disco record, "Let Me Take You Dancing". His name was Bryan Adams,
and he would be huge in a few short years, after roughing up his high,
puny voice and totally revamping his act to project a tough, rocker
image. Good move, Bryan.
Mike Wagner's exit from the station. Mike had always been positive,
uplifting, encouraging and just plain nice. Even during critique
sessions. He made working at KIIS FM a real treat.
The arrival of "good 'ol boy" Don Benson straight out of Atlanta,
Georgia. He was everything that Mike Wagner wasn't. He enjoyed creating
tension by pitting my ambitions against Craig "O.P." Powers, who was
always angling for more fill-in assignments. Craig was apparently
better at sucking up to Benson than I was, which I am not ashamed to
Catching Powers in the act of professional sabotage... Just before
leaving his air shift, I observed him detuning the mic processor just
before I came on the air, so my voice would sound thinner and less
compressed than his did over the air. Of course, I put the setting back
where they belonged before cracking open the mic. Sabotage! Thwarted! Last I heard, old "O.P." was working in Vegas. Hey, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!
Realizing that no matter how hard I worked, I was never going to be
offered a full time gig at KIIS FM. After two years of weekend and fill
-- it was time to move on. From here, it was PM drive for six years for
NBC in San Francisco. Not a bad consolation prize! This marked a
21-year departure from the Los Angeles airwaves for me.
NOV 1981 to SEP 1982: AM Drive Air Personality: KGGI FM — San Bernardino, CA
Former KUTE 102 Los Angeles middayer Chris Roberts hired me to do
mornings at 99-1FM, which proved to be the real turning point in my
career. It was here that I was allowed to experiment and really spread
my wings as a personality. "Earl" the security guard, which turned out
to be a popular and controversial character throughout my career, was
created here. I always had "Earl" say the things that were really on my
mind, but I was too afraid to say myself for fear of being canned. I
always thought that as long as I got to say what I want, it didn't
matter if it came from my alter-ego, as long as it was said. That way,
if I crossed over the line, management could just suspend or fire
"Earl", and I could just go about my business. How naive was THAT
I'm proud that in the ten months that I was at KGGI, the morning
show numbers shot up two full shares in all the desired demos. But
despite the performance, my request for a raise was denied, spurring me
to start sending out airchecks. I was hired for the afternoon gig at
KYUU San Francisco, based on the show I was doing here. One of my
favorite memories from 99-1 was being forced to turn in my station
jacket in exchange for my final paycheck so they could remove my
embroidered name and let the next jock use the jacket. Unbelievable.
Hearing the news that "another mentally disordered sex offender"
had escaped from Patton State Mental Hospital, just up the road. This
got to be a running gag, since the facilities security was so lax.
Reminding GM Don Davis (whom I worked for a few years earlier at
KACY) that he had let me go after I had given two weeks notice at the
last station we worked together, so this time around, I was quitting to
take my job in San Francisco with NO notice. He pleaded, "well that was
always our policy, to let the guy go and just pay him the two weeks,
rather than risk him saying something on the air". I reminded him that
I never got the two weeks pay, and forced him to paying me for three
weeks, in exchange for staying for just one additional week. Don
actually turned out to be a nice guy and we enjoyed a good working
relationship at this station, but it felt good to "set things right" by
correcting the previous grievance.
Asking why Davis had not given me a raise, even though I increased
the target demo numbers by 2.0 full points in my time there. "You were
so good, I knew that you'd be leaving eventually anyway, so I just
decided to save the station the money." I pointed out that the lack of
appreciation was my sole motivation for leaving and that I would have
been content to stay on for at least another year or two.
Losing a good friendship over a stupid station jacket. Like I said,
Don Davis turned out to be a nice guy, but some of his policies were
just outright cheap and/or just plain weird beyond comprehension. This
was one of them.
Taking a limo to a station event with my fiancee and having the PD
(I won't say who) put a porno flick into the VCR on the TV in the back,
and give a play by play of his penchant for women with "big thighs".
Ugh. Crude and embarrassing.
SEP 1982 to JUL 1988: PM Drive Air Personality: KYUU FM — San Francisco, CA
What KFRC was to San Francisco in the 70's, KYUU was in the 80's.
You know, where jocks would die and go to heaven. I was 22 when I
replaced "Big" Tom Parker at this NBC O&O. I was hired to do "a
morning show in afternoon drive" and for six years, that's exactly what
we did. NBC still owned radio stations and everything was lush and
lavish. Every jock had an engineer -- there were around 15 NABET
engineers employed by the station for awhile. The promotional budget
was huge and I have never before or since, worked with such a talented
group of jocks that had absolutely no pretention or ego problems.
Everyone here was a real pro and I loved every year but the last.
I never would have thought to send an aircheck to KYUU, if it
hadn't been for my sister, Donna, who worked downstairs in the same
building at an art gallery. She had become friendly with Bruce Black,
one of the engineers, who would stop in every now and then to pick up
something for his wife. "My brother's a DJ", Donna said. Bruce
responded "Oh, well, he'd never get a job working here."
I was there for the rise and fall of the first FM station to topple
the once-mighty 610 KFRC. Because of San Francisco's hilly terrain,
KFRC lasted longer than most AM's as the predominant music powerhouse.
If I wrote all that I'd want to say about this station and the people
who worked there, I could write a book. I guess you'll have to settle
for The Unplugged KYUU Archive Page instead. One amusing anecdote. I was hired by John P. Hayes Jr., a.k.a. "the incubus" who fired
Howard Stern from WNBC and thus earned himself several scathing pages
of attention in Stern's book "Private Parts". If John Hayes thought
that I was hard to handle doing PM drive in San Francisco, Howard Stern
must have hit him like a load of bricks in NYC. And he did.
I have two cherished momentos from KYUU. A mike clip that was
salvaged for me after EMMIS changed the calls and format - and the
original black anodized metal sign with the brushed steel KYUU
lettering and color NBC peacock logo that adorned the lobby. Emmis was
throwing that out, too, and it sat in the basement of a former staffers
home for a few years before I was contacted and told that "out of
anyone there", they wanted me to have it. Sweet gesture and much
appreciated. I also have the original KYUU RCA stereo control board
from the 1700 Montgomery Street facilities with the
round bakelite pots. Like the original KCBQ RCA transmitter control
console, this relic sat on the floor of my garage for several years
until I finally sold them both off. Come to think of it, when I was at
KIIS FM, they had the same board, with the baby blue side panels. I
bought mine for a hundred bucks from an engineer at the old transmitter
building on San Bruno mountain.
Once the earnings flagship of the once-proud 75-year NBC radio
dynasty, KYUU lives on in the hearts and minds of those who listened
and those like me who were fortunate enough to be there. It was one
hell of a ride. I just wish it could have lasted longer. Like until I
was ready to retire.
Rick Shaw unzipping his pants and peeing into the ashtray on the ground floor to put out a small fire.
Tony Mercurio peeping at the gal in the apartment across the alley
from the station with his binoculars late at night and giving a play by
Throwing 45 RPM records off the 8th floor balcony in the direction
of the Sutter Stockton Parking Garage across the street and watching
them smash on the concrete.
Watching Burt Golden and friends use the helium that Don Bleu had
on hand for his "airhead character" to inflate trash bags, gaudily
festooned, and watch them breeze past the chi chi Carnelian Room
restaurant windows atop the Bank of America building.
The admission by one of our PD's (who was straight) that he enjoyed wearing sparkly eye make-up once in awhile.
Rick Shaw rolling up his pant legs, taking off his shoes and socks
and going shirtless when the air conditioning was out on the 8th floor.
He reminded me of Huckleberry Finn on that day.
Launching Annette Lai off the toilet seat when I accidentally sent
the bowl on the men's side crashing into the floor by jiggling it with
my foot to simulate an earthquake.
Being asked to judge the San Francisco International Stand Up
Comedy Competition for three or four consecutive years and getting the
chance to see and meet people like Rob Schneider, Marcia Warfield,
Ellen DeGeneres, and Drew Carey, among others, before they "made it".
When a deranged woman showed up at the station claiming she was Rick Shaw's wife.
Frequent remotes at Marine World Africa USA. Getting to walk a
tiger, get kissed by a killer whale and watch my son interact with
Attending a lot of great concerts at the Concord Pavilion, and
getting to meet my drumming idol, Danny Seraphin, back stage at the
Participating in and listening to, Burt Golden's station promos.
Driving around in 1987 and seeing my face on billboards and buses all around the Bay Area. That was pretty surreal.
Gil Haar's signature news close as he tied his bow tie... "And that's the news... So nowww you know. I'm Gil Haar."
The roll of toilet paper on the turn signal stalk of Craig
McFarlain's old Buick convertible, because someone had once defacated
on his front seat.
Getting fired in July and learning that in addition to my generous severance, I would be paid for the rest of the year, besides.
Having NABET members picket GM Terry DeVoto's home when he threw a
party for staffers. He should have invited the NABETS, and they
shouldn't have picketed. Very uncomfortable.
Getting pressured to sign a new contract by management when I no
longer wanted to be tied down to Afternoon Drive at the station.
Learning of my father's death moments before I was to go on the air on February 15, 1988.
When the station hired the wrong PD, who took the wrong direction,
and watching the station starting to slowly sink in the ratings.
Having an idiot consultant come in who wanted me to "script" my entire show each day.
Alan Burns, wherever you are, you didn't have a f____'in clue, pal, at
least not at that station, which you failed miserably to resurrect.
Our GM's decision to call the station "Q", because "if you spell out the call letters, KYUU, that's how you would pronounce it."
Having the GM not listen when I complained that the station was like a big ocean liner full of pinholes, taking on water...
After the station was sold, being courted by the new PD who wanted
to hire me back to do mornings, only to have the suggestion shot down
by upper management of the new company that orchestrated my getting
fired before they took over to begin with. No sense of humor, those
Visiting the old building in 2003 and noting that an insurance
agency now occupies the same space where some of the best radio in the
1980's was broadcast.
SEP 1988 to JUN 1989: AM Drive Air Personality: KKIS FM — Concord, CA
After getting the boot at KYUU in July, I quickly discovered that I
wasn't going to easily land another prime gig in The City, so I
accepted an offer to do morning drive at this little Class
A teapot of a radio station in Concord, CA, for about half the salary I
had been earning at KYUU. Jim Chabin owned and managed the station, and
he was immensely likeable. Sean McMahon, who had been furiously vying
for my job at KYUU, was the PD, and he surprised me with the offer.
Sean had always drove me nuts at KYUU, openly gunning for my job and
bragging about his airplane, which none of the rest of us could care
diddly squat about, except for perhaps Rick Shaw, who also owned an
airplane. But Sean had gotten married to a wonderful gal who helped him
to straighten out and fly right, apparently. Not only had he matured a
great deal in the several months or whatever it had been since he left
KYUU, but he was a genuinely nice guy. I actually enjoyed socializing
with Sean, and we would go out and play racquetball once in awhile.
KKIS FM was a low budget operation, and after I had been there for
a few weeks, decided that I really needed to get on the ball and start
developing other income streams. My friend from KYUU, Frank Kelly (RIP
8/6/2003) convinced me that I should start my own production company,
producing commercials and on hold messages. At the time, I had no idea
what on hold marketing was, and Frank patiently explained the whole
shebang to me. By this time, Jim Chabin had sold the station to a new
owner, and they brought in Dick Shepherd, who had been a big muckity
muck at Arbitron, to run the place. Dick was an interesting guy. He
supported my idea of forming a production company to offer KKIS clients
major market production at cheap rates. He also gave me a $10,000
raise, effective immediately, because he wanted to keep me around. The
morning numbers were on the rise, and this little teapot was gaining
ground with advertisers. Shepherd no doubt didn't want
to rock the boat. At least, not initially. Shepherd brought in Dan
Acree as a promotions manager, and Acree, who was very talented with
computer graphics, set out to create a new logo identity for the
station. He also created and gifted me with the On-Hold Marketing
Systems logo that I still use to this day. Jon Bristow was handling my
news in the morning and he was a stand up guy. Very serious about his
work, but a good sense of humor, too.
We had a good working arrangement for several months. I came in,
did my shift, took care of any production requests that were waiting
for me after my shift, produced the spots, carted them up and was on my
way. One of the only (but terrific) perks of working at the station
were the marvelous vacations the air staff got to take under the guise
of "remotes". We were giving away vacations to our listeners, in
conjunction with American Express Travel, and part of the deal included
advance trips by air staff members to places like Hawaii, Jamaica and
England, so we could talk up the vacations to our listeners. To keep my
marriage intact, I skipped the singles, clothing optional resorts in
Jamaica, but took in Honolulu for a weekend and London, England for a
Things were cool until our new GM "Dick", decided that he wanted me
to start hanging around the station more to "be available" in case
something needed to be done. Like, drive the prize van, change light
bulbs, teach the new talent coming into the station everything I knew,
for instance. I wanted no part of it. I was willing to do a stack of
production work so long as it was there when I got off the air. I
wasn't being paid enough to get there at 4:30 AM and stick around until
2:00 or 3:00 or whatever. My ratings were terrific and after all, that
is what I had been hired to do -- bring up the numbers in morning
drive. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tension started mounting as Sean began feeling the heat and started
insisting that I remain at the station for at least two hours after my
airshift, to handle any new production requests that might come in. I
refused. Dick reminded me how supportive he had been of my starting my
own production company, but I explained that unless I had some time to
devote to it, his support would be moot. At that juncture, I chose to
resign from the station rather than give in to their increasing demands
on my time. I had come too far, and worked too hard -- to start being
treated like a minor-leaguer. Little did I realize it was just the
beginning of more disappointments in radio. For me, the golden era had
come and gone with KYUU. Update: Sean is now a commercial pilot
for a major airline and we got together for a "reunion" of sorts in
late 2005 during one of his stopovers in San Diego. It was great
re-establishing contact and seeing Sean again. Also, in August, 2006, I
uncovered entire Jeff McNeal shows comprising my first two weeks of
doing mornings at KKIS. These were recorded digitally in high
resolution stereo and contain full, unscoped morning shows from the
first two weeks of August, 1988. Ronald Reagan was still in office.
Talk about a strange feeling to hear these again, sounding as clear and
"live" as they did when they first aired.
Making a difference in the local community by going up against
Nancy Fadden, a County Supervisor who was pushing to put a semi-toxic
waste dump in close proximity to nearby homes. I wrote, recorded and
aired a parody of Bobby McFarrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy" called "Oh
Nancy, Don't Trash Me" that became a local hit, prompting the
Supervisor to demand "equal time" to air her own song entitled "A
musical shrug" set to the tune of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."
Helping a couple of friends get jobs there. Burt Golden and Mike
Rey, both whom I worked with at KYUU. Burt couldn't hack the late night
hours and management couldn't hack Rey's quirky banter. Neither lasted
Starting my own production company and forming a lasting
friendship with a local car dealer, who is still subscribing to my
On-Hold Marketing recordings at his dealership to this very day...
Having that damned dump get building approval despite a vigorous effort by myself and hundreds of concerned citizens.
JUN 1990 to JAN 1991: PM/AM Drive Air Personality: KKYY FM — San Diego, CA
station that brought me to San Diego from Northern California to do the
same kind of show that I had done on KYUU. I had been hired with a
one-year, no cut contract, but the station was put on the block shortly
after I got there and I was let go (along with about 50 other staffers)
after about six months. There was, however, a GREAT accounting of what
went down in the San Diego Reader
newspaper. This was, without a doubt, one of the strangest, most
twisted tales of radio -- ever. This should be no reflection on the PD
who hired me, Robert John. He did a great job with the hand that he was
dealt and was one of my favorite PD's to ever work with. I also had the
opportunity to work with, and become friends with, Ron Stevens &
Joy Grdnc, two off-beat people with a quirky sense of humor and two of
the biggest hearts of anyone I know from radio. I still don't know how
Joy can have a last name with no vowels. The aircheck is from my last
week at the station, when I was doing mornings with Jimmy Baron, who
had been hired as Stevens & Grdncs' producer. We were flying by the
seats of our pants and having a ball. I actually looked forward to waking up at 3:30 each morning - until the boom fell.
Making radio history with my underwater broadcast at SeaWorld in
the Bat Ray tank. Four hours of talking underwater. Hypothermia almost
set in, but other than that, it was pretty cool.
Forming personal friendships with manager Carolyn Howe, PD Robert John, and morning team Ron Stevens and Joy Grdnc.
The betrayal by some old friends and some new ones when the chips
were down. Carolyn Howe sold me out and so did Bobby Rich when he took
over the programming helm as well. With "friends" like these, who needs
Bob Vicotsky's arrival. The station was a complete and utter
disaster the moment he took over and the laughing stock of the market
MAY 1991 to SEP 1991: AM Personality/Operations Manager: KMGQ FM/KIST AM, — Santa Barbara, CA
This is where I hooked up with Jack Woods ("Charlie" of Charlie and
Harrigan). Paul Menard (Harrigan) had liked my work doing afternoons at
Y95 and we met in a box at Jack Murphy stadium one year while the
Niners were playing the Chargers. After leaving Y-95, Paul intrduced me
to Jack, who was running an AM/FM combo in receivership. My production
business had not yet grown to the point where I could support our new
home in San Diego and Paul knew that I needed help. Jack was
considering a purchase offer of the Santa Barbara stations and we
worked out a "sweat equity" deal in which I would receive a small
salary, augmented by an ownership share of the stations if he decided
to purchase them. I rented a small hovel across the street from the
station and commuted to San Diego to be with my family on the weekends.
I was working 14 hour days and trying to keep my business alive while I
was running the radio stations for less money than I had made in the
previous ten years. It was a very humbling experience. "Building
character", they call it. I was so cash poor, trying to keep my
household in San Diego afloat, that I borrowed a bed and a dresser from
my mother and didn't even have a color TV. It was so bad that I
wouldn't even spend the extra $15 a month for cable. Over the next few
months, it became clear that Jack would not be buying the stations, but
during that summer, Jack and I helped each other retain our sanity
while dealing with the problems of the stations. I did mornings and was
PD on the FM and was quickly promoted to Operations Manager of both.
The best thing I remember from this otherwise bittersweet
experience was the daily Cafe Aulaits and muffins that Jack would buy
us across the street from the station, where we'd sit for an hour each
day, sharing our old radio war stories. I was, and remain to this day,
very grateful to Jack for his friendship during an otherwise very
difficult period in my life.
Being promoted to Operations Manager for both stations.
The day I realized I could leave and go back home to my family full-time.
Being so poor that I didn't even want to spend $15 a month for cable.
14 - 16 hour workdays on a regular basis.
Making less money than I had in the last ten years.
Being away from my wife and young kids all through the week.
Having to drive from Santa Barbara to San Diego every weekend just
so I could see my family for a few hours before having to turn around
and drive back.
Having to deal with the air staff's petty, small market problems.
Being in a position of authority and not always wielding it with
the patience, sensitivity, kindness and diplomacy that I should have --
but I was under immense pressure.
Dealing with an incompetent, untalented jock who thought he was
God's gift to radio. I remember laying the paper trail and can't recall
if I fired him or not, but I sure as hell wanted to. He was the king of
JUN 1991 to SEP 1991: Air Personality: KRTH FM — Los Angeles, CA
As a kid growing up in L.A., I had always dreamed of
working at K-EARTH 101. I finally got my chance, albeit briefly, when
Mike Phillips lent a hand to an old radio veteran going through some
difficult times. I was trying to support my family living in San Diego,
visiting on the weekends, working full time in Santa Barbara, and doing
weekends in Los Angeles. You see why I started my own business? Hmmm?
While the circumstances surrounding the work at KRTH were less than
ideal, I still loved the handful of shifts that I did before being
hired for the morning gig in San Diego at KCBQ. And I'm still using the
headphones that long-time RKO Chief Engineer Lynn Duke gifted me with
when he was showing me how to take the meter readings. Love those Sony
The aircheck is indicative of the Drake sound I
grew up with. Fun. Be sure to look for the 20 year KHJ jingle
retrospective on this page! Lynn Put it together and it's really
something to hear. From '66 to '86, you'll hear the jingles that helped
make Boss Radio the legend that it's become. If you ever stop by KRTH,
check out the motorized toilet seat covers. Incredible. While I was
there, I finally met Danny Martinez, who promised to play a song I
requested in 1973 at KKDJ when I was 13 years old. Well, he never did
play that song and I waited until his shift ended at 1am because I was
trying to record it. I relayed the story to him and told him that as a
result, I made a vow never to promise a song unless I knew I could
deliver on it. His reply? "Aw, f*** you, man." Then, we both had a good
laugh. The circle was complete.
- Finally getting to work at the station I grew up listening to and always dreamed of working for.
- Seeing the memo from Mike Phillips to Bill Drake describing my hire.
- Hearing from old friends that called to say hello after hearing me on the air.
- The motorized toilet seat cover -- the likes of which I've never seen before or since -- anywhere.
- Playing those KRTH signature oldies and getting as close as I was ever going to get at sounding like a "boss jock".
- Sitting there, all alone, at two in the morning,
wondering what in the heck happened to my once-enviable radio career.
Humbled and introspective thoughts of how I had finally made it and
gotten hired at this station, but not in the capacity that I had always
envisioned and hoped for. This was as good as it was going to get.
- Scrambling to pull and refile all those friggin'
two minute songs that I was going through like crazy. Hoping I wouldn't
have any dead air.
SEP 1991 to MAY 1992: AM Drive Air Personality: KCBQ FM — San Diego, CA
Hired by Jim Seemiller for the now-defunct Adams Communications, I
was pleased to return to San Diego and take the helm of the morning
show. The management was a strange mix of chain smoking, hip swinging
yes-men (and women) that enjoyed hallway ass-grabbing and mandatory
booze and schmooze fests. To me, that place was a sexual harrassment
suit just waiting to happen. The sleaze of that place hung in the air
as thick as the cigarette smoke of Seemiller's incessant habit of
sucking down those menthols like there was no tomorrow. Seemingly
fidgety and restless, Seemiller decided to turn the old AM facility and
transmitter area in the basement into new offices and gave me the
original KCBQ RCA transmitter control console that he was going to
throw out. It has a place of honor on the floor of my garage at the
moment. After a quick assessment of the situation and knowing that I
wasn't compatible with the kind of people I was working for, I gave
myself six months at the station. I lasted eight and got paid for ten. Beautiful.
I brought together two of my good friends, Jack Woods and Paul Menard
-- known to San Diego radio fans as the legendary "Charlie and
Harrigan" for a reunion show to fill in for me while I took my first
week of vacation. A brilliant move! A month later, I was fired and
replaced by -- Charlie and Harrigan. Their legend lives on, but their
show was cancelled ten months after they took over from me. You may not
believe this, but I wasn't upset that Charlie and Harrigan got the gig.
They way I figured it, I wasn't going to last under management that had
values so far apart from my own. I felt that I'd rather have two good
friends get the job, rather than someone I'd never heard of. I've not
spoken to Jack Woods ("Charlie") since Jim Seemiller was fired two
months after he hired them. Paul Menard ("Harrigan") and I have stayed
in touch and he even tried to steer me toward the KGB morning gig
mentioned above. I still love 'em both. The aircheck here features a
call to Andy Rooney, in which the 60 Minutes star was convinced I and
my side-kick were Sam Donaldson and Joan Rivers, respectively.
Contemplating the rich radio history of all who came before me at KCBQ.
Winding up with the original RCA transmitter control board when it was being thrown out.
Advising Jim Seemiller against hiring Bob Vicotsky after that
jackass had gotten drummed out of Y-95, and successfully torpedoing any
chance he might have had for staying in San Diego.
OCT 93 to FEB 1994: Air Personality: KFMB AM — San Diego, CA
What was believed to be my last engagement in radio. Bill Stairs
was the program director and asked if I'd be interested in helping out
with some fill and weekend stuff. Bill knew my work from KYUU and had
even tried to bring me back to the station as morning man after Emmis
took over. That never happened, but I'd always appreciated his efforts.
When Bill came to San Diego, I called to say hi and congratulate
him on his new job. Bill kept after me about coming to do some
part-time and fill-in work for him, and I finally gave in. After being
off the air for a year and a half, I wanted to see if I still had
enough gas to do a decent show. Happily, I did, but I didn't bother to
save any airchecks. I wasn't looking for any more gigs and quite
frankly, got tired of listening to myself. Hey, after 16 years, I'd
heard it all before, right?
Two major events played a factor in my leaving KFMB. First, my
mother was killed when her car slammed into a tree on January 13, 1994
-- the day after my 34th birthday. As you can imagine, I was devastated
at the sudden, violent loss of my mom. Ironically, the station liked my
work and they were scheduling me for more fill and weekend shifts,
which meant less time with my family. Shortly thereafter, Bill Stairs
was fired as PD/Ops Mgr. I quickly learned that Bill had at least as
many detractors at KFMB as he had supporters, but he always treated me
with respect and kindness.
Since I had decided to only return to radio on my terms and to help
Bill in the first place, I decided to quit rather than deal with the
posturing and politics inherent in management turnovers. The decision
was a good one. Tracy Johnson came in to run the station and seemed as
disinterested in me as I was in him. A week or two after I left,
long-time GM Paul Palmer was axed and most of the staffers lost their
jobs. Since that time, I turned down an offer to work at KKBH (The
Beach) and was interviewed for the morning show at KGB.
Jack Silver, who had wanted to hire me at The Beach, was fired from
that station and ended up with the morning gig at KGB along with Brian
Whitman. Within a month, The Beach changed formats and I'm still
sleeping late. KGB has since been sold, and of course, a year after all
this nonsense, Whitman and Silver were shown the door. Crazy business.
FEB 1997 to MAY 1997: Air Personality: KXGL FM — San Diego, CA
After a 3-year self-imposed exile from radio, I briefly returned to do some weekend/fill stuff at Nationwide's The Eagle 94-1.
(which was sold to Jacor in late '97 and was dismantled and disappeared
in Summer '98) Why did I go back? For the kicks, I suppose. I really
liked the music and it sounded like they were going to take the station
in a personality direction. Formerly San Diego's only classical music
outlet, The Eagle, led by GM Paul Palmer (formerly of KFMB) and PD
Larry Bruce (KGB) was an ambitious format that blended 60's rock with
70's classic rock. Lots of segues and "image" promos.
This is the first employer that subjected me to a
mandatory drug test before I could be hired. They sent my urine
specimen to Kansas for analysis. Though my pee was regrettably not
eligible for frequent flyer mileage, it was deemed pure and
pristine by a crack team of scientists that spent hours analyzing my
urine under an atomic microscope while discussing the most recent
episode of Seinfeld -- no doubt to the great expense of Nationwide
I had a great time, despite the fact that I wasn't
paid for the first seven weeks I worked there. Great bookkeeper. I've
never seen such gross incompetence in management before -- and that's
really saying something. When I finally did get paid, it was
for half the hourly rate that I had negotiated after literally laughing
out loud at Bruce's initial offer when I was hired. To think I used to
make a livable wage doing this stuff!?! The pay fiasco was finally
resolved the week I decided to walk away from it all.
After filling in for the "temporary" morning guy for two weeks, and having so much fun
doing it, I realized that I could never be satisfied pulling a weekend
shift. I wanted to be a major player again. This was my last venture
into radio. At the age of 37, I'm officially "retired". I re-discovered
just how precious my weekend time with my family is to me. It felt good
to pull the plug and walk when I realized management had no serious
plans for me at The Eagle.
Even though I was a bit disappointed to not have the opportunity to do more, I feel blessed
to have had the option of leaving when things didn't feel right
anymore. Gives me more time to push my kids on the swing. Ah, the
freedom of being an entreprenuer. Although I'm grateful for the
experience of being on the air again, this bird has flown.
My youngest son, Mac, age 5, in 1997.
So what am I doing now?
Oh! So nice of you to ask! I've re-invented myself
a few times over the last several years. I started a DVD review website
called The BIG Picture
in April, 1998, that grew into a respected source for DVD news,
reviews, and home theater discussion. I've used writing to channel the
creativity I could no longer express in radio. In 2000, the site was
generating 3.5 million page views per month.
In June of 2003, I began a search in earnest for a
voiceover agent to represent me in Los Angeles. And I've landed one of
the very best and brightest. As a result, you may be hearing me on a
theatrical trailer, DVD promo, national commercial, TV station,
infomercial or network promo and not even know it... More details of
what I'm doing (and sounding like) these days can be found on www.JeffMcNeal.com. You can even log in to my live StudioCam and make like a fly on the wall and see and hear what I'm doing in real time...
Thanks for reading about my strange and interesting journey through radio...
Fluent in foreign accents, accomplished celebrity impressionist. Hosted
dozens of on-air celebrity interviews, including Jay Leno, Bette Midler,
Janet Jackson, David Copperfield, Hall & Oates, Huey Lewis, Mike
Love, Andy Rooney, Bob Denver, Larry Storch, Charro, Anthony Quinn, Dan
Quayle, Tiny Tim, Bob Denver, Tommy Provost, Jose Feliciano and many
others too numerous (and/or boring) to mention here. Made San Diego
radio history as first DJ to broadcast submerged
underwater in the bat ray tank at Sea World in December, 1990. Froze my
ass off down there... Consistent top rankings in San Francisco Arbitron
in AM/PM drive for 18-49 adults. Hosted Bay Area’s M2V, a local rock
video program similar to MTV in format and content. Own and operate
independent audio advertising agency and recording facility. Was the
only member of the San Diego press invited to personally interview U.S.
VP Dan Quayle over breakfast during his March 1992 visit. He ate corn
flakes. Lengthy and documented ability to generate both local and
national press in newspapers and television. Original “Gong Show”
contestant in 1977.
EDUCATION:Pasadena City College: Mass Communications, Voice
& Diction, Public Speaking, Basic and Intermediate Radio
Fundamentals, FCC First Class License. Don Martin School of
Communications: Radio Theatre, Production, Promotion, Programming,
Sales, Management, Commercial Writing, Subliminal Theory.
Jeff's Tribute to Boss Radio
As a kid growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena,
California, I was influenced dramatically by the sounds coming over my
AM radio in the 60's and 70's. The stations, the formats, and most of
all... the personalities.
I listened to Johnny Hayes on KRLA in Pasadena and "Cool Cat Radio
KFWB". I also remember hearing Wolfman Jack on KDAY and of course, Boss
Radio, 93 KHJ was the big fish in the L.A. radio market for many years.
Robert W. Morgan, Sam Riddle, Charlie Tuna, Humble Harve, The Real Don
Steele, Johnny Williams. The list goes on and on. This photo represents
my "psychodelic, time-trippin'" homage to Humble Harve. I no longer
have the beard. Too itchy.
I never got the chance to work at KHJ, but I sure have some wonderful
memories anyway. But to those who still remember, and those who would
like to experience the highest rated music station in the nation during
the 60's, the following sound clip will take you on a journey spanning
20 years. From 1966 to 1986. The KHJ jingles -- those Johnny Mann
singers -- are here for one more show.
Assembled by long-time RKO Chief engineer Lynn Duke, and gifted to me by San Diego Chief Engineer Lee McGowan, here is the 93 KHJ Time Machine.[5.7MB]
In the summer of 1978, I ran a simultaneous aircheck of a classic
Los Angeles PM drive shootout between The Real Don Steele on Ten-Q and
Eric Chase on KFI. L.A. Duel [6.5MB]
I always dug Steele and was deeply saddened to hear of his passing on
August 5, 1997. In personality radio, he was a giant. Larger than life.
The Real Don Steele was to radio what Mick Jagger is to rock music. An
original. An innovator. An electrical charge. An entertainer. The Reel Don Steele is on.
I hope you enjoy the memories as much as I do.
Send E-Mail to Jeff McNeal