Here’s another censorship story – and also one of my early days in radio stories. Except this time I was the censor.
In late ‘72/early ’73 I was a board op (glorified name for engineer) at KLOS, Los Angeles. You know today’s “Classic Rock” stations that play Layla and everything ever recorded by the Allman Brothers? That’s what they played then, when it was just considered music to get stoned by.
The disc jockeys and engineers sat in booths facing each other, separated by glass. We communicated through an intercom. As an engineer, it was my job to play the music and commercials. Back then we still played “records” – these round vinyl thingys. There must be one in a museum somewhere.
But on Sunday nights KLOS abandoned its format of being your “Emerson, Lake & Palmer station" for public service programs (required by the FCC). One of these was “Impacto” hosted by Joe Ortiz -- a call-in show centering on Hispanic issues. I was the engineer.
A lot of the callers were unaware I assume that you were not allowed to swear on the air. I was forever diving for the kill button. I kept telling Joe he had to remind his callers not to use profanity but he refused. He didn’t mind the barrage of f-bombs and he accused me of censorship. Even my pleading that we could lose our license fell on deaf ears.
So needless to say, things became very tense between us.
If he wasn’t getting calls he’d signal me to play a record. I would just grab one off our playlist. This was an important fact: the ONLY records you were allowed to play were those on the playlist. Disc jockeys (or engineers) could not just bring in albums from home.
So one Sunday night the calls were light. Joe gave me the signal, I reached over to our rack of 45’s, selected one completely at random and cued it up. For reasons I don’t know to this day, he introduced it by saying, “Now here’s a song that expresses the state of the barrio.”
With that I let this record fly.
Ortiz went nuts! Screaming at me. I wish there was a kill button on the intercom. After the show he filed an official union grievance against me. I had to go before the Chief Engineer and a union board for a hearing. The charges were dropped of course. They reacted the way you probably did when you heard the song.
My good name was cleared. I was given a new shift. But then I wound up with two people hating me -- Joe Ortiz and the poor engineer who took my place.