Here's another excerpt from the book I'm writing about growing up in the '60s in the San Fernando Valley. It's 1964 and I'm a young teenage nerd...
What the hell was this thing?
Two turntables and a microphone arrived.
Holy shit! It was a radio station studio! And not just any station. KFWB!
Back in the ‘60s radio played a big part in the life of a teenager. As unfathomable as it may seem, kids could not access music through their phones back then. They had to rely on AM radio. A fierce loyalty developed between the listener and station. Most cities had two competing rockers and you were aligned with one or the other. I was a KFWB man over KRLA. Why? I have no idea. They were both exactly the same.
That station loyalty and identification extended to the disc jockeys. A local survey revealed that L.A. teenagers trusted disc jockeys more than their parents, teachers, policemen, even their religious leaders. I still haven’t decided whether that’s admirable or really sad.
But one of my favorites was KFWB’s Gene Weed. Picture David Caruso but younger, not craggy, not a weasel.
Gene would now be doing his show every Saturday afternoon from Wallichs. There is a God!
This would be a two-man operation. The engineer manning the turntables and Gene across from him at the mike. Outside, pimple faced kids pressed their faces against the glass like canned hams. Mine included.
Most would watch for ten minutes and then move on to the similar, and more lively, monkey cages. Not me. My schmooshed face never left its spot. I knew I had to get in there. Somehow. Fate smiled when Gene showed up one day with a cold. I raced down to Kaplan’s mediocre Deli and returned with a Styrofoam cup of their horrible chicken soup. A gofer had been born. From that Saturday on I stood in the corner, watching in awe as he introduced records and made golf reservations over the phone. This was the life for me, I thought. At 14 I had found my calling. Forget that at eight I had also found my calling as a baseball announcer, and at six I saw myself driving a steam shovel.
He was also the first person to tell me I’m an idiot if I go into radio. I was stunned. He cautioned that disc jockeys had limited futures and the industry itself was just a cut above traveling medicine shows. I would come to learn years later that he was absolutely right. But at the time I was mystified.
Larry McCormick went on to break the color barrier in local TV news and became the first African-American anchor. And Gene Weed fled radio to become a top TV director.
But in the late summer of 1964 I couldn’t think of a better way of spending six or seven decades than by playing “My Boy Lollipop.” Larry Lujack, a top rated jock in Chicago for much of the ‘60s and ‘70s was often asked, “What do you say to a kid who wants to be a disc jockey when he grows up?” and Larry would say, “You can’t do both.”