Sunday, July 01, 2018

B100 reasons to love radio

Happy to say I was a disc jockey back when radio was fun. In the ‘70s there were two formats that appealed to young listeners. Laid-back album oriented FM stations where all the DJ’s were stoned or at least aspired to be. And Top 40 where the presentation was high energy. Speed instead of downers. I gravitated towards Top 40. There was more freedom to be zany, you could talk every three minutes instead of every fifteen minutes (after long far out album sets), and you could play jingles and sound effects and wild tracks of people telling you to shut up. Top 40 was a better fit for my personality. I was not cool. I was not mellow. I thought “Nights in White Satin” sucked.

The only downside to Top 40 radio was that you played the same damn ten songs over and over again. That’s what eventually drove me out of it (that and being fired a lot). But playing “Kung Fu Fighting” four times a night every night almost turned me into Mary Todd Lincoln.

In 1975 KFMB-FM San Diego became B100. Programmed by a radio genius, Bobby Rich, it was a wild fun station with the slogan “Better Boogie” (whatever that meant). By then I had retired from radio full-time and was in Los Angeles launching my TV writing career. But I still did weekends on B100. Thank goodness the station had a trade deal with PSA airlines and the Travelator Hotel (where all the stewardesses stayed and slept with everyone but me). I was using the air name Beaver Cleaver and having the time of my radio life. Imagine Seth MacFarlane but not as tasteful.

Almost from day one the station was a huge hit. San Diego kids were very discerning when it came to “Boogie” and appreciated that ours was better.

For the one-year anniversary of the station, program director Bobby Rich put together a weekend special – 100 hours on non-stop music. No commercials. And better than that, he invited top disc jockeys from Southern California to come down and make guest appearances. Rich Brother Robbin, Dave Conley, and Chuck Browning (former well-known San Diego personalities) and Billy Pearl (formerly of KHJ and once my roommate) joined the airstaff for 100 hours.

To mix it up everyone worked one-hour shifts. And in a couple of cases we doubled up. I did an hour teamed with Rich Brother Robbin and another with Billy Pearl.

Pretty much anything went. Inside radio jokes flew. At the time there was a syndicated program rock stations were airing called the Fantasy Concert, where a Woodstock-like concert was imagined. (They played "Kung Fu Fighting" but put crowd noise underneath it.)  So I did the Concert from Rock n’ Roll Heaven. In an Ed Sullivan voice I introduced all dead acts. There were Mama Cass ham sandwich jokes, Jimi Hendrix jokes – like I said, good taste was not a high priority.

And for most of the weekend everyone hung out at the station. It was one continuous party. Hopefully the listeners got swept up in our enthusiasm and rowdiness because we were probably terrible. It’s like seeing home videos of the party you thought was so awesome. In the light of day taking off your clothes and peeing in the cat box was not the great idea you thought it was at the time.

But the point is radio was fun. It was live, it was audacious, and sadly, I don’t think will ever be like that again.

20 comments :

Kent said...

Did you know that there is a monument to your rival station KCBQ in Santee? (https://www.yelp.com/biz/kcbq-monument-santee). A lot of big-voiced people were at the dedication. It was truly a fun time to listen to radio.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

There's a common complaint about the current state of broadcast radio today that I have to agree with, and that is that it's become to darned repetitive, with very limited variety. One of our local stations, B9.75, prides itself on not repeating the same songs, but they do that a lot more than they say that don't: it's not uncommon to hear the exact same songs every single day, and sometimes multiple times a day at that. They also tend to act like certain artists only have just one song and nothing else . . . for all the songs that Adele has to her name, "Send My Love" is apparently her only song as far as the station is concerned. And look at Lorde: she finally has other songs out now, but apparently "Royales" is still her only song the station is aware of. It not only gets tedious and monotonous, but it really makes you grow to hate these songs . . . I can't stand "Call Me Maybe," "Exes and Ohs," "Scars to Your Beautiful," "Havanananana," or anything by Taylor Swift because of it.

Comcast/xfinity has been having this problem anymore as well: I used to love their Music Choice channels, but they've gotten increasingly repetitive. Especially with their holiday playlists on their Sounds of the Seasons channel: they used to have a wide variety of music for Halloween and Christmas, but now their Halloween playlist has been limited to just so many songs that you can hear the entire playlist repeated up to three times in a single day; their Christmas playlist had a great selection of traditional songs by the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and others, but have since gone in favor of more contemporary songs by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor, and others.

That being said, there's an oldies station in my town that I'm really loving: most oldies stations are exclusively to well-known hits from the 60s, and maybe a few from the very early 70s; this one, however, spans from the late 50s well into the 80s, and not only plays the hits, but also will dig up rarities and forgotten songs as well, thus offering a much better variety.

Mike said...

(where all the stewardesses stayed and slept with everyone but me). I was using the air name Beaver Cleaver
(Sound of needle being dragged across record)
Stop right there. Your air name was Little Willie & the Hand Jive.
Is that Beanpole Levine sitting on the floor in that picture?

Ken Levine said...

I am aware of that monument. My name is on it along with way more talented people than me. I did a short stint at KCBQ in my ersatz radio career.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Which one is you? The blonde in the middle? But seriously, If I could go back and change one aspect of my life I would have made more of an effort to develop my radio career. After I got fired from my last radio job I was not in a position (nor particularly willing) to start over at the beginning. That included moving out of L.A. to Bakersfield or the middle of the desert or where ever. Maybe if I had I would now be someone you might have heard of. Finally, your comparison of AM and FM jocks reminded me of one of my favorite SNL sketches. Dan Aykroyd was a D.J. at a station that was both AM and FM. He would flip back and forth between the frenetic AM side and the laid back FM side. It was very well done and was a great showcase for Aykroyd's talent.
M.B.
P.S. To this day I still have "dead-air" nightmares.

John Hammes said...

Would like to think you kept a personal tape recording or two of "Concert From Rock N Roll Heaven". No doubt very classy and in high taste, in comparison to (most) current broadcast entertainment. By 1975, Ed Sullivan himself would have also joined the status of featured rock n rollers on said program. Serendipity.

Todd Everett said...

I knew radio as I grew up with it was gone to hell when I was assigned to write a press release for a record label. Can't remember the subject, but at one point I referred to (maybe the act having once been one) a "disc jockey."

The head of the press department handed it back, informing me that the preferred term was "air personality."

Me, I'd always aspired (unsuccessfully) to be a disc jockey. And by the time I was writing this, damned few of them anymore were allowed to show any personality at all.

Janet Ybarra said...

The problem is the corporate buyout of so much radio. We have, at least in this area, a couple of non-corporate owned classic rock stations, for instance, but their on- air presence seems too skittish to scare off their mom-and-pop advertisers to have the the kind that kind of edginess unfortunately.

I think that kind of radio exists only on the Internet in podcasts today, like "The Mike O'Meara Show," which actually had its origins as a terrestrial radio show a decade and more ago.

VP81955 said...

"Disc jockey" is to "air personality" what "stewardess" is to "flight attendant." (Or what "school library" is to "instructional media center.")

Howard Hoffman said...

Okay. Here we go! The B100 Better Boogie Birthday Bash!

Lauren said...

I entered radio in 1978 just as it was diving. I would love to have worked when radio was "red hot" as they say. People just don't know how much fun it was to do and to listen to. I loved it the short time I was on the air.

Dr Loser said...

I'll bet nobody here remembers PSA airlines (they were part of the Great Deregulation, which didn't last long).

I do. They were quite wonderful. As I recall, they had purple and orange seats ... I sort of miss the days when whacked-out druggies were in charge of major corporations.

Michael Dobkins said...

The Vintage San Diego page on Facebook has a photo of the Travelator Hotel with the KFMB building in the background:

https://www.facebook.com/VintageSD/photos/a.774536245929640.1073742047.181625028554101/774536609262937/?type=3&theater

The Travelator the hotel was named after was a motorized treadmill overpass that lead to the El Cortez Hotel next door.

Doctor Boogie said...

I 'retired" recently after over 50 years playing the hits.

I never had an issue with being called a DJ or a Jock or a disc jockey until the Club DJ's took over the term.

Apparently, I was lucky because I only got fired/forced out 4 times and only had 3 horrible radio bosses out of over 20 stations.

Radio was my first love. It will be my last.

Bobby Rich

(My hobby is an internet station, B100.FM, which features the voices of 17 former B100 San Diego jocks including the amazing and clever Beaver Cleaver).

Mike Bloodworth said...

PSA also had smiles painted on the front of their planes.
M.B.

TireKicker said...

Dr. Loser:

Actually, PSA was a victim of the Great Deregulation. It was part of the first de-reg merger (with USAir). PSA itself had one helluva run on the West Coast, from 1949 to 1988. It absolutely was California's airline...and its hub was San Diego.

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC2FflQTg9U&t=3s a fun well received retro show I did when at KSPC which when I was imaging it and won LA Weakly's station of the year award. I was at KLA83 (UCLA) with you, Gary Campbell, Billy Pearl (I used to call him up with gag calls), Shane, Bill Bauer, Vin DiBono, etc.

Dario Witer said...

Indeed. When disco entered the scene in 1974/75(my first school year as a kindergartener), Top 40 radio reached its zenith at that time. Because I was in school at the time, I didn't listen Top 40 radio much, nor was I allowed to listen to it during the school week, Mondays thru Fridays, but when I did, it was great! 😁

Anonymous said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB8WytEghi8&t=46s my parocy/commentary on radio today

RW Crum said...

I am sad to report that the Billy Pearl you knew "died" some time ago. He got his bar license in 1980, then allowed it to go into "inactive" status some time ago. He's Bill Pearl now, a gadfly with a website in Long Beach, CA who fancies himself a true journalist because his website purports to report the "news" in and around Long Beach, albeit mostly political and definitely with his own peculiar slant. He usually censors and bans opposing viewpoints, admittedly especially mine. By and large he's view mostly as a rather distraction more than anything else.