Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Sam Riddle

Sorry to hear of the passing of Sam Riddle.  He was 85.  Unless you grew up in Los Angeles in the ‘60s and ‘70s you probably have no idea who he was. Essentially, he was our Dick Clark.  (Hmmmm?  How many of you know who Dick Clark was?)  

Sam was a local disc jockey and hosted local dance party TV shows.  NINTH STREET WEST and HOLLYWOOD A GO GO were the ones I remember although he hosted three or four others.  (I was once on NINTH STREET WEST.  Thank God no tapes of that exist.)

But he was a disc jockey when that meant something.  Ironic that this should happen now, so soon after my post on radio and the plethora of comments yay or nay.   Say what you will, radio was once a real shared event.  Everyone listened to the same one or two stations, we all heard the same new music, and the DJ’s were part of our lives.  They were our friends.  They talked directly to us.  A study in the mid ‘60s found that next to clergy, teenagers trusted disc jockeys more than anyone else — more than teachers, more than parents. 

And Sam Riddle was one of the best known and most trusted of all.  Like Dick Clark, his delivery was very smooth.  He talked to you like an adult who “got you.”  His emphasis was on the music.  Hosting all these shows featuring musical acts meant that he knew them all and was able to share some inside stories.  Listeners obviously have opinions on disc jockeys.  I don’t anyone who didn’t like Sam Riddle. 

I first met him in the mid ‘60s.  KFWB, then the number one station, was broadcasting every Saturday from a remote studio in the Topanga Plaza — a mile from where I lived.  Gene Weed was the jock and had a “guest DJ” contest, which I won.  However, the day I was supposed to do it Gene got sick and Sam had to substitute for him.  When I arrived he knew nothing of this.  Meanwhile, I had told all my friends I was going to be on (which was probably stupid in the very likely event that I sucked).  It would have been so easy for Sam to say, “Sorry.  No one told me.  Come back next week.”  Instead he said, “Okay” and could not have been more supportive.   But that’s Sam. 

I didn’t know him well over the years.  Would bump into him occasionally.  He was always gracious.  

Sam was also smart.  Unlike a lot of jocks of that era, he sensed that radio DJ was a stop not an endgame.  He gravitated towards TV; first hosting shows and then producing them.  Remember STAR SEARCH?  That was Sam’s baby.  If only he had Ryan Seacrest host instead of Ed McMahon.  He produced other shows as well. 

I last saw Sam in January on Zoom.  I interviewed him for a podcast (not mine).  He was struggling that day.  So when I got the word I was not surprised.

Again, many of you never heard of him.  But there were disc jockeys in your market that did make an impression.  So consider this a tribute and celebration of all DJ’s and a chance to say thanks for all the hours of entertainment and companionship.  It hurts when they sign-off for good.  

“So long, music lovers.”  That was Sam Riddle’s.  He was one of the reasons I was a music lover.  

17 comments :

Curt Alliaume said...

Sam Riddle was nice enough to email me correcting an error on a game show website I ran years ago; he produced and announced the 1975-76 stunt show Almost Anything Goes. Seemed like a nice guy. RIP.

Tom Asher said...

Sorry to hear this. Sam's airchecks from his time had a certain "coolness" to them, in my opinion... the kids today would say he was "chill" compared to the high-energy RDS earlier in the day. I really enjoy listening to his stuff.

Jrandall said...

I feel so lucky that I got to grow up in Los Angeles during the 60's and 70's - there was sooooo much Great Radio!! Sam was one of those DJ's who didn't blow you away like RDS or RWM, but everyone knew him and that is a great tribute! RIP to Sam and to Personality Radio!

Bob Paris said...

I enjoyed listening to Sam Riddle on Boss Radio KHJ and watching his shows on sister broadcaster Channel 9. What I remember most about the TV shows was the adorable Kam Nelson - hey, I was 11! So was she, an eleven that is.

Brian Phillips said...

I'm sorry to hear this. It's a mark of the great ones who support and mentor.


FRIDAY QUESTION: I just watched a Cheers episode in which the running gag was that Sam's Plymouth Volarè was keeping Sam from scoring with women.

Since the episode made the airwaves, it seems that the Chrysler Corporation was OK with this. What have been some surprising corporate responses to script references?

Mike Barer said...

Seattle lost it's "Dick Clark" last year with the passing of Pat O'Day.

Jeff P said...

Sam was smooth and clean....great jock! Pro!!!!

My best friend Guy Zapoleon and I once had lunch with Kam Nelson!!!!!

Andy K said...

I was a fan of Sam Riddle. I appeared on 9th St West when I was 16. I won $45 by recognizing records within 5 seconds. He was gracious and kind to guests.

Victor Velasco said...

A great DJ. RIP Sam

Jim Freyler said...

Very sad to hear this. I run the website about Hollywood a Go-Go and the Gazzarri dancers and Sam was one of the few from the show I never connected with. He leaves behind an enormous legacy of 1960s teenage memories. Prayers for Adrienne and his family.

Norm said...

I first met Sam Riddle at the KHJ Big Kahuna Luau in Paradise Cove, CA in 1966. I remember him telling me KHJ was his 11th! radio station!

Sam was smart to be on "both sides of the microphone/camera" and it served him well.

Long before clips of Sam on HOLLYWOOD-A-GO-GO were everywhere on YOUTUBE (didn't know until yesterday the Rolling Stones made an appearance), he gave me a video copy of the show for my personal collection.

RIP Sam!

Unknown said...

Here's Sam on "Hollywood A Go Go" from August 1965, introducing the great Jackie DeShannon and telling a tale about the shirt she's wearing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwXl5_L6Pl0

Vincent said...

BTW, I'm the "Unknown," formerly VP81955. (I lost my old gmail not long ago and had to take a new online identity.)

Artie in Sin City said...

You hit Riddle on the head...you just knew he was for real AND a good guy when you listened as a youngster...Years later I would see him all the time at my work 20...I was upstairs in the lowly traffic department at KHJ-TV and downstairs they were cranking out all the revenue on BOSS Radio...He always was up and had a smile when he passed you in the hall...Each time we lose an LA jock I feel a part of me depart..."Getting old IS a bitch"...Keep 'em spinning up in the heavenly DJ skies Mr. Riddle...

ScarletNumber said...

>Hmmmm? How many of you know who Dick Clark was?

It's funny, but Dick Clark hosted American Bandstand on ABC for 30 years, exactly as many years as Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show. Clark's reign was five years before Johnny's, but Dick also hosted New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC for another 17 years after American Bandstand left the network.

Because of both shows, I would say that Dick Clark is pretty well remembered, even now.

MSOLDN said...

I’ve re-listened to this (free-access) aircheck of Sam on KHJ in May 1969 a couple of times this week. As always on these sad occasions, it’s eerie that an air personality who still sounds so vibrant, hip, and sharp today has now left us as an old man aged 85. Listen to Sam grooving here (and get ready for an incredible state-of-the-art Orange County International Raceway spot voiced by the Real Don Steele)-

https://m.mixcloud.com/retroradiojoe/khj-los-angeles-sam-riddle-05-03-1969/

Unknown said...

On the phone recently with my son and told him about the loss of famed BOSS DJ Sam Riddle this week in LA...
Wanted him to pass word to my ex who also worked with me at KHJ in late 60's...
A minute after saying so long he called right back...
"Sorry, I forgot", he said...
"What was his name...Dick Drizzle?"
I roared...Later I thought, what a GREAT DJ name...
(Top The Hour Jingle and VO)
"Ladies and Gentlemen...and NOW BOSS Angeles...
DICK DRIZZLE!"