Los Angeles Radio History: 1960s
by Alex Cosper

Introduction 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s

see also American Radio History

Many times what has started in L.A. has been followed by the nation. It was true in the sixties when KHJ became the market leader with top 40 hit music. The consulting team of Bill Drake and Gene Chenault was the key behind KHJ's success beginning in the mid-sixties. They consulted other major market stations after KHJ quickly rose to number one in the market with its fast-paced energetic approach to delivering the hits. "Boss Radio" became the seed of what top 40 radio was through the eighties.

In the early sixties the market leaders were AM top 40 stations KFWB and KRLA. KFWB, which billed itself as "number one in Los Angeles," owed some of its success to morning host Wink Martindale. But KFWB suffered a series of misfortunes including a 1961 strike resulting in the departure of programming pioneer Chuck Blore and then a payola investigation targeting the station's Music Director in 1964. In the mid-sixties KRLA had risen to dominate the ratings race. Some of the popular voices on KRLA included Casey Kasem, Bob Eubanks and Dick Biondi.

But with KHJ switching to top 40 in 1965 with a new sound called "Boss Radio," everything changed and KHJ became the market leader for years. The station featured what would become some of the biggest names ever in L.A. radio history, including the Real Don Steele, Charlie Tuna, Charlie Van Dyke and Robert W. Morgan. By 1968 KHJ had clearly become the top 40 champ in the market, forcing KFWB to flip to news. KRLA eventually went oldies while KHJ remained a challenger for market leadership for the next decade.

Ironically, the station that ended up in a tie with KHJ in the early seventies was the underdog station KDAY. The rock station lacked the funds to compete, yet ended up on top with what seemed to be an unbeatable station. KDAY was programmed by Bob Wilson, who later founded the radio industry trade publication Radio & Records. Wolfman Jack did evenings.

Later in the seventies, KDAY slipped in the ratings, but KHJ remained strong in the top three. By the end of the decade, however, KHJ had fallen to the bottom end of the ratings.

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