Los Angeles Radio
by Alex Cosper
see also American Radio
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.
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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