by Alex Cosper
see also American Radio History
STATION HISTORY: KABC KBBQ KBIG KBLA KDAY KEZY KFAC KFOX KFWB KGBS KGFJ KGIL KHJ KIEV KIIS KIQQ KKBT KKDJ KLAC KLOS KLSX KMET KMPC KNAC KNX KOST KPOL KPPC KPWR KQLZ KRLA KROQ KRTH KSRF KTNQ KTWV KUTE KWST KZLA XPRS
Los Angeles is the second biggest radio market in the country, behind New York City. Over 50 stations populate the radio dial. The city's legendary radio history has impacted broadcasters and listeners around the world. Some of the biggest names in radio were heard in L.A., including Wolfman Jack, Casey Kasem, Shadoe Stevens and Tom & Raechel Donahue.
Countless celebrities did regular shows in the market, including George Carlin, Ice T, Snoop Dogg, Bob Crane and Wink Martindale. Stevie Wonder has owned his own L.A. radio station since the 80s: 102.3 KJLH. Some of the most famous syndicated radio shows have originated from L.A. including American Top 40 and Love Line.
KROQ, one of the last standing alternative stations in the nation, helped pioneer the format that industry experts said could not be done. A consistent market leader in the 2000s has been contemporary hits trend-setter KIIS (102.7). The station's morning personality, Ryan Seacrest, rose to national celebrity status in 2002 when he became a co-host of the top television series American Idol.
Seacrest had done afternoons at Star 98.7 (KYSR) from 1995 to 2003 and then became host of the syndicated radio countdown American Top 40. He replaced Rick Dees as KIIS morning host in Febuary 2004. Rick Dees returned to L.A. radio in the fall of 2006 on Movin 93.9, after Emmis flipped long time country station KZLA to KMVN, playing a mix of urban, disco and dance classic hits.
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.
KHJ's heyday was the sixties and seventies, then KIIS took over as the powerhouse hit station throughout the eighties. The station battled rivals Power 106 and The Beat. By the end of the eighties, it was unclear who held the market throne, but KIIS would inevitably recapture the definite crown in the following decade.
One of the most celebrated stations in L.A. radio history has been KMET, which was a freeform station in the sixties and transformed into an influential album rock station in the seventies. It lasted until 1987, when it became a new age station called The Wave. KLOS and KLSX were rock competitors for many years, but it is usually KMET that is often cited as L.A.'s most legendary rocker.
Dusty Street, who can be heard on Sirius, came from "Underground FM" (KSAN) in San Francisco and worked for KROQ, KWST and KLSX, but spent the most time on KROQ throughout the eighties. On January 26, 2018 she told Playlist Research, "Music, you see, has always been the driving forces in my life and the fact I made a living playing it was remarkable to me. There is something truly special when you can change with the tide and also change the tide. Every generation needs their own music, if you pay attention the audience will tell you when you're going in the right direction even if they haven't caught up yet."
She saw first hand in public what the power of exposing new music can do over time, explaining, "I had a gig playing music once a week at a club in Santa Monica. I spent the first hour playing some of the newest records I had, nobody danced. Within a few weeks, however, that same record would pack the dance floor. It just had to become familiar with them." One of the reasons certain stations like KROQ have been legendary is that they helped break many successful acts, especially in the eighties. "That was truly my favorite decade," Dusty says.
In the 21st century, L.A. radio, like so many other markets, has largely become automated with occasional live announcing to assist the automated programming. Air personality Dave Skyler, a ten year veteran of KRTH who has worked in L.A. radio since the eighties, explains in a March 2018 interview how the state of radio has changed dramatically this century.
© Playlist Research. All rights reserved.