Remembering Ron Jacobs
Friends, former colleagues, and fans of gathered at Le Petit Chateau restaurant in North Hollywood last Saturday to pay tribute to radio legend Ron Jacobs, who passed away last month in his native Hawaii.
Organized by Kevin Gershan, who grew up with the Boss Radio format originated by Jacobs and others at KHJ (930 AM) in 1965 — and who eventually produced the (post- KHJ) Robert W. Morgan Show — the gathering was a way for those living on the West Coast to get together and remember the man known as one of the architects of modern music radio broadcasting.
And did they talk. About the manic phone calls that might last hours at a time, including incoherent yelling. About the many times he threatened to sue someone … or everyone in the room. And about the genius that he was when it came to radio and marketing, along with the care he took of people he respected and considered friends.
Best known for his work at KHJ, launching the format that took the station to the top of the ratings with a fast-paced bigger-than-life music format, Jacobs was also behind the creation in 1972 of album-oriented KGB (now KLSD, 1360 AM) complete with the Homegrown series of albums featuring music from local artists as well as the hugely popular KGB Chicken.
He was the man behind the 1969 48-hour radio documentary History of Rock and Roll that aired on KHJ just prior to his leaving the station. He then went on to co-found Watermark and launch American Top-40, the long-running countdown show starring Casey Kasem. Jacobs also produced the Elvis Presley Story narrated by Wink Martindale … the first American radio production to be purchased by the BBC for airing in England.
You can get a taste of his crazy-genius and energy level by reading KHJ Inside Boss Radio, available as a Kindle book at Amazon for $9.30. When I read the book I found it fascinating … and tiring: the energy that pours out of the memos written by Jacobs is simply astounding.
The celebration of life was just that — upbeat, happy, positive. As “crazy” as Jacobs could be at times, he touched so many people in so many positive ways, and he did indeed help change radio forever.
Michael Stark — who runs the LA Radio Studio in San Pedro — and I interviewed Jacobs almost a year before his death, back in March of 2015. We spent three hours on the telephone discussing radio in general, letting him tell stories about his early radio life, the top-40 wars of Fresno and San Bernardino, KHJ and more. Unfortunately, it ended up being only part one of what was supposed to be at least two — and probably more — volumes.
The project was put on the backburner due to in part to Jacobs being involved in other projects as well as some of his health issues. Regardless, We are currently editing the interview and eventually we will have this ready for release and available as an audio recording or podcast.