Radio Waves: 8/19/16

The return of Standards

Fans of adult standards — the smooth sounds of Sinatra and friends — have been without a local radio home (at least if they don’t own a digital HD radio) since KGIL dropped the format and became classical K-Mozart (1260 AM) in April, 2011. Since that time, standards have been available only on the HD3 digital stream of GO Country 105, but of course you need a special radio to hear it.

More than five years have passed, and to the rescue is … 1260 AM, which will — or did, depending in when you read this — return to playing standards at 3 p.m. Friday.

Owner Saul Levine loves classical music, so I know that the decision to change was not made lightly. In fact, the change had been planned to happen a few weeks ago, but he wanted to give classical one more chance. “The advertising just isn’t there,” Levine explained, adding that the station was losing money monthly.

The new format is called The American Songbook, and will feature music about which Levine says he is also passionate: “I consider it America’s classical music.” He explained that the format will feature a distinct modern flavor with recordings made more recently that is typical on other Standards stations. “Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett will be there, of course, along with more recent artists such as Michael Buble, Steve Tyrell, and Diana Krall. Sinatra is timeless, as is Bennett,” he explained.

The kickoff to the format is a continuous loop of popular Sinatra songs which will run repeatedly and commercial-free through 6 a.m. Monday. As of press-time, there is no word on DJs or a possible call-letter change; I’ll have that information as it becomes available.

Classical will continue on 105.1 HD2, and Unforgettable will simulcast on 105.1 HD3.

Free to Retire

Paul Freeman, who started his broadcast career as a junior in high school and has been heard locally since 1970, has hung up his headphones and will soon join his family in the state of Washington.

A low-powered station set up in the basement of his childhood home led to his first job reading news, but he hit the big time when he landed at KEZY (now KGBN, 1190 AM) in 1970 soon after obtaining his broadcasting license at the William B. Ogden Radio School. KEZY was Anaheim’s answer to KHJ (930 AM) and was a powerhouse of talent throughout its history.

1976 brought him to KHJ and soon after KIIS AM/FM, which at the time was programmed by Charlie Tuna. Freeman stayed at KIIS (later on FM only, 102.7) through numerous formats: pop, disco and dance. Then came the station’s move into top-40 in the early 1980s, which saw the talented staff work its way to the top of the Los Angeles ratings.

“That is my favorite radio memory — working at KIIS-FM when the station earned a 10 share in the Arbitron ratings,” Freeman told me. “It was so much fun … you could feel the vibe when you stepped off the elevator on the 11th floor of the Motown Records building (where the studios were located). KIIS rocked the ‘80s … we owned the city.”

It was during that time when he worked for his favorite programmer in his career. “Gerry DeFrancisco was amazing to work for. The best. He and General manager Wally Clark knew how to build a winning station, promote it and push us to our best.”

Clark, along with his more recent employer, Saul Levine, wound up as his two favorite General Managers. “Both Wally and Saul are so passionate about radio, they inspire everyone they are near.”

His resume includes KODJ/KCBS-FM (93.1 FM), KZLA (now KXOS, 93.9 FM), KYSR (98.7 FM), KBIG (104.3 FM), and of course KKGO Go Country 105 FM where he has worked the past nine years.

Did it take long to get used to playing country songs on KZLA and Go Country after such a long time playing pop? “I didn’t know the songs at first,” he said. “But I quickly began to like them. It is much like top-40 of years past as far as the sound, and every song has a story to tell. There are so many songs to which people can relate!”

What made him decide to retire? “I want to spend time with my family. I have five brothers and sisters all living in Washington, and I want to spend quality time with them. I just bought a house with deer in my front yard; my house is just minutes away from my sister who’s house is on a lake.

“It’s time … but I will miss being on the radio. It’s the only job I’ve ever had and I am very fortunate to have been able to do it all these years. It’s time to turn it over to someone else.”

“Paul has been the Afternoon Drive Time air personality since Go Country 105 adopted the Country Format in 2007, said station owner Levine. “Not only has Paul been one of the nicest persons to have around the station, but his share of audience has been among the highest through out that time to this date. Paul is always cheerful and upbeat, and that quality will be missed by the entire staff.”

Christine Martindale has returned to the station to take over Freeman’s afternoon drive show.