Radio Waves: 3/17/17

“Real” Oldies to Return to Los Angeles

I wouldn’t put it on the same level as when the fictional WKRP in Cincinnati changed formats from Beautiful Music to top-40, but listeners to many of Saul Levine’s smaller Los Angeles stations must have been caught by surprise last week when most of them made some sort of switch.

First off, Levine’s first musical love — Classical — moved down the dial from the digital HD stream of 105.1 HD2 to 88.1 HD2. This puts classical onto Long Beach State’s signal that Levine happens to run from his Mount Wilson Broadcasting Company studios in Westwood.

You need an HD Radio to pick up the digital signal and those mentioned below; HD radios are widely available in many new cars and aftermarket car stereos as well as home tuners and radios. Levine has long been a supporter of the technology.

88.1 HD2 will feature classical music 24/7, while the main signal of 88.1 – KKJZ — will continue to feature jazz and blues programming. The classical programming on 88.1 HD2 replaces a secondary jazz format the station used to run; 88.1 HD3 will continue as K-Beach, run by students on the campus of CSULB.

Now that classical has moved down the dial, it frees up 105.1 HD2 to become … OLDIES. Real oldies. As in focussing-on the-1950s-and-1960s oldies, the songs long-ago abandoned by the major broadcast groups. Levine calls it K-Surf, to invoke images of the Southern California beach lifestyle and the songs that were once heard through transistor radios plastered against your ear. As I write this, Bobby Vee’s Devil or Angel faded segued into To Sir With Love by Lulu followed by Pipeline by the Chantays.

It’s only been on a few days — the debut of the oldies format was last Saturday — but Levine says the response has been tremendous. So much so that he’s thinking of putting the format full-time on KBOQ (1260 AM) full time; for now KBOQ will continue to play standards during the week, though it added oldies on the weekend … leading to frantic calls and emails from fans of the standards format.

If all that sounds confusing, here is the program listing:

Classical: KKJZ 88.1 HD2 and online at KMOZART.Com, 24 hours

Standards: KBOQ Monday-Friday only, KKGO 105.1 HD3 and unforgettable1260.Com 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Oldies: KKGO 105.1 HD2 and LAOldies.Com 24/7, KBOQ 5 p.m. Fridays through 9 a.m Mondays.

All of the stations can be found via apps such as TuneIn and StreamS HiFi. It may even be on the iHeart app, but that has gotten so bloated I cannot stand using it any more.

For now the music is commercial and DJ free. I hope Levine adds DJs (and jingles!), especially to K-Surf, even if they are voice-tracked to keep costs down. Radio is a personal thing and DJs bring that connection, at least in my opinion. I’d do a shift for free.

Now, you may be thinking … didn’t Levine just change 1260 to standards? Why is he thinking of switching to oldies so soon?

Here is where having independent broadcasters is so important. Yes, one could quip that formats change on 1260 more often than some people change underwear. I’ve joked about it myself, though the changes slowed down in the past few years. But that misses the point.

Levine could have sold out years ago and retired very comfortably. KKGO itself is worth a small fortune, KBOQ is worth less but would still fetch a decent amount … and with the lack of commercials, one can easily assume that KBOQ currently doesn’t make enough to pay the electric bill. But Levine stays in radio because he loves radio, and he is constantly finding formats that are in his opinion missing from the local airwaves.

He did it — and hit pay-dirt — with country. He’s continued to support classical and standards. And now he’s playing oldies that absolutely no one else plays. I sincerely hope that the Levine Los Angeles radio dynasty continues for many generations.