John and Ken played the hits
You know them as John and Ken, aka John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, the hugely popular afternoon drive team that helped build KFI (640 AM) into the tale radio juggernaut that it is.
They arrived in los Angeles in 1992, and except for a small stint doing mornings at KABC (790 AM), they have held been KFI’s afternoon stars, maintaining dominance in their time slot for most of their almost three decades here.
They are the guys that can drive you nuts. John is actually much like me, often taking the absurd position either for fun or just being too lazy to research it out fully. Ken is usually the more subdued, slightly more thoughtful of the pair. But they are always entertaining, and they are one of the consistent bright spots in local programming, whether you agree with their oppositions or not.
You may know a little of their history: they arrived at KFI after a stint at Live 101.5 in Trenton, New Jersey, where they became locally famous for helping organize a protest against a huge tax hike made by then-Governor Jim Florio after he took office. 65,000 people attended the rally in front of the Trenton State House, with 100,000 turned away due to crowded conditions and lack of parking. It is said to be the largest rally ever held in New Jersey.
John and Ken kept the pressure on Florio and covered numerous other tax and political local issues; eventually Florio lost his reelection bid … and John and Ken’s ratings went through the roof, helping establish Live 101.5’s presence in the local radio scene.
The pair was hired to replace former police chief Darryl Gates on KFI in late 1992.
But there is another side of John and Ken, one which I just recently learned. Did you know that John and Ken once played music together on small stations in Atlantic City? I certainly didn’t. But I found proof, courtesy of Ellis B Feaster’s Radio Channel and Travel Corner. Feaster is, himself, a great radio guy, and he posted some recordings of Jiohn and Ken in their earliest days together.
The first, at tinyurl.com/radiowaves0703 is the first break on the first show for WOND, Solid Gold 14. John and Ken actually replaced Feaster in the mornings, with Feaster staying on in the afternoon. He says he holds no grudges …
Kobylt said that the duo were only on the station for a short time. “Even though we were on the station only eight months,” he said, “I could write a whole chapter on the WOND experience.” I plan to follow up on that soon.
The second posting by Feaster, at tinyurl.com/radiowaves0703b, is their next station, 104-MGM, WMGM also in Atlantic City. Here they play South Jersey’s hottest hits as “radio’s odd couple.”
As I said, I never realized that the duo had a history together playing music. But it makes sense … KFI has been considered a top-40 station that happens to play talk programming, and it is that excitement and attitude that helped push it past the former talk leader and original Los Angeles talk station, KABC.
Give those recordings a listen – I think you’ll find them interesting, and you’ll hear John and Ken’s style in use today even back then. Interestingly, another popular talk host — Rush Limbaugh, now heard 9 am – noon on KEIB (1150 AM) — started as a music jock as well. It seems top-40 prepares one well form talk radio.
While you’re there, look around and listen to Feaster’s other recordings – he has a lot of good material available.
I love reading your letters and emails. I try to include as many as I can in the column, and I do try to respond to all of them, even though sometimes it takes me too long Regardless, this is among my favorite memory letters of the week.
“Way back in the1950s, I lived in California’s San Joaquin Valley where I remained until 1976 when I moved to the Bay Area (San Francisco East Bay). Radio station KBEE was an FM only station in Modesto until around 1956 when it began to also broadcast in AM (I think it was called “Simulcast”). It began to broadcast certain musical programs in stereo around 1959 or 1960, with one channel in FM and the other in AM. An odd combination but to my teenage ears it was new so it sounded great, especially since my folks never owned an FM radio until then.
“As you can see, I’m an old-timer. The station I really miss is KSFO with its adult level talk and music as it was in the 1960s – 1980s era. I’m an XM subscriber now, but just in my car, finding only a handful of XM satisfactory. I’m new to Amazon’s Prime Music / Echo system, but find you really need to know the name of any music before you can listen to it – a problem in itself.
“As you can see, I’m an old guy, still looking for radio that was.” — Gary Jones
You are so right on the needing to know. I was trying to see how well my HomePod worked with some of the iHeart stations, since I refuse to use the awful iHeartRadio app. I tried “play KEIB.” “Play KEIB 1150 AM.” “Play The Patriot 1150 AM.” None of those worked. What finally worked? “Play The Patriot 1150” without the “AM.” You’d think the commands would be a little more versatile.
The stereo system you speak of was one method used before FM’s stereo Multiplex system was approved. It was not only “odd,” but led to some of the best-sounding AM radios ever made. They had to be, or the sound would be unbalanced. I swear the AM on my old Fisher tube receiver sounded every bit as good as FM on a strong station.
Thank you for the memories!