Radio Waves: July 31, 2020

Birth of the Boss?

A controversy of sorts is being played out on Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com: What is the origin of the term “boss radio?”

If you grew up in 1960s Los Angeles, you know the term “Boss Radio” was used to describe the  programming on KHJ (930 AM). Boss Hitbounds, Boss Angeles, the Boss Jocks. The word was everywhere, which is somewhat ironic because the term “boss” itself was dated. The precursor to “cool” or “bitchin’,” “boss” was on the way out as far as teen slang went.

But KHJ was most definitely not the first station to use the term. KHJ consultant Bill Drake worked at KYA in San Francisco when they were known as “The Boss of the Bay.” And the term predated even him in the very early 1960s. 

Letters on LARadio.Com confirm the early use. But does that mean then-KHJ General manager Ken DeVaney lied when he insists in Ron Jacob’s book, Inside Boss Radio, that he was the one who initiated the name?

Not necessarily. Being the Boss of the Bay and Boss Radio can actually be two different things, and I am not sure that much thought was put into either. The Boss of the Bay could very well have been using the term as it is used today … meaning leader. I honestly don’t know that, but it’s plausible. Boss Radio was meant to be “cool” or ”bitchin’” radio. Unfortunately, most of the architects of that era of radio are gone, so we may never know the answer. But it’s fun to look back.

Online Issues

One of the best ways to listen to radio today is through a good-sounding smart speaker. You can place them throughout your house and play stations individually, or have the same station throughout. And for the most part, once you figure out the station (i.e. “Hey Siri, play KNX-FM 93” works; “Hey Siri, play KNX-FM” does not) the system is solid. Sound quality is great — AM stations truly shine —  you can easily tune into stations, and you can control it with your voice.

The problem arises when stations don’t monitor their own stream. For example, if you happen to tune in to Rush Limbaugh on KEIB (1150 AM), the sound drops out. I thought it was a problem with there awful iHeartRadio system that provides audio for the station, and it may well be, but the reason has more to do with programming details.

You see, there are extra costs in some cases for commercials that air on internet streams (as used by smart speakers), so stations will often substitute alternative programming during some advertisements unless the advertiser specifically pays for the spot. In the case of KEIB, though, the speaker just goes silent for a time. Usually it will pick up when the show comes back on, but not always. Regardless, the listening experience is greatly diminished.

I think smart speakers and the future evolution of the idea may be the future of radio, especially AM radio. But it requires attention to detail that is sorely lacking, at least on KEIB. I have not noticed the issue on other stations, including the small independents I listen to from across the country.

K-Mozart Update

By now Saul Levine’s K-Mozart (105.1 HD4, was supposed to have gone through a full re-launch, bringing back air personalities and features to better compete against KUSC (91.5 FM). Alas, the Covid pandemic continues to delay the plan.

But Levine loves classical music, so he’s helped the music on the station going regardless, and he’s initiated a “soft-re-launch” bringing back Susanna Guzman and Nick Tyler. As time goes on, Levine plans many more additions, as he plays “the world’s best classical music 24-7.”

“I am proud of the fact that I have programmed Classical for 62 years,” Levine told me. “Probably a world record. I have a vision for KMOZART that will incorporate that experience. There are many Classical works that are accessible and beautiful … I know what they are and we will be playing them. 

“The same with Opera. Many people consider Opera boring but it need not be. Light Opera will also be presented. I have a rendition of Fidler On The Roof, in Yiddish. It will be played as well!”

Levine added that The LA Chamber Orchestra and the American Youth Symphony are very supportive of the station.