Get your Daily Dees
If you were anywhere in the world during the 1980s and ‘90s — but especially if you were here in Southern California — you know Rick Dees, among the most successful radio personalities to ever grace the local airwaves.
Dees came to town in 1979 to host the morning show on KHJ (930 AM), a station that had seen better days but was about to have one last bout with success under master programmer Chuck Martin. Martin hired Dees away from WHBQ/Memphis, the same station that Wink Martindale (KFWB, KMPC) called home a decade prior.
While KHJ’s top-40 format under Martin was a huge success, the suits that ran RKO Radio — owner of KHJ at the time — thought they knew better and decided to take the station country. Dees left soon after the switch and shortly after found himself at KIIS-FM (102.7).
KIIS-FM during the Dees era was extremely similar to KHJ: tightly programmed, highly promoted, and just plain fun. DJs were all superb, management was allowed to sink tons of money into events and contests, and the general manager Wally Clark knew how to appease the corporate bosses with a can-do attitude.
Dees, however, was the cornerstone of KIIS-FM. Contests began at 7:10 every morning during his show, his face was plastered on billboards and bustards everywhere, and he was the official spokesman for the station. And it worked flawlessly: soon KIIS-FM was setting records for ratings, records that still stand today.
Changing times and changing attitudes caused Dees to leave the station after 23 years back in 2004. He continued to (and still does) host the Rick Dees Weekly Top-40, and even came back to mornings on Movin’ 93.9 in 2006, but it wasn’t the same.
But modern technology knows no bounds … recently I discovered that Dees is still working mornings, or any shift for that matter, through a syndicated service called Daily Dees. He voices the segments and allows a station to create a show — morning or otherwise — using any musical format they wish. The show is produced in his home studio, which as it turns out was way ahead of its time now that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought most radio shows into the homes of various hosts.
You still can’t hear it on any local station, but in a case of going (almost) full circle, the show can be heard on stations across the country … including WHBQ in Memphis. Only this time it’s WHBQ-FM instead of the legendary AM station where he once called home.
Want to hear it? Use your favorite smartphone app, smart speaker, or head over to WHBQMemphis.com; Dees’ show can be heard from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Central time every weekday. That’s 3 – 8 a.m. here, so you better get top early.
Early FM Rock
While AM stations dominated the radio scene until the late 1970s, many money-losing FM stations allowed those long-hair hippy-types to take over programming and play what was known at first as free-form rock. Or more accurately free-form radio, as the music was not limited exclusively to rock.
One of the early progressive stations in Los Angeles was KPPC — an AM/FM simulcast that later became KROQ (106.7 FM); the AM was at 1240. The progressive format was launched by Tom Donahue in 1967, and it lasted until the early 1970s when it basically went broke, and the staff moved over to KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM).
I didn’t realize there were recordings of those early days, but there are. One fabulous find is from LetTheUniverseAnswer.Com, and can be accessed at tinyurl.com/RWNov20. Here you will find unedited segments — including commercials even — of KPPC from September, 1971 (not long before the station dropped the format) and KMET from June, 1975. Nice specimen of early progressive rock, before FM radio ruled the airwaves.
Live Sessions on Vinyl
KCSN (88.5 FM) — better known by its station frequency of 88.5 — has released a vinyl LP of music recorded in the station’s own studios. Called The Independent 88.5 Studio Sessions Volume One, you can get it by donating to the Fall pledge drive via the website: 885fm.org.
Artists include Sting, Vintage Trouble, and Jenny Lewis, among others.