Remembering Chuck Clemens
Longtime radio listeners may remember listening to former San Bernardino top-40 powerhouse KMEN (now KKDD, 1290 AM). It was the stopping place for many staffers and personalities who eventually made the trip to Los Angeles, including Jim Mitchell, Jon Badeaux, T. Michael Jordan, Dave Sebastian, Ted Ziegenbusch, Frank Terry, Ron Jacobs and Bruce Chandler.
Among the popular personalities on KMEN during their early days of top-40 was “Huckleberry” Chuck Clemens, part of a staff that helped propel the station to unheard of ratings … at one point the station commanded a 70 share, meaning that seven out of ten people listening to the radio in the Inland Empire were tuned to KMEN.
Clemens passed away on Thanksgiving Day, November 26th at the age of 86.
KMEN was not his only station, but it was the one that gave him a sound footing and connection with Ron Jacobs, who would ultimately hire him twice – first at KMEN and later at KGB/San Diego (now KLSD, 1360 AM). And you are remembering right – Jacobs is indeed the programmer who helped launch KHJ’s top-40 format in 1965. But I digress.
According to former KIIS-FM (102.7) traffic reporter and pilot “Commander” Chuck Street, Clemens was a nationally ranked swimmer at his Arizona high school; this earned tom a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University where he was able to listen to San Francisco’s KFSO (560 AM), which featured Don Sherwood zany host of the station’s morning show. “Clemens was hugely influenced by Sherwood’s bright on-air personality and crazy stunts,” said Street, adding that “it did not take long for this young college student to become enamored with radio.”
So upon return to Arizona after graduation, he found himself on the air at a local radio station in Florence, then Phoenix. He quit after a heated argument with station management, so he headed for the bright lights of Los Angeles. Weeks passed, with nothing to show. According to Street, “Clemens was ready to give up and go home.” That’s when he met Jacobs, who happened to be in the same restaurant in Hollywood “frequented by record promotions people … and out of work disc jockeys.”an imaginary
Jacobs heard his work and hired him for KMEN mornings. The station went on the air with the new format in March of 1962; within six months the station was number one. “Last to first,” says Street. “And Clemens was a major contributor to that success.”
The show was upbeat and lively, with imaginary characters such as Solo the Robot and his 300-pound secretary, and an entire Indian tribe. He connected with kids with stunts various stunts in addition to playing “their” music.
After four years he moved to KCBQ/San Diego (1170 AM), but the rigid format left him wanting, so he left radio for almost seven years, returning to KMEN in 1974. Until Jacobs convinced him to move back to San Diego for KGB mornings and the relatively new progressing rock format the station played. “While at KGB,” says Street, “Clemens created a new imaginary character that eventually became the KGB (and later San Diego) Chicken.” Two years after that he left radio for good, preferring instead to sell cars at a San Diego dealership.
A memorial service is pending and may be held after COVID restrictions are lifted. Clemens is survived by children and grandchildren.
Disney Leaving Radio
The pandemic has claimed another radio victim: Disney, which was still distributing Radio Disney children’s programming as well as country music as heard on KRDC (1110 AM) announced last week that it is leaving radio totally. The formats, which mostly were heard on secondary HD channels and a few AM stations nationwide will sign off early next year, and the last remaining owned and operated station — KRDC — will be sold as well.
Perhaps this is my time to buy a station. Anyone have a few million dollars just itching to waste, er, help me buy a station?
Depending on what is involved, KRDC — better known as the original KRLA — will probably sell for somewhere between $6 million and $11 million.
Where Are the Oldies?
When Saul Levine dropped oldies in favor of classical on the former K-Surf KSUR (now KMZT, 1260 AM), he promised that oldies would remain online, via smart speakers and through the smartphone app. Bit a slight complication came up: holiday music.
With holiday music being played on Go Country KKGO (105.1 FM), country got shifted to the KKGO HD2 stream. That stream is the same feed as K-Surf uses, so the oldies are on hiatus for a short time … until December 26th, to be exact. On that day, Go Country will be country again, K-Surf LA Oldies will return to the HD2 stream as well as all the apps, and the planets will be aligned once again.
Dave Beasing was the guest on the December 2 edition of Radio Waves, found at laradiowaves.com. In a segment called “Ask a Recovering Program Director,” Beasing explained why the station he once programmed — The Sound 100.3 — is gone, what made it successful, and why it shouldn’t have ever existed in the first place. It’s a fascinating listen to a knowledgable radio insider; he’ll be a guest on the podcast hosted by me and Mike Stark the first week of every month.