Radio Waves: January 29, 2021

Larry King passes

In case you’ve been away from pretty much every news source, longtime radio and television personality Larry King passed away on January 23rd. And while most probably remember him for his work on the Cable News Network (CNN), it is radio where he got his real start. A start that most happened primarily because station owners were cheap. More on that in a second.

Born Lawrence Harvey Ziegler in November of 1933, his first radio job was at a small station in Miami Beach, Florida, WAHR (now WMBM) He was hired for off-air work; his work as a DJ, news and sportscaster began on May 1, 1957. The name Ziegler was too hard for people to remember, he was told, so he took on the name Larry King after seeing a newspaper ad for King’s Wholesale Liquor, and eventually changed his name legally.

In 1978, The Larry King Show made its debut on the Mutual Broadcasting Network, giving him a national audience from 12 midnight to 5:30 a.m. Eastern time, eventually moving to an 11 p.m. start. Because of the timing, his show was not always carried for the full time, nor necessarily live. Some stations would carry portions live and then play previous hours after the live segments. This allowed stations to run it overnight even if they were not in the Eastern time zone.

King’s show was ultimately extremely popular and eventually had over 500 affiliates, but it did not get carried on so many stations because of its content, at least not at first. The show’s appeal at inception was that it was free, offered on a barter basis in which stations could trade advertising time for the ability to carry the show. This gave stations across the country the ability to have big-name talent and respectability overnight without a huge commitment.

As time went on the show became more popular. King started to have more power and influence as well, including influencing what stations carried his show. In 1991, KFI (640 AM) abruptly dropped the program when King announced on the air that he’d be moving to KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM). King wanted the move because, while KFI had a superior signal, KMPC offered to carry him live beginning at 8 p.m. rather than on tape delay beginning at 1 a.m.

King made the move to CNN in 1985, though he kept with radio until 1994. But it is an interesting story to me that without station owners essentially being cheap and looking for basically free programming, King may never have been the successful national radio host he was, nor would he have necessarily been the CNN star he later became. And it once again points to the fact the good, compelling programming doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive … just creative. 

New Radio

It’s been a while since I last shopped for a car stereo. Last time it was a replacement for my wife’s car because she wanted built-in bluetooth in order to use a cell phone in the car. This time it was for the same reason, but it was my son who needed one. And I was frankly amazed how much I got for the price.

I was not looking for a touch-screen model, just a simple unit that included what I consider essential features: bluetooth, CD, iPhone compatibility, HD Radio built-in, and the ability to add a SiriusXM tuner. Basically everything I can think of that can be used in a car short of video. The model I found? A Kenwood, costing less than $150. $139.99 plus tax to be exact.

Now I did have to get a few extras … an interface to use the car’s built-in amplifier, an interface allowing steering-wheel controls to work, and a dash piece that allows the radio to look better than OEM factory. But the fact that the basic unit great specs and built-in HD at less than $150 was surprising. If I didn’t want CD, I could have saved another $20. And it even works with the phone (including both iPhone and Android) to play and control Spotify and Pandora, as well as play Apple Music and any apps you might use to tune into internet radio.

For that price, if you have a reason to upgrade your car stereo, you really should consider HD Radio along with the other features, You never know what you’ll find for listening.

Speaking of Radios

There was an old joke that basically revolved around the inability of finding an actual radio at the former Radio Shack chain of stores.

It was never actually that bad — even as it closed down, there were radio for sale in their stores. Apparently just not enough people wanting to buy one … hence the closure. But it turns out that the Radio Shack name lives on, at, and there you can still buy radios, including what we once called “transistor radios” as cheap as $17. Just like you remember.