This is the start of something Boss!
Sharing memories of the launch of Boss Radio on 93/KHJ
It was all supposed to happen May 5, 1965.
One of LA’s oldest radio stations — dating back to 1922 — KHJ (930 AM) had a long history of great programming. But the decade prior to 1965 was not kind. It had gotten so bad that most employees inside the building at 5515 Melrose in Hollywood didn’t think the new team would last any longer than the previous few programming teams. Especially when it was about to enter the tough top-40 competition dominated until then by KFWB (980 AM) and the original KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM).
Primary figures included station manager Ken DeVaney, programmer Ron Jacobs, and consultants Bill Drake and Gene Chenault; Jacobs Drake and Chenault had battled it out at previous stations in smaller cities, honing their craft. New DJs included morning man Robert W. Morgan and afternoon legend “The Real” Don Steele, who I am told once captured a full 40% of the afternoon listening audience.
But about a week before the planned launch, new morning man Robert W. Morgan happened to tune into KFWB and heard things he should not have been hearing … like the term “Boss Radio,” a slogan invented by and for KHJ, along with other stolen KHJ ideas. It seems one of the newsmen thought he was going to be fired from KHJ and went to KFWB with the inside information in order to land a job there.
There is much more to the story, which you can find by searching “KHJ Sneak Preview” on socalradiowaves.com, as well as numerous other places. The short version: the staff decided to launch a week early with a “sneak preview” on what is my best guess, April 27, 1965. The rest is radio history.
For its brief life as a top-40 station, KHJ was huge. It started big in 1965 — copied at stations from coast to coast — and ended big — the last true top-40 programmer, Chuck Martin, brought back much of the station’s glory, and ratings, right before RKO made a horrendous decision to take the station Country in November, 1980. Between those times, some the world’s best DJs worked behind the microphone, and some of the best programming ever produced came from the little 5000-watt transmitter at Fairfax and Venice Boulevards.
Last week I asked for your memories of the station. In no particular order, here are a few:
“ If 56 years ago was 1965 I would be a sophomore in high school and listening to KRLA. KHJ came on STRONG with the line: KHJ PLAYS MORE MUSIC. And I think they did. At least fewer commercials than we were accustomed to. And of course…’Tina Delgado is alive, ALIVE’. Loved the Real Don Steele, he was my favorite. — Mark Edwards, Huntington Beach
“I have many fond memories of 93/KHJ Boss Radio … They were my go-to radio station to hear all the latest hits. They had the best music mix — on one radio station you could hear music from artists like Dean Martin and the Rolling Stones played back-to-back; the wide variety of popular music they featured was the greatest. My sister’s favorite personality was the Real Don Steele, mine was Sam Riddle. I especially enjoyed tuning in every Wednesday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. to hear him do the Boss 30 countdown, years before Casey Kasem started doing American Top 40. My sister was once the correct caller to win the Tiny Tim album they were giving away on the Real Don Steele’s show!” — Russell Cinque, Jr., Glendale
“TINA DELGADO IS ALIVE! ALIVE!” — Pete Whelan
“Drafted in 1967 and spent almost all of 1968 in Vietnam. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to hear the Real Don Steele while stationed there. After spending a little over a month in the Chu Lai hospital I returned to my company where the first sergeant must have felt sorry for me and put me in charge of the enlisted mens club an old tent set up so when beer did arrive I was to find some ice, put the beer in what ever we had, pack them with ice and wait for the guys to return from the days assignments. Not a steady gig but kept me out of the field on occasion. “Anyway getting back to the subject. Someone brought in a reel to reel player which I hooked up to the generator for the lights, this player came with a few reels. I had everything ready and the men started coming in, I turned on the player and to my surprise I hear 93/KHJ and the Real Don Steele from the station I listened to back home! It did wonders for our morale and would listen to it every chance we had … even those who weren’t from L.A. enjoyed it. It even had the commercials, weather and time reports. Nothing like a bit of home to bring smiles to a soldiers face.” — Henry (Teeberry) Barkman (almost everyone had a nickname in Nam)
“I was only 12 when Boss radio started and was listening to KMEN & KFXM in ‘Berdo.’ KHJ didn’t come in very well in San Bernardino. I would have to say Don Steele was my favorite Boss Jock.” — Gary Chenault
“Memories of KHJ radio for me: CHARLIE TUNA!! DJs don’t get any better than him! And I was lucky enough to get to meet him at an event, and hang out and be on the radio with him, a few years before his passing … the contests they had! … you could call in and request your favorite song; they always played it, and sometimes even mentioned your name! … When they played the songs they would sometimes tell something about it or about the group that sang it.” — Michele Cruz, Cypress
“ I was 9-10 years old when I got my first transistor radio. I would love riding my skateboard on the sidewalks in Newport Beach holding on to the radio, the ONLY station I listened to was Boss Radio. It was a continuous loop of the same hit songs, every hour. The DJ’s made the difference, my favorites were Robert W Morgan, Real Don Steele and Charlie Tuna.” — John Keys, La Mirada
“My dad work for Phillip Yarbrough, (aka Bill Drake) and Gene Chenault for many years. We always had DJ’s calling the house, with their deep voices, and Dad loved giving advice. Martoni’s was a second home for mom and dad.” — Kelly Torres Hill
(Martoni’s was a local restaurant where many of the local deejays and other stars would be found)
“It’s hard to pick a favorite but KHJ was always at the top. Top 40 formats can go to blazes, I want Dick Dale, The Stones, The Astronauts, and Tina Delgato! Of course older people always yearn for those memories of their youth, but there is always my turntable and large collection of vinyl! — Chris Coon, Arcadia
“With my cream-colored Realtone transistor radio, growing up in L.A., I listened to all the Boss jocks on my radio home – KHJ, almost incessantly! And I have been listening to airchecks recently. The benefit of hindsight makes me appreciate these guys even more than ever, for their intense energy – something you don’t get in today’s radio.
“Ridiculed by other jocks as merely “time and temperature jocks,” the Boss jocks successfully “threaded the needle” with short, tight, and witty talk-ups to songs. To some degree, they had to check their egos at the door – being willing to get out of the way and let us enjoy the music, compared to those other jocks who would ‘pontificate’ about some song or artist.
“KHJ: ever in our hearts.” — Gina Tedesco
“93/KHJ Boss Radio’s ‘Sneak Preview’ just happened to debut right on my 15th birthday, April 27th in 1965. It could not have been a better gift to me and all of Boss Angeles! I was immediately impressed with how ‘tight’ it was, from the jingles and the fast pace. It kept sounding better as the years passed.
“Of course, the Real Don Steele caught everyone’s ear right from the start, he was one of a kind, but it wasn’t until November of 1967 that I truly found my favorite Boss Jock. When Charlie Tuna joined the Big 93 from WMEX in Boston, he brought another slant and creativity to the format that no one else had done. Humble Harve’s arrival in February of 1967 was spectacular. Although, I was already familiar with his sound from Burbank’s 1500/KBLA, he blended in superbly to the Drake format.
“The contests, created by Jacobs, were on a whole different level than anything I had ever heard on KRLA and KFWB. Between those, and mind blowing concerts, I quickly became addicted to it. KHJ, all in all, gave me a feeling that I was always missing something amazing when I wasn’t listening to the station. Their through the roof ratings were well deserved.
“Thank goodness for the airchecks because we can still listen to those fun days any time we want! KHJ still RULES!” — Jeffrey Leonard, Woodland Hills
“Charlie Tuna, Real Don Steele and Robert W on KHJ … Charlie getting us through our earthquake terrors after the Sylmar quake by talking about lost cat ads and showing up to every local event and opening made me want to go into radio.” — Julie T. Byers, Arcadia
“KHJ was one of the two AM stations to listen to on a hand-held 9 volt transistor radio in junior high school days (the other was KRLA) … the time they were giving away a car each day. (Wonder how the economics on that worked out.) Must have had some effect on me, because I majored in Radio-TV in college. My best memory of KHJ was a visit to the station to meet Charlie Tuna — truly one of the nice guys of radio. He showed me around, and I also got to see Bill Wade wrap up his shift — dancing around the studio to some record. Wade was not built for dancing …” — Tim, Corona
Wow … thank you for the memories!