Ron DeHart: KOL’s Ups and (mostly) Downs in Early 1960’s

Rock ’n rollin’ KOL did very well in the late 1950s. Elvis was the hottest thing on the air. The economy was thriving. And AM 1300 was in a tight race with KAYO in the quest for a growing number of pop music listeners. KOL rode its success on the backs of djs Al Cummings, Art Simpson, Ric Thomas, Ray Hutchinson, Bob Fleming and Chuck Ellsworth. Surprisingly, neither KOL nor KAYO would win the Top 40 sweepstakes. With the start of a new decade, a new crop of on-air talent would emerge. On the opposite side of KJR’s 1960-’62 successes would be a KOL shortfall that would continue through the critical World’s Fair period and into early 1965. Nonetheless, what a fantastic time to listen to Seattle’s early rock radio wars.

KOL’s jock lineup in June, 1961

1961 was rough on KOL.   On top of the rapid departure of five of the above jocks,   Lan Roberts came and left for KJR (as did Jerry Kay). By spring of ’62, KOL faced the challenge of a mostly new lineup and a new jock  promotion (Terrible Tigers) heading into the all-important Seattle World’s Fair. 

Here’s audio of 3 Terrible Tigers jingles from 1962 and a top-10 countdown from above survey in September, ‘61.  Time 3:07

In spite of Terrible Tigers and other promotions,  KOL (and KAYO) lost ground, while KJR bolstered its first place rating established from late 1960 through ’62.

After his firing from KJR in late 1960, John Stone went to KOL as program director in mid-’61. One of his first moves was to bring Lan Roberts in from New Orleans where both had previously worked. But when Roberts left for KJR only months after the great KOL dj exodus, Stone, Ron Bailie and Ray Hutchinson were last standing. They were soon joined by newcomers Gary Todd, Les Williams, Steve Davis and Ed Kelly. Stone and Bailie struggled on at KOL into 1963, Stone going to San Bernardino radio and Bailie starting his broadcasting school (which later got into deep legal and criminal troubles). Hutchinson was again a KOL survivor after the station’s sale to new owners (1963) and Buzz Barr’s bringing KOL back from the dead in 1965.

A John Stone post script: He actually hired both PatO’Day and Dick Curtis at KJR in 1959 and ’60. But at KOL he was unable to unseat O’Day-driven KJR from its top-rated position.

…….By Ron DeHart

Author: Ronald DeHart

Ron DeHart is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist and a retired Public Affairs Officer from both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve. His historical accounts of Pacific Northwest broadcasting are published by Puget Sound Media. View more articles by Ron DeHart  

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