Radio Realities: Ever Been There? (KOL’s Last Day – Part 2)

On-air programming changes—the bosses’ call for something new—really makes people unhappy.  And not just the listeners.  How about the affected on-air talent?  Wow.  Anyone who’s worked in radio has been there.  Getting swapped out of your time slot is one thing.  But when your show is dumped—and you’re down the road—that’s another.  (Such as the holiday season happenings at a couple of Seattle FMs.)   Radio realities.

How about when your station is sold out from under you?  You usually know that’s coming.  But not always.  I recall being in the middle of a newscast when Martin Luther King was shot. My first radio news job – part time at WAVY when I was in the Navy in Norfolk, Virginia.  (Yes, those in the  military could moonlight in broadcasting in those days.)   I recall handling that  breaking assassination story pretty well.  Then my bubble burst a few  days later when the entire staff was layed off.  The station had been sold, but we weren’t told of the FCC’s approval of the deal until the day before it was done. Radio realities.

Several years after finishing overseas active duty, I was working broadcast news in Minnesota.  I remember getting a reel tape in the mail from a friend back in Seattle.  He’d marked it “KOL’s Last Day.”  I was stunned.  To me, a Northwest guy, KOL was a Seattle rock radio institution.  Right up there with KJR.  And in my hand was all that was left – a 7-inch audio tape.   Radio realities.

In May of 2015 I pulled an excerpt from the digital file I’d made from the tape, and included it in a piece posted on this blog’s forerunner, Seatacmedia. That audio track can be heard by clicking on this link: KOL Hangs it Up–1975. (KOL was sold to Hercules Broadcasting, which flipped the format to country music, going on the air as KMPS.)

The last jocks at KOL did an interesting job reviewing some of the station’s history that day as they closed down KOL’s 46-year call-sign. They were also having a lot of fun.  So here’s a different clip from that day’s broadcast, August 31, 1975.  First voices you’ll hear are jocks Roger Dale and Mike O’Conner, as they end a telephone chat with one-time KOLer Burl Barer (as heard on the KOL Hangs it Up — 1975 link referenced above) . . .

Audio  KOL’s last Day  part 2    (Running time  10:18)

Others on the audio track are John Maynard, program director Lee Chase and numerous references to a lot of others, mostly from pre-1975 days past. There’s also the predictable ads from competing station jocks (KJR & KING) trying to lure away KOL’s soon-to-be-abandoned listeners.

At 6:40, John Maynard and  Roger Dale discuss one of the great KOL “Golden  Moments.” The photo at the right tells the story pretty well: (L to R)  KOL jocks Lan Roberts, Paxton Mills and  Don Clark facing the camera during a much-publicized visit to Fraternity Snoqualmie, a nudist colony, in July, 1970.  Oh, those zanny days of radio  now long gone !

KOL’s final broadcast was different, the jocks rolling their own by celebrating the station’s success with all those entertaining flashbacks, rather than ignoring or hiding from the changes to come. Most format changes happen in the deep of night or, nowadays, over year-end holiday seasons – and certainly without fanfare. (Gee, maybe nobody will notice.)  Radio realities.

One of Seattle’s oldest radio stations, KOL had a rich history, starting in the early 1920s as KFOA, when stations actually shared frequencies.  Archie Taft acquired it in 1928, changed the call letters to KOL, and sold it to TV producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman in 1963.  Buckley Broadcasting owned KOL from 1967 until the Hercules takeover.  Most of us will remember that Lucky 13/Kolorful KOL had two successful pop/rock music runs – from 1957 to ’63 and again from 1965 into the early-mid ’70s.

KOL’s final on-air lineup in 1975: Roger Dale, Lee Chase (PD), John Maynard, Dave Stone, Danny Holiday and Mike O’Conner.

While at times very successful, KOL did not top KJR’s long reign in Seattle Top-40.  But what fun that rock ‘n’ roll war was . . .

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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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6 thoughts on “Radio Realities: Ever Been There? (KOL’s Last Day – Part 2)

  1. There is not a radio station in Seattle half as entertaining as KOL. Pick any year during the KOL Top 40 years. Nothing compares these days.

  2. My family moved to Tacoma in September, 1965. On my transistor radio I loved listening to Lucky 13 KOL and watching JP Patches on KIRO 7. Those were some great days of my life!

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