10/10/88-KJR’s class acts to reunite tomorrow; New Age gets old heave-ho as KNUA seeks livelier sound

VICTOR STREDICKE – October 10, 1988 – Zany disc jockeys of the past will reassemble for a “Class Reunion” feature all day tomorrow on KJR, 950 kHz. Folks like Lan Roberts, Emperor Smith, Jerry Kay and Tom Murphy, along with such character voices as Phil Dirt, the Hollywood Reporter and Granny Peters
It’s a chance to relive a broadcast day from 1968, when KJR was the top-rated station in Seattle and, arguably, the best top-40 station in the nation.

Before FM stations were popular and when there were fewer stations on the AM band, KJR had up to 40 percent of the radio audience. “These guys were the secret,” Pat O’Day, KJR spokesman, said. “They were entertaining. They never talked down to the audience.”

Coming the farthest is Lan Roberts, now an English-radio announcer in Taipei, Taiwan.

From Los Angeles, Tom Murphy recalled leaving Seattle twice.

After an audio lifetime at KJR, Murphy left for a run at Los Angeles radio. It was a mistake. “I left in February, returned in November 1970,” Murphy said. He returned to Seattle, however, to compete against KJR on KOL (now KMPS).

Murphy is one of radio’s more stable personalities. Same wife, small family. Just a ton of job changes.

Since KJR, he has worked at two stations in Chicago, one in Cleveland and three in Los Angeles. He worked nine years at one station, KISS, following that station through format changes from “Music of Your Life” to CHR (contemporary hit radio) to Top-40.

At KJR, Murphy’s topical humor was delivered in a deprecating style (including his self-applied title “The World Famous” Tom Murphy). He did no nude skydiving, no flagpole sitting, no searches for space aliens. One of Murphy’s more prolonged routines involved a spoof of Broadway Joe Namath’s antics, culminating in a “tearful” resignation from the KJR All-American Basketball team, a promotion assignment the 130-pound disc jockey hated from the start.

Buildup included signing up for a crash course at a broadcast school where ’50s disc jockey Ron Bailie taught Murphy how to do commercials like an athlete: “Ron’s advice boiled down to learning how to say `a-tha-lete,’ ” Murphy recalled.

In Los Angeles, Murphy has done free-lance commercials and cartoon voice work, but has been unable to crack the TV-show-announcer business.

He’s contemplating a career change. “I have a partner, we are writing TV sit-coms. I just got a writing agent.”

Murphy hasn’t given much thought to what he’ll do tomorrow afternoon on KJR. “I’ll just talk,” he said. “Actually, I have some tapes of shows in 1968. . . . There it is, the history of a transient radio career in a Bekins box in the garage,” he said, muttering, “Why I have them, I don’t know. Probably looking for a gig.”

Pat O’Day, who conducts a weekend oldies show on KJR, assembled the jocks.

Some are no longer in radio, but others scheduled for a daytime shift – like Charlie Brown, John Maynard, Ric Hansen and Burl Barer, “the rock ‘n’ roll ruler of the universe” – still work in the field, on competing stations.

Since KJR recently changed to “classic hits” of the ’60s and ’70s, the musical content should be relatively similar. News headlines, jingles and commercials from 1968 will be used.
VICTOR STREDICKE – October 13, 1988 – Are you ready for another international live concert broadcast, this time from Buenos Aires?
Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman and Youssou N’Dour are headliners for “Human Rights Now,” a charity concert for Amnesty International.

The broadcast is available to a variety of stations across the country. In Seattle it will be heard from 2-8 p.m. Saturday on KISW, 99.9 mHz., and KXRX, 96.5 mHz.

Westwood One, the distributor, plans significant portions of the live performances by featured artists, along with taped performances of other stars from previous concerts on the tour. This is a compromise, in that it allows the concert distributor to eliminate some of the speeches, which may or not be fillers between music segments. The format is flexible, so stations may cut away for other Saturday commitments. Stations will fill portions with recorded music.

The opening set from Buenos Aires and the final, performed by all the artists, will be aired, as well as live backstage interviews with musicians and updates throughout the concert.

Reunion gossip

Things you learn from KJR reunions. Emperor Smith, purple-robed 1969 disc jockey, is vice president of marketing for a firm in Corona, Calif. . . The “World Famous” Tom Murphy lives in Los Angeles; he’s likely to return to radio there soon . . . Larry Lujack, late ’50s jock, couldn’t be lured back to radio; he’s “retired” with a nice settlement from a Chicago radio station. . . Bill Schonely, who started at KJR before making a bigger name at KVI, has spent the last 15 years as voice of the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association. . . Lan Roberts entertains 4 million listeners and is operations manager of ICRT Radio, in Taiwan . . . Jerry Kay has a weekend gig on KBSG, 97.3 mHz. . . . Burl Barer has a weekend shift at KZOK, 102.5 mHz. . . . Charlie Brown, KJR morning man twice, is a morning personality with Ty Flint on KUBE, 93.3 mHz. . . .Sports announcer Gary Spinell is the same guy as KJR 70’s personality Lee Chase . . . Every KJR disc jockey can imitate Pat O’Day . . . Every KJR disc jockey imitating Gary Taylor, a former program director, still sounds like Pat O’Day.

Twisting the dial

— The World Series will be broadcast on KIRO, 710 kHz., beginning 5:20 p.m. Saturday. If there is Game 6, it will be shuffled off to KMPS-AM, 1300 kHz.

— Michael J. Purdy is new program director and operations manager of KRKO, Everett. He worked at Tri-Cities and Walla Walla and had brief exposure at KZOK and KVI Seattle.

— Michael O’Brien is new program director of KBRD, Tacoma. He counts 20 years in broadcasting, including 15 in Portland.

— Wally Boller is new station manager at KKMO, Tacoma. He has 33 years in broadcasting – in announcing, engineering and management. He is a licensed ham operator.

— John Ramsey is new general manager of KGRG, the Green River Community College radio station. He has worked at KVI and at KXLE-AM-FM, Ellensburg.

— A KBSG listener won the top prize in a national Lever Brothers “Singing in the Shower” contest. Steve Henderson provided a hand-puppet rendition of the Eagles song “Hotel California.”

— “Gisela’s Original German Hour,” from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday on KKMO, 1360 kHz., is beginning its 30th year on the air.

— A series of four Eugene O’Neill dramas “The Glencairn Plays” begin weekly presentations on NPR Playhouse, at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday on KUOW, 94.9 mHz.

VICTOR STREDICKE – November 3, 1988 – New Age gets old heave-ho as KNUA seeks livelier sound. A radio format just zipped by. New Age music, the wave of instrumental space music and soaring sea gulls, has been diluted at KNUA. Now the station plays light jazz and contemporary acoustic music and “your favorite vocals.’
This environmental sound began only a year ago in Seattle, patterned after other stations nationally that used the format term “The Wave.” The basic fare included temple bells, zithers and panflutes by musicians with single names and with the promise of “no disc-jockey interruptions.” But by June, KNUA had announcers and a new music mix, and now with a new program director the station supplies news, weather, song titles and tons of vocals. Its self-selected nickname is now “Sound FM,” rather than KNUA.

The new format is still distinctive enough that it parrots the category in trade journals called new adult contemporary. It favors such performers as Sade, Manhattan Transfer, David Sanborn, Al Jarreau, Van Morrison and Sting – crossover artists from other formats.

KNUA had moderate success in ratings for its short life, but obviously seemed unlikely to draw enough listeners ever to place the station in the Top 10. So changes are being made.

“Identifying the music has been important,” said Bob Linden, program director. “We want to make the station much more involved in the community.”

“We used to draw our music from 600 to 1,000 selections, but listeners said we were repeating too often,” said Marc Kaye, station manager.

“It became apparent our music `sounded’ too much alike: secondary selections from the same album, for instance.”

Kaye has now selected a target audience of listeners age 25-54.

That is, most of you.

Revisiting the Prairie

As it might be described in Lake Wobegon, KUOW has become the Radio Station of Perpetual Responsibility, adding a second broadcast time for “A Prairie Home Companion” repeats. They will continue at 10 a.m. Sundays on 94.9 mHz., but also will air at 7 p.m. Saturday – separated from the other Minnesota radio program “Good Evening” only by a half-hour comedy feature.

The “Swing Years” program will be shortened, beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday.

— Speaking of the Prairie, the next live “Prairie Home” special broadcast is scheduled for Nov. 26 from Nashville. It will air at 7 p.m. Nov. 26 and 10 a.m. Nov. 27 on KUOW (in the rerun time slots). And you will recall that Seattle is one of five cities to host a live performance of Garrison Keillor’s new musical stage show “Lake Wobegon Revisited” Nov. 29 and 30 at the Opera House.

— Speaking of “Good Evening,” Noah Adams, host of that American Public Radio show, is leaving at year’s end to return to news reporting. The live Saturday-night stage show will continue, with rotating hosts, says the producer.

Twisting the dial

— “Afropop,” a weekly hour of southern African pop music, begins 3 p.m. Saturday on KUOW, 94.9 mHz., and 4 p.m. on KPLU, 88.5 mHz.

— A new afternoon talk-show host, Mike Siegel, will be introduced in two weeks on KING-AM, 1090 kHz.

— Ross Reynolds is new host of “Seattle After Noon,” daily interview and feature show on KUOW. Marcia Alvar, KUOW program director and host the past four years, will produce some features for the show.

— Dick Estell begins a new book on “Radio Reader,” at 10:30 p.m. today on KUOW, “Treasure,” by Clive Cussler.

Author: Victor Stredicke

Former radio columnist for the Seattle Times (1964-1989). --- View other articles by Victor Stredicke

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