Ending speculation that has built up since Lohman and Barkley's final show over KFI-AM (640) last Thursday morning, Roger Barkley confirmed Tuesday that it was he who ended a quarter-century comedy collaboration between himself and Al Lohman.
"I was getting to a point in my life where I had to make a change," Barkley told The Times. "The strain of it--of the hours, the stress and the tradition --was getting to be too much for me. It was a very difficult and painful thing to have to do, but it would have been far worse--for me, for Al and for the station--if I had stayed."
Both Barkley, 49, and Lohman, 54, denied numerous rumors that recent alleged strong disagreements had caused the split.
"We had our sore spots, that's for sure," said Barkley. "But it was like a marriage, you know? We were getting along all right. That wasn't the reason for my leaving."
Lohman agreed. "This was certainly not a 'classic' team fallout; it had been business as usual right up to Thursday. I truly have nothing but affection for Roger, and will have."
Still, the breakup is final, Barkley said.
"We would be in serious trouble, with ourselves and with the public, if we teamed up and showed up at another radio station," Barkley said. "That's not in the picture. I would prefer to get back to the management side, which was my first professional love in any case."
Steve Le Beau, KFI's program director and the duo's temporary drive-time replacement, said the station regarded the split as inevitable but was still caught off guard.
"We knew at some point in time they'd eventually leave, and we planned for having some continuity after they'd gone," Le Beau said. "But it was still a shocker. We had no real clue before Roger called Don (Dalton, KFI vice president and general manager) on Thursday to quit. My God, it's really the end of an era we're talking about here."
Dalton confirmed that Barkley quit because "he was getting a little burned out. He said he'd had enough and that he would give me his written resignation on Friday, which he did. He told me it had started to affect his health."
Even Lohman, who shared the 6-to-10-a.m., Monday-through-Friday shift with Barkley, was shocked by his cohort's decision.
"Oh, it was a big surprise, a complete wow-er," he said quietly. "I really still don't understand it, though I've had a few days to mull it over now. If he's got a problem with it, I still don't know what it was. But so far as I know, he wasn't unhappy with me, nor I with him. I guess it just got to him, finally."
Barkley agreed his decision was swift, but added that he "had had a sense of foreboding about what I was doing for the last two or three years. I kept asking myself, 'Are you up to this anymore?'
"For the past two weeks or so, it was awfully tough to work on taping and doing shows when I couldn't even bear to listen to another (rocker Bruce) Springsteen song. I thought that if I heard 'My Hometown' one more time I was going to lose my mind. And it wasn't just the music; it was the whole stress of the daily grind. So I started looking more closely at what I really wanted to do at this point in my life.
"I think there have been times when Al felt it was time to move on too; I know there were other close calls," Barkley continued. "I know that for myself, this job had been eating at me for a long time, and finally I just said, 'Enough!' Although of course it wasn't that easy to do."
KFI management personnel said it was "in no particular hurry" to find a replacement for the duo.
"The makeup of the station hasn't gone into a tailspin; there are a lot of key players remaining in the morning show," Le Beau said. "There'll be continuity from last week to this week; all the other key people will still be there."
"The show won't fall to pieces," said Dalton. "We are looking for replacements right now, but we're not at all desperate. Still, it is the end of an era, and it won't be any easy job to find someone to fill their shoes."
Lohman and Barkley began working as a team in 1963 at KLAC, then a country station where Lohman was morning deejay and Barkley was program director. After Barkley was fired when management changed hands, the two decided to team up when they heard the station was going to hire a duo for the morning.
They worked together ever since, first at KLAC, then moving to KFWB for four years, then moving in 1968 to KFI, where they remained until Thursday. During their most popular period, in the late '60s and '70s, the duo expanded their reach by doing a local weekly television show for KNBC and even trying their hands at live comedy, working at the Cocoanut Grove in the late '60s.
Both members of the team say they intend to stay in radio. Said Lohman: "There might even be something at KFI still, though that might be a bit, ah, weird at this point."
And Barkley: "I know I always rhapsodized about opening a hardware store in Big Bear Lake, but I don't really know a thing about retail. What I know is radio, and I hope that I won't go too long without finding something."