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Country Is Gone but Songs Stay

January 24, 1994|STONEY RICHARDS | Stoney Richards has been in broadcasting for 24 years. He is now morning host on WQKB-FM (K-BEAR) in Pittsburgh. and

Radio stations come and go. And with a market the size of Los Angeles with some 80 competing signals, the comings and goings may be a little hard to keep track of. The silencing of country music on KLAC-AM (570) after 24 years was duly noted ("The Last Word in Lonesome Is Country," Calendar, Dec. 2). But what is so often difficult to convey when an audience loses "its music" is the emotional attachment that also went with this pictureless media.

For more than two decades, KLAC was known throughout Southern California and recognized for professional excellence from Nashville to Austin to Bakersfield. It was always important for country artists to have their songs played by KLAC. Kenny Rogers credits the start of his successful career in country music with KLAC's decision to play "Lucille."

Through the years, some of the greats of broadcasting have stood by the KLAC microphones: Jay (Bird) Lawrence, Dick Haines (At the Reins), Bob Kingsley, Danny Dark and, of course, Jim Healy. More recently there's been a bit more of an itinerant talent list from Jerry House, Scott Carpenter, Gene Price, Don Hinson and for a brief moment, even Gary Owens.

I had the opportunity to ride the crest of this wave out for the past 10 years. In that time, we all witnessed the change from Country and Western to New Country and Hot Country.

More than a quarter million of us crowded into Hansen Dam for an event called Countryfest, where we experienced what was the beginning of the Randy Travis star shoot across the music industry. George Strait, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs and the Oak Ridge Boys were all KLAC staples.

But the audience wasn't just discovering this form of music as the latest trend to fill the void where pop music lost its soul. Our people belonged to Porter Wagoner and Hank Thompson. Marty Robbins was just as famous as Lefty Frizzell and our request lines rang for Hank Jr. as much as they did for Hank Sr.

By the time Garth Brooks happened, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings were having trouble selling records. Still, country music is a hot seller here and the most-listened-to format of all nationally.


But broadcasters in L.A. share an agenda that doesn't include much music on AM radio, and especially not much country music in a market with the demographics of Los Angeles. Regardless of the fact that you may have listened, the experts say you didn't and so KLAC Country, after 24 years, is no more. The station is now playing "adult standards."

And all we of KLAC Country have left are the feelings of the fun and games and gossip we shared and the words of all those great country songs. And no one can ever take that away from us.

Thanks for the memories.

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