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COUNTERPUNCH

There Has to Be a Spot on Dial for This Kind of Music : It's Time to Put 'Joy' Back Into Lives of Radio Listeners

July 29, 1996|RALPH E. SHAFFER | Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus in history at Cal Poly Pomona

To those of us who wondered what had happened to Gary Owens, Johnny Magnus and the other voices we listened to regularly on "joy" radio until last summer, recent items in "Morning Report" (Calendar, June 19 and 27) were startling revelations. It seems they've been on the air all along, but in this cultural wasteland there apparently aren't enough listeners to justify an outlet for them and the sounds of the '40s, '50s and '60s. Even the proposal initially reported--that programming from the Music of Your Life Radio Network would be picked up by KLAC-AM (570)--didn't pan out. Of course, KLAC airs similar music (and Don Imus) but listeners would have gained some old, familiar voices and some variations in style to go with it.

In fact, we had that variety in programming until last summer, when the managers of the "joy" stations, at 540 and 1260 AM, decided that Southern California needed another all-news outlet. So they gave us two more, collectively called "K-news." (If you don't like the Dow Jones averages reported by KNX-AM [1070] or KFWB-AM [980], maybe they'll be higher on K-news.)

We knew "joy" radio was about to go when, on one weekend shortly before its demise, the engineer apparently took early retirement as part of the downsizing and the same half a dozen songs played repeatedly for several hours.

A few days later, in the middle of a big-band record, at precisely 11 a.m., KOJY-AM (540) became Tijuana-based all-news KNNZ-AM. The other joy station, KJQI-AM at 1260, soon followed.

Well, we listeners have some news too: "Joy" radio should never have left the air. But no one asked the listeners what they wanted.

Nearly a year later, management is looking for listeners. Announcers at KKGO-FM (105.1), also owned by those who control the former "joy" stations, have requested a favor from their classical music listeners: When in need of information, turn to their K-news outlets instead of "that other station."

Here's a better idea: Rather than ask us to dial 540 or 1260 for news, why doesn't management bring back Owens, Magnus and their cohorts and the music they know so well?

And while they're at it, they should boost the signal. At one time, it was claimed that 540 and 1260 could be heard from the Mexican border to Las Vegas, but instead they have a signal that barely reaches Arcadia--and then only until sundown. After that, with their power turned down, the stations may just as well be off the air. There are several miles of the 210 Freeway between Arcadia and Eagle Rock where only the most powerful car radio can pick up their signals during daylight hours. After sundown, it's hopeless throughout much of Southern California.

With a return to Music of Your Life programming and with increased power, KKGO wouldn't have to ask for favors for its sister stations. And those of us who also enjoy classical music would be able to tune to KKGO assured that Bach won't be interrupted by an announcement that management has decided it's time for an all-news FM station.

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