Roger Barkley, the basso-voiced co-host on KABC-AM's (790) popular morning "Ken and Barkley Company," has been fired and will be replaced by the younger, more frenetically funny Peter Tilden, who had been the morning co-host on sister station KMPC-AM (710).
The changeover--announced late Monday by KABC, and then during each hour by Ken Minyard on Tuesday's 5-9 a.m. show to the dismay of what sounded like a preponderance of callers--will take place Monday.
The new show, Minyard said on the air, will be known simply as "Minyard and Tilden."
Meanwhile, Tracey Miller will continue as co-host of KMPC's morning show, with a new partner to be announced later, the station said.
The shift in morning hosts marks the first major on-air change at KABC since the Walt Disney Co. acquired KABC, KMPC and KLOS-FM (95.5) and installed Maureen Lesourd as president of the station trio last May.
Barkley had been teamed with Minyard for nearly six years; Oct. 1 would have been their anniversary. A longtime Los Angeles broadcaster who grew up in a small Iowa town and began his radio career in southern Minnesota, Barkley first went on the air here in 1963 at KLAC-AM (570). He also was heard on KFWB-AM (980), KFI-AM (640) and the now-defunct KJOI. For more than 20 years, he was partnered with Al Lohman.
"Roger is one of those marvelous individuals who is not only a great broadcaster but also a true gentleman," said Dave Cooke, KABC operations director and program director. "He will be missed by all [of] us at KABC, but the time has come for a significant change in the direction of the morning show. Ken and Peter are two of the funniest, most intelligent, quick-witted and talented people in the industry."
"Peter is the funniest guy I know," Minyard said. "He constantly makes me laugh. My challenge is going to be keeping up with Peter's hyper pace. . . ."
Although the ratings for "Ken and Barkley" have been consistently high, they have inched downward in the last year, falling from the top five to a seventh-place tie in the most recent Arbitron survey.
"We felt that it was time for a show that had a faster pace, just a much more exciting, entertaining show," Cooke noted in an interview Tuesday. "And I'm absolutely confident the guys can give us that."
Asked whether this was designed to get a younger audience--at 42, Tilden is the younger of the pair--Cooke said that "probably the composition of the radio station over time" might skew slightly younger, but that the move was not made for that reason.
Barkley could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He was told by the station last Friday that the changes were in the works and was notified officially on Monday. Both Minyard and Tilden knew a bit earlier. Asked how Barkley took the news, Cooke said, "Roger has been a real gentleman about it, as he always is. Obviously he's very disappointed."
"He was upset," Minyard said. "There were no two ways about it. . . . But Roger understands, like we all do, that these things happen. . . . I feel very bad for Roger. I'm a good friend of his. . . . We had a great six years together. On the other hand, I look forward to what I think is going to be a new challenge."
Minyard said he and Tilden will "combine strengths. Both of us, I hope, are funny. My interests go more in the direction of watching the political and topic-oriented, and Peter's is more features and entertainment.'
"I'm excited," Tilden said, "because not only do I respect him [Minyard], it's like playing a tennis game with a good player. Hopefully they take your game up. Hopefully," he said, "I can do that for Ken."
Tilden joined KABC as a weekend personality in October 1989. He moved to weekday afternoons in 1992 and then to mornings on KMPC in May 1994. At the time, Minyard was not happy about having Tilden as competition.
Minyard, who has been on KABC in the morning since 1973, for years co-hosted the "Ken and Bob Show" with Bob Arthur, who retired in 1990 and now lives in New Mexico.
On Tuesday's program, such was the degree of complaint that Minyard had to urge listeners a number of times to give the new combination a "two-week shot" before making any decision about changing listening habits.
Calling from her car in the 8 a.m. hour, a woman who identified herself as Claire said that if Barkley "surfaces" somewhere else, that's where she's going. Minyard pleaded, "Don't be bitter . . . "
Earlier, Bernice from Santa Monica said she was "heartbroken. . . . I can't believe you would allow it to happen. . . . It could happen to you, couldn't it?" Minyard acknowledged gently that it could.
Next came Jean from Hollywood, saying she was "not very happy with Disney." Then Brian from La Habra said that if KABC wants a new sound, it might be looking for new listeners too, "and I'll be looking around. KABC stabbed their listeners in the back." But Carol from Van Nuys said she thought the Minyard/Tilden pairing is going to be "extremely interesting."