If you were anywhere in the world in the ’80s and’ 90s – but especially if you were here in Southern California – you know Rick Dees, who is one of the most successful radio personalities to have. never graced the local airwaves.
Dees came to town in 1979 to host the morning show on KHJ (9:30 a.m.), a station that had seen better days but was about to have one last successful fight under the direction of master programmer Chuck Martin. Martin hired Dees away from WHBQ / Memphis, the same station Wink Martindale (KFWB, KMPC) had called home a decade earlier.
While KHJ’s top 40 format under Martin was a huge success, the costumes that ran RKO Radio – owner of KHJ at the time – decided to take the station’s country. Dees left shortly after the change and ended up at KIIS-FM soon after (102.7).
KIIS-FM during the Dees era was extremely similar to KHJ: tightly programmed, heavily promoted, and just plain fun. The DJs were all superb, management was allowed to invest tons of money in events and contests, and Managing Director Wally Clark knew how to appease business leaders with a dynamic attitude.
Dees, however, was the lifeblood of KIIS-FM. The contests started at 7:10 am each morning on his show, his face was plastered on notice boards and bustards everywhere, and he was the official spokesperson for the station.
And it worked perfectly: Soon, KIIS-FM set audience records, records that still stand today. Epoch changes and attitude shifts caused Dees to quit the station after 23 years in 2004. He continued (and still does) host the Rick Dees Weekly Top-40, and even returned to Movin Mornings. ‘93.9 in 2006, but it was not the same.
But modern technology knows no bounds… recently I found out that Dees always worked in the morning, or any other shift for that matter, through a subscribed service called Daily Dees. It expresses the segments and allows a station to create a program – morning or not – using any musical format it wishes. The show is being produced in his home studio, which turns out to be way ahead of its time now that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought most radio shows to the homes of various hosts.
You still can’t hear it on any local station, but in the event of an (almost) complete loop, the show can be heard on stations across the country… including WHBQ in Memphis. Only this time it’s WHBQ-FM instead of the legendary AM station he once called home.
Do you want to hear it? Use your favorite smartphone app, smart speaker or go to WHBQMemphis.com; Dees’ show can be heard from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Central time every day of the week. It’s 3 to 8 in the morning, so you better get up early.
Rock FM at the start
While AM stations dominated the radio scene until the late 1970s, many money-losing FM stations allowed these long-haired hippies to take over the programming and play what was known early on. under the name of free rock. Or more exactly free-form radio, because the music was not limited exclusively to rock.
One of the first progressive stations in Los Angeles was KPPC – an AM / FM simulcast that later became KROQ (106.7 FM); the MA was at 1500. The progressive format was started by Tom Donahue in 1967, and it lasted until the early 1970s when he went bankrupt, and the staff switched to KMET (now KTWV, 94.7 FM).
I didn’t know there were recordings from those early days, but there are. A fabulous find is from LetTheUniverseAnswer.Com and can be accessed at tinyurl.com/RWNov20. Here you’ll find unedited segments – including commercials – of KPPC from September 1971 (shortly before the station dropped out of the format) and KMET from June 1975. Nice specimen of early progressive rock, before radio FM does not dominate the airwaves.
Live sessions on vinyl
KCSN (88.5 FM) – better known by its station frequency of 88.5 – released a vinyl LP of music recorded at the station’s studios. Called The Independent 88.5 Studio Sessions Volume One, you can get it by donating to the Fall Giving Campaign through the website: 885fm.org.
Artists include Sting, Vintage Trouble, and Jenny Lewis, among others.