KOL in Seattle and KHJ Los Angeles – the stations where Tommy Vance
launched his pre-Caroline career
When Ken Garrett sent us a link to a tribute to 93 KHJ in LA, covering the years 1965 - 1971, it generated a great deal of interest. Ken has since sent a link to a clip of Tommy recorded during his US radio stint on KOL, Seattle, prior to transferring to LA and KHJ. In the light of the additional information, the original feature has been revamped and rewritten. Any comments in green are mine – Mary.
The Seattle press reported a supposed KOL vs KJR local radio war in 1965 (left) – with TV pitched in the ratings against the long-established Pat O'Day.
The youthful TV, allegedly 'a recent import from Liverpool', sports a Beatle haircut, while Pat looks and (according to the feature) sounds staid. KOL appears to be the trendy station in the ascendancy. However, the writer, Marty Loken, felt the war was far from won, as fickle teenage listeners "may think you're gear one minute and zilchy the next".
The contest below, left, which was used by KOL to launch the new Top 40 format, was clearly aimed at young hipsters.
Not long after, however, Tommy appeared to have reached his own conclusion that KOL was 'zilchy' when he was offered an exciting opportunity to move to LA and join the renowned KHJ. He began waging his own war against his Seattle employers, and tried to sue the station, but he lost the battle.
In Ron Jacobs' book 'KHJ Inside Boss Radio', Tommy describes attending 'Boss Jock Kindergarden' when he arrived at the LA station. Every day, he had to play music from a broom-cupboard-sized studio, where the output was heard by nobody but Programme Director Ron Jacobs, who bombarded Tommy with criticism via his red telephone.
"For six hours every damn day, I played the records. Read the commercials. Again and again and yet again. The red phone never stopped ringing. Criticism was heaped up on me hour in hour out"' This was followed by "a rugged debriefing" at the end of the day. But Tommy, who conned reporters when he joined the station by claiming that he knew the Beatles and jammed with the Stones, admitted that he owed his broadcasting career to Ron. It was the tape of his final KHJ programme that landed him the job on Caroline.
In the 'Meet Tommy Vance' feature below, left, the 'Liverpool connection' has been dropped, but Tommy is now labelled 'America's First British DJ'. His USA debut had been on a tiny station in Washington State and prior to that, he had had a spell on the air in Canada. Arguably, another future Radio London DJ, John Peel (who had been living in the US since 1960) was heard on US radio first. Peel celebrated what he believed to be the 40th anniversary of his first-ever broadcast during his Radio One programme of October 11th 2001, but he was never certain of the exact year. His earliest US appearances were on WRR, Dallas, on the Kat's Karavan show.Accompanying the KHJ clip are one or two tracks that you won't have heard – not even on Oldies Project! Watch out for the promo shot of Tommy Vance, in the week that he joined the station in October 1965. He returned to England around five months later to work on Radio Caroline and subsequently, joined Big L for the final few weeks, believing as did many, that Radio London had solid plans in place to continue broadcasting post-MOA. (This second part of his offshore career is missing from many biographies.)
This is TV on Radio's own KHL Boss cartoon strip
93 KHJ was the hometown station for our friend Ed Ryba, a resident of Los Angeles who has worked in the broadcasting business for many years. Ed has very kindly sent more information about the station and the music played during the YouTube clip. He says:
"Here's the complete list of songs and their approximate start times on the 93/KHJ tribute on YouTube. Not all the songs you don't recognize were local hits. Some were "Boss Hitbounds", known at any other station as "new adds". At KHJ, songs that were added as "Hitbounds" and were given one-to-three weeks to chart before they were considered "stiffs" by the station and dropped from the Hitbound rotation. Believe it or not, "I'm The Urban Spaceman" by The Bonzo Dog Band (they lost their Doo-Dah somewhere over the Atlantic) was actually a Boss Hitbound! Unfortunately, the record stiffed.
0:07 - Little Girl - SYNDICATE OF SOUND
0:50 - My Love - PETULA CLARK
1:28 - A Hazy Shade of Winter - SIMON & GARFUNKEL
2:21 - You Got What It Takes - THE DAVE CLARK FIVE
3:12 - Back On the Street Again - THE SUNSHINE CO. - (a local Southern California band)
3:54 - Friday On My Mind - THE EASYBEATS
4:47 - Honey Chile - MARTHA REEVES AND THE VANDELLAS - (their first single to use Martha's full name on the label…they were just "Martha and the Vandellas before that)
5:33 - Ride My See-Saw - THE MOODY BLUES
6:18 - Bottle of Wine - THE FIREBALLS featuring JIMMY GILMER.
6:45 - Ma Belle Amie - THE TEE SET.
7:29 - Wonderful World, Beautiful People - JIMMY CLIFF
8:21 - Flowers On The Wall - THE STATLER BROTHERS - (actually a Country Music act, but this record crossed over to the Pop charts) (And even made the Fab Forty! - M)
9:16 - Someday We'll Be Together - DIANA ROSS AND THE SUPREMES
10:00 - I'm Not My Brother's Keeper - THE FLAMING EMBER
10:47 - Come and Get It - BADFINGER
11:31 - Somebody's Watching You - LITTLE SISTER - (written and produced by Sly Stone on the Stone Flower label. The group included future Shelter Records act Mary McCreary, who married Leon Russell a while later.)
The first voice you hear (and the voice you hear throughout the piece) is none other than that of Bill Drake, former disc jockey and the man who invented the Boss Radio format and revolutionized American radio. The poster for "Boss City" was actually a newspaper ad for a Saturday night TV show on their sister TV station, KHJ-TV, Channel 9, hosted by then-morning man Sam Riddle. After Riddle left and was replaced by Robert W. Morgan, they did basically the same show, retitled "9th Street West". Both shows were similar to "Top Of The Pops" in the U.K."
What an amazing archive of KHJ memorabilia - whoever owns that lot must be a fan. I wonder if they had to wear those KHJ blazers with the station name/frequency on the flap when they were on-air! They looked more like cinema ushers or ice cream salesmen!
Jon Myer (Pirate Radio Hall of Fame) – worked with Tommy at Capital Radio
I suppose the uniform makes sense for personal appearances (such as the Good Guys at Battersea Fun Fair) so that people can identify the, otherwise anonymous, DJs but I agree that it was completely pointless otherwise.
I think Caroline South stole the Good Guy idea from 2SM, Sydney (who had, of course, nicked it from WMCA). It is strange that a concept that worked so well in Australia and the USA should be such a flop in the UK. I guess we are just more cynical!
Nice to hear a clip of 'Ma Belle Amie' by Tee Set. I had forgotten that track. It was played a lot on a Brighton land-based pirate called Swinging Radio England (guess where they got their jingles!) in about 1970.
Peter Young – worked with Tommy at Capital Radio
Funny how the jocks started out as toothy, crew-cutted, 'all American' boys', gradually turning into bearded, long haired, hippy types. The KHJ blazers, etc, must have been their version of WMCA's 'Good Guys'. I'm sure Caroline, when going through their ill-judged 'good guy' phase, tried to put all their DJs into striped blazers or similar. Nobody in Britain had a clue what all this was about. That's also why Radio England didn't take off - we weren't ready for that kind of Americanisation in those days. Radio London got it right by Anglicising the excesses of US radio.
I guess the uniform worked better in both the US and Australia because it was more practical for all on-air DJs to do personal appearances and OBs and they were seen leaving the building etc, whereas Caroline DJs were a bit more restricted (apart from waving at curious boatloads or passing sailors!)
Tommy's last KHJ coverstar appearance before departing for England and Caroline. Appropriately, the #1 is 'These Boots Were Made for Walking'. (That week it was #2 on the Caroline Countdown for a second week running and about to leave the Fab Forty at #36, having been #2 a fortnight earlier.)
Images from the 93KHJ blogspot. Thanks and congratulations to webmaster Ray Randolph on a superb site.
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