Turn Up the Radio!: Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956¿1972

Turn Up the Radio!: Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956¿1972


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Combining oral and illustrated history with a connective narrative, Turn Up the Radio! captures the zeitgeist of the Los Angeles rock and pop music world between the years of 1956 and 1972.

Featuring hundreds of rare and previously unpublished photographs and images of memorabilia, this collection highlights dozens of iconic bands and musicians, including the Doors, the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, CSN, the Monkees, the Rolling Stones, Ike and Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Ritchie Valens, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, Thee Midniters, Sonny and Cher, and many others.

The book also digs deep to uncover the studio musicians, background vocalists, songwriters, producers, and engineers who helped propel the Los Angeles rock and pop music scene to such a legendary status, such as Bones Howe, Barney Kessel, B. J. Baker, Merry Clayton, Jack Nitzsche, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Bobby Womack, and Kim Fowley.

Finally, Turn Up the Radio! pays tribute to the DJs who brought the music of Los Angeles to fans throughout Southern California—and, ultimately, the world—including Art Laboe, Dave Hull, the Real Don Steele, and Dave Diamond.

Packed with exclusive interviews, this one-of-a-kind keepsake is a must-have for any music fan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595800794
Publisher: Santa Monica Press
Publication date: 04/15/2014
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 10.10(w) x 12.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Harvey Kubernik, a native of Los Angeles, California, has been a noted music journalist for over forty years. A former West Coast A&R director for MCA Records, Kubernik is the author of five books, including This Is Rebel Music, A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival (co-authored by Kenneth Kubernik), and Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon. Kubernik’s writings on popular music have been published nationally and internationally in the Los Angeles Times, MOJO, Goldmine, Musician, Melody Maker, Treats!, the Los Angeles Free Press, Crawdaddy!, Record Collector News, and many other periodicals and online outlets. His work has also been placed in several book anthologies, including The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats and Drinking with Bukowski. Kubernik has penned liner notes for a dozen albums by a diverse group of recording artists, most notably Elvis Presley, Allen Ginsberg, Carole King, and the Ramones.

Tom Petty is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their debut album in 1976. Petty has received numerous prestigious awards, including seventeen Grammy nominations. In 2002, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. Petty and his collaborators have sold over sixty million records. He lives in Los Angeles.

Roger Steffens is the author or co-author of seven books on Bob Marley and reggae history, including Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Definitive Discography and The Reggae Scrapbook. He is also the founder of the award-winning Reggae Beat radio show with Hank Holmes on Santa Monica’s NPR affiliate, KCRW. Steffens lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt


I remember a late summer day in 1966. There was a company picnic at the Columbia Pictures Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. My mother, Hilda, worked as a secretary and was a fixture in the steno pool for Screen Gems and Raybert Productions, part of their television division. My brother, Kenny, and I scarfed hot dogs and Cokes, making dyspeptic noises at the parade of “hot” young talent being offered up by the studio flacks. I can’t recall if we were equally scornful of the four guys introduced as the next big thing—the Monkees—whose show was about to premier on NBC. We dug Micky Dolenz, because he had starred in Circus Boy, so how bad could it be? But I was suspicious; another Hollywood hustle wasn’t going to claim my ear the way the Rolling Stones and the Kinks already had. Then I heard a Monkees acetate, and I was a believer. Still am.

On April 29, 1967, KHJ was hosting its second annual Fan Appreciation Concert at the Hollywood Bowl. All tickets were ninety-three cents each, just like KHJ’s number on the dial. What did you get for that princely sum? How about the Supremes, Johnny Rivers, the Seeds, Buffalo Springfield, Brenda Holloway, and the 5th Dimension?

I danced on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, cross- stepping through the Slauson Line, when the show was first relocated to Hollywood. The Mamas and the Papas and Bob Lind were the in-studio guests one afternoon. That same week, I met J. W. Alexander and Bobby Womack at the Frigate record shop on Third Street.

I first saw the Beach Boys perform at a Culver City record store appearance in 1962. It was a time for Brylcreem and A&W Root Beer. I saw them next in December 1971. Brian Wilson surfaced like a great white whale from some unfathomable depth at the Long Beach Arena to join the group onstage for the first time in who knows how long. Brian, seemingly compos mentis, was hoisted behind a Hammond organ, his pitch perfect. Pop’s missing link, right there in person. The crowd was beside itself. The group was on a creative high—“Surf’s Up” had just dropped—and we sat there, rapt, as a decade-long run of hits and wipeouts finally coalesced around their transcendent reading of “Long Promised Road.” It was just like Elvis’s ’68 Comeback Special, a magic Hollywood moment wherein the stars finally delivered on their promise. The King held court with guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D. J. Fontana, transposing the two Jews blues of Leiber and Stoller into a howling reverie.

It was one thing to read about your favorite bands in the KRLA Beat. It was quite another to swing up La Cienega to Sunset, turn left, and cruise through their world. “Hey, there’s Ray Manzarek of the Doors at Norm’s Restaurant, next to the Elektra Records office. Whoa, there’s Mama Cass and Michelle having a nosh at Ben Frank’s. Think they’ll mind posing for an Instamatic, or just, y’know, hanging for a while? There’s McGuinn and Hillman in matching Porsches, so cool . . . probably heading to Gower to cut some tracks. RCA is right on the way, where Jack Nitzsche is sure to be conjuring spells. Can you believe he knows Brian Jones?”

The story of the Los Angeles music scene is a tale of celebrities and unknowns, creative artists and ambitious businessmen, fast-talking DJs and patient engineers, money and love, death and immortality. It’s the odyssey of how American cultural and social life changed, profoundly and permanently, and how music accompanied, or even initiated, that change. It’s a part of American history. It is also my life.

One afternoon in 1992, at the California African American Museum in downtown Los Angeles, poet and activist Amiri Baraka concluded his fiery speech by exclaiming, “If anyone ever asks you to run it down, you tell them to run it all the way back.” In this book, I run the history of popular music in Los Angeles—including its players, writers, producers, engineers, and broadcasters—all the way back.

In 1956, when I was a young child in Crenshaw Village, I discovered the television show Rhythm and Bluesville on Channel 2, hosted by DJ Hunter Hancock. Hancock was also the voice of the radio show Huntin’ with Hunter on KGFJ. I was only in kindergarten at Coliseum Street Elementary School at the time, but it set a pattern for the rest of my life. Radio would become my soul salvation. I heard a never-ending parade of hit-making rabble-rousers, deftly spun and back-announced by a nexus of four AM radio stations the likes of which we shall never hear again. It was a universe where 93 KHJ, 1110 KRLA, KFWB 980, and 1500 KBLA offered me hope, validation, and possibilities—or, at the very least, a three-minute musical escape from the hurly-burly of adolescent angst. The revolution wasn’t televised; no, it was transistorized. It was personal in the deepest way. I could listen to the revolution in my bed, through my pillow, before I slept.

In 1957, when I was a kid, I learned to swim in the new pool built at Dorsey High School, which was pretty close to our apartment. Right around the same time, my parents took me to the L.A. County Fair in Pomona, and we saw Spike Jones with Helen Grayco.

In 1958, the “Seven Swingin’ Gentlemen” of KFWB moved to Hollywood Boulevard, and along with the move came a shift from the Make-Believe Ballroom programming of DJs Al Jarvis, Jim Hawthorne, and Gene Norman to a playlist that radically deviated from their previous jazz, vocal, and instrumental sounds. Program director Chuck Blore instigated a Color Radio lineup that championed local pop and rock ’n’ roll talent touted by Quillin. Joe Smith was briefly a DJ on the station in 1962.

DJs Gene Weed, Larry McCormick, and Wink Martindale introduced us to the Beach Boys, then crossed the Mersey to bring us the Beatles. B. Mitchell Reed (Burton Mitchell Goldberg) started playing LP cuts in 1965, showcasing other English imports like the Moody Blues, the Who, the Hollies, and the Kinks, previewed the latest from the Byrds, and brought the community together through the Yoda-like wisdom implicit in his vocal delivery. Lord Tim Hudson, actually from Britain, followed BMR at the station microphone.

Another DJ, Jimmy O’Neill, hosted the Shindig! television series from September 1964 to January ’66. I went to live tapings at the ABC-TV studio on the appropriately named Prospect Avenue.

For six years, KFWB beat KRLA in the Southland ratings. Then KHJ relegated KFWB to a third-place slot in the heated L.A. rock ’n’ roll radio market. In 1966, Westinghouse purchased KFWB, and in March 1968, the station was relaunched as an all-news radio outlet.

KRLA, formerly country music station KXLA, gave us information with a beat, more important than anything we were gleaning from tenth-grade algebra class. This station had changed formats in September 1959 to become The Big 11-10, competing against KFWB and KHJ for the Top 40 listenership in Southern California. Its DJ roster included Bruce “Frosty” Harris, Jimmy O’Neill, Sam Riddle, Casey Kasem, Charlie O’Donnell, Johnny Hayes, Dick Moreland, Bob “Emperor” Hudson, Gary Mack, Bobby Dale, Dick Biondi, Bob Eubanks, Reb Foster, Sie Holliday, Russ O’Hara, Richard Beebe (hired in ’59 as the first news anchor), and Dave Hull, the Hullabaloo-er who opened his own club to force the playlist to expand and expose fresh talent. Kasem, as durable and empathetic a voice as has ever graced the airwaves, brought drama and desire to dedications, consolation to the lovelorn, and an inexhaustible sunniness to his afternoon television show, Shebang! I slow-danced with a girl from my Fairfax High School homeroom while Beau Brummels serenaded us.

Peter Bergman and Radio Free Oz also landed at the station. Bergman would later become (in)famous as a member of the Firesign Theatre; on KRLA, he was already tweaking convention, spinning Ray Charles’s “Ruby (It’s You),” Donovan’s “Epistle to Dippy,” and “Another Time,” by Sagittarius, along with the Cyrus Faryar-narrated “Cancer” selection from the Zodiac astrology LP. These were fitting choices for the man who birthed the term “love-in.” In the late sixties, Lew Irwin was the KRLA news director and created The Credibility Gap, a fifteen-minute program that incorporated music and satire along with Irwin’s views and news. KRLA’s expansive programming included Johnny Hayes hosting a specialty hour called Collage, John Gilliland’s Pop Chronicles, Sunday Night with Derek Taylor, and the inspired spin-doctoring of Jimmy Rabbitt.

Meanwhile, in April 1965, Bill Drake and his business partner, Gene Chenault, were brought in as radio consultants to design KHJ’s new Top 40 playlist. Originally owned by the Los Angeles Times, KHJ was long a fixture in the Southland, going on the air in 1922 and introducing Bing Crosby on a broadcast in 1931. Drake hired program director Ron Jacobs, who had been a vital figure in the radio world in Hawaii, and kept him until July 1969. KHJ had a wide open playlist philosophy and successfully competed against the three already-established and influential R & B radio stations: KGFJ, KDAY, and the immortal border radio station XERB, where Wolfman Jack howled from Del Rio, Texas. Drake and Jacobs restricted the KHJ music playlist and limited what announcers could say on-air, although Robert W. Morgan, Johnny Williams, Frank Terry, Sam Riddle, Humble Harve, Charlie Tuna, and the Real Don Steele carved out their own unique personalities. Thanks to its DJs, KHJ was fizzy and frenetic, the home of the irrepressible Steele and his “Tina Delgado is alive, alive!” sign-off, the companionable Sam Riddle, the inviting Roger Christian, the Brit Tommy Vance, and those incessant station IDs featuring the Johnny Mann Singers.

The “Boss Radio” format installed by Drake and Chenault soon governed other stations, like KFRC in San Francisco and KGB in San Diego, and spread throughout the United States. I heard the first airplay of the Merry-Go-Round’s “Live” in 1967, and was interviewed inside their studio a dozen years later. In 1969, Jacobs produced the forty-eight-hour History of Rock & Roll, which aired for a full weekend on KHJ and then on other stations in the RKO chain. The Library of Congress dubbed it “the first aural history of rock and roll music.” It was the radio event of the year. But in 1970, Jacobs left KHJ and teamed up with Casey Kasem and veteran radio executive Tom Rounds to co-create the syndicated radio program American Top 40. Jacobs had joined Watermark Inc., formed by Tom Driscoll and Rounds, who was president of the company.

Kasem pitched Ron on an idea for a nationally syndicated weekly show, based on the Billboard chart. Then Jacobs and Rounds worked out the details of the production, including building a studio. Rounds came up with a name—American Top 40—while Jacobs commissioned the construction of a studio at the Watermark offices on La Cienega. The first AT40 show was aired on July 4, 1970.

It is KBLA, the impertinent Burbank upstart, however, which remains for me the station that best captured those vibrant times. It valiantly clung to its puny operating signal at the far end of the spectrum, and started, in February 1965, with the most iconoclastic programming on AM radio. The KBLA “Entertainers” were William F. Williams, Harvey Miller, Bob Dayton, Roger Christian, Tom Clay, Vic Gee, Don Elliot, and Dave Diamond, a refugee from KHJ who changed the tenor of commercial radio with his watershed report, The Diamond Mine (an oasis of sanity where my life was truly measured in mono moments). Diamond’s narratives were laced with free-form beatific musings and psychedelic ravings pitched to the underground refrains of Love, the Doors, the Rainy Daze, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Music Machine, Palace Guard, the Mamas and the Papas, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Sonny and Cher, the Electric Prunes, Buffalo Springfield, the Knickerbockers, the Sloths, the Sons of Adam, the Mandala, and the Seeds.

Most memorably, Diamond hosted Stones City, a three-hour Sunday evening tribute to those rascally midnight ramblers. Sprung by Humble Harve, the baritone purveyor of all that was hip, Stones City was a shot across the bow of radio’s increasingly constricted formatting, and pointed the way toward the Tomorrowland stage of the FM world.

KBLA aired its last record, The End by the Doors, on June 16, 1967—the same day the Monterey International Pop Festival began. In its wake, FM radio arrived in Southern California, plunging headlong into the uncharted sonic underground from the “Summer of Love” through 1972.

KPFK, the subversive Pacifica station in North Hollywood, didn’t rely on advertising or corporate funding. Operating since 1959, this radical outpost spread new sounds mixed with musical-guest-themed interview shows like Looking In, hosted by Elliot Mintz. Peter Bergman continued the mad laughs with his Firesign Theatre cofounders, Phil Proctor, David Ossman, and Phil Austin.

From 1967 to 1971, there was KPPC, established in the basement of a Presbyterian church in Pasadena. Program director Les Carter, a former DJ on the jazz station KBCA, oversaw the likes of Outrageous Nevada (his wife, Susan Carter), Don Hall, B. Mitchell Reed, Dr. Demento, Charles Pierce and his family, the Obscene Steven Clean (Steven Segal), Barbara Birdfeather, Jeff Gonzer, Ted Alvy (aka Cosmos Topper), Elliot Mintz, Johnny Otis, the Firesign Theatre (what channel didn’t they get booted from), and the Credibility Gap (Harry Shearer, Richard Beebe, David L. Lander, and Michael McKean). The station promo spots were sung by the Persuasions. The station’s powerful signal—the product of two transmitters used simultaneously—allowed them to provide some groundbreaking programming; they broadcast, for example, the stereo simulcast for the one-hour program Leon Russell and Friends with the PBS station KCET. George Harrison also visited the station on November 4, 1968. In August 1970, KPPC helped sponsor Elton John’s career-altering Troubadour debut.

Alas, the good times didn’t keep rolling. In late October 1971, the entire on-air staff was fired. Rookies and robots were brought in that decimated the station’s freewheeling spirit and legacy.

In June 1968, Metromedia in Los Angeles had debuted KMET on 94.7 FM. Nicknamed “the Mighty Met,” KMET furthered the “underground” progressive rock format in Los Angeles. Initially, it was an automated format, but B. Mitchell Reed, then on KPPC in Pasadena, joined forces with San Francisco legend Tom Donahue to convince Metromedia to use KPPC’s basic format at KMET. Reed, Elliot Mintz, Steven Clean, Tom Gamache, Jimmy Rabbitt, Tom Reed, Jim Pewter, Warren Duffy, Dr. Demento, Mary Turner, Jim Ladd, and Raechel Donahue, carved out a new identity for the station.

The KMET DJs played Steppenwolf, the Doors, Frank Zappa, the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, Canned Heat, Delaney and Bonnie, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin, the Chambers Brothers, John Mayall, Lee Michaels, Eric Burdon and War, Pacific Gas and Electric, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and singer-songwriters like Todd Rundgren, Tim Buckley, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Harry Nilsson, Emitt Rhodes, Leon Russell, Carole King, and Dave Mason, as well as Dylan’s Gospel by the Brothers and Sisters.

The birth of KLOS can be partially traced to a January 1968 Federal Communications Commission rule that required all FM stations to have separate programming from their counterparts in the AM bandwidth. Still in operation, KLOS (formerly KABC) first began in 1971 with a taped format that announced the term “Love Radio” with a voice track by DJ Brother John Rydgren. Later that year, the ABC-owned station hired program director Tom Yates and launched the first album-rock format, announcing “Rock ’N’ Stereo,” shepherded by broadcasters like Jim Ladd and, later, J. J. Jackson.

Also on my AM dial during the 1969–1972 period was the re-vamped 1580 KDAY, which was, at the time, adopting a playlist guided by the familiar voices of Jimmy O’Neill, Johnny Hayes, Wolfman Jack, and Sam Riddle.

By 1972, KRTH, a station molded after KHJ, began programming “golden oldies,” thereby creating an adult contemporary format that spotlighted proven listener favorites in regular rotation, culled from the 1956–1972 library. Robert W. Morgan was on the air that year, and gas was fifty-five cents a gallon.

These AM and FM radio stations were dimensions without borders, blessings from a church I subscribed to. They accompanied me through those “sweet sixteen” years—1956 to 1972—that have defined me and refined me throughout my entire life. Their inspiration went with me to countless concerts, through the front (and back) doors of legendary record labels great and small, and through the electric charge of interviewing a rising young talent or sharing a confidence with a musical hero.

Believe me, this was no land of make-believe; the pop and rock sounds pouring out of the dashboard of your car were dispatches from my front yard. From Watts to West Hollywood, Los Angeles was thrumming with the good vibrations of a music industry about to burst at its seams.

I heard and felt the Wall of Sound like a smack to the face, and I’m still shaking. It’s become part of my DNA, and this book is my fervent attempt to unravel its mystical code. Perhaps it will help uncover yours as well.

Look back in pleasure.

Harvey Kubernik
Los Angeles, California

Table of Contents

Foreword by Tom Petty


Chapter 1: The South Central Shuffle

Chapter 2: The Birth of the Cool Cats

Chapter 3: The Dotted Line

Chapter 4: The New Kids on the Block

Chapter 5: Tape Is Rolling

Chapter 6: Legends in Their Spare Time

Chapter 7: A Sandbox As Big As an Ocean

Chapter 8: Go East, Young Man

Chapter 9: Powdered Sugar

Chapter 10: When Sonny Met Cher

Chapter 11: Folk Rocks

Chapter 12: Götterdämmerung

Chapter 13: And the Hits Just Keep On Comin’!

Chapter 14: Safe and Warm in L.A.

Chapter 15: A Loon and a Bear

Chapter 16: Colored Balls Falling

Chapter 17: The Left Hand of Darkness

Chapter 18: Expecting to Chart

Chapter 19: Circus Boyz

Chapter 20: Up, Up, and All the Way

Chapter 21: It Was a Mellow Yellow Year

Chapter 22: Meet Me at Sunset and Fairfax

Chapter 23: The King Has Entered the Building

Chapter 24: It’s the Singer and the Song

Chapter 25: On His Carousel

Chapter 26: The Swamp

Chapter 27: Go West, Young Clan

Chapter 28: The Soul Survivor and the Maestro Arrive

Chapter 29: Make It a Little Louder


Afterword by Roger Steffens



Oral History Credits

Photo Credits


Customer Reviews