930 Los Angeles KHJ KKHJ KRTH

It’s simple, we want to be YOUR radio station – KHJ

…Which they WERE, for a very long time. One has to wonder what line of thinking lead to the days of “Position 93”. Top 40? Yes. Exciting? Not really, if you’re judging the station by this aircheck.

The music, especially during Bobby Ocean’s show, is mostly slow, Adult Contemporary fare – although that format name didn’t actually exist in 1978. Osh is… well, himself. Perfect timing, that voice smooth as glass, but something seems missing. Perhaps the indicator of how dreadfully boring KHJ was under this ‘new format’ is just about 3 minutes in, just a singular, “KHJ” is spoken. Nothing else, no song intro. Nothing.

No jingles, either.

What were they thinkng?

So much has been written all over the web and this site about the possible reasons why KHJ removed the personality approach and went to less talk, more music. And still, we have few concrete answers. Its easy to look back and come up with reasons in our own mind, but then, we’re reminded that the programmers at RKO General didn’t have the benefit of over thirty years of history to look back and make an informed decision. In 1978, there was stiff competition from no less than three other AM stations, notably the one station with the most momentum at the time, 1020 KTNQ. Ten-Q had The Real Don Steele, Machine Gun Kelly and others, an exciting, rapid format and plenty of personality. KMPC had the older audience. KFI was Top 40 and just sitting there, waiting to pounce. What would you do, if you programmed KHJ at this point in time?

Of course, all of us would love to be armchair program directors, but history is just that. What already took place. KHJ doesn’t sound BAD. It just sounds like mom and dad’s station here. And this aircheck is merely a record of what happened, which would lead to other things happening. It is one piece of an enormous radio puzzle and like all investigators, we historians like to poke around the ruins of the great audio legends, which like the pyramids, stand as monuments to a time when the pulse of the entire radio industry was taken by observing the formatic gyrations of these once great institutions.

Given the state of radio, in the grand scheme of modern entertainment, the answers we seek may end up buried with the components of the transmitters of these giants. KHJ WAS the pulse of radio. And we present two more jocks from this great RF modulator for your enjoyment.

930 Los Angeles, KHJ, KKHJ, KRTH, Don Lee, Robert W. Morgan, The Real Don Steele, Charlie Van Dyke, Roger Christian, Gary Mack, Boss Radio, 93/KHJ

Aircheck #1,340 since May 2, 2002!

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By Steve West

Steve West is a 41 year veteran of broadcasting. His air work as a Jock and News Anchor includes six radio markets and over two-dozen radio stations. Steve is the founder of Airchexx.com and Hitoldies.net - All the BIG Hits!

21 thoughts on “Bobby Ocean & John Sebastian, “Position 93” KHJ Los Angeles | April 14, 1978”
  1. I hate to say it, but it sounds this once great station had gone from cruisin’ to snoozin’. The competition from 10Q and KFI beat this one-time powerhouse into submission. They must have been seeing the end of the road by this point.

    1. I’d have to say, yes. Funny, in 1976, AM stations could make a blunder but recover, since the audience was still ALL on AM. By ’79/80 however? No. The Rock audience had already moved to FM with KLOS/KMET doing the Album Rock format, Dees was either already there with KIIS-FM or about to be and AM 930 had signal issues as you went north and east. Nope, by the time “Position 93” toned it down, it was too late to bring KHJ back to what it was. And yes, RKO Knew that. They knew it in Boston, too, as they did the SAME THING to WRKO, and brought in Charlie Van Dyke to fix it. In ’78, WRKO was “Boston’s Album Station”… without jingles and with plenty of liners… and in a twist of irony, right down the street from where Sebastian took former sleeper WCOZ to all hard rock as “Kick Ass Rock N Roll”. There’s really too many ironic coincidences in radio’s past, and apparently too many of the format moves that led to what we hear today were made by about two dozen people. What is it they say about ‘six degrees of separation’?

  2. KHJ … Boring 93 …

    KHJ … Your juke box station

    KHJ … With a liner card every three minutes

    KHJ … 2015 radio … today

  3. We have to remember that MG Kelly actually was let go from KHJ while he was on the air because he didn’t do what was dictated to him. So he packed his stuff and drove over to TenQ and was on the air there that very afternoon bring the great MG Kelly. AND won nighttime air personality of the year in 1978 while on TenQ.

  4. At 8:34, John Sebastian played Bob Welch’s “Sentimental Lady”. The Dodgers once had a pitcher named Bob Welch, who died last year. The singer Bob Welch died several years ago. The Pittsburgh Pirates had a player named Jim Morrison back in the mid-80s. I wonder if Bob Welch ever pitched to Jim Morrison.

  5. A year later John Sebastian was gone claiming he couldn’t be successful with an AM signal. Chuck Martin became PD and brought back life to KHJ with jingles, upbeat music and Rick Dees. But it was too late. Sebastian lives and breathes research so this was the result, a boring radio station. Ocean was a graduate of Bill Drake and Paul Drew so he could perform within a format and entertain. Here he’s told to just read what is in front of him. Charlie Tuna couldn’t stand it so he left. If there is a positive, this aircheck is a good example of their processing at the time.

  6. The format name “Adult Contemporary” did exist then…and had been in increasing use for about 10 years prior. Sebastian wasn’t looking at KTNQ, KFI or KMPC…he was trying to protect against KMET, which was taking teens and young adults away from AM in general and KHJ in particular.

      1. Tony, I really got a kick out of your joke about Bob Welch and Jim Morrison. On a more serious note, I think I know why KHJ went country, and it had to do with what Calradiopd posted on 6-10-15 (incidentally, my 52d birthday, so now I guess I’m playing with a full deck, ha ha). The powers that were at KHJ saw the writing on the wall. It’s well worth remembering that LA already had a country station, namely KLAC. I’ve never been farther west than Oklahoma City, so there was no way I could have heard LA radio. I was getting into country at that time (1978), so I’m guessing that I would’ve listened to KLAC, as KHJ didn’t go country till about 1980. Beg your pardon if I was too wordy, but I felt it incumbent upon me to give my take on the situation. Again, so thankful for airchexx.com.

    1. Plus, KMPC, while it did have the older listeners, was itself Adult Contemporary by then–and had been so for about a couple of years (the same full-service format it had since at least the ’50’s, but with its playlist made up entirely of soft rock). In fact, the 1977 through at least 1980 (?) issues of Broadcasting Yearbook list KMPC’s format as Adult Contemporary (whereas the 1976 issue listed it as MOR), so KMPC presumably went AC in 1976. Granted, some of the stations at that time and even in the very early 80s at the latest that Broadcasting Yearbook listed as MOR were actually all-soft rock-hits versions of that format, but other rock MOR/Pop Adult/MOR Progressive/whatever you want to call it/wanted to call it then were already listed as Adult Contemporary.

  7. Would like to hear what they sounded like at night. Didn’t Sebastian later call it Car Radio, or was that another PD?

    1. One of the things I’d like to find is a decent recording of “Car Radio”. Not sure how long it lasted, but what I heard of it sounded pretty good, IF you were listening in 15 minute blocks. I remember lots of repetition, but the thing that struck me was how similar the clocks must have been to that of a news station. The top hits – RECURRENTS, at that, seemingly every hour, and traffic every (was it 10 or 15?) minutes. Only heard it a couple of times, so I can’t go into great depth about it. And yes it would be interesting to have heard it at night.

  8. Under Sebastian, all the dayparts, day and night, used the same formatics and the same (lack of) energy.

    Car Radio was five years after Sebastian…and was after the switch to Country and back. Gotta disagree with Steve. Car Radio was brutal. Traffic every 10 minutes, so the format was traffic, 2 burned to a crisp recurrents, commercials, traffic, 2 burned to a crisp recurrents, commercials….repeated endlessly.

    1. You’re probably right about that. I didn’t hear Car Radio continuously as you did, just hit and miss on weekends. I’m sure burnout was a big factor.

  9. Car radio would have someone in the back seat climbing over the front seat to reach the dial.

    Like someone hitting your head with a hammer repeatedly. A kid screaming all day and night. A leaf blower running constantly.

    You get the drift. Calradiopd had it right.


  10. the last show on khj had robert w morgan on lots of calls from listeners he cut that station up real good that night later died of cancer too many smokes as well as the real don steele

  11. As the Program Director of KHJ and the Position 93 concept, a little clarification for posterity. KHJ had an inferior signal compared to all its Top 40 and AOR competition. Yet, Position 93 beat all our AM and FM Top 40 competitors. It was a radical approach but it did delay the inevitable demise of Our legendary AM Top 40 station. It was the same fate that all the other CHR stations across the nation fell victim to.

  12. Sebastian speaks the truth. KHJ beat KFI, KTNQ and KIQQ until a few months after John left. And, truth be told, Les Garland did a lot of the same things at KFRC in San Francisco that Sebastian did at KHJ (less jock talk, no jingles, LP versions, cold segues) and didn’t take anywhere near the heat.

    As I said in another post, KHJ’s last truly strong year (top 3 and a 5 share) was 1976. And that was weak compared to Ron Jacobs’ last book at KHJ…#1 with a 13 share. It was a game that couldn’t be won in L.A. in the late 1970s. Even KFI, with its monster signal and no AM competition after KTNQ went Spanish and KHJ went Country, only had a strong year and a half or so.

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