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93/KHJ / Dick Whittington / Los Angeles

“The Boss is Back!” Dick Whittington’s 1st Show as 93 KHJ Returns | April 4, 1983

Courtesy of Big Apple Airchecks - Thanks!93 KHJ returns as an Oldies station after a two year run playing Country music! Dispite the on air promo which mimics KHJ’s original Boss Radio launch in 1965, the first Dick Whittington show is kind of awkward, probably due to the fact that Mr. Whittington is unfamiliar with KHJs control room – and he makes mention of it repeatedly on the air. We know virtually nothing about Dick Whittington’s career but generally, former listeners have fond memories of him.

The formatics are in place, however, and one can easily understand where KHJ was going with this in 1983. The bright spots on this recording are the original KHJ Johnny Mann Jingles, and the news department (although the first newscast features AP Network news instead of the local news team).

Despite the technical glitches, this really is an historical recording. It’s the beginning of a new era at KHJ, even if the station is trying to recapture lighting in a bottle (WE would have just played airchecks of the first day of KHJ in 1965 for the first day of KHJ’s Oldies format – but Airchexx wasn’t around in 1983!). There would be one more after this attempt: Car Radio, which would last until 1986, and a call letter change. That story, we’ll present at another time. Listen for important news items – Columbian earthquake relief, Economic Recovery (doesn’t THAT hit home!), Space Shuttle delays liftoff, and the anniversary of MLK’s assassination.

93 KHJ

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28 Comments


  1. How long did he last at KHJ? What gets me is he’s apologizing for the station dropping the Country format and keeps bringing it up. He also seems oblivious to KHJ’s boss radio past. Other than that, the music sounds great. It’s funny how several of those songs are less than 10 years old on this aircheck.

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  2. I couldn’t believe my ears listening to this when I posted it. I can simply not believe that this is how KHJ attempted to launch an Oldies format… or ANY format for that matter. Was there no talent coaching done before this went on the air? No quick history lesson done before allowing Whittington to crack the mic?

    This was the essential problem with KHJ though, they dumped top 40 before it needed to be dumped, and when Country didn’t work, they simply decided to do something cheap, and this aircheck proves that this was a half-hearted effort at Oldies, since they obviously were clueless as to what else to do with KHJ. There was obviously little or NO prep, or thought as to what this might sound like to fans of Robert W. Morgan, The Real Don Steele (who, by the way, were both still around at this time), and that launching this way might turn off more potential listeners than it might attract.

    And we wonder why stations launch jockless in today’s radio world… it would have undoubtedly sounded better than this.

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  3. Hilarious, Sweet Dick was a radio legend in L.A.
    Look if you’re expecting the Boss sound circa 1965 that wasn’t going to work in 1983 LA. Dick was a master of satire and wacky bits. Great, entertaining air-check.

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  4. I thought I’d add something, with all due respect none of you really understand that
    Dick was a well known LA morning personality
    with a sardonic flavor & a knack for self
    deprecating humor. Sorry you guys don’t get it, no he didn’t do slap-stick or bad-boy humor, Dick was more of a thinking man’s DJ.

    This station was trying
    to reinvent itself in 1983, and Whittington
    was well known to the adult demographics
    that KHJ was attempting to appeal to. The
    radio geek, jingle heritage stuff was not going to put many points on the board.

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  5. This was not meant as a personal insult to Mr. Whittington, I’m sure that he was quite good, IN HIS ELEMENT. I am saying that this incarnation of KHJ got off to a lame start, sounded terrible, was executed poorly, and likely sounded quite amateurish to listeners who remembered top 40 KHJ from only three years earlier.

    While much of the audience may have changed, radio basics remained (and still remain) pretty much the same. You can’t sound like a high school kid or a retiree and maintain any kind of serious adult audience, no matter what the music played is. This aircheck, recorded on this first day as KHJ launched Oldies, sounded absolutely horrible, and I’d say that even if I were only a listener and had never spent one day in radio.

    I blame management for making a half hearted effort at launching a new format, not necessarilly Dick Whittington. When you launch a new format, you put your absolute best talent on, you launch with the most powerful, strongest testing songs, and you image properly. When stations changed formats even in 1983, this was absolutely important. First impressions can last for a very long time.

    It doesn’t matter whether they used jingles or not, or what kind of format they’d chosen… you don’t have the first show sound like the announcer just woke up from a nap and has no idea which buttons to push. That this was the attitude at RKO General speaks volumes about this company’s business policies at that time.

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  6. Kevin B wrote…

    {This station was trying
    to reinvent itself in 1983, and Whittington
    was well known to the adult demographics
    that KHJ was attempting to appeal to. The
    radio geek, jingle heritage stuff was not going to put many points on the board.}

    West replies…
    Actually, if you listen to the aircheck, KHJ started with almost the exact same verbiage as they did in ’65… and used the old Johnny Mann jingles. That KHJ was trying to reinvent itself is obvious, but not in the direction you think. They tried to re-create the original format at KHJ and radio geek, jingle heritage stuff was EXACTLY what they were tying to do. Of course it was meant to be an adult format!

    You don’t launch a recreation of a format that was fast paced, tight and entertaining with a jock doing one liners by having a jock sound like it’s a standards station. Sheesh!

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  7. Take Dick W out of the picture for a minute. The station wasn’t based on a solid concept. I’ve launched or re-launched a number of stations and the first item is to find a life-group that is under-served. KRLA & KRTH were very successful as Oldie stations during this time. The Boss is Back was too soon and without any focus.

    The real opportunity would have been to organically build a new stationality to the station. Dick was a well known and strong personality in the 35+ demographic. The Boss is Back was cool for insiders and radio people-but not for the audience. It would be 7 years later when Bill Drake did it right. Focusing KRTH and hiring Robert W Morgan, Real Don Steele, and for a time Humble Harve. This wasn’t the right time for such a format.

    What is missing in the discussion is the passing of the literate & funny personality. LA had Lohman & Barkley, Perry Allen, Whittington, San Francisco had Don Sherwood, & Chicago had Wally Phillips and later the great Bob Collins. Times change, but the human element remains critical. Today it’s morning boot camp and the jerk, the twerp, and the sweetheart formula of morning radio. Another reason radio is on the back shelf of the consumer’s mind.

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  8. I can wholeheartedly agree with you here. Radio has really dissed the idea of the true ‘entertainer’ today. The human element is almost a foreign term in radio these days. Current programmers would shout that statement down, saying that listeners want the ‘Hollywood fluff’ type morning shows, and mainly music without too much announcer talk the rest of the day.

    I really don’t like most morning shows and their fake laugh tracks, the ‘jerks’ (great way to put it) who seem to think that discussing the previous night’s ‘Survivor’ or ‘American Idol’, or whatever airhead Hollywood type’s love life is is what listeners want. No, there’s real news to be discussed, there’s real information people want, and people crave a good sense of humor. The days of people, GREAT talent like Dr. Don Rose, Harry Harrison, the late Lohman & Barkley, etc., are long gone and its really too bad.

    You are correct in your assessement of KRTH’s evolution as an Oldies station. They DID do that format right, and as for KHJ’s Oldies format… Oldies was a viable format in 1983, but the format really didn’t come into its own nationwide until the mid to late 80s, and by that time, most AM stations were either doing talk or standards… so perhaps you’re right about the time not being quite right for KHJ to do it.

    Had KHJ not try to recreate the original format and simply become a personality oriented, AC-type Oldies station, it might have fared better. But in 1983, who really knew what to do with a floundering AM station? Perhaps RKO could have stuck with Country a while longer?

    Truth is, it’s likely that 930 AM, with it’s limited signal and a music audience that had pretty much migrated to FM by 1983, probably wouldn’t have suceeded with any music format after the flip from Country, and they should have gone talk… it would have likely lasted longer than 1986.

    That all said, I was in L.A. for a time in 1985 and really enjoyed the “Car Radio” concept. I remember listening to Dave Sebastian and thinking that the music mix, the AM stereo recurrent hits and frequent traffic & weather reports was a really great, fast paced format. Too bad that there wasn’t an audience left to enjoy it.

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  9. Sweet Dick was way ahead of his time. He should have been doing talk radio…or a morning show on FM with music as the filler. His morning show on KHJ was great, a combination of topical stuff with imaginative bits (like soliciting callers to improvise a soap opera, live) and great story telling. He had some good people around him–Mark Denis on traffic, Jeff Hillary doing news, and Boy George Acevedo as his producer. Just the wrong time, wrong station.

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  10. Some comments mmay be confusing his time at KHJ with KGIL and, briefly, KFI. It was at these stations he perfected his listener-audience participation comedy form, sometimes to alarming results as people would show up to the radio station in hoards. A brilliant and unique radio personality.

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  11. This is absolutely vintage Sweet Dick. I remember when he returned to KGIL in 1977, he had the same type of “first show” – getting comfortable with the equipment, experimenting with the jingles – even playing one of his favorite artists, Marvin Gaye (“Say say say, Marvin Gaye!).

    Dick was a legend and way ahead of his time. KHJ knew what they were getting and he put on a good show there…it wasn’t supposed to be 1965 all over again.

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  12. This guy is a veteran DJ? He sounds like a guy I once heard who was working at a college radio station. If he is that bad on the first day I can’t imagine that he lasted very wrong. He needs to learn that SHOW PREP is HUGE!!!

    I would listen to him about about 5 minutes and change the station. Sorry to those of you who love him. He just annoyed me.

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  13. Wow – great – I haven’t heard “Sweet Dick” for about 30-35 years. (certainly this isn’t the best of Sweet Dick – this selection isn’t even good – but he was great). I guess the closest thing we have to him today would be Phil Hendrie (an amazing talent who I love to listen to as well). The difference would be that Phil Hendrie is all put on where Sweet Dick was all real with the public things that he did. Great radio theater. One of the best things the did was to take members of his radio audience (about 200) and have them join him on an “invasion” of Acton a (small and very quiet town just north of the San Fernando Valley) where he was dressed as General MacArthur (and he would broadcast the invasion as a war correspondent as it was happening). Some other things he did were things like hosting a luncheon (again with those in his audience who could make it there) in one of the sewers of Los Angeles and to lead his audience tap dancing up and down Hollywood Blvd dressed up as a hot dog. Seemed like at least two or three times per month, he would do something like that. One of the things that I also remember is when a surfer got attacked by a shark out in Santa Monica bay (and this was shortly after Jaws came out and the world was all abuzz about sharks) and this surfer was recuperating in the hospital, Sweet Dick went out to interview him on radio (again a Phil Hendrie type of interview) and to show his appreciation to the surfer for allowing himself to be interviewed, Sweet Dick gave him a dinner for two at Gladstones for Fish in Malibu. The irony was not accidental. He was way ahead of people like Andy Kaufman who would take this type of stuff to the next level.

    Now, if you could find any of those airchecks – you would see what type of personality this guy was. He was always one of the folks I’d listen to while living in LA. A classic. One of the best. A legend in Los Angeles. My favorites that I would always listen to were Loman and Barkley, Gary Owens, Jack Angel, Geoff Edwards, Sonny Melendez and Sweet Dick Whittington. All good folks when personality radio was great.

    //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Dick_Whittington

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  14. As Bill Drake would say, “Man, you sure talk a lot!”

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  15. Every Friday Morning, “Clean Thoughts on a Dirty Wall.” Required listening.

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  16. hi why didnt they give dick some help maybe an op would have helped poor dick jf

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  17. I used to listen to Dick Whittington on KFI and other stations when I could find him. He was a great radio funny man with stunts like having KFI in the sky Bruce Wayne dump barber shop hair on Mt. Baldy, so the name could be changed. I don’t know that ever happened, but he was funny. A great memory for Radio.

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  18. wasn’t there also a Dick WhittingHILL in the market? Must have been really confusing. and yeah, this aircheck was underwhelming. I would have turned the dial after the first 3 minutes and never come back. whoever thought this would make “the boss come back” was definitely suffering from a rectal-cranial inversion….

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  19. KHJ was 22nd in the ratings with a 1.7 when they made the decision to go Country in the fall of 1980. They beat KDAY by 0.1 and KWKW in Pomona by 0.3. If it hadn’t been for those two, KHJ would have been the lowest-rated AM in Los Angeles. They did not dump Top 40 before it needed to be dumped. They needed to make a move before that, if anything.

    Whittington was an MOR morning man (KGIL, KFI) with absolutely nothing on his resume’ that would suggest he would be good for this re-launch. You’re right that this was a cheap move. But RKO was out of options. KZLA was doing country on FM, KMPC had taken the big band/nostalgia format, KFI had transitioned to AC and was losing altitude. KHJ had been in trouble since ’77. What happened to it (sold and flipped to Spanish) was what was bound to happen to it. Music for Boomers in L.A. on AM was dead.

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    • We talked about this the first time I posted it a very long time ago. What I don’t believe I ever asked you was, what exactly led to the flip to Country in 1980, or better yet, what killed KHJ between 1977 and 1980? I enjoyed the sound of it to be sure, but I liked the sound of KTNQ much better when it came along. KFI was no slouch at that point either. But a massive ratings slide to cause a total format dump never made sense to me. Me, being a guy who lived in the Northeast listening to WRKO (which RKO blew music out not much later – 1981). I’m certainly not saying they did wrong, just trying to figure out the dynamics of L.A. radio in the late 70s that precipitated such upheavals in the period 1980-85. FM, to be sure, was a big factor but over the years of trying to figure it out, I’ve thought that ratings of ALL the AM stations (except the talkers who picked up Rush in 1988) would have fared much better in the long run had they maintained personality oriented contemporary music of some sort. . Yes… your next comment probably would be, ‘they didn’t know how bad AM would get nor would they care back then’… I would guess. You’d certainly be right.

      And if the old timers who loved KHJ are still disappointed after all these years of 930 being Spanish, those upstate in San Francisco must be really seething at Family Radio operating what arguably might have been the greatest American AM Top 40 station ever (610 KFRC) to grace the airwaves!

      Hey… nice to see you commenting again after all this time.

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  20. By the way, Whittington lasted less than six months. He was replaced by a bona-fide L.A. AM Top 40 legend, Dave Hull (KRLA, KGBS—and later, though not in Top 40, KMPC). Even Dave couldn’t make this turkey fly.

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  21. disappointing…..if you were not already a fan of Sweet Dick…..you would not become one after listening to this rambling, not entertaining total bore of an aircheck….he sounds like a rank amateur trying like hell to be funny and topical. a real waste of tape and airtime…he was obviously far removed from his prime talent days. More sad, than pathetic. RIP Dick….now do everybody a favor and just stay dead.

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  22. This was a sad attempt to relaunch a legendary station with no preparation or worse no theme , they just carted up old jungles and put some older MOR jocks on in drive time Los Angeles and it sounded like the dreaded dead air dream . I had left Los Angeles during this period so I forgot how much KHJ had been through but this was clearly not well thought out and poor Sweet Dick even knew this was worse then his audio fate in the movie duel as he would not be going over the cliff soon enough to be free from this poorly timed turn of a broadcasting blunder.
    John M Driscoll

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  23. Between July/August 1976 and July/August 1980 KHJ went from #3 with a 5.9 to #22 with a 1.7. If that’s not cause for a format dump, I’d hate to see what would be.

    What killed KHJ? Mainly FM. KLOS and KKDJ were beating KHJ at night as early as 1972. KMET came on like a house on fire starting around ’78, taking teen boys and men under 34 off the table and KRTH’s flip from oldies to AC in 1976 (playing 90% of KHJ’s playlist) siphoned off women under 34.

    There is absolutely no reason to think that staying with personality-oriented pop music would maintain an audience on AM in Los Angeles. KFI had Top 40 on AM all to itself after KHJ went Country. They were #10 with a 3.3 in 1979. By 1981, KFI was 15th with a 2.5. By 1983, 28th with a 1.4…and that was WITH Lohman and Barkley in the morning.

    KHJ sold to Immaculate Heart Radio (Catholic) last year. They broadcast in English.

    As for anyone still wanting to hear music on KHJ or the old KFRC, they’d be very old people. KHJ’s last truly strong year was 1976. KFRC’s was 1978, but they had further to fall and put up more of a fight. Still, when it flipped to Standards in 1986, KFRC was #23 with a 1.7. Even during the 1993-2005 simulcast of KFRC-FM’s oldies format, the AM was only contributing fractional shares (under a 1.0). In California, the roots of AM’s demise go all the way back into the mid-late 70s.

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    • Thanks. Being an East-Coaster, I have only the airchecks, listeners and some of the jocks who tell me of things out there during that time. Compared to you, I’m a young guy who got into full time radio after High School in 1982. So, any ignorance of California market conditions on my part is simply not having been there. Just a fan. I would have been one of those who were listening to the AM formats. Loved FM too, but the energy put into KFRC from 1978-86 captivated me. I had no idea they were that far down in the ratings. I appreciate the information.

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  24. Ron: Loved you at KOBO 40 years ago. Dick’s alive and well and living in San Luis Obispo. And he sounded better than this after this, at the old KWNK in Simi Valley. He was just miscast at KHJ.

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  25. Not only was there a Dick Whittinghill in the market (30 years at KMPC), but Whittington mentions him in the first few minutes of this aircheck. Wasn’t really confusing, though. Whittinghill was a stodgy old guy. Whittington (21 years younger than Whittinghill) was irreverent and outrageous…but he needed a looser format to make it work. KHJ was looking for an L.A. morning “name” who would work cheap. They found Dick. They should have gone to Dave Hull from the get-go (and six months later, they did)….but it really wouldn’t have mattered. This format was doomed no matter who did mornings or how well.

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  26. I remember waking up early to listen to the return of KHJ and to say that this was disappointing would be kind. I had heard Dick before and was skeptical about his hiring. His style has always been loose, but in this case it would seem a lack of preparation as well as training on the board did his debut in. I don’t recall him lasting that long. They needed a board-op for one thing and while I respect his talent, He was out of his element on this format. I do know that the rest of the staff was pretty good, top notch, but morning drive did not start out well.

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