Pat Garrett, 93 KHJ Los Angeles | April 13, 1978

930 Los Angeles KHJ KKHJ KRTH RKO General

The beginning of the end for KHJ could probably be traced here. Pat Garrett is a capable and really good sounding jock, but blends in a bit TOO well with the music and elements that together were called “The NEW Sound of Position 93 KHJ”. POSITION 93? Actually, quite a bit has been written about this, final part of the Top 40 era at KHJ elsewhere, and the general consensus was that by taking the personality out of the station’s on air delivery, the audience escaped to other stations like Ten-Q (which was literally on fire in 1978!) KFI and even KMPC. FM was emerging as a power as well.

This is not to say that KHJ was without personality. One has to take these kinds of comments in perspective of the time period in which they refer to. Compared to radio in 2015, This version of KHJ would stand out as one of the best stations in America. But we know the slippery slope that the kind of thinking which consultants placed KHJ in 1978 led to.

“Position 93” is giving away $1,000 a day. That was a LOT of money in 1978! RKO General still had deep pockets, even if as so many giant corporations, they weren’t a bit blind to what they were doing. Looking back, this station still sounds good, tight and Pat Garrett, although in schtick is calling himself the “Unknown Disc Jockey”, never misses a cue.

Come to think of it, WNBC New York tried this exact format at the same time, with ALMOST the same result. The difference: KHJ went Country in 1980, WNBC went back to where it left off in 1977, brought back Imus in the Morning, and rocked harder for the next three years than anything else on AM… even managed to become the number one station, evenings, in 1983, just before WHTZ “Z100” launched. And there’s your history lesson for today.

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

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  1. Richard Wagoner

    KHJ did come to its senses with a return to real top 40 after this with PD Chuck Martin. Unfortunately even though ratings were up, they went country.

    • One thing about that. Why did RKO General not just keep the Country format at KHJ instead of trying to bring back the Top 40 format at KHJ? I happened to listen to the “Car Radio” recurrent format a few times when I was there and simply can’t figure out what they were thinking? First off, was Country making any money? And then, once they had a viable format that SOUNDED good (I happened to actually enjoy “Car Radio 93 KHJ”), why blow it all up, heritage call letters and all, and go with the “Smokin’ Oldies'” format? That latter question I think has been answered on this site before, and by 1986 the whole question of music on AM itself was pretty much being settled, but from a listener standpoint its valid. But I digreess. Richard, yes, they *did* come to their senses, but it was a case of a bit too little, too late. KHJ had already blown off their audience and they knew the numbers weren’t coming back.

      • Calradiopd

        Why didn’t RKO keep the Country format at KHJ? They flipped in October 1980. In the Spring, 1981 Arbitron, KHJ was tied for 20th with KZLA AM/FM (also Country) with a 1.9. Country competitor KLAC was 12th with a 2.9. Spring 1982 had KZLA AM-FM 14th with a 2.5, KLAC 19th with a 2.1 and KHJ 24th with a 1.5.

        Short version, they were dead the moment an FM started playing Country. The flip back (first as an oldies station—“The Boss Is Back”—you have the aircheck here…Dick Whittington on April 1, 1983), sank without a trace. KHJ went below a 1.0 and never resurfaced until they went Spanish in ’89.

        • Gary Kerns

          Just learned when KHJ went country; namely, October 1980. Thanx for the info: I heard in early ’81 that they switched.

  2. Gary Kerns

    I’d forgotten all about that Mountain Dew jingle till I heard it at 3:16. Also that was spot on about WNBC being Numero Uno in NYC until Z100 came along.

    • Now, here was the thing about both stations. Both KHJ and WNBC made the same format moves in ’78, both saw an immediate ratings dip. They still stayed with the ‘less talk, more music” approach for a year and then knew they were in trouble. In Los Angeles, the ratings war was SOLIDLY on the AM band. And some strange things happened. KTNQ was the newcomer, had the momentum (which is why KHJ tweaked to “Position 93” in the first place) and KFI was just sitting there waiting to pounce. Ten-Q’s owners took the ratings and decided to cash out at some point. I’m not sure of the date, but they sold the station to new owners who blew everyone out and went hispanic. KHJ was in recovery by 1980 but for some reason that I’m sure someone out there knows, decided to go Country. In 1980 there was no one big FM station ready to destroy KHJ, and thats the baffling part. So, that left KFI as the only Top 40 game in town for a while. AOR was BIG, but it was never going to kill KHJ had they stayed the course for a few more years. Now, over in New York, even more strange things happened. WNBC was NOT the #1 station from the time WABC went Top 40 until they gave it up in 1982. And, the style of the format was 180 degrees different than RKO’s smooth approach! The NYC market DID have a lot of FM competition by 1980. Disco spooked the hell out of ABC executives, who expected their crown jewel station to be number one. Having WKTU (92.3) take the Number one spot in 1979 scared them into action. Firings, massive format tweaks that took the mighty WABC from what it was to essentially a boring AC station in 1980…. and WNBC was ready to pounce.

      This is why two stations on opposite coasts ended up with almost identical formats and the number one position for the first few years of the 1980s – WNBC and KFI – because there was a void that no other station AM or FM decided to go after during that time. A *BAFFLING* void. It was obvious in New York. ABC had no intention of pursuing Top 40 to its logical conclusion on 770, they also completely missed the golden opportunity to simply move 77 WABC to 95.5, as WLS did in Chicago (and get a few more profitable years out of the format). Nope, they cashed out, went talk, and that was that. I can’t speak for L.A. There are others far more qualified than I to explain what happened from 1980-83 there.

      • Gary Kerns

        Steve, I just read your comment, and it certainly educated me. Why, indeed, didn’t WABC just move Top 40 to PLJ? One other thing, what did posess KHJ to go country? I was, ironically, heavily into country at that time, but being an easterner, there was no way I could get KHJ. I’d have to say my favorite station of all time was WHN in NYC from 79 to 87, when they became all sports WFAN. Thanks a million for your comment.

        • Calradiopd

          The rock audience was migrating to FM. When RKO decided to flip KHJ, “Urban Cowboy” was big and the only competition in Country was also on AM…KLAC. But KZLA AM/FM flipped at about the same time and KHJ was doomed.

          • Tony

            Did Charlie Tuna work at KZLA for a time?

          • Gary Kerns

            I had no firsthand knowledge of KHJ going country, as I’ve never been west of Oklahoma City, but I did hear about it on the news, and it seemed that the time frame was early ’81 that I heard of it.

          • calradiopd

            Tony: No. Tuna was never at KZLA. Humble Harve was, though…under John Sebastian, in the early 90s.

          • Tony

            Thanks for the Tuna information.

            It seems he worked at some country station, perhaps an LA suburb for at least a short time.

            Tuna has worked at so many LA stations as a morning man, perhaps even he could not name them all.

            How would you rank Tuna v. Van Dyke?


          • Gary Kerns

            I like Van Dyke better than Tuna, although, Tuna is more than good at his craft.

          • Calradiopd

            Over the long haul, Tuna had more heart and soul on the air than Van Dyke, and still sounds great weekends on KRTH.. But in the mid-late 70s, I’d have given the edge to Van Dyke. Tuna was trying too hard and Van Dyke was at the top of his game.

  3. Gary Kerns

    One other thing. “Position” is certainly a novel way to describe a frequency.

    • Calradiopd

      Position as in “dial position”. But Sebastian had the jocks saying things like “getting into position 93 tonight”.

      “Position 93″ only lasted a few months. It was a bridge to Sebastian’s ultimate approach…”All Music 93/KHJ. Where AM Means All Music.”

      That spawned parodies from the competition…KFI at one point ran a liner…”KFI…where AM Means Amplitude Modulation” and KTNQ, on the verge of going Spanish, had Charlie Tuna voicing one that said “Ten-Q. Where AM Means “Adios Muchachos”.

      • Gary Kerns

        I got a kick out of “Where AM means ‘Adios Muchachos”.

  4. Gary Kerns

    I never knew KHJ was branded “Car Radio 93 KHJ”. I learn something new every time I visit this site, it seems.

    • Aah yes. Car Radio 93 KHJ. Car Radio was a short lived format nestled between KHJ Country and “Smokin’ Oldies AM 930 KRTH”. Nearly all the music was Top 40 recurrents with traffic reports every ten minutes. The whole theme of the format was branded around listening in your car. It SOUNDED great!, but as was often the case by 1986, too many liners, not enough jock freedom and a very high song burnout rate. Somewhere out there, there’s an aircheck called “The Last Hour of KHJ”. Indeed, they brought in Robert W. Morgan to do the final hour with the KHJ call letters before they dumped the format into Mutual News, KRTH (AM) call letters and Larry King. Its a sad piece but shows that RKO had the decency to at least put KHJ out of its misery with some sort of dignity.

      • Gary Kerns

        It seems I remember reading at one time that KHJ changed calls to KRTH. There was (may still be) an FM oldies with the KTRH calls. They’re CBS-owned. When I said I’m an easterner, I’m from Fairmont, West Virginia, which is about 90 miles south of Pittsburgh and 225 northwest of Washington, DC. In later years KHJ became KKHJ. I really enjoy corresponding with you, because, as I said, I learn something new every day.

      • Tony

        No jock freedom existed during KHJ’s Car Radio.

        It was like eating chocolate cake three meals a day. The idea sounds appealing, but when you actually do it, the results are much different.

  5. Tony

    I cannot imagine anyone wanting to hear this twice.

    Once is enough.


  6. Gary Kerns

    Early last Saturday, I saw at Wikipedia where KIIS-AM got its call letters from its AM dial position (1150). The II represented 11 and, because S looks a lot like 5, that’s why they called it that. I don’t know 1150’s current call letters. I know I’m somewhat off the subject, but I just wanted to bring it up while I was at this site.

  7. Donald Rehrer

    I have the final 2 unscoped hours of KHJ, and the crash of “Car Radio” I restored the music to them several years ago, since I don’t like scoped airchecks, and wanted to restore a bit of the history.

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