94.7 KMET: TWEEDLE-DEE
God rest your soul KIQQ
I guess you weren't too hip after all
Machine Gun Kelly, where are you?
--From the song Westside Angst, by That Dog
Additional source material: Bill Wright, K.M. Richards, Maureen Bykerk, Dennis Younker, Bill Snyder. YouTube video by jgonzer
Real legends are made, not born. At least in the radio world. One of the stations that practically set the standard for FM radio programming in the late sixties and early seventies was Metromedia's 94.7 KMET.
Music had changed radically in the sixties as everyone knows. Rock 'N' Roll was experiencing growing pains, beginning perhaps with Sgt. Pepper, arguably the first "concept album". By the dawn of the seventies, popular music had clearly splintered out into several different directions. It was becoming clear that rock had a place on FM radio.
In 1967, the former KRHM 94.7 traded frequencies with KLAC-FM at 102.7 and the KRHM calls moved to the latter frequency until the station became automated top-40 KKDJ on April 15, 1971. KLAC-FM "disappeared" and KMET was born during the 1967 frequency switch.
As Tom Donahue got behind the mike for the first time, few (if any) knew then that the station would set a standard for many other album-oriented rock stations to come. Groups like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin helped anchor the AOR format.
"The Mighty Met" had a DJ lineup that made stars out of AOR jocks the way KHJ had done for top-40 DJs. Over the years they boasted such talent as Jeff Gonzer, Cynthia Fox, B. Mitchel Reed, Tom Donahue, Paraquat Kelley, Ace Young, Al "Jazzbeaux" Collins, and of course, Jim Ladd.
Famed novelty king Dr. Demento, who began his career on Pasadena's KPPC in 1970, hit the big time in 1972 when he went to the Mighty Met. On Sunday nights, Mike Harrison hosted a phone-in talk show called Harrison's Mike, right after Dr. Demento's show. The interview show Off The Record was first heard on The Met. Jack Snyder conducted the "Off The Record" interviews. He would then write out the questions and Reputa the Beauta Mary Turner would dub her voice in over Jack's. The station snagged KLOS legend Frazer Smith in 1984.
In a way, they helped bring crazy radio stunts to a new level. Billboards for the station were occasionally posted upside-down; many commuters reciprocated with their bumper stickers. For a time, they even parodied Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority (remember those "Immoral Minority Is Neither" stickers?) The wacky stunts plus the selection of hard driving tunes made KMET a favorite among the AOR set, and it was probably the most played FM station in many auto repair shops around town.
Jeff Gonzer left the station in 1986. About this time, the Classic Rock format was being born and KBZT 97.1 (formerly KHTZ and KGBS) changed to KLSX. Meanwhile down in Long Beach, KNAC pulled the plug on its Rock 'N' Rhythm (alternative) format and switched to heavy metal, taking a sizable bite out of KMET's audience.
Movers and shakers at the station were hearing more and more people talk about KMET in the past tense, and how good it "used to be." Finally the station's program director, Frank Cody, decided the format was no longer viable; he wanted to pioneer something new: the format would be mainly Ambient/New Age music, initially with no DJs, and no other live announcers except for the news.
Valentines' Day 1987 was, for KMET's last hour at least, jockless. However, some vintage ID tags (voiced by the late Tom Donahue) were thrown in a few times. At 12:00 noon, The Met went down. The final song was The Beatles medley "Carry That Weight". Manager Harold Bloom introduced 94-7 The Wave, and the calls were changed to KTWV.
Reaction was swift. For days, staff answered hundreds of angry phone calls from former KMET listeners. A few Met jocks went over to KLSX, which they began referring to as "The station that hasn't forgotten what rock 'n' roll is all about." According to an article in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times (4/23/87, article on file), an Orange County man named Bill Bothman started a petition to bring back KMET, and amassed over 4,000 signatures. Despite all this, KTWV garnered a 1.9 share in the market its first book (an improvement of .3) and The Met stayed dead -- but only on radio.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Jim Ladd later went across town to free
form 101.9 KMPC/KEDG (The original "Edge"; they
had that label years before it was hijacked by modern rock), then to KLSX
after The Edge folded in 1989 and the KEDG calls went to Vegas. (Cynthia Fox, Jeff Gonzer and Paraquat Kelley also did stints at 101.9.) Jim can now be heard nightly on KLOS 95.5.
Sadly, Tom Donahue, B. Mitchel Reed and Al "Jazzbeaux" Collins are no longer with us.
"KMET", meanwhile, became an MOR station in Banning/Hemet at 1490 AM, and even called themselves "The Mighty Met". In the 1990s, they switched to Country and Western. They retain the KMET call letters today through a change to all-sports and back to Country. They became "The Oasis", featuring smooth jazz, and are now a talk station which also features Los Angeles Kings hockey.
In 1995, KLSX switched to FM talk five days a week and an AOR/alternative mix on weekends. After a stint with the short-lived FREE FM talk format in the mid-2000s, they are now KAMP "Amp Radio 97.1" with a CHR Top 40 format.
NEWS BUZZ: Erstwhile nighttime shock-jock Frazer "The Fraze" Smith has apparently been doing voice-overs for several stations, including KLKX and KKBB. Thanks to DeltaCat and Dennis Younker for this info.
Jeff Gonzer became PD of Westwood One's Adult Rock format, heard locally on KLKX "The Quake" in Rosamond/Lancaster and KOCP "The Octopus" (95.9) Ventura/Oxnard (also internationally on Armed Forces Radio!). Denise Westwood is now at KLOS. Prior to this, she spent some time at KPLN in San Diego. Before hitting KPLN, she was on KGB-FM in San Diego (for quite a few years in fact!). Thanks to "The Gonz" and Dennis Younker for passing this along.
Both Jack Snyder (Jackson B. Snyderfish) and Ace Young can be found on the internet. Jack is selling all things Cajun at www.cajunmarket.com and Ace Young can be found at www.yosemitegold.com.
Cynthia Fox, another former Might Met jock, does telethons for PBS, and Mary Turner works as a drug and alcohol counselor--both according to LARADIO.COM.
TRACKIN' THE CALLS: Bakersfield is now home of the KRHM call letters; they reside on a low power Spanish Religious station at 103.5.
Denise Westwood (KLOS)
(Thanks to Dennis for sending this link)
Jeff Gonzer Radio Network
Paraquat Kelley (Pete Handelman's Autograph Page)
KMET Sticker Page
"KMET" AM 1490 Website
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