Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Boss Radio - 93KHJ

It was 50 years ago that Casey Kasem debuted his “American Top 40,” the first national broadcast of top pop radio. It was a national obsession that lasted with Kasem as host until August 1988 (it still runs today with Ryan Seacrest). But for those of us in L.A. who go back a little further, there was a little handout you got each week from the record store (in my case, Licorice Pizza) – The 93KHJ Boss 30. In the car, we were forced to listen to “beautiful music” on KGIL, from “People” by Barbra Streisand to Johnny Mathis’ “Chances Are,” but when my brother and I got home, it was all about 93KHJ (and occasionally KRLA).

Hit radio in the 50s and early 60s meant as many commercials as singles. That’s when, circa 1965, Bill Drake and Gene Chenault whittled the rotation down to 30 songs with fewer commercials, short jingles and the “Boss Jocks,” disk jockeys like The Real Don Steele and Robert W. Morgan. On July 9, 1965, 55 years ago, the KHJ Boss 30 was born. That first survey, pictured, featured Sam Riddle on the front with the Stones’ “Satisfaction” in the No. 1 spot. Other hits at the top included Mel Carter’s “Hold Me, Kiss Me, Thrill Me,” Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat.” I had that 45 and can still see the Parrot label spinning on my RCA 45 player.

In 1970, Casey Kasem would pretty much take over the airwaves as AM radio was coming to its musical demise, but KHJ carried on and at year’s end would summarize the songs on the surveys. While Billboard charts “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as the top hit of the year, American “Number Ones” were subjective and in addition to sales, also included local requests and the number of times a single was played. A single at the top in L.A. might be marginal in another city. For KHJ’s Boss 30, the No. 1 hit of the year was the Jackson 5’s third No. 1 that year, “I’ll Be There,” followed by “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” by B.J. Stevens (from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and “Spill the Wine” from Eric Burdon and War. The Beatles last No 1, “The Long and Winding Road,” would be there as well, just topping George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.”

The diversity on the KHJ Boss 30 was extraordinary: from The Carpenters to Led Zeppelin, the AM format was all-inclusive. By the way, if you wanted to make a playlist, you got your reel to reel, put the mic up to the speaker and hit record. Of course, the DJ would cut the song off before it finished and still be talking when the next hit started. Remember your first mixed tape? My brother’s was on reel to reel, but I was younger and had my cassettes, ahh technology.

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