Thoughts and observations about some of the best in the West: Ron Owens, K-EARTH 101, and listening to a transmitted signal on hallowed ground
By Holland Cooke
BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Vacation and I tend to elude each other. Although I live in a summertime destination, I bug-out JUST as seasonal funsters invade. The natural travel cycle for radio consultants is after-the-Spring-book and as-we’re-planning-for the Fall survey and budget-planning for the new year. OK, OK, it’s also convenient that my perennial seven week non-stop station visit trek occurs during baseball season. I see the Red Sox everywhere BUT Fenway Park.
And like anyone self-employed, in any industry, I feel like I never stop working! But I did last week…or at least I intended to. As I’m sure you do when you hear radio elsewhere-in-your-travels, I couldn’t help listening critically…yet I still experienced radio more like a consumer than a vendor to my client stations.
Three radio notes from my trip, and not just so I can write-it-off, honest…
Ronn Owens lives
Much of iconic KGO,San Francisco has changed around-him, but I continue to recommend Owens’ midmorning (PT) show as an example to hosts I coach. Listen-in live or listen-back to a full-hour podcast on the station’s site, and you’ll hear why he bested Rush Limbaugh there for years. Admittedly, the Bay Area, politically, isn’t Dittohead Central. But hearing Owens is no-less-than re-affirming. It’s great local radio — even when the topic is not intrinsically local, as in the example below — and he’s often utterly apolitical.
I was in-car for most-of a full-hour in-studio interview with an expert from Credit.com, which you can hear on KGO’s podcast page by selecting August 23, 10: 00 am. Listen to some of his other hours too.
Let me be clear. I’m NOT saying: “Be him.” I’m saying hear-how-he-does what-he-does.
Like WCCO, Minneapolis afternooner John Williams, whose work I also recommend, Ronn’s show is a clinic in:
- “Predictable unpredictability.” Too much of talk radio sounds like (dated reference) “the needle is stuck,” on politics. Some days, you can’t tell if some talkers are re-runs. But Ronn’s show makes you feel like you’d miss something if you miss a day. Why?
- Delivering “take-home pay.” I learned something I didn’t know about consumer credit that day.
- Great balance between host-and-guest and callers-and-guest. And real impressive call screening. Geographically, callers were all over the TSA, and well-prepped. Not lots of repetitive “Hi how are you?”
- Frequent re-set. Tuning-in at any moment, you instantly understand whassup.
When I’m in Minnesota several times a year, I hear John Williams touching all the same bases.
As we joined other pilgrims from Red Sox Nation swarming into AT&T Park, there was Ronn! Right across the street, remoting live! I didn’t want to interrupt to say hello, but was impressed to see him walking Woody Allen’s talk that “80% of life is showing-up.”
My favorite station on Earth!
Not a talker, it’s CBS’s classic hits K-Earth 101, Los Angeles, possibly the consistently best-executed station I’ve heard.
The only person I’ve ever witnessed who seems to enjoy his job more than afternoon DJ Shotgun Tom Kelly is Joe Biden. Heck, all the K-Earth jocks sound thrilled to be there, they smile and make eye contact with you, each break is succinct, and they sound like they’re “doing a show” that lives-up-to the on-hour ID “FROM THE ENTERTAINMENT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD…”
You know what great prize you have a chance to win, how to play, and why to keep listening for your chance. And yes, I admit it. I sat in the rental car, with the key on “accessories,” waiting for that Drake-like jingle to sing the legal ID. So call me a radio nerd.
Demographically, I’m a sucker for songs from the 60s and 70s, and KRTH has integrated 80s songs so carefully that I don’t feel like the station changes. And that’s one thing I find uncanny about K-Earth 101. For a station that plays NO currents, it sounds remarkably…current. Fresh!
Coolest way I heard them make oldies NOT sound old:
- They spent the weekend before Labor Day weekend promoting the durable your-500-favorite-songs bit that hit stations have been doing on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends since I was a pup…with a real hip twist.
- As usual, K-Earth’s Charlie Van Dyke-voiced and listener-voice-laden promos leapt out of the speaker, and the copy gave the listener real ownership. YOU would be taking over the station the following weekend, simply by voting for your all-time faves on the station website. Superbly stated, but nothing new there.
- What I’ve never heard an oldies station (or “classic hits”) say that really clicked was, a couple times an hour, as the DJ cued a monster hit, they invited online votes by telling you that “THIS IS ONE OF THE SONGS THAT’S TRENDING, AS WE COUNT YOUR VOTES!”
- HOW cool is that? Oldies is like the Latin language, dead. No new material. Yet, that weekend, the Greatest Hits on Earth were TRENDING! Wow.
There are still some things only a radio receiver can deliver
Final stop out West: Chavez Ravine, we meet at last. Every summer I try to hit at least one baseball stadium I’ve never been to, and this year I finally got to Dodger Stadium. What a treat, and it would’ve been even if it wasn’t a Red Sox game. We sure weren’t the only Saux fans there, and – though the Dodgers threatened in the 8th and 9th – we won!
The venue itself is part of the show. Very 1950s, and clean-as-a-whistle. But we were disappointed when we missed Dodger Stadium’s most venerable feature, Vin Scully. Just days earlier, we learned that Scully will return next year for a SIXTY FIFTH season as Voice of The Dodgers. He’s been calling their games since he was 22, and they were in Brooklyn. And he works alone! NO color voice in the booth, just Vin and you.
I was stoked to hear Scully on radio AT the game. He’s actually the TV announcer, but they simulcast the beginning of the game. So I made darn sure my iPhone was fully charged, and brought-along a fully-charged re-charger.
I brought-up AM 570 on the iHeart Radio app…but I never got to hear The Dean. Major League Baseball controls (translation: sells) the audio stream, and, being a non-subscriber, I and other streamies were instead delivered a talk show about Fantasy Football. L
The lesson? PDs: What can a listener ONLY hear (free) on your transmitter? Tell ‘em.
Read/see/hear more/more/more at www.HollandCooke.com, and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke. And, if we can get him out of the rental car, meet HC at Talkers Los Angeles, on Thursday, October 10.