New Time Radio - Part 1

I have used the popular term for radio content from pre-1962 as Old Time Radio or referenced it as Radio's Golden Age. The terms generally describe the broadcast content of that era that was made up of comedy, drama, mysteries, variety, sports, westerns, kid's shows, and news. This type of programming started its downhill slide around 1950 as television started its ascendence. However, radio did not go away, as in the United States it changed formats, focusing on just music, news, sports, or talk. In England, that change also occurred but it also retained the previous formats and continues to do so today.

In the What I Was Listening To section of this site, I reviewed my consumption of radio content, which spanned the from the 1930s up to the present time, but that treatment was limited in its detail. I would like to delve into that detail here by going through the content by its genre.


Listening to the spoken word has been a favorite pastime of mine for as long as I can remember. I suppose it goes back to having been read to as a child and, in particular, a teacher in 7th-grade who regularly read to the class. Not only is it effortless to become immersed in the story or discussion, but one is free to pursue other tasks while doing so.

My earliest recollection of hearing talk radio is hearing Micheal Jackson (no, not that one) on, I think, KABC radio in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s. My father was overseas and every evening after dinner my mother would sit down in the living room and write him a letter. Although we had a television, it was usually the radio that was turned on and I recall hear Jackson's South African accent as he interviewed guests and took calls from listeners. In later years, I am thinking the 1980s, I would hear him on KABC in the mornings and he was still the same, calm, polite, and reserved personality that he was back in those earlier times. As a spinner of the dial I remember hearing other talkers like the ascerbic Joe Pyne who defined what a Shock Jock Talker should be like for generations of hosts that came after him. A more friendly and humorous host was Bob Crane who we heard on KNX in the mornings. He played music and did some comedy routines, getting people ready for their commute to work. He was known as an actor for the bit role he had on the popular "Donna Reed Show" but it was shortly after that when he had the title role in "Hogan's Heroes" that he left radio. Later in the morning, on days I was not in school, I would hear Arthur Godfrey's show on KNX. I knew he had been around for a long time and even then it seemed like a show that was its way out.

Also in the 1960, another show I enjoyed on KNX was the "Mike Roy Show." Mike was a chef and talked all about food, recipes, and took calls from listeners. The show was co-hosted by KNX announcer Denny Bracken and the two of them had great chemistry. I was going through some old tapes and found two excerpts of Mike's show which I recorded back in the 1960s and placed them on the Special Features page of my Old Time Radio site which you can find: here.

In the later-1960s and into the early 1970s I listed to lots more music on radio than I did talk but talk was still something i tuned in. I remember one of the big hits of that time was the Bill Balance Show. Bill had been around on Los Angeles radio for quite a while, primarily as a DJ, but it was in 1971 when he started his Feminine Forum show that he became somewhat of a sensation. Playing the role of a bit of a shock jock mixed with a bit of faux-misogyny, he took calls, mostly from women, and purported to be an expert who could help them solve their probelms. For example, when they complain that their partner no longer took an interst in the Bill would have them disclose their vital statistics and then berate them for letting themselves go. I remember that I was at Universal Studios in the summer of 1974 for the tour and after that they drop you off in the visitors area (concessions) and Bill was broadcasting live from their small theater there.

Spining the dial in those times would bring up all kinds of strange talk. The strangest had to be Curtis Howe Springer the preacher who broadcast from Zyzyx Springs, CA. His programming was a mix of evagelical-styled sermons and breaks to sell one of his many "health aids" or encouragement to come to his spa and be cured of you ailments. It was so over the top it almost played like a comedy but he was for real and made quite a bit of money and had many followers until the federal government shut him down and imprisoned him. Great radio though.

After going into the army in 1972 I had little contact with television or radio and didn't get back into talk radio until the late-1970s when I was working a graveyard shift in a photofinishing lab. The guys who ran the print processor had a radio in their darkroom tuned to KLOS a rock station, a room I was in and out of during my shift. At midnight on Sundays the station had a 5-hour talk show. The first hour was called "Impact" and the remaining time was "Open Conversation", both hosted by Michael Benner. The first hour usually had a guest and after an interveiw would take calls from listeners. Michael was an advocate of the Human Potential Movement and his guests usually had something to do with that. Calls during the 4-hour segment were about that or politics or the economy or war or whatever current event was in the news. After a year or so I switched jobs and went to working days but set up a recorder to grab the show while I was sleeping and I'd listen to it during the week.

Here is a complete show: KLOS - Impact/Open Conversation - August 4, 1986 - (4 hours 14 min)

During the 1980s I was working for an engineering/construction company and when I wasn't in the office or my drafting board I was in a company truck headed out to a jobsite. Radio was always there and talk radio seemed to pass the time better than music. I spun the dial between KABC and KFI, both having some pretty substantial line ups. Over the years the day would features some of these:

Rush Limbaugh - political talk, Sample show, April 1, 1991 (30:12)
Toni Grant - radio psychologist who started on Bill Ballance's show
Tom Leykis - Shock Jock, Sample show, October 31, 1989, (1:32:33)
Joe Crummey - laid back, varied topics, Sample show, June 1990 (57:15)
Laura Schlessinger - radio psychologist who also started on Bill Ballance's show. She turned more politcal in later years.
Barbara De Angelis - yet another radio psychologist
Dean Edell - medical call-in show, Dean Edell, May 1990 (45:56)

And lots of others over the years. On October 20, 1989, KFI hosted The Meeting of the Mouths from 9am to 1am where they brought in all their talkers to the studio on the same day. It was quite the affair. Even Rush Limbaugh was there, in person, getting taken to task by the liberal show hosts. I have a tape of the whole show, commercials removed, which is intersting to listen to all these years later. On November 15, 1990 they did Meeting of the Mouths II which wasn't quite as good as the first one but still entertaining.

Here is the first 45-minutes of the first show: KFI - Meeting of the Mouths - October 20, 1989 - Part 1 (46:10)

Yes, I did tape quite a few shows, not necessarily to archive them but to have a sample of what I listened to, like an audio scrapbook. After leaving Southern California radio in the end of 1991, I was too busy with a new job and young children to spend much time listening to talk show. If I did it was over of NPR affiliate, KEMC, and the spoken word shows they were known for. Around the year 2001 the station started its own call-in show, "Your Opinion, Please," moderated by Marvin Grainger and Ken Siebert. They chatted about events for a moment or two and then opened the pone lines up to listeners. The conversation was varied, intelligent, and real.

Here is a sample program: Your Opinion, Please - October 2, 2005 - (31:11)

I did dip my toes into the the world of AM radio during the 2000s through 2020. What can I say? It's mostly dreadful, partisan vehicles for providing confirmation bias and instilling outrage. It is what it is.

Click here to go to New Time Radio - Part 2

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Updated January 2021.