October 31, 2006

A's Baseball Moving To Free FM

Oakland Athletics Logo (1970)This morning's Contra Costa Times reports that the American League Western Division champion Oakland Athletics will drop KNTS/1220 for the 2007 season, moving to 80,000-watt Free FM 106.9 (KIFR) as their flagship station, with additional local coverage on KYCY/1550.

KYCY and KNTS had shared local flagship status on the team's broadcasts this past season.

In the Times article, Jonathan Okanes noted that the A's had tried to get CBS/SF to carry the games on 106.9 last season, "but CBS Radio was hesitant because the station had just launched a new format."

Guess that ain't a problem no more...

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October 17, 2006

RIP: Mike Phillips

Jay Arnold sent along word last night that former 610/KFRC morning man and program director Mike Phillips died yesterday following a two and a half year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 64.

Mike Phillips (1966)Mike was the original afternoon guy at KFRC when the station moved to Top 40 in February 1966, then switched to mornings later in the year. He ended his career as program director at L.A.'s legendary K-Earth 101 from 1990 to 2001, helping to elevate the famed Oldies powerhouse from middle-of-the-pack status to consistent ratings in the top five.

He spent the early portion of his career in the Pacific Northwest, including stops at KAYO and KJR in Seattle, before becoming one of the KISN Good Guys at the Portland Top 40 outlet. From KISN it was on to his first stop in the Bay Area, working at KNBR/68 under program director Al Hart.

Fired by KNBR, he landed on his feet as an original member of the 610 Men at KFRC when the station switched to Top 40 early in 1966. Initially installed as the Big 610's afternoon guy, he moved to mornings later in the year.

After a return to KJR in 1968, he made subsequent stops at WXLO/New York (1973) and KGW/Portland (1975) before coming back to the Bay Area as program director at NBC-owned KYUU/99.7 in 1980. He moved over to program KIOI in 1982, then returned to KFRC as program director in 1984. He then helped create KOIT's signature "Lite Rock" sound beginning in 1986.

Mike Phillips had moved from Santa Clarita in Southern California to Portland earlier this summer to be nearer to his family.

Ron Lyons on Mike Phillips...

The one thing left off his stations slate was KNBR from February of 1965 until sometime in the Fall. Mike Phillips was a star, I believe, at KJR when he was 19, and he and I both were hired by Mike Joseph which could account for the high suicide rate in the '60s.

[Joseph] was a real con artist and had sold NBC a story on market research. We were playing "Satisfaction" and then going into Arlene Francis on "Emphasis." We were giving the time in various Bay Area locations and he had the very old NBC announcers doing (or trying) Top 40 News up to the network join and it was horrific. The whole thing was horrific.

I have an actual memo from Joseph saying "Congratulations on the birth of your daughter. You only gave the call letters 23 times; it should have been 35." NBC was run by the News Division so we had to carry everything including think pieces and press conferences. NOBODY knew what the hell we were.

Mike and I were very good friends then, and I will explain in a bit why I think we didn't stay that way. Anyway, he kept telling management, which was Al Hart, how screwed up it was and doing one liners about it on the air. We were great drinking buddies and he spent a lot of time at the house. He was a little lonely and really angry with how bad we sounded. I kept telling him that no matter how bad it was, it was theirs and he was liable to be fired ... which is what happened ... which is rather funny.

Al Hart was a great guy (still is) and gave Mike the word and said it was his choice if he wanted to work out his two week notice. (We all had great contracts then!) Mike elected to stay on the air and he was on 6 to 9PM. So he goes on the air that night and one of the commercials was for the Columbia School of Broadcasting. I remember listening to him and, really, the only thing he said, VERY tongue in cheek, was that "the security in broadcasting is fantastic." So he was gone.

Like many things in life, it was the best thing. Drake was changing KFRC and it was just the break Mike needed. I remember he was a little dubious but he ended up doing mornings and KFRC is really one of the legends. Mike was also in love with a gal named Carol and they eventually got married.

We drifted apart then. The last thing I remembered was their apartment in Marin and Elvis had just recorded "From Vegas To Memphis" and we listened to the live version of "Suspicious Minds." He and I both had just returned to the market around 1969.

Mike was a great guy who managed to conquer booze. Many don't know it but it was an awful thing for him. We reconnected in 1977, I think, when he and John Hayes were running KYUU. I was still drinking then and didn't quit until 1986. I was working weekends at KNBR and we ended up staying at the same motel. There he told me of some really horrible things he had gone through. He had become quite religious although he never hit you over the head with it. I think it was uncomfortable for him to be around me because I was still hitting it pretty good. I always admired his success as a programming guy knowing what games had to be played and how he maintained his sobriety.

Mike Phillips, as I remember him, was a gentle soul with a tremendous sense of humor.

Sometime during the KNBR/KYUU days, we were walking over to the garage together and I asked him if he missed being on the air?

"Nah," he said, "I've got nothing left to say."

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October 07, 2006

RIP: Hap Harper

Carter B. Smith emailed over last night that Hap Harper passed away this past Wednesday (October 4).

Hap Harper and Don SherwoodHap, who parlayed being Don Sherwood's neighbor into a paying gig as the world's first airborne traffic reporter on the World's Greatest Radio Station, was 81. He retired from radio in 1991 after 34 years on the air in the air, during which time he estimated that he had "logged over two million miles over the Bay Area and never been out of sight of the San Carlos Airport."

Born Howard Harper in New Orleans, he grew up in Flint, Mich., obtaining his pilot's license while still a teenager, and attended Oberlin College in Ohio, earning tuition money by giving flying lessons. He was a Marine Corps lieutenant and pilot during World War II, then settled in the Bay Area after leaving the service. As a friend and neighbor of Sherwood, he'd fly the KSFO disc jockey to various weekend getaways, and eventually was persuaded to go on the air with weather reports from on high.

One day in 1957 while giving his weather observations, he spotted a traffic accident down below and mentioned it on the air, thus launching a new phase in his flying career as well as creating an entire cottage industry.

In addition to being one of Sherwood's longstanding comrades-in-arms, Hap also sold real estate in the Sierra foothills for four decades, ferrying prospective clients in his private plane. During his radio career, he also worked with Van Amburg at KFRC, Gene Nelson at KSFO/KYA-FM and Frank Dill and Mike Cleary at KNBR, in addition to occasionally filling in at KSFO in the studio during Sherwood's frequent absences.

He retired from broadcasting in 1991, moving fulltime to Amador County to operate his HH Realty enterprise.

"He was a remarkably cheerful, outgoing and positive man, an excellent flier and fun to work with," Carter B. told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hap is survived by his wife, Jan, his daughter, Kellie, and his son, Jeffrey. No funeral service will be held in accordance with Hap's wishes, but I'd bet there'll be a memorial gathering for his friends at some point in the near future.

More Hap:

Sherwood and Harper's "Raid On Stockton" from Laurie Harper's "Don Sherwood: The Life and Times of the World's Greatest Disc Jockey."

You may leave a remembrance or condolence message for Hap Harper by clicking here.

(Photo: Hap Harper and Don Sherwood aboard Hap's plane, 1958.)

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October 02, 2006

Radio Dots & Dashes (October 3 Edition)

Okay, so I'm late... if you missed the big 20th anniversary celebration for Live 105 (KITS) on Sunday, you missed hearing a countdown of the top ten modern rock hits from each year during the station's two decades on the air.

Although I missed hearing any of them, I understand that Steve Masters, Roland West and several other former Live 105 voices made cameo appearances. Being busy on Sunday, I rolled tape for several hours and got nothing but music. I was kind of hoping that Carson Daly would show up, too, but no...

Speaking of which ... it was reported here a few weeks ago that Live 105 program director Sean Demery had left the station after five years so that he could spend more time with his family in upstate New York.

Apparently, he was referring to a different family, as he has turned up this past Monday in Atlanta at legacy modern rocker 99X (WNNX) as part of the station's new morning team, according to FMQB.

Demery was one of the original 99X staffers when the station signed on in 1992.

"There's a poet out there who says 'you can never go home' ... that guy's an idiot!" Demery told FMQB. "It's great to be back with family and much hugs to Leslie (Fram, 99X PD) and Cumulus for the means, the ways and the ability to put this together so quickly and getting us on the air as a show the first Monday in October ... amazing."

Yeah. Amazing.

Ron FairlyRon Fairly, who spent six so-so years here as one of the radio voices of the San Francisco Giants, retired from the Seattle Mariners' broadcast booth after spending the last fourteen years with the club.

Fairly, 68, played in the majors for 21 years, the bulk of it with the Dodgers. He moved up to the broadcast booth with the Angels from 1982 to 1986 before being hired as a Giants announcer. What a joy it was for us Giants fans to hear him recount his experiences while playing with the Dodgers, and the great Dodger teammates he played alongside, and the great Dodger teams he played on, and the great traditions the Dodgers had! Enjoy your retirement, Ron...

Only because I'm one of those dopes that reads the births, deaths and wedding announcements every day (nope, nothing better to do), I spotted smiling Richard Branton, production director for 101.7/KKIQ and Coast Radio in Pleasanton, and his beaming bride-to-be, Lori-Anne Williams, in the local fishwrap the other day. They'll be heading to the altar next June. Good luck, you kids...

Former San Jose Sharks captain and fan favorite Jeff Odgers has been named as color analyst on Atlanta Thrashers radiocasts, the NHL club has announced. Odgers, 37, who retired following the 2002-03 campaign after spending the final three years of his career with the Thrashers, was an original Shark, spending five seasons in a teal sweater for the Southbay's popular hockey organisation...