If you are in the prime demographic of Laguna residents, you’re old enough to remember the impact radio made on you as a kid. I grew up in the ‘burbs of Baltimore, and behind my house was a massive field with four giant radio towers. It was my field of dreams, staring at those monoliths and wondering what messages they were sending. It was WCAO, an AM radio station that charted the hits that riveted America. The drive time jock was the legendary Johnny Dark, whose songs were the soundtrack of my life. We all knew and sang them together, the same ones I sing to this day.
I’m guessing 90% of you had a similar experience. It’s difficult to communicate to young people how radio was such a force in our lives. If we didn’t hear it on the radio, we didn’t know it existed.
Then we went to college and learned that radio could be broadcast from teeny tiny basements, with no budget, and students could man the consoles and play anything they wanted. Maybe you thought about how cool it would be to have your own show, and how cool you’d be to others, until you realized what a monumental task it was to build a four-hour broadcast night after night—or even weekly. So you blew it off and twisted up another.
But the people who actually did that work, in the basement, night after night, are the true heroes of this story. Because many of them have found their way here, to our little station, KXFM. We are their refuge, their field of dreams, one of the last bastions of independent radio, where they can craft an entire playlist without commercial interruption. These folks are ever mindful of how lucky they are. But rarely do they intone how lucky you are. That’s why I’m here, to tell you about jocks like Robert Manniello, a medical doctor who retired and became the oldest student in radio classes at Saddleback. He now does “Rockin with the Doc,” a Doo-wop show on Saturday mornings.
Or Don James, another radio junkie who got his radio degree at 36 years old, but didn’t make it a career until a dozen years later. He’s been at it 14 years now, most recently with “Stairway to Heaven” on Sundays. “I am totally blessed to be here! Community radio, especially in a dynamic and world-renowned community like Laguna Beach, is really special,” he says.
Or Kevin Flaherty, who hosts “Open Water” on Thursdays. He got his start in college radio and came to the station in 2016. “I often tell people that KX is like a treehouse for music lovers. I’ve never been more proud to be a part of any club.”
Or Kevin Ware, host of “Kevin’s Beach” on Mondays. After being an obsessive listener of Santa Monica’s KCRW (everyone’s favorite indie until KX came along), Kevin was invited to become the assistant to his favorite DJ, Warren Kolodny. Thus a music encyclopedia was birthed, but it needed an outlet. “When I had a chance to do it on this very valuable local radio station with dozens of other great volunteers, I bought new sneakers and ran to KXFM.“
There are just so many people with deep wells of music appreciation to share. Ben Zalman was a music promoter, and Bruce Rave was a storied A&R guy at Capitol Records. Tommy Benson is a fine local musician who spins “Guitar Gods Power Hour” Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Blues guitarist and music store owner Big Daddy Williams brings the blues on Friday nights at 6 p.m. Earl Jive spins Canadian Music on Wednesdays for those of you needing a Canadian music fix. Greg Neethling drops African music Wednesday nights on the “SA Connection.” And Jonathan Tufano spins vinyl from his massive collection Thursday nights on “Deep Cuts.” For informational radio, Sheran James brings interesting conversation with her soothing British voice Mondays on “The Sharin’ Hour,” as does Ernest Hackman on Sunday mornings with “The Importance of.” And Greg Friedman and Eric Rankin bring the woo woo to an international fan base of woo wooers with their long-running “Inner Journey” and “Awakening Code” shows, respectively.
This is just a sampling of the cornucopia of eclectic fare that perfectly mirrors the well-traveled and interesting residents who make Laguna home. But none of it could happen without the core group of staffers who shovel the coal. More on them next week. In the meantime, savor it, people. This is a special gift. Keep the dial in your car tuned to 104.7. You’ll hear songs that surprise and delight you. Stories that entertain and perhaps enrage you. That’s OK. We’re not fighters at KX. We’re lovers. We love what we do, and it comes through loud and clear on every show. Provided you don’t venture too far into the Canyon.
Billy hosts Laguna Talks on Thursday nights on KXFM radio. He’s also the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an E-bike and ocean sports tour company. Email: [email protected]