You Live In L.A. It’s July 1979 – The Radio Station You’ve Listened To All Your Life Is Changing – Gas Is $1.27 A Gallon – You Are Questioning Life.

Wilshire-Vermont - 1979
. . .and the buses never ran on time. (photo: Anthony Hernandez)

KMPC – Dick Whittinghill Show – July 30, 1979 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Midway through the last year of the 70s. July 30, 1979. Smog is bad. Traffic is bad. Buses are never on time. Things just seem a little off – you can’t really describe it – can’t put a finger on it. 1979 isn’t shaping up to be what 1969 was; a lot happening – a roller-coaster of a year, ending a haywire decade. 1979 is different. It’s quickly heading in a direction, you just don’t know which direction it is.

One thing you know for sure, gas isn’t going down in price and Dick Whittinghill, the guy you’ve been faithfully listening to on KMPC since 1958 is leaving, and this is his last week on the air. He’s playing songs you grew up with, and maybe it’s got you thinking. Thinking that things just aren’t the same anymore and that life changes when you aren’t looking. This must be what they mean by getting nostalgic – thinking about the past and how, one day you wake up and it’s all different, you got older, grayer, a little more near-sighted and your Chevy Impala doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to on a dollars worth of gas – and you’re trying really hard to picture yourself driving a 1979 Datsun.

It isn’t working.

By 1979 the writing was on the wall for AM radio – it had been the bastion of pop culture for decades before giving way to FM. And even though KMPC’s audience tended to be older than the audience listening to KRLA and KFWB at the time, it was still considered one of the most popular radio stations in the country. But times and tastes had changed, and the music format was slowly giving way to more news and talk and Personality Radio was rapidly on its way to becoming a thing of the past.

So in July of 1979, it was announced that one of the early KMPC personalities, Dick Whittinghill, would be leaving his regular show, and this broadcast from July 30, 1979 would be his last week on the air. But even at that, you can hear that the station was in a big hurry to change things, and even Whittinghill’s last week was buried in a sea of commercials and news reports.

When the decade began, FM radio was still considered ‘underground’ – by the end of the decade it had taken over where AM radio was leaving off and AM radio was becoming the relic of a bygone age.

Here is a 45 minute snapshot of that morning on July 30, 1979.

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  1. Breakfast in America, Brit group but I can’t remember the name. “PopMusic” by a group called M and “My Sharona” by the Knack

  2. thanks for the insight , i really like the subject matter in your blogs…..always a great read

    especially nice was the Terry Reid session could we have more on Rory Gallagher please.

  3. A few notes about Whittinghill…he’d actually been in mornings at KMPC since 1950, and had been at KIEV and KGFJ in the 1940s. He was 66 years old at the time of this recording, and, truth be told, KMPC had been looking for his successor since the early 1960s.

    They hired a series of morning men (former competitors of Whittinghill’s) for other time slots…Gary Owens from KFWB in 1962, Geoff Edwards from KFI in 1968, Jim Lange from KSFO in 1969, Wink Martindale from KGIL in 1971 (he’d done mornings at both KRLA and KHJ in the very early 60s) and Clark Race from KDKA also in 1971…hoping to have an heir apparent ready to go when Whittinghill finally did. And, as traditional MOR gave way to Adult Contemporary, cranky old Dick was sounding more and more out of step.

    But Whit always pointed to his always-full commercial log and said he wasn’t going anywhere until he was damn good and ready.

    KMPC dialed up the pressure in 1972…making former rival Bob Crane (who beat Whit for nine years with his morning show on KNX before leaving radio for TV and “Hogan’s Heroes” in 1965) Whittinghill’s designated fill-in. Up to that point, Whittinghill had not allowed anyone to sit in for him unless he was out sick with no notice. He’d pre-tape two weeks worth of shows to cover a vacation. This wasn’t only a threat, it was an insult.

    Crane did well. So well that in 1973, when his year-long deal with KMPC to fill in for Whit expired, KMPC offered Crane Whittinghill’s morning show and a salary of $300,000 a year. Crane said he really wanted to act in movies and TV and declined. Whittinghill had dodged a bullet.

    But a year later, former Drake-Chenault lieutenant Bill Watson became Assistant Program Director at KMPC. He’d worked with Robert W. Morgan at KHJ and KIQQ, and in 1975, Morgan quit his morning show at KIQQ to do weekends and fill-ins at KMPC.

    Most people thought the handwriting was on the wall for Whit and he’d be gone within a year. But Morgan spent four years doing every shift on the clock, including overnights, filling in for all the KMPC personalities and doing a weekend afternoon show until August of 1979.

    This aircheck is the beginning of Whit’s last week in mornings, but he was supposed to continue with a weekly Sunday morning show indefinitely. He did one, then told KMPC to stuff it. And told everyone who’d listen that he didn’t quit KMPC, he was pushed.

    As soon as there was an opportunity to compete with KMPC, on KPRZ (1150 AM), which went to a big band-nostalgia format in 1981 after KMPC went talk, Whittinghill took it. And although he did afternoons this time around (keeping mornings free for golf), he was surrounded by familiar faces including KMPC alums Gary Owens (who did mornings) and Johnny Magnus (who’d been KMPC’s late-evening host with a heavily jazz-oriented show from 1963 to 1973).

    When talk failed in 1982, KMPC adapted Bill Drake’s “Hitparade” format to big band-nostalgia, and knocked KPRZ out of the format, and Whittinghill out of his last radio job, in 1983.

    Nine years later, the gas had run out of the tank for KMPC again. The older demographics attracted to the music were getting harder to sell. At the end of April, 1992, before switching to a sports talk format, KMPC threw itself a two-day on-air farewell party. Every living former KMPC disc jockey came down and did an hour (Gary Owens did four—two on each day).

    Whittinghill stayed home.

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