The Civil Rights movement was a hot button issue all across America in 1965. Los Angeles wasn’t immune – only months before we had Watts, which came to be a symbol and an explanation for The Long, Hot Summer throughout the 1960s.
In 1965, Talk Radio was gaining ground in Southern California. It was the place people could discuss, argue, question, argue, ask, argue and generally let off steam. More than cheap entertainment (consider this: it WAS after all, the reality TV of the 1960s), it provided some insights as to how a community was feeling about a given subject. More often than not, a platform for the unhinged, it was the provocative nature of Talk Radio that made it so popular – the voyeuristic thrill of being the proverbial fly-on-the-wall where the potential for covering taboo subjects was concerned.
In 1965, KNX was dipping its toes into the Talk-Radio craze. One of its popular evening hosts was a young British-by-way-of-South-Africa transplant named Michael Jackson. Jackson had a brief stint as a Top-40 DJ at KYA in San Francisco before landing a gig as a Talk-Radio host at KEWB in San Francisco. He was hired away by KHJ around 1962 and then landed at KNX in early 1965.
L.A. was hot in the grips of soul-searching by October of 1965 – the fires of Watts had died down, but the frustrations that caused them were still abundant. And so controversial subjects over the issue of Civil Rights became the stuff of ratings, and this episode featuring Christian-Conservative-Segregationist Minister Bishop C. Fain Kyle (who also happened to be Black) was typical of the sort of testy, vitriolic exchanges which became the fodder of Talk-Radio in the 1960s. On the surface, it was designed to inform and educate the audience – but more often than not, it got people riled up, and the fireworks were worth the hours of traffic jams and smog in L.A. in the 1960s.
Michael Jackson went on to become one of the fixtures in Los Angeles radio, considerably less combative in later years. Talk Radio has become pretty much a thing of the past. But there are still people who remember the thrill ride each night.
So in case you missed it – here is a one-hour slice of what Talk Radio in L.A. was about from KNX and Michael Jackson from October 11, 1965.
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