Yawn Radio

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Posted May 24, 2006 by MARK K. CAMPBELL in News

I miss Bigfoot.

It used to be you could count on discovering his latest adventures from Kevin McCarthy on KLIF. But, alas, no more.

Sasquatch isn’t the only thing missing. Talk radio has evolved to such a point that no self-respecting yeti would call in, and not just because you can’t get a cell signal in the Piney Woods.

Talk radio wasn’t always like this. Heck, radio wasn’t always like this. I grew up listening to KFJZ. (Never KXOL or KLIF – those were for squares!) DJ Mark E. Baby played the wide variety of music that was common in the ’60s: Motown followed by the Beatles followed by Glen Campbell followed by the 1910 Fruitgum Company. You heard all genres then.

Music wasn’t pigeonholed yet. At college after 1 a.m. pick-up football games, I’d listen to the brand spankin’ new format: FM – album cuts like Al Stewart’s “Road to Moscow” and the Moody Blues’ “Legend of a Mind” and a song I’ve only heard twice in my entire life yet have never forgotten, “Stranger” by Johnny Winter. FM radio was a miracle, filled with music you’d never hear on AM; it was also, as far as I knew then, Bigfoot-free, unless you counted Leslie West from Mountain.

Then, during a respite from my 14-year college degree plan, I was driving a truck for Superior Meat, which used to be in downtown Fort Worth on Jones Street until it burned right after I left (a coincidence). One day I got the only truck with a radio – management figured we’d work harder if there were no radio to distract us – and found a station where this guy was just talking. He was Michael Jackson (no, not that one). From California, Jackson was just jabbering away, and people were calling in and ratchet-jawing with him.

I was enthralled. Apparently others were, too. Soon, KLIF was airing not its beloved yet ratings-deprived pop music but folks just talking about what was going on around here. God bless that local pioneer Ed Busch on WFAA! An audio tsunami was building. Even WBAP eventually began backing off country music, first in the mornings then soon enough altogether.

KLIF had its growing pains. For a while, the noon hour host was boring psychologist Lynn Weiss. But soon the Golden Age of local talk radio arrived on KLIF: sporty Norm Hitzges in the morning; moderate McCarthy from 9 a.m. to noon; KZEW refugee Jon Rody, the official station liberal, in the afternoon; and uber-conservative David Gold from 3 to 6 p.m.

Talk radio wasn’t mean yet. It wasn’t just a place for actors/authors to shill their latest works or for political ideologies to be spewed forth to adoring like-minded “sheeple” as Gold called blind followers.

No, talk radio was for freaks then. McCarthy was the home for the common man who happened to have been kidnapped by aliens or the guy who had traveled here from the future or, my favorite, a fellow who said Bigfoot regularly came to his house and filled him in on prophecies.

For a while there, radio was perfect and unique again. Hitzges had local sports connections like no one else; McCarthy was a savant when it came to jokes – he knew every punchline; Rody would bring in his old pal from the Zoo, Walter from Waco, for occasional visits; and Gold not only held weekly trivia contests but taught me that I wasn’t a conservative.

Alas, the world turned. Rody moved on (eventually getting involved in an internet version of the Zoo that was listener-supported and, although its lifespan was short, for a brief shining moment it was 1974 FM again), McCarthy got sick, and Hitzges eventually moved to the station he railed against, the Ticket, 1310 AM. (That was the shocking radio equivalent of the Fort Worth Weekly’s staff joining the Star-Telegram.)

Things further deteriorated when talk radio went national to the max. Rush Limbaugh bullied the airways, trailing a string of wannabes – Mark Davis, Sean Hannity – in his path. Dr. Laura got famous for ripping callers whose questions about their kids ended up being redirected toward themselves for being poor parents. And Sasquatch got relegated to the dead-of-night Art Bell show “Coast to Coast”: “East of the Rockies yeti, you’re on the air.”

Today, I listen some to the Ticket just because it’s local and, occasionally, funny. (Public radio remains too mundane for me, which to many, I realize, is blasphemy.) McCarthy is shilling with a car dealer now. Davis has gone national, and still, after all these years, no caller from any state or U.S. possession has managed to utter a complete sentence before he interrupts. Rody went the technology route and had a syndicated computer show briefly. Sometimes Ed Wallace’s “Wheels” show on KLIF Saturdays is good for a little fun. Wallace, a liberal who longs for the Good Ol’ Hippie Days, will veer off the radio road to discuss some leftist ideal only to return to the phones where a granny from Euless wants information on the newest SUV. You can hear him sigh as he shifts back into car-man mode.

I also have satellite radio where every major talk show is available, including the insufferable Air America, which is as mean as any conservative show ever thought about being. I mainly listen to old Jack Benny shows.

Still, sometimes I return to terrestrial radio and push the scan button away from Rody’s old pal Mike Rhyner on KTCK and try to pick up the latest on McCarthy’s Sasquatch. But either it’s fallen into that giant “hole of unknown depth” in the Northwest that Art Bell talked about or I’m afraid it’s simply been beamed up – I wonder if Bigfoot predicted that?

When he’s not watching the skies for saucers, Mark K. Campbell writes a weekly humor column for the Azle News.

 


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