April 1st, 2002


It's the End of the World As We Know It

An era in Bay Area radio just ended.

KARA-FM is no more. Sniff. Thirty years of serving the public, and now it's gone.

I was working there from 11am-7pm, and like everyone else, I got to say my last goodbye on the air in my last traffic and weather update.

I've never seen a group of people so miserable over making lots of money. On the other hand, KARA-FM wasn't about the money; it was about serving the public interest, convenience, and necessity the way the FCC originally intended radio stations to do.

Everyone had been spending the last few days getting in their little goodbyes and so forth. Although Kim Vestal had a big blowout show Friday morning, the place was packed with press the day before to where the board operator on duty couldn't get near his desk.

The night before her last shift there was a cocktail party, mostly for the advertisers, and the DJs were invited. Several of the folks who went to the shindig (I won't name names) were still pretty soused the next day when they went to do their final shifts. Most of the weekday jocks were "throwing the format out the window," to quote John McLeod, and playing whatever they wanted to play. The only one who didn't, as far as I could tell, was Michael McGurk, who's really more of a production guy. Michael got his goodbye in with his voice tracks.

Terry Diehl was told to "take it easy" on his farewell show, so he just did a simple goodbye message in his last voice track. Dave Jones didn't do anything special for his last traffic and weather, but both Warren Maack and I did. Chad Johnson played it straight up to the end, but he had the last set of tracks. I don't know whether Jane McMillan, my boss at KLIV, did a farewell beyond calling in during Kim Vestal's show. Jane normally does voice tracks in the evening, but Michael McGurk was on Friday night instead.

Just as important are the people behind the scenes. Mike Dannberger, the music director, programmed all the songs in the last two hours of the station to be "farewell" type songs, such as "Bye Bye Bye" by N'Sync, "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen, and ending it with "American Pie," about "The Day The Music Died." One of the traffic people got in a dig by putting the phrase "Tomorrow La Musica" on the cover of the KARA Operations Log where the phrase "Today's Hits...Yesterday's Favorites" normally sits. Those of us working the last day appreciated the sarcasm.

After "American Pie" played, they played KARA's last legal ID, a liner, and then there was the switchover to "KSOL-FM, San Francisco/San Jose. Blah-blah-blah-blah Rah-dee-oh May-kzee-koh" with a bunch of people cheering. Then some really barfy old fashioned Mexican music (you think they'd have at least have picked something more contemporary) followed. We'd heard they were going to be a Spanish-language format similar to KARA's. Instead, it felt like they were going, "Ha ha, we fooled you, now we're going to use the airwaves to take over your country."

  • Current Music
    Barfy Mexican stuff