Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why the old KGO Radio Was and Is Still Such a Big Deal

Image result for Manchester massacre EVENTS; some of them pure tragedy like the massacre in Manchester --are precisely the reason why we miss the old KGO and why we (me) make such a fuss (still) over the loss of what was once an integral part of Bay Area media.

People often ask me why the "KGO thing" was/is such a big deal and I tell them that when there's such massive human toll events like the one in England; the images of little kids; the anguish of their mother and father waiting for them unaware of their fate; those lasting images we see on that forever loop on CNN; a real time horror story that wreaks havoc with our mind. We will not soon forget.

We used to "vent", like a certain talk-host would describe, about what took place in Manchester. Obviously, we could do nothing about what happened but at least we could negate some of the horror we shared when we viewed the sight of those kids running scared out of that arena. I could only imagine what I'd be going through if I had a kid in that concert hall and wondered what had happened to them.

It was incidents like this that made KGO Radio the incredible asset it was and how it was able to slightly remedy a horrible situation; mind you a tragedy half a world away but still incredibly vivid and chock full of emotion. People need an outlet; parents with small children and teenagers can at least share their thoughts and commiserate to lessen the anguish and emotion.

I remember the fall afternoon in 1978 when the Moscone/Milk murders took place and KGO was the first place I headed to on the radio; people were calling in and some of them were sobbing; it felt like the entire city of San Francisco was in shock and it was; just two weeks after the Jonestown massacre the Bay Area wasn't ready for another chilling, horrible, tragedy like that of Dan White killing Mayor Moscone and Sup. Harvey Milk. KGO provided the community an outpost where grieving folks could ease all the shock and horror or at the very least lessen the tension and anxiety. Believe me, it was much needed.
Image result for 9/11
The same thing applied to 9/11. This time it really felt bad. People were scared. People were shocked. KGO was a place where you could go to numb the pain and have an outlet to express the anguish and respond.

We took the old KGO for granted and wouldn't know years later what an incredible community asset it was and miss its old standby and legacy. We listen today (some of us) and shake our heads as to why such a great city entity could be reduced to a sliver of its original self. You had to be there in the beginning to understand it all.

Image result for moscone milk assassinationAnd if you were there and were a part of it; as a talk-show host; as a listener; you understand to this day why we still miss the old KGO and why we are left wondering to this day just how it all happened.

Related image

Image result for old kgo radio
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  1. I've never been a fan of KGO as I just don't do talk radio much. When news breaks I turn to KCBS or KQED. I just want the story not opinion of the talking head "expert" on call for the day. HOWEVER, I DID use to really enjoy Pete Wilson on KGO. He offered cogent, moderate and intelligent conversation on the day's topics and was fair with guests and callers. That part of KGO I miss.

    1. Mrs Esther Ratto in SonomaMay 25, 2017 at 4:34 PM

      My son Ray is a kakahead.

  2. Well said, Rich.

  3. I miss the old KGO. Remember listening to Al Collins on the overnight and the other guys too like Owen Span and Jim Eason.

  4. Good column--Dwayne Garrett was great and Gene Burns was the best--their occasional multi host free for alls was the most entertainment provided by radio.

  5. Ronnald and BEARboy and Chippy Hipster -- that's your KGO today. What a fucking shame.

  6. earthquakes, fires or any local emergencies...KGO was the place to go. on the spot reports from other listeners gave us a feeling of community and that for that instant, at least, we were 'back fence neighbors' sharing personal experiences in the moment. listeners became reporters and KGO gave us all the sense of belonging to an extended Bay Area family of concern.

  7. Well said. That KGO offered completed news when it was needed, substantial conversation of all kinds when listeners wanted it, and people who knew how to keep the two entities separate but equal.

  8. KGO was my go to station during troubling times, the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and of course during 9-11. Today's new KGO is nothing but mind candy, not fit to listen to or care about. I have been a faithful listener for nearly 30 years but that ended five years after the wholesale on air talent firing. Sad to see a great Bay Area institution turned into what can only be described as a steaming pile of crap.

  9. Rich - I love your blog, never cared for ronnnn, can't stand the new KGO. We do need KGO - in the meantime it is Michael Smerconish on Sirius and Norman Goldman on WCPT-Chicago for me.
    On a TV note - what is with all of the lame Bay Area TV female reporters like Hermela Aregawi - nervous and not too bright? ...and a host of valley girl millennial others that can't say "important" or many other words correctly? Do they ever listen back to their recorder broadcasts? Michael P.

  10. I think that one of the reasons for forming such a strong and lasting attachment to the old kgo was because especially in those times like you mention, it was essentially Group Therapy for the masses. We loved hearing other people say what we were thinking and feeling, or ready to shout at our radio in boisterous objection. And as is always the case, whenever a group ceases to be, breaks up or is otherwise over, there is a lingering sadness which can be prolonged if nothing comes along to fill the void in any meaningful way.

    Today's kgo isn't group therapy, it's group torture. No wonder it keeps salting the old wound.

    (And if I sound like someone whose favorite class while getting a degree in social psychology was Group Dynamics, you'd be right.)

  11. I agree with Rich's observations about the old KGO. Many of the major markets had a station like that, though KGO was the best. Is there any station like that left in America? LBC in London is the best talk station I hear these days. Their coverage of the horrific bombing in Manchester was very much like what the old KGO would have done. I like some of KGO's current programming but it's nothing like it used to be.

  12. You didn't even mention the stunning and total collapse of Cumulus' stock, after KGO was purchased.

  13. My dad got me hooked on A.M. radio back in the 70's, KGO was always on in the car and at home.
    Such great memories.

  14. KGO's demise is like the City herself -- money is ruining everything

  15. I totally agree with you, Rich. I miss the old KGO. The morons don't talk to the listeners anymore (except Pat Thurston). Where did these giggly girls come from and why were they put on almost every show? Ethan is an idiot. Ronnnn should have retired long ago. I miss John Rothmann. KGO is not community minded and stupid. I don't listen anymore. Sad. I listened for years. What a loss and an embarrassment for our Bay Area.

  16. Thank you Rich!