Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Year End Radio Wrap UP

What a huge year for the medium that has survived attacks from TV, video, iPods, Satellite and Internet.

Here's my rough draft on a year end wrap up:

The big stories, not in order yet:

1)Clear Channel seeks to go private and divests stations as its stock goes down.

2)The FCC opens up to small broadcasters and looks like it might start examining radio airwaves as they are: temporary licensees of the public airwaves.

3)KGO-AM, San Francisco's most popular station gets hit hard: Pete Wilson dies in July; Ronn Owens collapses and suffers amnesia in September; Bernie Ward indicted for possessing child porn in December. Ratings wise, even those things don't touch it.

4)KPIG program director Laura Ellen Hopper, who made Americana music a national format, dies in spring, saddening musicians and fans worldwide.

5)Using hate talk techniques that are a throwback to the racist radio of the 1930s, talk demagogue Michael Savage yells his way to No. 3 most popular host, behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. He sues the Arab organization CAIR for putting his Anti-Muslim rants on its website and using them to raise money. His own nonprofit status is revoked by the IRS and the State of California, after he fails to file tax forms for three years.

6)The People Meter, the electronic device that will measure what people are actually listening to on radio is introduced in Houston, Philadelphia and New York. Rock stations gain popularity; soft music, Spanish and urban broadcasters lose. In New York they protest that not enough minorities were given the monitors and the company goes back to written diaries for a while, until it can get a bigger sample size. This will be the biggest story of 2008.

7) Don Imus calls the Rutgers University woman's basketball team "nappy-headed hos," bringing a new racial epithet to the mainstream. He is fired by CBS and half a year later rehired by ABC. After big attention to his first shows, his ratings, which were never that good, dwindle.

8)Sirius and XM satellite radio networks seek a merger. Conventional broadcasters, who have previously tried to get as many stations as possible to create their own monopolies, protest it as a monopoly.

9) The FCC allows radio broadcasters and newspaper publishers in major markets to own TV stations, in an effort to help media struggling with competition from the Internet. Some say it's not enough. Others say too much power is concentrated in too few hands.

10) Media Matters, the Washington, D.C. based liberal watchdog, gains national notoriety, playing exerpts of shows by Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and Bill O'Reilly and holding them accountable. Its account of Rush Limbaugh saying that troops who speak out against the war aren't "real" soldiers, draws fire in Congress and helps Limbaugh raise money in a backlash effort.

Send me your stories, so I can flesh this draft out..


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sammy Hagar Launches new Radio Station New Years Eve

Read about it here::CABO WABO RADIO

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More El Tri in New York

God bless the Internet and Javier Martinez....

One song I played last Saturday with El Tri has made it to Youtube...I hope the others will too...This made my day. I thought this was all lost to the ether...What amazing times we live in..

Check it out ...and let's hope he gets Besame up there too..

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tune In Ronn Owens from 10 a.m. to noon Friday

I'll be on, doing "The Best Music You Never Heard," with musical submissions from all over the Bay Area...

Should be fun radio, taking the Bay Area's top talk station musical for a couple of hours.

Check it out, call in, comment here...

Alex Lora and Me on MTV Radio

Forgive me for being self indulgent...but I have to share some of the best times of my year. This was on MTV radio, in Times Square...the song is about the victims of the World Trade Center...

I'm really bummed, because I think I gave the best performance of my life the next night at the Nokia Theater and don't have video of it...If anyone has the song Besame, please post it on YouTube...gracias....Alex wrote that song, and the one below, in jams with me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Keith Richards doing extensive interview on Sirius Radio tonight and tomorrow

From a press release:

NEW YORK, Dec. 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- SIRIUS Satellite Radio will broadcast tonight an exclusive in-depth interview with Keith Richards, one of rock's living legends. This rare interview was conducted by Steve Jordan, Keith's friend and bandmate from The X-pensive Winos. The interview will air on The Spectrum, channel 18 at 8 pm ET on December 19th, with encores on December 20th at 1 am and 5 pm ET. Additional replays of the interview will air on The Spectrum and Classic Vinyl channel 14 through the month.

In the one-hour exclusive, SIRIUS subscribers will experience a rare trip into the mind of Keith Richards as he shares stories on a variety of topics including his three day road trip with John Lennon through England, his first encounter with Muddy Waters at Chess studios, his infamous meeting with Peter Tosh, meeting Chuck Berry, and the life-changing experience of hearing Elvis Presley for the first time on Radio Luxembourg.

"Keith Richards' life and music define the rock-and-roll experience," said Scott Greenstein, President, Entertainment and Sports, SIRIUS. "We are thrilled to provide our listeners with this unique and intimate window into rock history through one of its founding fathers."

Keith Richards also shares his passion for music, the artists that have inspired him the most, and his experiences working with artists that he "worshipped" as a child. Listeners will also hear Keith discuss "Pressure Drop" and "Run Run Rudolph," two songs he recently released commercially, for the first time.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Keith Richards is a founding member of The Rolling Stones and one of rock's pioneering guitarists. In 2003, Keith Richards ranked number ten in Rolling Stone magazine's top 100 guitarists of all time. Over his four decade career, Keith Richards has worked on various solo projects as singer, songwriter, and producer with some of the greatest artists in rock history.

Visit for more information.

New York Times piece on Michael Savage needs copy editing

Sad to see the New York Times print stupid errors.

In this story Jacques Steinberg says Michael Savage was thrown off his radio simulcast on MSNBC after attacking a caller who identified himself as gay...

Nope. The show was not a simulcast, but an original for TV.

And the caller never identified himself as gay. Savage just used an elementary school level attack, lashing out as someone as gay for no reason. It just shows the kind of hatred brewing in the man.

See for yourself here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

El Tri hits Times Square and a few media outposts know it

Mexico's most famous and enduring rock band, El Tri, played New York's Times Square Saturday, and like the illegal immigrants they sing about and who packed the Nokia Theater, the band was largely invisible.

The New York Times, just around the corner, ignored the show, as did the Village Voice, the New Yorker and all English TV and radio.

The Daily News and Newark's Star Ledger ran nice stories (note to the Star Ledger writer: Mexico's 1971 "Woodstock" was 500,000 people, not 50,000).

The best thing about my time at the Mercury News was meeting and getting to know these guys.

Singer Alex Lora, who has produced 42 albums in 39 years, invited me to join him in the concert, which was a historical event for the band: it's big shot at notoriety at the center of New York. I also followed him on a 15-hour publicity tour of Spanish radio stations.

I'm awaiting some video of my playing in the concert. Totally bummed that my camera ran out of batteries.

Alex on the radio:

When I get it, I can show you the evolution of a song. Alex wrote the music while we jammed together at the NAMM music store conference in LA in January and added words. It's now a big hit in Mexico, called "Besame," and I got to share in a long two-harmonica introduction to it live Saturday.

Birth of Besame:

And the final video by El Tri:

Some observations: hanging with Alex, one sees just how many Mexicans there are here, even in places such as Indiana, Iowa and New York.

We were mobbed everywhere, from Queens to Madison Avenue. People saw us and begged us to come in for free coffee, food, chat and autographs. Lora, who believes in giving back everything he can to the fans, rarely says no to anything they ask.

Most of them are illegal and do not come over the border by land. They have fake documents and they fly in.

"What choice do I have?" said a 30-year electrician who has been in New York for 10 years. "I can work in Mexico for 26 dollars a week and not be able to feed my family, or I can come to the U.S. and make $26 an hour."

Lora sang a song called "Las Victimas Invisibles de Nuevo York," about the illegals who died on 9/11 in the World Trade Center (one he wrote on our first jam in 2001).

And the feeling in the mainstream media is that Mexicans here are still largely invisible, perennial busboys.

But this show, where they paid $50 and $75 a ticket and packed into one of the city's most prestigious theaters, was another wake up call. The cultures are merging, and the results can be sublime and wonderful.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bernie Ward Defense Fund and a Column

Here is the link to a page administered by Ward's former producer on the God Talk show, Lynne Sloan and parts of a column being syndicated later in the week, including a phone conversation with Ward.

First off: KGO operations manager, Jack Swanson, acknowledged that the station isn't talking about Ward, who is suspended.

"I understand if you view that as hypocritical,” he said Monday.

Ward was home this week, in shock, feeling like he was in “lock down” and that he had little support.

He said in a phone interview that he wished he had a chance to give his side of the story on his radio show.

“All I would ask is why?” he said. “I’m not accused of being a predator. I wasn’t producing or manufacturing it. I didn’t pay for it, and obviously with the three-year wait, I’m not a danger to anyone.”

When he told prosecutors that he was writing a book, he says, they acknowledged that and that he was doing research. But it didn’t affect their decision to prosecute, the way it would, say, a murder suspect, who could get first or second degree homicide charges based on his intent.

There have been other cases of journalists running into problems with the law for investigating child porn, including former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald who downloaded images and wrote an expose on a child porn ring, and testified against them, but wasn’t prosecuted himself.

Some have suggested that if Ward were writing a book, he should have worked first with the U.S. Attorney’s office, but as a journalist doing research, it wasn’t something that he considered.

“I’ve tried to live my life by not hurting anyone,” said Ward, who turned down a plea bargain proposal for him to take five years in jail. “I keep hoping for common sense to win out.”

Ward has been replaced by the station on his shows the past week, but he is still employed. He has a huge audience that has rushed to his support, some fearing a plot by conservatives to silence him, others waiting to see what happens in a trial.

I’m a Ward fan, although we have had our run-ins. He’s been one of the only voices on the commercial airwaves for left-wing politics.

He was a consistent critic of the war in Iraq and was one of the earliest to report such things as Blackwater’s involvement in the war.

I have trouble believing that the government would target him, but I had trouble believing that it would file a case against the Duke lacrosse players if they weren’t really guilty.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Conservative Talk Host Rusty Humphries Says Waterboarding Isn't Torture, it's fun.

I have to stop listening to these folks who can do little more than make things up, but I accidentally listened to Rusty Humphries tonight, on KNEW-AM (910). For a minute, he had me, talking about how much he likes Kansas City, and how he lived on the Plaza (one of my favorite places on earth).

Then he talked to a caller about waterboarding. When she described it as tying someone's hands and dipping them in water till they almost drown, he took her on.

"They tie your hands," he said. "And they pour some water on your face. You know what I call that? Summer at the Humphries family house. "

To that I say, Rusty, where is the logic? If waterboarding is so benign, why do questioners want to use it as a tool to get answers from terrorists???

I defy Humphries to undergo a serious waterboarding session and see if he still feels that way afterwards. In fact, I'll give him $1,000 if he comes out afterwards and thinks it's fun.

For the record, here's Richard Levin's account of his experimental waterboarding, something that convinced him that "torture is abhorrent."

And here is Wikipedia's definition:

Waterboarding is a torture technique that simulates drowning in a controlled environment. It consists of immobilizing an individual on his or her back, with the head inclined downward, and pouring water over the face[1] to force the inhalation of water into the lungs.[2] Waterboarding has been used to obtain information, coerce confessions, punish, and intimidate. In contrast to merely submerging the head, waterboarding elicits the gag reflex,[3] and can make the subject believe death is imminent. Waterboarding's use as a method of torture or means to support interrogation is based on its ability to cause extreme mental distress while possibly creating no lasting physical damage to the subject. The psychological effects on victims of waterboarding can last long after the procedure.[4] Although waterboarding in cases can leave no lasting physical damage, it carries the real risks of extreme pain, damage to the lungs, brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation, injuries as a result of struggling against restraints (including broken bones), and even death.

This video sums up life in Silicon Valley

Here's one for my non California readers: a great take on business life in Silicon Valley.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The only place not talking about Bernie Ward is KGO

You can tell a lot about a news media outlet by the way it covers itself.

Basically, if the media treated everyone with the kid gloves they use handling their own, they would have a lot more friends. There would also be no exposes, investigative journalism or critical thought.

Competitor KCBS-AM (740) was all over the story of talk host Bernie Ward's Thursday arrest on suspicion of transmitting child pornography, including posting podcasts of interviews with his lawyer and agent that were picked up by other stations. It was the lead story on the Drudge report and the main topic of Michael Savage's talk show for two days. (Including, I believe, playing the CBS podcast.)

KGO's news side covered it, but the talk hosts kept a wall of silence around the story.

On Friday KGO topics such as Mitt Romney's religion or the CIA cover-up of torture tapes sounded anemic compared to the Ward case. What was on most minds was whether the station's most vocal liberal host had done something gruesome and illegal.

Operations manager Jack Swanson didn't return repeated phone calls and emails.

On one hand, I agree that he is in a corner. A lawyer himself, he knows that broadcasting speculation about an employee he may have to fire could have serious implications.

On the other, the station didn't shy away from discussing Rush Limbaugh's arrest for buying illegal pain killers. KGO's sister-station KSFO-AM (560) broadcasts Limbaugh's syndicated show, although it wasn't all news all the time.

Just imagine how would the station be covering Gavin Newsom or Barry Bonds in the same situation? Talk wallpaper, right?

I know I'm in shock about this. I can't believe Ward would do what he is charged with, and want desperately to believe his defense, that he was working on a book.

Its certainly possible. And while in earlier times I would be inclined to believe that federal prosecutors wouldn't file frivilous charges, I'm more skeptical about the government, in part because of things Ward has shown.

He was the first national host to talk about Blackwater, and at first I thought it was a crazy conspiracy theory. It turned out to be more true than anyone can believe. He was adamantly against the war, from the start, even when his peers were for it and the media was labeling as traitors anyone who questioned it.

With government that lies about weapons of mass destruction, with a commander in chief who gives out the wrong phone number on a national broadcast about a service to help people in trouble with mortgages, anything is possible.

You want another example of kid gloves? Check out my old newspaper's coverage of its former publisher George Riggs winning an award as executive of the year.

The guy's paper lost a third of its circulation, and its deputy managing editor says the community hates it because it has no personality...but he wins a big award and no one questions it or raises any irony in the story covering the award. You know they would if this were some other industry patting itself on the back.

That's one reason bloggers are getting so much more powerful. They can ask: how did they give this award out? Random drawing?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Ever Inaccurate Michael Savage revels in Bernie Ward's arrest

(images: Michael Savage, carrying a purse and hanging with Alan Ginsburg in the 60s , and today)

Savage had some good taste, saying he prayed Ward was innocent for the sake of Ward's "five children." (He has four.)

Then, he played the song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls"...bad taste..

But how can people ever trust him?

Yesterday he claimed the Omaha shooter was black and that the press wouldn't release his name the same way they would for a white shooter.

The shooter was white. Savage never corrected or retracted that falsehood. He has a picture of the man on his website, but again, never corrects the lie he put out on the airwaves Wednesday.

And, he's continually trying to raise money for his lawsuit against CAIR, but never says what happened to the $900K he raised for his Paul Revere Society, which has had its tax exemption pulled by the IRS. Why isn't he using that to fund his case?

Why hasn't the IRS or the State Attorney General Jerry Brown filed charges? If I were late on my tax filings, I'd bet I'd hear about it. It always struck me as strange that Savage, a conservative, donated $5,600 to the liberal Brown's campaign.

How do Savage fans listen to this tripe day after day and never call him on it??

Today on his site, Savage has KGO-AM and he broadcast a KCBS-AM podcast on the air. Isn't this he same thing he's suing CAIR for: appropriation of his broadcast content? Is this any less fair use than CAIR's use of his content?

Then, ever classless, he spent time trying to get a Las Vegas restaurant owner to get him a reservation for after the fight Saturday and promising to give them free publicity. How sleazy can he get and how can stations allow him to broadcast this garbage?

Bernie Ward Indicted on Federal Child Pornography Charges

I heard the shocking news about evening host Bernie Ward this afternoon on KGO-AM (810), like most people, and heard Operations Manager Jack Swanson say he was shocked and couldn't comment.

The federal indictment is sealed and Ward, 56, turned himself into authorities today.

The KGO report quoted Ward's agent and attorney saying that Ward was researching a book four years ago, the same defense used by the Who's Pete Townshend when he was arrested for possessing child pornography.

Ward is a former priest, an educator at San Jose's Jesuit-run Bellarmine Preparatory School, and the host of the Sunday morning "God Talk" show. His nightly KGO show is heard from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Afternoon host Gil Gross, who sounded upset, told listeners he knew no more about it then he heard on the news.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jason Ricci Rocked San Jose; I'm still recovering

Check this video....not from San Jose, but played with the same energy:

In San Jose Sunday, Jason Ricci played four hours....from 9 p.m. till 1 a.m., with only one short break.

The band didn't muck around between songs...and I have to give the San Jose audience credit: they were taken and giving him big ovations from the minute he stepped on the stage at JJ's Blues. And it wasn't just a bunch of harmonica geeks....but genuine music afficianados.

Hey, they were out late on the first school night of the week, and that says something. Also, they were way ahead of the curve on an artist who has huge potential. If he had played in the 1960s, he'd be as well known as Eric Clapton or Mick Jagger.

Can the same thing happen today? Maybe. Hell, he'd be happy to be on a level with Derek Trucks, playing jazz, rock and blues and touring in a bus, not a van.

And one can't forget his band, New Blood, is like a Supergroup. Shawn Starski on guitar, Buckweed on bass and Ron Sutton on drums are each stellar. They keep up and push Ricci, who played a set of about 90 percent originals from his new disc, "Rocket Number 9," which is named for a song by jazz master Sun Ra, the album's only cover.

I could go on and on...but check some of the videos on Youtube...they say more than I can.

Note: no other Bay Area media has covered this guy: that's ridiculous. But you get what you pay for.


Marcus Osborne, the only African American in local country radio, is gone

Marcus Osborne, who gave country radio's 95.7, "the wolf," color in more ways than one, has left the building.

Osborne, a very bright and funny guy, was let go, in what appears to be a difference of creative vision.

Here is the story I wrote about Osborne when the show started.

You can read marcus now at

A quote from show originator Osborne, back then:

"We pitched the show as a black guy, a Jewish guy, a gay guy and a blonde -- what could be more Bay Area than that?" asks Osborne, who taped himself and his Jewish friend Gill Alexander doing a fake show as an audition.

Sad to see him go, but this is one guy who will go on to bigger and better things.

Clear Channel Clears Staff and Wants More Stations

Clear Channel, the San Antonio radio conglomerate that owns more stations than anyone else, fired a dozen people in its San Francisco office, including KNEW-AM/KKGN program director Bob Agnew.

It also cut costs by cutting heads in Chicago and Honolulu.

The company has petitioned the FCC to raise from 8 to 10 the number of stations in a market a company can own. Cut staff, raise monopolies. Great for business.

But the company, whose founder Lowery Mays strongly encourages his managers to donate to Republican causes (reminding them of their expected tithes in quiet conversations at his Christmas parties), is under pressure in the waning days of the Bush administration to get his big business bigger.

Company CEO Mark Mays, who promised the deal to take CC private by the end of 2007, has failed to deliver on that, moving the deadline now to June. These are people who can't be happy with the growing tide of Democrats in office.

At least right winger Rupert Murdoch, who is supporting Hillary Clinton, has the sense to put some eggs in the other basket, although I think he's doing that because he knows she can't win and another Dem might be able to.

Monday, December 3, 2007

IMUS returns with an apology

"I will never say anything on this program that will make those women at Rutgers regret or feel foolish for accepting my apology," said Don Imus, in a long, some times rambling speech opening his first show back in eight months, after being fired by CBS for calling the basketball players "nappy headed hos."

"Neither will anyone else on this program," he added.

He said he never intended to infer that the women were prostitutes and that after meeting with the team for four hours, he learned that his was a hurtful choice of language that was no less hurtful when used by comedians such as DL Hughley or Damon Wayons.

Imus said he has diversified his cast and that his "great" radio show would continue. He apologized for his "reprehensible" remark and said that "what happened is what should have happened."

Being criticized, and having his statement taken out of context was out of his control, he said.

"Everytime I would start to get pissed off about that, I would remind myself that if I hadn't said what I said, that we wouldn't be having this discussion and I wouldn't have to deal with that and the women at Rutgers wouldn't have to deal with that."

He called himself a drug addict and alcoholic and said that since he has been in recovery, he has been able to start a better life. He said this incident was similar, a chance to start again and do better things.

"Other than that, nothing else has changed. Dick Cheney is still a war criminal. Hilary Clinton is still Satan and I'm back on the radio, " he added.

Guests included musician Levon Helm, historian Doris Kearns Godwin, Mary Matalin and James Carville.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Here's an interesting site calling for the boycott of Rockstar energy drink, which is owned by Savage and family

Called "The Truth About Rockstar," it notes that Savage's son's company is now about to sell in Mexico and has removed links on its site to Savage, who has preached hatred of Mexicans, gays and immigrants.

The site offers the famous Savage video that got him thrown off MSNBC.