May 30-June 1, 2014
By Brian Jennings
June 3rd, 2014
Sometimes the stars align at the right time for reasons unknown to most of us. In the 60’s and 70’s, that seemed to be the case for a great radio station that transitioned from KNEW to KJRB. I was growing up just north of Spokane working on the family farm. We grew several crops and raised cattle. We also ran a dairy which meant milking dozens of cows each morning and evening. Inside the barn, KJRB was blaring. Yes, the station not only had the human ear, but plenty of cows got an earful too. The station became my constant companion as a teenager. Who didn’t listen to KJRB then? I had no idea I would choose radio as my career and certainly had no idea I would work at my favorite radio station – not once, but twice years later.
I had graduated from PLU by 1971 where I was involved in KPLU FM and I was looking for my first “real” job. As a student, I had interned at the former KTAC in Tacoma where I met Steve West who was programming the station. Steve moved to KJRB and opened the door for me to join an unbelievable team of creative personalities. My job was news during the week and weekend overnight jock. I absolutely loved it. I learned more in the first year out of school at KJRB than I did in 16 years of formal education. And, KJRB helped lay the foundation to what has turned out to be 46 years of involvement in radio. The station was the foundation of many great careers inside and outside of radio.
Many of these great personalities recently gathered to celebrate KJRB and this great era of radio. Gary Taylor who led the effort to transition the station from KNEW to KJRB and who recruited the early talent that absolutely stunned Spokane was on hand. John Maynard who cleverly ad-libbed his way through a special two hour reunion radio program helped plan the event. There were so many others. Charlie Brown, the great morning personality whose career spanned Bellingham, Spokane and Seattle. Ric Hanson was on hand as was Joe Michaels, a Spokane native. Who can forget the abrasive Barney Cantrell and his high school football picks? Peter B joined us from the Bay area. Dan Walker joined us from Boise. Ralph Koal was full of great stories – most of them true. Others joining the reunion were former General Managers Danny Doeleman who is now 91 years old and Rod Krebs. Personalities and programmers such as Bobby Mitchell, Steve West, Paul Freeman, and many others were also on hand. Gregg Hersholt, the highly talented news anchor at KIRO and now KOMO was on hand from Seattle. I had left for sister station KXL in Portland and Gregg replaced me and raised the bar much higher.
The “World Famous” Tom Murphy was on hand as the reunion’s special guest personality. Tom, of course, had a stellar career as a jock in Spokane, Seattle, Portland, LA, and Chicago. He still has it, too! Those who couldn’t make it to this reunion were there in spirit. Baseball has its farm teams and KJRB was the station that produced players for the majors including KJR in Seattle and other stations.
We all wish we could turn the clock back and we wish radio could be as good as it was in the 60’s and 70’s. But, we know that’s impossible. KJRB was the gold standard of localism – local talent round the clock – weekends included. With today’s corporate radio and with new platforms for entertainment and information that is now impossible. But, memories live on and even if they were embellished a bit at the 2014 KJRB reunion – we all know the stars aligned at the right time to produce a great radio station that was Spokane’s favorite for years. Long live the memories. A video of those memories (and of the personalities and names I missed) can be viewed here:
Brian Jennings was in the KJRB class of 1971 and 72 and later served as a corporate programmer for Citadel Broadcasting and helped screw up KJRB from 1994-2008.
Media Consultant | Journalist
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers | Oregon Outreach Coordinator