San Francisco ‘Radio Waves’ with Ben Fong Torres


‘Turn Up the Radio!’ book will rock music lovers

By Ben Fong-Torres, San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, August 31, 2014
  • Kevin Klein, the new morning host for Live 105. Photo: CBS Radio / ONLINE_YES
    Kevin Klein, the new morning host for Live 105. Photo: CBS Radio

I ignored Harvey Kubernik’slatest book for a while, perhaps just because of its title: “Turn Up the Radio! Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972.” And maybe because it’s gargantuan and sprawling, just like the City of Angels.

But this 311-page behemoth-with-a-beat has continued to gain praise — “Little Steven’sUnderground Garage” just did a special on it — so I took a look.

You should, too, if you’re a radio and music fan, and relate to those years in the title. And although L.A. is the heart of rock ’n’ roll — and Top 40 radio — in this book, there are plenty of connections to the Bay Area. It was here that DJs like Casey Kasem, Gary Owens, “The Real” Don Steele, Robert W. Morganand DJ-turned-talk-host Michael Jackson, among others, polished their act before going to Hollywood. And when, in 1969, underground radio surfaced in Los Angeles, it was co-produced by Tom Donahue, creator of the format-free format here, at KMPX.

They and dozens of other radio and rock stars, from Monkees to Mothers, are here. That’s because Kubernik, a music journalist for 30 years (he’s also produced records and scouted talent), grew up amid the emerging scene and knew everyone. In elementary school in the mid-’50s, he discovered the R&B DJ Hunter Hancock and was hooked. “Radio would become my soul salvation,” he writes. Recounting his youthful wanderings, he’s like a pop Zelig. “I danced on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. … The Mamas and the Papas and Bob Lind were the in-studio guests. … That same week, I met (gospel singer) J.W. Alexander and Bobby Womack at the Frigate record shop. … I first saw the Beach Boys perform at a Culver City record store appearance in 1962.”

A cruise onto Sunset Boulevard results in more stargazing. “Hey, there’s Ray Manzarek of the Doors at Norms Restaurant. … Whoa, there’s Mama Cass andMichelle (Phillips) having a nosh at Ben Frank’s. … There’s (Roger) McGuinnand (Chris) Hillman in matching Porsches, so cool.”

Kubernik is like the music super fan who saved all his Top 40 surveys and concert tickets, posters and celebrity photos, and found a perfect repository: this book. A bonus: The guy can write, and he includes interviews, of both stars and behind-the-scenesters — record producers, engineers and songwriters, as well as his beloved pop stars and DJs.



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