AM XTRA KEJK KBIG KGOE KIEV KGRB KHJ KGBS KTNQ XPRS KRKD KRLA KEZY KPPC KFYF KFOX KUTY KWIZ KROQ KZLA KWOW
FM KNX KKHR KMET KGAB KKBZ KIQQ KQLZ KHJ FM KMPC KKDJ KWST

KNX FM: THE MELLOW SOUND

By Joseph Goria
(of KNX 10.70 Newsradio)

KNX/FM  was an actual M.O.R.-formatted station (Deejays such as Steve Allen and Bob Crane (of Hogan's Heroes fame) - playing the music of Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams, etc.) simulcasting with KNX 10.70 until the FCC ordered all FM stations to go to independent programming in 1966. CBS Corporate decided to experiment with different ideas, such as the "Young Sound" pop format of the late 1960s.

In 1970, the station's new Program Director came to Columbia Square to start something incredible at 93.1 FM. His name was Steve Marshall (who left KNX/FM in 1979 to be a writer and co-producer of the TV sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati.) He had this idea of creating this idea of an "soft AOR" format to feature singer-songwriters who would be deemed "too-mellow" for airplay on traditional AOR stations like KMET or KLOS. On April 1, 1971 - KNX/FM became "Mellow Rock" and it immediately caught on. In typical "El Lay" speak, KNX/FM was a favorite to those who represented the image of "The New West" (what we could call today 'Yuppies') -- but KNX/FM was for everyone. It was a treat to listen to those jingles, "I want to knoooow you, naturally" or "We're here for youuuuu, old friend."

Before KROQ congealed into it's present formula of providing new music, KNX/FM was equally adventurous. Certainly it played some bland stuff - but it also included in it's regular rotation Van Morrison, Dire Straits, Peter Gabriel, Steely Dan and Rickie Lee Jones. These artists were somewhat shunned by other stations - until KNX/FM came along. Still, the strength of any station is in the quality of its presentation. KNX/FM did that magnificently. Large doses could be oppressive but there are times when Def Leppard just doesn't make it and Jackson Browne does. KNX knew that an intelligent lyric can slap us right out of passive listening just as forcefully as a power chord. (Jim Ladd is a master of this on his show currently heard on KLOS.) Where else could Joni Mitchell or Joan Armatrading have been allowed their vision for so long?

The art of romance was understood at 'the easy sound'. During my high school years, when the chips were up, I would tune in to hear sets tailor-made for my newly found love: Boz Scaggs' Harbor Nights followed by Bob Seger's We've Got Tonight, for example. But, if the chips were down (breakup) there was a set for lost souls as well: Bruce Springsteen's Drive All Night, Linda Ronstadt's Someone to Lay Down Beside Me and Warren Zevon's Empty-Handed Heart. Amazing.

KNX/FM would feature some of the more odd or strange news tidbits, such as the infamous Tom McKay "Odyssey File" featurettes (similar to "The Fog Files" heard these days on KFOG-San Francisco). I first heard "X", Elvis Costello and "U2" on KNX/FM before it's unfortunate demise.

On August 25th, 1983, while everyone else was playing The Talking Heads Burning Down The House, KNX chose their trademark jingle "This Must Be The Place." But to no avail. The flip to KKHR was -- and still is -- considered one of the dumbest moves in LA radio history (trailing the KHJ call letter drop in 1986 and the unplugging of KMET for KTWV in 1987.) The format was not 'out of its prime' as some might have said. KNX/FM received an 2.5 ARB in the fall '83 ratings. It's kinda interesting that KKHR only lasted 32 months, replaced by, guess what - KNX/FM. But by 1986, the audience had disappeared to other stations, notably KLOS, Magic 106 (KMGG) and KOST. If CBS had not flipped KNX/FM to KKHR, "The Mellow Sound" might still be on the air today, similar to WXRT Chicago, which evolved from "Mellow Rock" to "Adult Album Alternative" - which, by the way, came to LA in 1994 as KSCA 101.9. Every time I think of KNX/FM, I order a frosty Pina Colada and make a toast to my city and my favorite station by singing a loud chorus of "I want to knoooow you, naturally".


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