K-131 (KIOT 1310 AM, Barstow, California)
There was a running joke in radio school (which turned out to be not so much of a joke) that you either got your start in International Falls, Minnesota – usually the one spot in the continental U.S. that records the coldest temperature on any given day, or in good ol’ Barstow. I’m not kidding – ask anybody in L.A. radio where they got their start and I’ll bet it was one of these places!
For me, it all started when I was 19 years old and got my start as a DJ at K-131, “The High Desert Radio Leader” (whose actual call sign was KIOT-AM, thus leading to the moniker “Kiote” as in coyote, but that was before my time so thank God I got to say the radio leader bit and not coyote) in beautiful downtown Barstow (well actually, it was on the outskirts of town – see pic below). Bob Jordan and I became friends during radio school and made a pact that whoever landed a job first, they would try to get the other in. As it happened, Bob did in fact get a job first, at K-131, and long story short, thanks to him, so did I. Since the station was a daytimer (meaning it only operated when the sun was up) there were only 3 DJs … Bob in the mornings, Jim at midday, and me in the afternoon, so I was lucky there was even a slot available.
We played the pop/rock music of the day and the DJ’s were upbeat and entertaining, albeit very inexperienced. In those days, I was a regular listener of the radio program “American Top 40”, which was filled with all kinds of music factoids and of course “the charts”. So when I interviewed with the station owner, I was able to spout off all kinds of information about this song being #1 and that song featuring artist so-and-so. I guess he thought I was pretty knowledge about the business because he also made me the Music Director. I had no clue what I was doing, but as we’ve all heard before: fake it til you make it! In addition to being on the air, we would produce and record commercials to be played throughout the day. It was the fun and creativity of producing commercials that really got into my blood and would lead to where I’ve ended up today.
By the way, for those unfamiliar with Barstow, it’s a desert town in southern California, famed as a train stop, and later a gas stop, for travelers headed from Los Angeles to Vegas one way and Arizona another, or vice versa. Barstow even has honorable mention in the song “Route 66”. Still there today is Calico Ghost Town (originally an old mining community now turned park and entertainment stop – I heard this is where Walter Knott got the idea for his ghost town at Knott’s Berry Farm) and a military installation at Yermo, which is just outside of Barstow. Not exactly the big time, but better than where some of my contemporaries got their starts, and by that I mean International Falls!
As it happened, I only lasted about six months at K-131 before I was summarily dismissed for supposedly saying a “no-no” word on the air, and they sent Bob to deliver the news. False accusation of course, because I would never have jeopardized such a plum job in such a gauche way! Nonetheless, as painful as it was to lose that first radio job, it was, as they say, a blessing in disguise. If I had stayed in Barstow, chances are, knowing myself as I do, I’d still be there! They say you never forget your first time, and that’s more than true about my time at K-131. All these years later I can still remember cueing up my very first record and hitting the mic.
PS – Thank you, Bob, for being a true friend and for getting me started in a business I truly loved. That one small job in that one small town truly changed my life!