KOLA (KOLA 99.9 FM, San Bernardino, CA)
31,000 watts! Wow! That’s a massive radio signal in Southern California, and here I was as the new “voice” of the station. The station was considered AOR, but we also played a fair amount of main-stream rock, and just like K-Orange, all the material was pre-recorded. One of the best things about this job was that it was my voice you heard on everything! I was the one introducing every song, doing the news reports, and of course, voicing and producing the commercials. And even though KOLA was farther from home and Los Angeles, the signal carried all the way from the desert, to the Pacific ocean, and from Los Angeles to San Diego, so I could truly say I was being heard all over Southern California. I was hired mostly on the strength of my production abilities, but also the ability to do public appearances, both for KOLA, and its sister station, KGUD-AM in Banning. Now before you say anything, let me point out that, even though we were AOR, we still said “KOLA – the pop sound of Southern California”. As far as KGUD went, it was actually “K-Good”. But trust me, nobody, but nobody, ever said “good” … as you can imagine everyone called it like they saw it: K-GUD!
Although the signal was impressive, back then the conditions were not. Our facility was literally downtown in one of oldest buildings in the city, the Mission Inn. Nowadays it’s somewhat of a destination, but back then it was just an old building downtown. If it helps you understand a little better what it was like, it was right around the corner from the Pussycat theater. As I said, the building was very old, worn out and uncomfortable (in the winter I actually had to wear a bomber jacket inside the studio – it was that cold!) not to mention the pay wasn’t that great either. Since I wasn’t sure where I’d be in 6 months, and given the starter pay, I rented weekly at a local downtown motel (if you wanted TV, it was 25¢ a day extra – I splurged and got it) that was walking distance to the studios. It was all so dirty, cheap, and “downtown”, but when we were starting out, we would tolerate a lot of adversity to build up a resume’ powerful enough to get you that big job in L.A., and 31,000 watts was a good feather, not to mention my voice was saturating the station content.
I will admit that KOLA was a fun learning experience and definitely worthy of a chapter in my book, but most definitely not a long term professional goal. I was about the cursory six months into my employment at KOLA when I aggressively started looking both in and out of California for my next job, and this time, hopefully live radio. I pursued any station outside of California aggressively because I really wanted a change. Remember, I have been in Southern California since I was a preteen and the call of far-flung adventure was pulling me anywhere but here. Fate however had something else in store for me, and before I knew it I was headed back to Garden Grove.