Big 11 KING – Rise and Shortfall of a Great Sound

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KING Radio logo
The storied success of KING Broadcasting through the 1950s and ’60s led to new challenges in the ’70s. The company’s normally steadfast share of the AM radio market was shrinking. The station’s adult-oriented news/block programming
was replaced by a new crop of talented performers. 50KW KING 1090 became the Big 11 Music Machine thanks to a group of jocks who took the station to CHR/top 40 rock. Here’s an audio compilation of composite airchecks covering an 8-year span. It features 12 of the jocks who helped put KING ahead of faltering KOL (which went off the air in ’75) and nearly even with pop music leader KJR. (Although only a couple of fleeting daypart ratings showed KING at the top of the mountain.)
KING 1970s.mp3
Running time about 6:45.
China Smith, Nov ’71 * Buzz Barr (hired as PD in ’71), Apr ’72 * Mike Brody, July ’72 * Gary Mitchell (Al Vanik), Feb ’73
Jim Martin, Apr ’74 * Scott Terry (Steve Lawson), May ’75 * Gary Lockwood, Sep ’75 * Andy Barber, Feb ’76
Phil Harper, Mar ’76 * Rob Conrad (PD ’77-’80), Aug ’76 * Dan Foley & Don Chambers, Aug ’77 * Joe Cooper, Jul ’78
By late ’79-early ’80 KING gave up the KJR chase by going to adult contemporary/soft rock (and later all news in ’82). KING fans will say their station reached its ’70s objectives, but critics argue that two factors contributed to their shortfall: 1- they fell into a downward spiral in flirting with fake-Drake versus no-Drake and, 2- that while they can take credit for bringing Gary Lockwood to Seattle, they lost him to KJR by ’76 when channel 95 made its final leader burst before FM stereo began capturing the market. But KING was great listener fun, with superior talents Gary Lockwood (BOLD), Phil Harper (CREATIVE), and Andy Barber (CRAZY) leading the way. Some say KING’s ’76 on-air crew was among the best on the west coast.

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Ronald DeHart

Author: Ronald DeHart

Ron DeHart is a former newspaper and broadcast journalist and a retired Public Affairs Officer from both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Navy/Naval Reserve. His historical accounts of Pacific Northwest broadcasting are published by Puget Sound Media.  

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