It was late 1998, and my career was in the proverbial “dumpster.” I couldn’t get arrested so to speak. No radio station anywhere wanted to hire the Poorman. Basically, I was broke and desperate. I decided to take a huge financial risk (with money that wasn’t mine) on a crazy, not very intelligent idea.
There was a radio station ownership group with studios and offices in Pasadena. The name of the company was Multicultural Radio Broadcasting. They had been around for a few decades and had numerous radio stations around the United States. Their revenue model was based on leasing radio airtime to individuals and companies who then could broadcast whatever they’d like in any language as long as it didn’t violate Federal Communications Commission rules. Anybody who had money could get on the air. The problem was most of their stations didn’t generate any ratings due to the hodgepodge of shows and formats, and their coverage was very limited. With this as the backdrop, my really stupid idea was launched!
I decided to buy afternoon drive time from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on two of their stations, and I signed a one-year contract. The cost was $1,500 a week. I somehow convinced Poor Dad to lend me the bucks. The plan was to broadcast and simulcast on both stations, at the time, a revolutionary new music format entitled “Anti Radio.” The stations were AM 1230, which covered only Downtown Los Angeles, and AM 1540, which was loosely referred to as “Money Radio” and had a weak signal in the Inland Empire. Both stations had a zero rating. Within my slightly demented Poorbrain, I had grandiose dreams that my format would create huge excitement and boxcar ratings!
Boy, was I mistaken.
The Anti Radio format was simple. We exclusively played all genres of independent and unsigned artists, bands that could never have had mainstream radio airplay anywhere else. The best songs would get extra plays in a rotation–somewhat similar to Top 40 radio–until the listening audience became familiar with these unknown artists. The hope was new hits would be discovered.
Yes, this was a beautiful dream that failed miserably. In the entire history of Anti Radio on these stations, I gave the first airplay to only one band that went on to somewhat of a mainstream success. The band was Hoobastank. Unfortunately, we had a messy relationship. I referred to them on the air as “Hoobastink” and broke their CD live on the radio because they walked out and refused to play my Anti Radio concert at the Sugar Shack in Hollywood. In their defense, they weren’t getting paid, and the gig only drew 15 paid customers.
Anti Radio ultimately lasted only three weeks. The reasons were pretty straight forward: I had to pay $1,500 a week for the airtime or sell at least $1,500 worth of advertising each week. That didn’t happen, not even close. All I could generate was $400 a week. Putting a musical format on AM radio was not a good idea. (Have you ever listened to music on the AM dial?) We had zero publicity and the stations had no ratings. All of this was a perfect recipe for a crash and burn. But then the unexpected happened. Poor Dad came to my rescue!
My Dad was a good friend of legendary radio executive Dwight Case. At the time, Case was the head of a radio industry weekly newspaper entitled R and R, short for Radio and Records. Dwight knew who I was from my days at KROQ and POWER 106. My Dad had filled him in on my current Anti Radio venture.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Dwight contacted my Dad about a possible business opportunity for me during the latter part of my second week on the air. He told my Dad that Radio Korea had lost their lease on another radio station and had just made a deal with Multicultural Radio Broadcasting to lease AM 1230. They were going to immediately move Radio Korea to the new station. There was a huge Korean population in the Downtown LA area. It made sense. Their only problem was they could only lease 20 of the 24 hours, because I had a one-year contract with the other four hours! Adding to this, my deal was for the afternoon drive, the second most lucrative time slot after morning drive. Case told my Dad that Radio Korea wanted to buy me out of my time slot that was barely two weeks old for $300,000!!! They had no idea I wasn’t in the position to stay on the air for more than one more week.
As you can imagine, negotiations moved swiftly. I was to receive a check for $100,000 upon signing away my rights to the time slot. Then I would receive $15,000 a month thereafter for the next 13 months. I’ll never forget my final live broadcast on AM 1230. It was Thursday afternoon during my third week. In the middle of the show, a Radio Korea representative walked into the studio with a contract. He signed it, and then I signed live on the air. He then handed me a money order for $100,000. I said goodbye to my audience of virtually no one in the middle of the broadcast, signed off AM 1230 and minutes later, commentary in Korean commenced. The following day, I said goodbye to my non-existent audience on AM 1540.
Radio Korea honored the contract. I received the 15 grand a month for the next 13 months. I used a lot of the money to fund the launch of the Poorman’s Bikini Beach television show. But then, that’s another story for another time.
My Dad is now 95 years old, sharp as ever, and a World War II veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart (wounded in action while fighting in jungles in the Philippines). He’s always been my hero!
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When Poorman doesn’t have his feet in the sand, you can find him on the air Monday-Friday 7am-10am at KOCI hosting Poorman’s Morning Rush – Orange County’s only morning drive show. His show brings plenty of excitement, and of course, the Poorman’s aura of unpredictability – both good and bad – that has defined his legend! Email Jim “Poorman” Trenton at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a song or submit music.