Why 95.5 FM KLOS Keeps Restoring Our Faith in Rock Radio

KLOS fam: Front row, left to right – Frosty Stillwell, Gary Moore and Frank Kramer. Back row, left to right, Marci Wiser, Heidi Hamilton–with a cameo from Jimmy Alvarez.

They’re live, they’re local and they’re turning heads from coast-to-coast and around the world. Believe it or not, even in 2018, we’re talking about radio stations. In this social media age of iHeart, Spotify and Pandora-dominated trending loops, this movement  has had a profound impact on all of us. For many of us, music is an arrhythmia of the soul, and music matters to us. It also matters when we feel over saturated with tunes that don’t always connect.

That may be a good reason why there’s so many complaints about the corporate radio agenda! Luckily, there are stations like KLOS that haven’t succumbed to the zombie-like temptation to follow the industry model. For terrestrial radio, especially for the behemoths, the challenges are just that–challenging.

For years, stations like San Diego’s 91X, San Francisco’s Live105, and L.A.’s KROQ have carried the coolness torch. In more recent years, smaller market stations like KX935 in Laguna Beach have been championing the cause. Program Director (PD), Tyler Russell, has much to do with that shift in the mindset of today’s smaller market broadcasters. Russell is proving that just because you’re smaller, doesn’t mean you can’t compete on the bad-assery scale with your big brothers. Lisa Worden, VP of Programming at ALT98.7, is also making our ears smile. Don’t get me wrong, these stations remain at the summit of coolness, I recommend giving them a listen if you aren’t already.  There are some pretty cool stream sites too that are giving everyone a run for their money. Check out SiriusXMU; PD Chris Muckley has positively impacted the dynamic there. 

Rising to the occasion, a few Program Directors have taken that proverbial bull by the horns and are burning a path that everyone’s noticing. Keith Cunningham is one of those PD’s. He runs the ship at KLOS, and he’s put together a simple formula that’s caught fire. Though they definitely pay tribute to the station’s legacy, they’re looking forward to new music, and they put their listeners first…. it’s simple, but effective.  Here’s a few ways that stations like KLOS restore our faith in classic rock radio.


An Evolving Definition of “Classic Rock”

Great music keeps listeners focused, and for loyal listeners, they can still tune in and get their fix of AC/DC, Aerosmith, Stones, and Zeppelin. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Sabbath and all things Metallica. A reality of today’s radio is if a station only plays classic rock, it may have a finite shelf life. Keep in mind, Classic Rock was once new music. With that premise as a backdrop, the station  made a decision to make room for bands like Alice in Chains, Green Day, Nirvana, Jane’s and the Foos; that shift hasn’t gone unnoticed. All things being equal, back when 2nd wave ska-punk was all the rage, bands like Sublime were the cool radio stations house band. Everyone knew they would eventually blow up. In that same vein, KLOS has a band they believe in, that band is old-school  Rival Sons from Long Beach. That’s part of the formula of having no rule book, you take chances on bands that will make a difference. Case in point, Greta Van Fleet was heard on only a handful of radio stations in their infancy, and KLOS was one of them. That mindset is reason # 101 this station has addressed the music industry’s sonic dysfunction of lack of intense guitar.

Radio Personalities With Actual Personalities

In addition to great music, the voices behind the mic matter. Having an on-air staff that’s relatable and entertaining is paramount to being successful. The two components aren’t always synonymous with each other. In fact, that’s been one major complaint from radio listeners. Is the DJ live, or is it a pre-recorded show that has zero entertainment value? After all, when we listen to radio, not only do we want great tunes, we want to be entertained. Ergo, PD’s have seen the writing on the wall. A few notable PD’s, including Cunningham, have addressed this very issue by putting together a solid morning show. Theirs features Frosty, Heidi and Frank, and radio sweetheart, Lisa May. The show is bold and always entertaining. The rest of the lineup includes radio veterans, Marci Wiser, Gary Moore and Melissa Maxx. Sandwiched in between them is former Sex Pistol, Steve Jones (Jonesy’s Juke Box). Jones brought his swagger and his in-studio guests as well as the music are a departure from what you would normally hear at a Classic Rock station. Low and behold, the Jukebox works. They also have specialty shows which have proven to draw in music fans of all genres. Collectively, the on-air staff has brought in new listeners, and earned the respect of the diehards.


Their Live Concerts (Duh!)

Another reason this station stands out is the concerts they promote. A reality of today’s music industry is that live music is the best measurement for artists and radio stations to gage how music fans view them. We all know someone who lives and dies for going to concerts. Those people can tell you what shows are the best ones to attend, and what radio stations are worth checking out. In that regard, the past few years have been refreshing to say the least. You catch KLOS at the shows you’d expect to see them at; their fans love them for that. Lately, you can also catch them at shows that are over-the-top uber-cool that other stations seem to shy away from. There’s also the Offspring-inspired shows. Dexter and Noodles have put on the Sabroso Festival at Doheny State Beach, and they chose KLOS to be their media partner the past few years. The outcome has been a success selling out shows up and down the coast. All things being equal, the summer concert series is just getting started and the station has not missed a beat. They’re supporting several uber-cool shows in the next few months. You can catch them at Irvine’s FivePoint Amphitheatre as they present Rob Zombie. They’ll also be part of the Korn spectacle, CalJam and the                                   Arroyo Seco Music Festival.

To understand how cool these shows are, you gotta know the skinny, especially on Rob Zombie. This Dude is the end-all be-all of what’s right with music these days.  Beavis and Butthead once referred to him as the coolest dude on the planet when he was the driving force behind White Zombie. His music has been defined as Alternative Rock, Nu Metal, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Yeah, I know… lots of descriptions for the same bad-ass sound. After White Zombie, he set the world on fire with the release of his solo album, Hillbilly Deluxe, which sold over 3 million copies. He puts on a little festival each year called the Great American Nightmare. If that’s not enough, he’s also a film screenwriter/producer/director. He’s no stranger to things that go bump in the night. His films have literally reinvented the world of horror and gore, the masses love: House of 1000 Corpses, Devil’s Rejects and the Zombie version of cult favorite Halloween and Halloween II. Needless to say, this Dude can put on a show. He’ll be at the new OC venue, Five Point Amphitheatre, August 29th with Marilyn Manson.

The other show features Korn– hands down the best nu-metal band to ever come out of Bakersfield. They formed in ‘93, their live show is sick and the music is bone crushing. Their debut album, Korn, was released in ‘94, followed by Life Is Peachy in ’96; they’ve enjoyed success ever since. These cats have done it all. They’ve sold 25 million albums in the U.S., over 35 million worldwide. They have 6 Grammy nods, and won 2 for Freak on a Leash and Here to Stay. 12 of the band’s official releases have peaked in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, 8 of which have peaked in the top five. They even have 2 Mtv Video Music Awards. What stands out are their influences. Their muses range from Rage Against the Machine to Van Halen to Pantera to N.W.A! Songs their fans scream for include Got The Life, Make Me Bad, Shoots and Ladders,  Coming Undone, their Cameo cover of Word Up!, and their aforementioned mega-hit, Freak On A Leash. If you like a sweet and sultry voice in tandem with an angelic sound, Korn may not be for you. If you like your music loud; and then, a little louder… Korn might be your cup of tea. They’ll be playing the Hollywood Palladium on September 13th.

This show is the Dave Grohl-inspired rock fest that has tons going on. It’s literally a carnival featuring larger-than-life bands playing. In addition to the Foo’s, you can catch the living icon, Iggy Pop. Also on the bill are Garbage, Silversun Pickups, Billy Idol and Greta Van Fleet just to name a few. This one is October 6th at Glen Helen Regional Park.  Arroyo Seco is another juggernaut of a festival that features a variety of artists from a few genres, that’s June 23rd and 24th at the Rose Bowl fairgrounds. That one, too, is another example of the station’s diverse outreach in addressing kick-ass music as a lifestyle choice for the masses. Let’s not forget Punk n’ Brew is just around the corner and it’s also on the station’s to-do list.


The Old Music Still Moves Us

In the end, the music industry, specifically terrestrial radio, was sucked into a weird vortex the past few years. Because of stations like KLOS, it’s coming out of that. It really helps when we have DJ’s and PD’s that remind us why rock and radio Stations are the backbone of Americana! Because of this shift in sonic vision, KLOS has tapped into the need for music that makes you feel alive. It’s one thing to have a plan, it’s another thing to execute it the way they have. Clearly, rock wasn’t meant to be a safe harbor, or painless… it helps us cope, heal and it inspires us. That’s why we have Chuck Berry, Elvis, Buddy Guy, the Beatles, Tom Petty and everyone else that followed. If you want to hear cool tunes from back in the day, and new music that makes your blood flow… you might want to keep this article on hand. There are definitely some great broadcasters out there that put their fans first.

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