Radio's Insane Darrell Wayne Classic Rock Is Up to Date
Satellite and Internet stations are quickly gaining popularity over on-air, broadcast radio. Luckily, industry veteran Darrell Wayne, best known in the radio world as The Insane Darrell Wayne, knows how to drum up new interest in an older medium. He is the head KTHO in Lake Tahoe which features "Local Talk and Classic Rock." It's all in a day's work.
Darren Wayne and Sammy Hager (left)
Wayne's first opportunity came at age fifteen, with an internship at the Orange County based station, KEZY. Although he enrolled in college, Wayne soon realized that he was spending the majority of his time at the campus radio station. "I'd been very bitten by the radio bug," he reflects. He ultimately took a job in Los Angeles as a production director. The experience made him realize his true passion: being on air. Wayne's next gig was as a disc jockey at a radio station in Riverside, California, followed by a stint at a radio syndication company. His famed career at KROQ began in 1976.
Starting as a transmitter engineer, Wayne wore many hats throughout his time at KROQ before taking his five and a half year position as the on-air programming director. He closed his career there as the operations manager, having worked at KROQ in total from 1976 to 1982. "Those were the formative years of the radio station," he beams. When Wayne began in 1976, The Outlaws and Eric Clapton were being broadcast. Yet, the 1977 influence of the New York City club scene saw a demand for Blondie. 1978 saw even more of a shift when L.A.'s club scene took off, and the station played Black Flag. "KROQ moved drastically," Wayne exposits. "It went from hippie new wave rock, to punk rock, to the 'Rock of the 80's format."
Wayne feels that the old radio format was more rewarding for fans. While many current stations have little interaction with listeners, in KROQ's heyday, the audiences craved programming. "We weren't simply a jukebox," Wayne notes. "People made choices as far as what music was played." Disc jockeys were influential; on-air personalities told stories. Wampler learned that audiences wanted more than hearing the same songs on repeat. His passion for the medium, combined with his strong beliefs, were instrumental in his purchasing KTHO.
He came across the opportunity while vacationing in Lake Tahoe. After discovering the nearly dormant radio station, he bought it for a bargain price. His first step was to bring his new station back into the community. "We got involved with the Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce," Wayne elaborates. "We also reached out to the local high school and businesses, deciding that we were going to help get the local economy jumpstarted again." Since its foundation in 2009, KTHO has remained true to those visions.
The format of the station is as the name states: "Local Talk and Classic Rock." Many of the songs played are from what Wayne calls the "roots" of Rock and Roll. Music from the late 1950's and early 1960's is primarily featured (including works by Chuck Berry), and augmented with later hits by artists such as the Ramones. Yet, what sets KTHO apart from other broadcast stations, is their willingness to play new works from classic artists. Surprisingly, classic rock artists have no forum through which to show new pieces.
"Classic rock stations only play songs created in the classic rock era," Wayne explains. "Pop stations concentrate on musicians like Katy Perry." Luckily, KTHO does not abide to such restrictions. They play the current songs by classic artists. No matter the artist or when the song was written, KTHO will always play a song if it is good. The station has featured new works by Bon Jovi, Ringo Starr, and even Alice Cooper. Presently, KTHO has 4,500 songs on its playlist.
Between songs is when the "local talk" portion comes in. The station functions as an on-air visitors' bureau, letting tourists and residents alike know the best deals in entertainment, shopping, and dining. The broadcasters also conduct interviews, and tell stories. KTHO's main listeners are Lake Tahoe residents over the age of thirty-five. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, the station can also be listened to online.
Overall, it is music that has truly made Wayne's career memorable. In decades past, teenagers did not want to listen to the same music as their parents. They wanted songs of their own, to love - and KROQ filled that void. Similarly, KTHO brings a variety of great music to fans, making sure to showcase great music that would otherwise have no platform.
In the future, Wayne's goal is to expand programming far beyond the greater Lake Tahoe area, and to buy other stations as opportunities come up. "We'd like to make our footprint in San Francisco and Sacramento, growing the coverage area as much as we can," Wayne smiles. "Music really has been the soundtrack of our lives."
- Donna Letterese
To find out more about Lake Tahoe's KTHO station, please go to http://kthoradio.com, or tune in at http://kthoradio.com/radio.html.
Sheldon Eskin is the radio host of The Route 66 Mother Road Hour and The Voice of the Blues. His new show, new Sheldon Eskin & Friends, launches in August.
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