The BILL EARL Interview

Our senior advisor, Bill Earl, is "on the beach" with no offers of jocking in sight. As he may NEVER jock again, he agreed to a Playboy-style interview by an editor of this site, reflecting on his jocking career.


DM: You jocked at KPCS in Pasadena from Spring 1970 to January 1972. Why did you walk away from jocking in January 1972 at KPCS?

BE: I no longer had any fire in the belly to move OUT of Los Angeles and work my way back to the Southland as was the custom back then. I also did not have a First Class license which was really an unwritten requirement. I paid a $50 deposit in 1970 for Bill Ogden's final crash course for the first phone, but never showed up for the course. Just didn't have the fire in the belly. Ogden retired right after that term that I never showed up for. I graduated from Pasadena City College in January 1972. KPCS ended for me then too, as it was, in those days, a campus and student jocked station. My time at PCC had ended as it was supposed to have. I was 21 in January 1972, already an "older" student...many 18 year olds were on KPCS...because of my maturity, one of the KPCS engineers gave me the nickname "Big Bad Bill", due to my "maturity" and maverickness as I had pushed the format envelope frequently during my KPCS era such as playing Serge Gainsbourg's "J t'aime" and the First Edition's "Something's Burning", two songs that we were NOT supposed to play, but I played anyways. I also ad-libbed all my later KPCS shows...something we weren't supposed to do. I also would invite my GF in the DJ booth to sit in with me. Another no no.

DM: When did you want to jock after that?

BE: I never applied for ANY jocking job from January 1972 to the time I "was brought back" in December 2006. I also never was asked during those years.

DM: Why then in 2006?

BE: I had heard about internet radio in 2006 and put some feelers out...seeing if the name "Bill Earl" had any box office value from my two radio oriented trade paperbacks I wrote in 1989 and 1991, and my name recognition as "the Official KRLA Radio Eleven-Ten Historian" and the many times I was heard on KRLA in that role from 1974 to 1989. I had originally written an 80 page term paper on KRLA 1110 in December 1969, while I was a Telecom student at PCC, which evolved into DREAM-HOUSE (KRLA history book) trade paperback.

DM: Did it?

BE: One internet channel said that they'd be interested in how I would sound, but I would need to find a studio, record tracks etc, and submit them. I had no home studio, knew no one who would engineer for me, so I never followed up on it.

DM: Then how did you get on ErrorFM.com in December 2006?

BE: I was invited to Helen Jones's KFXM reunion party in May 2006, and met Barry Funkhouser at that party. I must have impressed him because he remembered me when he helped launch ErrorFM in late 2006.

DM: How did they get ahold of you?

BE: Barry Funkhouser sent me an e-mail saying that he would like me to join ErrorFM.com. I wrote back saying I had no studio or engineer, remembering my experience w/ internet radio earlier. To my surprise and delight, a friend of Barry's, Timmy Manocheo, wrote me back saying he'd be willing to "board op" my show from a Ventura studio. I would be jocking every other Saturday from Noon-3pm with Timmy running the board. I could pick out my own music which I decided would be early 1970s Top 40...the Rhino "Super Hits Of The 70s" series would be my core playlist...kind of a fitting continuation from when I left jocking in January 1972.

DM: When did you start on ErrorFM.com?

BE: Saturday, December 30, 2006 from Noon-3pm....Timmy ran the board.

DM: You started at ErrorFM.com in December 2006. Tell us about how it went.

BE: My show was from Noon-3pm every OTHER Saturday. I played Rhino's "Super Hits Of The 70s"...all volumes. Timmy Manocheo ran the board.

DM: Tell us about how your shows with Timmy board opping went.

BE: Timmy did a more FM-style show every Saturday from 9-Noon. He was more into an FM "underground" style of jocking like the old KPPC. He knew that I had known KRLA's China Smith, and liked my KRLA book where Smith was on the cover and where I covered Smith's KRLA days. My wife and I gave Timmy and his wife an Elektra box set that came my way...I knew I would never play it, so we gave it to them as a token of our thanks.

DM: Why did the jocking stop in Ventura with Timmy?

BE: After one show, in late January 2007, I recall, to my shock and surprise, Timmy said that he was leaving ErrorFM. From then on, I would be jocking at the ErrorFM Burbank studio with Barry Funkhouser doing the board opping. I decided since Barry was more into alternative/indie/rock, I would switch my music to what HE wanted me to play. I think Barry was impressed that I was able to slide from Super Hits of the 70s into playing acts I never heard of before. For a while, Barry wanted me to jock EVERY Saturday from 9-Noon. Then, one Saturday, he told me that the ErrorFM morning-drive man, Jason Jeffries resigned, and the 9-Noon guy, Larry Woodsides, would move into the 6-9am drive time shift, but not just YET. So Barry had ME voice tracking the 6-9am morning-drive show for ONE WEEK. Yes, I was the new ErrorFM morning drive guy, but only for a week.

After that, I would move into the Monday thru Friday 4-6am "early morning" shift BEFORE Woodsides. So after the 9-Noon Saturday jocking, Barry would have me record voice tracks for the 4-6am Monday thru Friday shift. And my Saturday 9-Noon shift would be replayed SUNDAYS from 9-Noon (later edited down to 10-Noon.) I was the MOST HEARD VOICE on ErrorFM, being on 7 days a week, heard more than anyone.

DM: How long did that last for?

BE: Barry & I would get together almost every Saturday from 9-Noon...I would jock...Barry would board op. But as we moved into the Spring of 2007, it began to change. Barry would be busy with other commitments, and some weekends we never got together at all. My "live" Saturday shows became less frequent, and I never knew from week to week when I would be "live" on Saturday or they'd just run tracks. By summer 2007, Barry told me that til further notice, I would NOT be jocking "live" anymore, but voice tracking with him on selected Saturdays, sometimes even on Sunday morning, whenever he could board op for me. HE kept wanting me and hoping that I would like the ErrorFM work so much that I would WANT to "build" a home studio or alter our home PC for internet "radio." I think he felt I would eventually "give in." By the end of the summer, I was on EVERY DAY...4-6am M-F, Saturday 9Noon, and Sunday 10-Noon ALL-voice tracked with "generic" tracks...no announcing song titles etc. I had recorded enough tracks that they could be mixed up so much, they wouldn't sound like they had been heard dozens of times.

DM: You told us your jocking ended at ErrorFM in September 2007. What happened?

BE: Well, I was heavily promoting my shows on he ErrorFM website with promo ads, humor, you name it. One day, in early September 2007, I logged on to ErrorFM at 4am, as I used to get up early and listen to my shows to see how they used my old voice tracks with NEW music, and, to my shock, there was no "me." I looked at the schedule and my name had been removed from all seven days. I tried to log onto the bulletin board on the website, and found out I was "locked out." I could no longer "post" ANYTHING. What had happened was that Barry had moved to Las Vegas, and there was no one on the ErrorFM staff that would board op for me as Barry did. All the ErrorFM shows were self-produced at the homes or private studios of the various jocks. THAT IS HOW 99.9% of internet radio works. My situation was strictly a fluke and an exception to the rule. Because I HAD NO home studio, and I had made it clear that my wife and I did NOT want to alter our home PC or could afford a SECOND PC for internet radio, my ErrorFM career came to a sudden end. No farewell show, nothing. But my promo "ads" can STILL be found on the ErrorFM bulletin board under those months I was on ErrorFM, from December 2006 thru August 2007. And my pic was left up as a former jock on a "rogues gallery" page of all who had jocked there before me, and now after me. So my ErrorFM tenure ended one day in early September 2007.

DM: You jocked at ErrorFM.com from December 2006 until September 2007. Weren't you ALSO jocking at KFXM-FM at the same time?

BE: Sort of. Actually my last "live" show on ErrorFM.com was the very same weekend my tracked show at KFXM-FM started, It was what us Catholics call "Holy Saturday", the day before Easter 2007.
DM: How did you get the KFXM gig?

BE: The very SAME private house party I met Barry Funkhouser...Helen Jones's KFXM reunion lunch at her home. At that party was a former KFXM time salesman who wanted to see KFXM have a huge public reunion like KMEN did and be inducted in the Route 66 "Hall Of Fame" as KMEN had been. An open to the public thing. We formed a committee of the time salesman, me, former KFXM-AM 590's Jonny Bruce, Tim Abney who had connections with the Route 66 people and KFXM/KMEN collector Doug Calgaro. I personally wanted to include Emperor Compton's KFXM-FM (96.7) from the Antelope Valley as PART of the festivities. The time salesman, who was our de facto leader, did not. Emperor Compton could see that I liked KFXM-FM and appreciated that I stuck up for his station, whereas the other gentleman did not want to include KFXM-FM. I think because of my sticking up for KFXM-FM, that was why Compton offered me the Noon-4pm Saturday shift at KFXM-FM. Later it was trimmed to Noon-3pm Saturdays. As I told him I had NO home studio and couldn't drive to Lancaster every week due to the gas $$ and wear & tear on my car, he said I could cut voice tracks periodically at the home of a KFXM engineer who lived in Pasadena.

DM: How did that go?

BE: Decent at first. I would drive up there about every OTHER Friday evening at the engineer's home studio. This lasted from April 2007 to July 2008.

DM: You resigned from KFXM-FM last July. Why?

BE: Emperor Compton felt that my later voice tracks did not have enough "content" (his words) in them...even though I hadn't changed "the act" at ALL since April 2007! Actually, I think I was getting better all the time. So one day after I had just spent two and a half hours cutting voice tracks at this engineer's home studio (that I had worked on preparing liners and stuff for two weeks!) with my wife outside studying for her own job, and the same night, us taking the engineer OUT to dinner at the Oinkster in Eagle Rock, Emperor Compton called me the next day and said he just couldn't use any of those latest tracks...he just didn't like them, and HE is the boss. It didn't matter if I THOUGHT they were good...they WERE. But it is HIS station. Once in a while, he had told me an underwriter (sponsor) didn't like a bit or line I did.

DM: So what did you do?

BE: Well, I certainly had no desire to go back in another two weeks and cut more tracks that might not measure up, because I had given it my BEST on the last bunch and earlier bunches and I really COULD NOT do any better. I already was going thru a lot of OTHER stress in my life, health and personal issues since last January that STILL are there, and this situation just added to it. It was clear that Emperor Compton was probably scrutinizing my "show" more than perhaps he had, and for whatever reason he no longer liked my work as he HAD. I told him I would voluntarily resign from the Noon-3pm Saturday shift, but be available to do "live" shows and special event remotes...I had ALREADY done TWO "live" Saturday shifts from the Lancaster studios, and one "live" REMOTE shift from a street festival in the Antelope Valley, and I'm much better doing "live" shows than tracks anytime....I have airchecks of my "live" KFXM work, and there is NO DOUBT my "live" stuff was way superior than generic tracking.

DM: So have they called you BACK?

BE: Actually, Emperor Compton DID...sort of. We talked on the phone after my voluntary resignation. He mentioned a possible remote from a record store that he wanted me to do, but it so far has never happened. October 24th is another Blue Star Mom festival like I remote jocked last year, but as that is in 20 days, unless I hear from them, that might pass me by too. At last e-mail to Emperor Compton, he said that KFXM had not heard from the promoters of that event yet.

DM: Will you do it if they ask?

BE: Oh, of COURSE. Who WOULDN'T pass up a chance to jock on a real terrestrial L.A. County FM radio station. Actually, the KFXM-FM transmitter "tower" and "rings" are physically just over the L A County line in Kern County, but it is STILL a licensed Los Angeles County FM radio station. KFXM-FM is basically a mom and pop FM in Lancaster that is usually automated. Emperor Compton is the final authority as to who and what is heard on KFXM. I TRULY thank him for the "run." After all, I got to jock on a Los Angeles county terrestrial FM station in a huge audience area...the Antelope Valley. It was the "big room" of the high desert, and I got to do what many jocks in the business NEVER had the chance to do. I made many unscoped airchecks of my KFXM shows, so I have a lot to listen to and for my family to enjoy....PROOF that I WAS indeed THERE. I was SMART enough to always remember, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER in radio...it is all gonna stop SOMETIME...mostly sooner than later... so get as many unscoped airchecks as you can for the sake of radio HISTORY and HISTORY cannot be changed cause it really did happen.

DM: You left KFXM then in July, but got picked up right after that by KXOK in Manteca CA, right?

BE: Yes, I became a KXOK Boss Radio "Boss Jock" last summer.

DM: After you resigned from KFXM-FM, then what happened?

BE: I got an e-mail from a San Francisco radio historian I'll call "Mr. F." asking if I knew anyone who might want to join the new KXOK630.com which was to kick off on August 1st that he was producing and programming. I told him that I had just left KFXM and had some time that month to drive up to the Bay Area, "Mr. F." 's base, and see if KXOK630.com was the right fit for me. He had me in mind for weekends only. The catch was that he didn't want his jocks to use their real names but to use made up names that were a tribute to the "Boss Radio" era. For example, his morning man was to be called DRAKE JACOBS. Get it? "Mr. F." himself would be "The Real Deal Bobby Steele." The station would pretend that it was broadcasting out of a legendary theater building in suburban Manteca CA, The El Rey Theater. The fantasy was that KXOK broadcasted out of that historic building. Kind of like what KOLA did in the 1970s in Riverside CA...literally having studios in the historic Mission Inn hotel. By the way, the theater building TODAY is an awesome microbrewery, but on KXOK, we're to pretend the building is STILL the El Rey theater. Brilliant ideas by "Mr. F."!

DM: So you could NOT be "Bill Earl" or "Big Bad Bill"?

BE: Correct. So I had to think of a "Boss Radio"-style name to use. Well, I had written a one-act play about deejays in 1966, that I think you guys actually displayed in full on this site, right?

DM: Yes.

BE: Well, in that play was a mention of a character named "Phil Heron", a name I patterned after "Bill Drake" when I wrote the play in 1966. Amazingly, a name I MADE UP when I was 15 years old, I would be using at 57! I added "The Darin'" to the Phil Heron name as a tribute to JOHNNIE DARIN who in 1969 on KRLA on a nostalgia weekend where the KRLA jocks pretended that THEY were jocking in the past, called HIMSELF "The Darin' Johnnie Darin." So the name "The Darin' Phil Heron was born.

DM: So you drove up....?

BE: I drove up in early August, booked into a motel near the "Mr. F." home in Livermore, and "Mr. F." took me out to breakfast...it was a Monday morning...and told me his idea. KXOK630.com was to be a "fantasy station" that would sound like it was coming out of 1968 and 1969. All jocks were to jock like the oldies they were playing (late 60s) were basically currents. On the KXOK website, he had black and white high school yearbook photos of the various guys he wanted to assembe as the KXOK "Big Boss Men." As I had seen this site before I drove up, I had sent him a B & W print of MY high school portrait from October 1968 (when I had just turned 18) and "Mr. F." had displayed me as a weekender.

DM: So what happened after breakfast?

BE: Well, he took me to the microbrewery so I could actually get the vibes of BEING in that building. Freshest beer I ever had. Just brewed moments before I got there. "Mr. F." was a super host. Then, we drove to his home, where he had a home studio on the second floor hallway. I started cutting voice tracks. He liked them so much, he said, I want you on everyday, and offered me the 9-Noon shift. So then I started jocking tracks like I was the "housewife" jock for KXOK, pretending this was in 1969. I even made up some bits about how phones were rumored to go "push buttons" someday. As I was a Senior Jester (advanced Drama student) at Arcadia High School in 1968-1969, by the way, a student couldn't just SIGN UP to be a Senior Jester, it was TEACHER SELECT ONLY based on talent, I used my theatrical talents toward this jocking as "Phil Heron." "Mr. F." told me we cut about 250 voice tracks that day. He was very pleased with my voice tracking. Ironic that two months before, KFXM-FM thought my voice tracks were "lacking." Well, that's radio.
DM: So, "Mr. F." liked your voice tracks?

BE: He was delighted. I agreed to drive up again, maybe before Christmas and cut some more tracks at his Livermore studio. I would bring my wife next time, who couldn't take time from her job in August. We had part of our honeymoon in the Bay Area. She has a sister and nieces in Hayward. I personally LOVE the Bay Area and Livermore was a suburb I had never been before.

DM: So, what happened next?

BE: Well after "Mr. F." and his father-in-law took me to the old KRE building in Berkeley (the current 610 AM KEAR transmitter site) now a radio museum, he took me to lunch in Emeryville, we visted the OUTSIDE of the old KFRC site at Hunters Point, the locked gate of the KYA transmitter road on Key Avenue, and by the old KOBY site and KNBR site near Brisbane. I drove home the following morning.

DM: Did your show start the next day?

BE: No, not until a week later. My first PHIL HERON show was on August 18. Following my rule that nothing in radio lasts forever, I had a friend who had the equipment to do so, make "unscoped" airchecks of my KXOK shows...enough to fill a shoebox. KXOK used PAMS 29 jingles. "Mr. F." was "Bobby Steele"...the station "from the historic El Rey Theater" sounded super.

DM: But now when we log on to KXOK630.com, we still see the website, but the audio feed is to ANOTHER internet channel, NOT KXOK. Why is that?

BE: "Mr. F." had concerns about the licensing and use of the KXOK calls and use of the PAMS jingles, and so sometime in September, he silently "pulled the plug" on KXOK, and those who tune in to KXOK630.com get an "all Gary Mora, all the time" version of KYA, which was a legendaty station in San Francisco for many years. When "Mr. F." shut down KXOK, "PHIL HERON" suddenly disappeared, too.

DM: Why didn't he just move you and him as "Bobby Steele" to KYA?

BE: Well, he likes the "all-Gary Mora" format of KYA, and I'd have to drive back to the Bay Area to cut new tracks. He told me that any future work I do for him, I would have to record tracks HERE in L.A. and snail mail them to him. For those 250- tracks, we used his HOME studio. He said I could use a cassette recorder and a mic, which I DO have, but I'm not sure that the sound would be as good as his Livermore home studio. If and when he decides to use me again, I'll send him some sample tracks and see if they pass muster. As I have no home studio, which 99.9% of internet radio people DO have, I'm at a disadvantage, but that is my price...my wife and I agreed that our PC would be mic/jocking free and we can't afford to set up a new PC just for jocking. I'm hoping "Mr. F." or even Gary Mora will let me drive up, maybe quarterly, and cut new stuff at either of THEIR studios. "Mr. F." DID say that having a "Phil Heron" on KYAradio.com would be a direct tribute to "Bill Drake" who got his west coast start on the original 1260AM KYA.

DM: So will "Mr. F." bring you aboard KYA?

BE: Well, not if he feels the "all-Gary Mora" format is working. I'm hoping that he in some way can bring back KXOK as before. I DID suggest that because the original KYA transmitter building is HISTORIC because it was designed by Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan, that "Mr. F." should "pretend" that, like KXOK, the KYA studio is actually IN that Bayview Park building. Well, why not? THAT building in San Francisco's Candlestick Point is actually more "historic" than Manteca's El Rey theater. "Mr. F." knows that I'd like to work for him again as "Phil Heron" either on KYA or on a reignited KXOK, but it is his decision, and I DO have two negatives against me.

DM: What are they?

BE: I have NO home studio and know NO ONE here in the Southland who likes me enough for me to come into their home and use THEIRS, and I'm based in Southern CA whereas "Mr. F." is in Livermore. My family and I have agreed that no "jocking" will be done from our home. I thought the jocking at "Mr. F." 's home studio in Livermore went AWESOME! But he's a family man, and (laughing) maybe I scared his very small kids! LOL!

DM: So you are "on the beach" with NO jocking prospects in sight?

BE: Unless "Mr. F." brings me aboard KYAradio.com, or a reignited KXOK, I see no one here in my area who will bring me back on the air. Unless Emperor Compton uses me for the October 24 "Wing Ding" in Quartz Hill. There ARE those here in L.A. who know my talent and jocking abilities, but for whatever reason of theirs, my phone is just not ringing off the hook with offers. My policy is is that "BILL EARL DOESN'T APPLY for jocking"... if a PD wants me, they know where I am and how to reach me. I'm going on 59, I may NEVER jock again, and that's the tough part to accept, but I'm not the only jock my age that is on the beach. That's RADIO and the POLITICS of radio.

DM: Will you let us display your e-mail address for those who might want to get you OFF the beach?

BE: Sure. It's EARLWMF@aol.com

DM: Thank you Bill for your interview and for you advising us rookies on this blogsite.

BE: You are more than welcome.

(End of interview)