Former radio personality Billy Pearl – most often heard playing the hits on KHJ (930 AM) and KIQQ (now KKLQ (100.3 FM) as well as later talking about the law on KABC (790 AM) – is died on January 4 after a two-year battle with esophageal cancer, he was 71 years old.
His radio career began at UCLA, as part of the student-run campus station. After graduating in history in 1972, he began his career in radio, far from the career teaching American history he had planned.
“When I walked into UCLA radio station KLA my whole life changed,” he once told LARadio.Com’s Don Barrett.
He never worked outside of the Los Angeles area; its first stations after college were KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7) and K-100 (KIQQ, now KKLQ, 100.3 FM). He arrived at KHJ – at the time the country’s top-rated music station – in 1974 with great fanfare, “part of KHJ’s urban revival,” as an LA Times article from the time wrote. In that same story, Pearl recounted practicing KHJ call letters in the shower, long before he was hired, demonstrating how much he wanted to work at it. Her charm, high energy and positive on-air personality impressed listeners and insiders alike.
Longtime KHJ (and many other stations) production manager Douglas Brown said about Pearl: “Bill was very energetic and focused; he had a great sense of timing on the air and was really excited to be on KHJ. He used to sit in the studio to familiarize himself with the tempo and timing of intros and fades of new songs while preparing for the show.
Unfortunately, his tenure at KHJ only lasted about a year. The revolving door of KHJ’s programmers was the culprit. Pearl was hired by Charlie Van Dyke and when Michael Spears was brought in from KFRC / San Francisco and took the station in a more bubble-gum direction, Pearl’s hipness was unwanted. Pearl continued to help consult KRLA (now KRDC, 1110 AM) in 1976 and program KIQQ upon his return in 1977, but neither lasted long. While at KRLA, however, he helped start the ‘The Hitman’ promotion where the station offered prizes to people who had homemade KRLA signs in yards or on their cars.
“We beat the supposedly unbeatable KHJ with a low budget semi-automated point of sale. Pearl told Barrett of LARadio.Com, who added that Pearl celebrated the feat by doing a live show from former KRLA Studios in Pasadena as “Jack Cheese”.
In 1977 Pearl – a great honor, UCLA graduate Phi Beta Kappa – decided to enter UCLA law school and became a lawyer. His love of radio never left him, however, so he returned to the air first in 1981 at KMPC (now KSPN, 710 AM) and a year later at KABC (790 AM) – speaking of right rather than playing music. You may remember him associated with the liberal Bill Press as one of the Dualing Bills on KABC.
He left radio in 1991 to begin a career as a writer, first with editorials in newspapers across the country and later as the editor of one of the Internet newspapers, LBReport.Com, which ‘he launched in 2000. His family promises to keep the Pearl tribute news site.
It’s an interesting question: “I read with interest your continued coverage of WION / Ionia.
“I recently came across another extremely unusual and unique online entity, even for the Internet. It’s called WIWS, a recreation of a vanished AM radio station that was in Buckley, West Virginia.
“Here’s what makes it different from anything on the net: The creators took great care not only to have a very electric Top 40 playlist, with songs unheard of for decades, but they went to extraordinary lengths to that it sounds like an old AM Radio from the ’60s, with static in the stream, occasionally rough records, and that audio coming out of those old, cheap solid-state radio speakers.
“It also features vintage jingles, old news updates and ads from the ’60s (including one I heard for Kent cigarettes, now a taboo on real radio stations). In fact, the site adds a disclaimer that some spots aired may no longer be politically correct and may offend some listeners. But they were on the air then, so WIWS is now playing them in the interest of authenticity.
“It’s certainly an experience, a real blast from the past and worth listening to. Here is the site, which has all the information on what it is, who is behind it and how to hear it: https://wiwsradio.com ”- Aaron Fleming
In fact, fidelity isn’t that bad – remember AM radios were often much better back then compared to so many today – but you’re right … the playlist is huge. The focus is on the early 1960s, so it’s a bit before my time, but it’s absolutely great to hear.