True-Life Radio Tales

KRIZ-AM Phoenix, “Rockin’ In the Valley of the Sun”

In 1973 Phoenix was hard for me to figure. Didn’t seem to be much there there. Soon after I arrived in town to start work at KRIZ (now KOY) I got a ride in our traffic report airplane and saw that there really wasn’t much to see. But I liked the heat. I was newly single and excited to be in a new town with new opportunities.

When I first arrived the station had no program director, then hired one soon after I had begun. His exact words to the air staff: “This is my big chance and I’m not going to let any of you f*ck it up for me.” He must have meant that for me, as I was fired pretty quickly.

I had been noticed though, as I had started giving away dirt bikes to non-listeners who had been calling the wrong station – us. Our competitor, KUPD – the one that was crushing us – they were the ones giving away dirt bikes in a contest they were running, and a big part of the reason we were being crushed. I’d get a lot of calls from confused listeners who didn’t realize they were calling the wrong station, so I would pretend I was giving the bikes away and tell them to come to the station at 3:00 in the afternoon the next day and ask for the program director. Only thing was, I told them to go to the Crushing Competitor station.

The thing was, we would get so many wrong numbers and so few calls for me or for the rest of the staff that it got really irritating after a while. One day I reached some kind of personal breaking point and slammed the phone down. It was one of those phones with many lines coming into it. And it shattered. I always thought those phones were pretty much indestructible. I tried to piece it back together, but it was no use. None of the incoming phone lines worked anymore. I finished my shift and went home. And was awakened the next morning by the general manager, who asked, calmly but with a hint of menace, “What did you do to the phones last night?”

I’m thinking, I’ll buy time with the guy. “What phones?,” I asked, feigning innocence. “ALL OF THEM!”

Once I got drunk while doing a remote broadcast. It was really hot outside – Phoenix with the flame turned up! And my remote location was at a water park. I was on a few times each hour doing promos. “Come to the water park!” and such.

The promos would go on for about a minute. Well, after that, I’d go to find someplace cool, and cool turned out to be inside a bar onsite, where I ordered a beer. Then I’d go outside to do another on-air piece and sweat some more, then go to the bar and have another beer, then…you get the idea. Soon, I wasn’t doing so well on the air – especially since I had no copy to read from.  The thing is, I rarely drank alcohol, then or now, so I wasn’t prepared for the combination of extreme heat and beer intake.

My bad.

After that little adventure the midday guy told me I was going to be fired and thought I should know, especially since I had come all the way across the country for this job. So I went to the GM who hired me. I told him, “this guy says I’m going to be fired…?” The GM replied, “No, no, but we just had a meeting and I just said that to everyone for effect and to let everybody know that everybody has to pull their weight or else anybody could be let go, even the new guy.”

Later that week the program director calls me on phone. Him: “Wanna see you at 9:00 am.” Here I am getting off air at midnight… Me: “Oh man, that’s so early for me, can we make it later?” Him: “In that case I’ll come down to see you now.” He smiled as he fired me and said, “You know that big party the station had that I didn’t invite you to? That was a clue.” I didn’t even know about the party.

It would take many weeks before I found other work, weeks I spent at the pool, and I think becoming fearless in the water. I had plenty of time to become a good swimmer.

Some other stories of life at KRIZ:

One time after a Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo commercial I couldn’t help myself from adding a line: “Excuse me, there’s a lizard in your hair!”

The station was located near a rough neighborhood. I’d look out the door and see a bunch of kids sitting on my car – the only car in the lot. I’d freak. The car was a treasure to me, a Camaro, a prized possession. But I was on the air so I couldn’t do anything about it.

There was a transmitter behind a heavy door. There was a story going around that one DJ opened the door to read the meters, and a neighborhood bad guy cold-cocked him. Why, we’ll never know. The other station legend was that some employee had thrown a body block into a fancy-then electronic vending machine which then gave up all of its contents. No, it wasn’t me.

The overnight guy smoked weed, as I discovered at my first midnight stint. But he wasn’t worried because he had this magic aerosol, Ozium, which he said would immediately mask the smell. I said, “Well, you had better use it because I just heard the front door open.” He sprays the stuff, looking completely unconcerned. The engineer walks in and immediately says, “Who’s smoking dope in here?” So much for magic aerosol.

The general manager called in drunk one night after hearing me play “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos. “Play it again!” he barked. It’s a long song. He didn’t care. I played it again.

Phoenix is so hot that you can actually burn your hand on your steering wheel.

My next door neighbor had short hair at a time when men were growing it out…this was the early Seventies, man! But then I found out that the reason his hair was short was because he just got out of jail. It didn’t do anything to reduce my stress level.

Several Phoenix Suns basketball players lived in my complex. Very tall guys! I didn’t know any of them. DIdn’t care about the team.

Phoenix definitely wasn’t one of the highlights of my career. So I couldn’t believe my luck when I got hired BACK by WAMS in Wilmington, Delaware, to do an afternoon show.

To be continued…