PUBLISHED MAY 22, 2008
July 23, 1937 - May 22, 1998
Robert W. Morgan was the most dedicated, driven, dynamic radio person with whom I worked. My greatest joy was putting words in his mouth, arguing over where to make splices and segues - or hearing what exploded next, from his brain to your ear. Our cosmic connection formed the moment we met on McKinley Avenue, Fresno, May 1962. For ten years there's been a puka in my heart. It's been a little less fun, frustration and fantasy. See you when I get off, Bob.
Pili ka, pili ho'olo
Together in the dry season, together in the wet season.
Said of loving companionship.
Little-known Morgan story. When he introduced me to people, he told it and laughed: In 1962-63, Morgan and I worked in Fresno at KMAK, I often did the news on his show. After some time there, he was thinking about moving to a bigger market, so he sent an audition tape to KGB in San Diego. In those days, it was a feeble competitor for longtime leader KCBQ.
RWM did not get the job. The program director, imported from St. Louis, brought in his old colleagues for the top deejay time slots. But one day, my phone rang. The KGB program director said, "I heard you on Robert W. Morgan's air check. Would you be interested in coming to San Diego?"
I was, and I went. It was a doomed enterprise. Just as I was losing hope, Jacobs called to offer me a spot at KMEN in San Bernardino. Later, when Morgan and I were reunited in L.A., he always described me as the guy who got a job from his air check! We both enjoyed the story, because things worked out. There we were, at last, working together at Boss Radio.
Fall of 1962. Robert W. Morgan arrived at my house in San Bernardino for dinner with his then wife and dog. He was in town to guest on KMEN, covering for the week-end promotion. That Sunday the Green Bay Packers were playing host to the Cleveland Browns. Why would some guy from Ohio visit some guy from Wisconsin at this time in life? Both with no money and bills to pay, we ate cheap steaks and drank BREW 102. God, those were the good old days!
Oh, P.S., Green Bay beat the hell out of Cleveland. God love ya, Robert W.
I first met Bob Morgan in 1962 at KMAK Radio in Fresno. My first impression was of a brash young smartass with a sharp tongue aimed at poking holes in anything and everything I said. Later, in '65, our paths crossed when I took over promotion, publicity, and advertising for KHJ. As one of the two stars of Boss Radio, Bob still maintained a flippant, iconoclastic attitude as he railed against the establishment.
But in private conversations the tough veneer was stripped away, revealing a thoughtful, intelligent, and caring person. I came to realize that Morgan was a deeply complex individual and I grew to have a great respect for his talent and his rugged individualism. Bob always remained "his own man," a fact recognized by the legion of fans who never missed his unique take on mornings in L.A. His prodigious impact on L.A. Radio was taken away far too prematurely and left a void that will never be filled.
I worked in Fresno, between 1964 and '65. I got to save money for a 16mm motion picture camera, my first, and witness the Fresno rock radio wars. The town tuned to programming never heard in L.A., my hometown. KMAK's morning man was Bob Morgan - for a few weeks. Then Robert W. Morgan was born. He astounded us with his Master Phone Manipulator skills. Nothing helped the pompous, once skewered by Morgan - on the phone, on-air. When Imus and Limbaugh were learnng how to talk, Morgan began to change the history of big-time radio.
On this the 10th anniversary of his passing, I give pause to a memory and offer a special prayer for the soul of my dear friend and cohort Robert W. Morgan. At both KHJ and KMPC, ours was a special working relationship that was not only professional, but fun and invigorating. Our exacting, detailed approach produced some of the greatest product radio ever aired. The respect and love we had for each other were not only profound but enduring. I have never forgotten how very special our years together were, especially the relationship between our families, which remains Boss Golden in every respect.
As each year passes, I mourn Robert's passing and wonder, "Where have all the flowers gone." Once again, my heartfelt condolences go out to wife Shelley and family.
Robert and I spent a long evening once just hanging out listening to old KFWB jingles. His collection, not mine, I really didn't have many. In the middle of it all he thanked me for not hiring him when he applied at KFWB. I had told him to go away, come back to L.A. when you've had a little more experience. He did both. I never heard anyone with such control over every minute that went into his program and every sound that came out of it.
When Robert was given his star on Hollywood Boulevard, he called to ask me to present it to him. Why me? "Because you didn't hire me," he said, "You saved my life." I was Morgan-ized all over again.
I first met Robert W in March of 1965 at the beginning of a ride unequaled before or after in radio. For some seven years, I handed off the 93/KHJ mike to RW every morgan at 6. If I learned anything about him during those years, it's that he would have laughed at all of this. I'm sure he's laughing at us right now.
If there was or is such a thing as brotherhood in broadcasting, we all enjoyed it. Robert was the spoke of this wheel of radio presentation. To this day, I continue to hear my jingle: ROBERT W. MORGAN, 93 KHJ! Wow! What a voice! What a guy! What an example! And, to be able to call him, friend!
I met Robert W over a game of "Acquire" at Jacobs' house in Beverly Glen back in the '60s. I was visiting from SF where I was PD of KFRC. A master of the medium, Robert was charismatic, funny, smart and quick. We stayed loosely in touch until Watermark could create a show for him - and acquire his services. "The Robert W. Morgan Special of The Week" debuted in 1978. Clearance was instant, due mostly to Morgan's stature in the broadcast world and the show's other exciting elements. Otherwise, the whole world would have missed this great talent in action.
1969. January. Bob Morgan was still doing his morning show while simultaneously voicing over the History of Rock 'n' Roll script each afternoon. A little punchy toward the end, Bob entertained himself to stay awake. One newsbreak, Bob walked into Jim "Lawrence" Mitchell's news booth. As Jim delivered the news live, Bob stepped onto the desk top, in Jim's face, and dropped his drawers. Except for one giggle, Jim never missed a beat.
Robert W. was an inspirational talent to me. Just being around him made you kick your performance up another notch to try and play at his level. And, he made everyone around him even better than they ever thought they could be.
Memories of Morgan: The best morning man ever in radio. We still miss his: "Good Morgan" in Boss Angeles. I used to call Robert W. in the "old days" in L. A., in the 70s and 80s after all-night parties and let him talk to some of the all-night party people - girls - and he would make comments about them and the scene on the air. I went to his tribute at the Museum of Radio & TV in Beverly Hills shortly before his passing. He was there, and greeted me with his usual sense of humor, even though he was using a walker. He was loved, and we all miss him.
Robert W. Morgan was my radio hero, mentor, and best friend. Our relationship began when I was a Boss-groupie at 93/KHJ, then an intern at K-100 (KIQQ), and his producer at KMPC, MAGIC 106 (KMGG) and K-EARTH 101 (KRTH). Together, from work to fishing trips, to much "Fear and Loathing'" travails, our interpersonal dynamic covered every human emotion. His ascerbic wit, keen sense of timing, and topical humor made him peerless on-the-air. His passion for professionalism and the ability to immediately see and cut through the bullshit made him a force to be reckoned with off-the-air.
This Boss-ography quote still rings true: "Robert W. Morgan was to LA radio what Johnny Carson was to national TV." Morgan.always pushed me to be the best I could be. Thank you, Robert W., for without you, I might be (as you would say) "living in a Norge refrigerator at the corner of Fifth and Main." GOOD MORGAN!
|CAP'N BILLY HERGONSON
Without a doubt, the album "Cruisin' 1965, KHJ, Los Angeles", starred Robert W. Morgan. Cruisin' was the best and most accurate of all the series. Playing with the Big Boys was Boss - even when RWM and RJ were tearing each other's heads off. Some people call that "creative." Man, it was nuts!
When people ask who was my comic idol growing up, they're surprised that my answer isn't Woody Allen, or Mel Brooks, or Neil Simon. It's Robert W. Morgan. For almost 30 years, Morgan ruled the "morgan" airwaves in LA (and briefly in Chicago). He passed away ten years ago today. I still miss him. I still look at something I've written and wonder, "What would Robert W. think?" He was never shy in telling me. We worked together briefly in 1974 at a station called K100. (I say briefly because I was fired long before he was.) Robert W. could be a tough critic. (If you call threatening to come down to the station and beat the shit out of me tough). But he also could inspire you to new heights if he believed you had it in you. I owe so much to Robert W. Morgan.
1979, KMPC. I was the new National PD for Golden West Broadcasting. Robert had just been named to our morning show to replace LA institution Dick Wittinghill. RWM stepped in, adjusted his style for an older audience and created compelling and creative programming immediately. He had this amazing ability to mix "smart-ass" with "boy next door" and pull it off like no one before, or since.
|JOEY W. REYNOLDS
Ah, Robert W. Morgan, or as I used to call him: Imus West. KMPC was in the talk format and I did a Sunday night/Monday morning Improv show following the transmitter sign off for two hours. Morgan listened to it on the way to work and my best shot was to get him to laugh and look into the studio when he came in to the station. When it worked he would have that big shit-eating grin on his puss and shake his head at the bizarre guests, like Matthew Katz, lawyer for Jefferson Starship, who drank his own urine. There were the nuns from Palm Springs who smoked weed in the studio 'cause it was organic and brought them closer to Nirvana, or Sandy Nelson playing "Teen Beat" on the drums with one leg. Robert W. called me the Rocky Horror Show of Radio. I loved making him laugh. I think it was the prequel to what I am doing now.
Robert was the first radio guy ever to call me out about Rolling Stone's attitude towards Top 40. We were "underground," free-form, FM rockers; we had no use for "Boss Radio." I tried to explain to Morgan that I was raised on KEWB-San Francisco (where he and "The Real" Don Steele stopped on their way to L.A.) I even used "20/20 News" as a "Random Notes" header. RWM would have none of it. He greeted me as "the anti-Top 40-Christ." But by visit's end, he dug that I was a fan. His voice, wit, and ease with a tough format was Boss. But he could've done any kind of radio, from Mozart to Mets games, and Morganized it - making it work.
Robert W. Morgan A consummate professional who was a tribute to radio and certainly deserves a tribute. I considered it an honor to know him, listen to him. He was always interesting, always entertaining.
"It's a good day. My self esteem is up to my knees." Morgan who had a bigger than life persona was driven to prove publicly that he was more than he privately believed he could ever be. We benefited from his fanatical attention to excellence. He was plagued by it. "All my mother wanted me to be is happy. I couldn't do that for her." As we delighted in his acerbically funny rants, his torment became our entertainment. But for those of us fortunate to penetrate his wall of insecurity, sardonic often turned sweet, as a genuinely warm and vulnerable character emerged. (And if he were here to read those words, we'd gleefully witness his signature biting mockery to the very concept.)
I never knew Robert W. Morgan personally. Never even met him. Although we did work in Los Angeles at the same time during a period in which I was at Radio & Records as well as the legendary KMET, I really only knew him as an observer of the industry, not as a co-worker or friend. Looking back, I find that regretful because Morgan was clearly a giant in terms of his role in the development of radio as an expression of popular culture all of which has been written about in countless books, articles and on some very fine websites. All I have to go on to make a fresh and meaningful statement about Morgan (as opposed to some manufactured piece of academic fluff) is my friendship with his old "boss" (pardon the pun), the equally great Ron Jacobs.
When Jacobs asked me to write "30 words" about Morgan for a tribute he was putting together on the 10th anniversary of his death and he needed it "right now" I asked why he felt a need to do yet another tribute to Morgan. After all, I insensitively told Jacobs, the guy is dead! I was borderline nasty because I was frantically facing a deadline for my trade magazine, TALKERS and wasn't thrilled about having to deal with some other guy's deadline in the middle of everything. Well, the way Jacobs responded, one would think I insulted the memory of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Moses or even Jesus! So all I can say is this: If the memory of a disc jockey from decades ago can still provoke and inspire such passionate dedication from his old program director, then he must have been really, really, really special. I think I went past 30 words.
When one covers the last 50 years of Los Angeles Radio, as the decades roll on the A-list performers begin to blend together and meld into a significant upper echelon plateau. And, then there are the super stars, the ones who seem to shine brighter as the years go on. Robert W. Morgan certainly was one of the brightest stars in the history of LA Radio.
Through the 12 years REELRADIO has been online, Robert W. Morgan airchecks have consistently ranked among the most popular in our FAB 40. Every day, someone streams a Robert W. aircheck again, or for the first time. New exhibits featuring Morgan repeatedly top our chart. Of all the legendary personalities in the top radio markets of the Top 40 era, Robert W. Morgan has been a perennial favorite, accounting for thousands of plays. His 1969 narration of the original "KHJ History of Rock and Roll" set the professional standard for all the rockumentaries that followed. I couldn't be archiving the history of popular music radio without recordings of Robert W. Morgan.
Ten years later. It seems like both yesterday and a million years ago, certainly not ten. My dad just missed out on the boom of the Internet age and modern celebrity worship with so many sites, dailies, weeklies, entertainment channels, new services, and celebrity goings on scrolling across the bottom of national news reports. Because of the national obsession with so many modern celebrities I am always amazed and touched when a Robert W. Morgan fan comes up to me and tells me how my dad affected their life and how they still continue to miss him, that there is no replacement for the hole he left in the industry. Recently I was at a dinner and was introduced to the table as "the daughter of Robert W. Morgan" (a onetime embarrassing connection, especially in high school, but now a cherished one). A man I had never met came up to me and said it was such an honor to meet me, just because Robert was my dad.
I continue to be impressed and amazed by the number of people across Los Angeles and the broadcasting world who still feel the void left by not having him in their lives, as we do by not having him in ours. Rest assured though, I am pretty sure (and Kevin Gershan and my mom can back me up on this) that I have bred my dad's reincarnation in my almost four-year-old son Jacob. A smart ass in the purest form, he already has a voice for radio as I often hear from random people on the street. I look forward to raising the next generation Morgan Man while I miss the original and irreplacable one who started it all.
One of my most vivid memories is the day Robert achieved his first #1 Arbitron rating at 93/KHJ. He walked into my office and announced, "I'm 26 years old, I've achieved my life's dream. What do I do now?" What he did was work hard at being the best morning personality he knew how to be, always maintaining a, "I'm only as good as my last show" mentality. And, he was lucky enough to have his efforts recognized by his peers at the "Retirement Party" hosted by K-EARTH 101 at the Museum of TV & Radio in Beverly Hills, a few short months before he died. He received accolades from some of his favorite people, both mentors and friends. He was very moved then, as he would be now, by the wonderful tributes sent in his memory on this anniversary.
Robert was a production junkie and would be thrilled that his greatest effort resulted in our lovely, quick-witted and compassionate daughter, Susanna. Ten years... I miss him, I miss having a "morning man" to listen to and I do hope there is truly a "rock 'n' roll heaven" that he can look down from and share the joy of Susanna and Darren's marriage and our two wonderful grandsons.
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