Goodbye Beatles, hello Dolly.
Happy days are here again, or so it seems on KGIL-AM 1260, which last month switched its format from all Beatles music to show tunes.
From the Hollywood musical "Singin' in the Rain" to the hot new Broadway show "Rent," popular musicals now make up KGIL's programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week making it the only radio station in the country to play just show tunes, according to Saul Levine, owner of station parent Mt. Wilson Broadcasters and KGIL's station manager.
If listening to those nostalgic tunes doesn't stir up memories of the past, the voices of the on-air talent likely will. They include Radio Hall of Famer and former "Laugh-In" emcee Gary Owens, Florence Henderson (best known as a lovable TV mom from "The Brady Bunch"), and Rose Parade announcer Stephanie Edwards (also known as the TV and radio spokeswoman for Lucky supermarkets).
"I had been listening to those wonderful weeks and months of Beatles, and my husband and I were reliving our past. We realized it was going away eventually, so the day I heard the new format my jaw dropped," said Edwards. "Before I lost my courage, I wrote in and I said, 'I'll clean your bathrooms, I'll do anything, just let me be a part of this.' ... Our excitement level is huge."
KGIL's unusual format switch is a somewhat risky move for the station, with ad executives predicting it will only attract an older audience that advertisers are not anxious to reach. But for a station with only about 200,000 listeners a week too small to be rated by the Arbitron Co. experimentation isn't quite so dangerous.
It's too soon to tell whether the new format has attracted or repelled listeners, but Levine's goal is to more than double KGIL's prior figure. He thinks the format will eventually attract about 500,000 listeners a week.
In 1993, Los Angeles-based Mt. Wilson Broadcasters, which also owns classical music station KKGO-FM 105.1, purchased KGIL for $2.5 million. Shortly after, Levine says, he was inspired to switch from KGIL's adult-standard format (vocalists like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett) to show tunes because of the strong response to KKGO's "Music On My Mind," a one-hour program that features Broadway tunes and musical scores.
"There was a great deal of enthusiasm generated," said Levine. "We knew there was a gap in the market. We found that it worked."
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