In the world of top 40 music radio, a moment of silence amounts to less than five seconds. That's how long oldies radio KRTH 101.1 paused in the middle of the Memorial Day Weekend Top their former morning man, Robert W. Morgan. He died the night before with friends and family at his bedside at the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center following a year and a half battle with lung cancer. He was 60.
  After the momentary pause - it seems like an hour in top 40 time - KRTH newswoman Joni Caryl's recorded voice came on over a soft music bed. She sadly recounted the events leading up to his death and his satisfaction in witnessing his daughter's graduation from Smith College only days before taking his last breath. It was a dream come true for him, she said.
On KNX 1070 AM, the CBS hourly news played snippets of his work on KHJ-AM and KRTH as it reported his passing for a national audience, most of whom never heard any of his shows except through a smattering of nationally-syndicated programs and TV.
  Although his death was expected - his health had deteriorated dramatically in the last few weeks - the announcement was a startling one. It was one more nail in the coffin of the '60s, one more step toward that troubled decade's oblivion. Drugs destroyed some of the brightest lights of that era. A lifelong two-pack-a-day cigarette habit appears to have cut short Robert W.'s life.
For millions of radio listeners, he provided fun music and daily comic relief. On KHJ, K-100, KMPC, Magic 106 and KRTH, he was a convincing and consistent human presence amid a roar of confusion and change, especially in the late-'60s and early '70s. With riots and upheaval at home and a war abroad that seemed to be a warm-up for dropping the big one, Morgan had the answers, a morning benediction, marching orders for the day. His attitude suggested that it was OK to be a little nuts It was a mad, mad world.
  In his last years at KRTH, the wear and tear of life at the top began to show. An angrier Morgan emerged, one who used his greater time allowance between the songs to flaunt some reactionary political views. One of the hippest guys in radio had pulled back the curtain to reveal a harsher man behind the mike. Many entertainers make it a point never to show much of themselves. They transmit their essence through their art, which, because of their talent, magnifies their personality even as it distorts it. Morgan was bigger when he was more of a radio artist. He didn't fit into the confessional "real radio" style exemplified by Howard Stern. Morgan needed the big show, which KRTH provided for him. After all, through most of Morgan's KRTH career, "boss radio" guru Bill Drake served as consultant. Still, the strain of creating a perfectly executed music program with all the technical hassles involved while trying to keep up with the freewheeling chatterbox style of his competitors seemed to take its toll on him. Reputed to be "difficult," he went through many producers.
  But Robert W. Morgan will be remembered because people loved him. He was cool, and he cared; and he was a huge part of radio magic now gone forever.

Back To Magazine