NEWS ANALYSIS BY SANDY WELLS
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
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
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.