History in the Making
by Bill Mouzis
February 21, 2004 -- It was 35 YEARS AGO TODAY, over the George Washington Birthday holiday weekend, that 93 KHJ Boss Radio aired the nationally acclaimed 48-hour KHJ History of Rock & Roll. In 2002, LARP (Los Angeles Radio People) voted it the Best Radio Rock 'n' Roll Special ever produced.
It has long been suspected that the History evolved from a sales film that promotions assistant Ellen Pelissero, Robert W. Morgan and I put together for Los Angeles area ad agencies in 1967. This was an 18-minute mini-history of rock and roll music, and an understanding of KHJ's Top 40 format; its audience's burgeoning economic power, and KHJ's adeptness in capturing the imaginations of advertising Holy Grail - the 18-34 demographic. Some say the show was spawned on a napkin next door at Nickodell's restaurant by Bill Drake and Ron Jacobs, but I feel certain the idea came from this film.
As the KHJ production engineer responsible for the mixing and assembly of the Special, I began the pre-production process in December of 1968. There were a lot of interviews to be taped, musical montages assembled, the editing of special material and the researching and writing of a script. Program director Ron Jacobs, a genius without a doubt, would produce it, LA Times music writer Pete Johnson would write it, Ellen Pelissero and Sandy Gibson would assist, and Robert W. Morgan would be the narrator.
We started taping the show in early January 1969, a mere seven weeks before the scheduled airdate. To say that we viewed this as an almost impossible task in meeting our deadline would be the understatement of the times.
Morgan would get off the air at 9 a.m., sit down in the production announce booth and sip on a bowl of clam chowder from Nickodell's restaurant next door. I had already prepped the studio and prepared all of the elements for the day's taping. Some days Jacobs and Johnson were still editing the script as we were taping. There were also days Morgan would not get out of the production studio until 3 p.m., and then have to get up the next morning at 3 a.m. to prepare for his daily 6 a.m. show. Even at that, he was superb. He simply didn't lay down voice trax as you might expect and leave - it was done as though we were live on the air.
Jacobs drove everyone hard, but through literally all of the ups and downs one can possibly imagine, we finished the taping at 10 a.m. on Friday, February 21, 1969, two hours before airtime. It ended with what was considered to be the best record for the History of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, A Day in the Life by the Beatles. Many months of research, taped interviews and elaborate audio production culminated in this milestone presentation, which traced the development of modern music from its beginnings in rhythm-and-blues, country music and jazz to the most modern pop and underground sounds of the times. Without a doubt Ron Jacobs was a master in achieving the perfect balance of documentary fact and entertainment values in producing this milestone blockbuster.
For the first time ever, 93 KHJ suspended its normal programming to bring this historically unique and entertaining presentation to Southern California, the nation and the world. Complete 48-hour taped recordings of the special were requested and sent to the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, and the College Library at UCLA. This to me was the most challenging and defining moment of my 45 years in broadcasting - it was also the most gratifying. My heartfelt thanks go out to others on the KHJ engineering staff, especially Dexter Young, Ken Orchard and Jon Badeaux, who helped meet our deadline by joining in to help with the interviews and special material.
As my countryman Aristotle said over 2000 years ago "excellence is not a singular act, but a habit.” Today, he could have been describing the tenure of Ron Jacobs as KHJ program director from 1965-1969. To Robert W. Morgan, I say on this 35th anniversary of the original KHJ History of Rock & Roll – “sleep well dear friend - you will always be remembered." - Bill