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KMET was a Los Angeles radio station originally owned by Metromedia (hence the "MET" in its call sign) that first took to the air in June 1968 at 94.7 MHz and signed off on February 14, 1987. The station, nicknamed "The Mighty Met", was a pioneering station of the "underground" progressive rock format.
As with many FM stations at the time, KMET featured an automated format in June 1968 (with female voices and middle-of-the-road music). The origin of KMET’s freeform rock music format came about due to events at a rival radio station. In 1967, popular Top 40 disc jockey Tom Donahue and his wife Raechel brought the FM underground rock sound to KMPX in San Francisco, and soon, along with legendary L.A. Top 40 personality B. Mitchel Reed, to KPPC-FM in Pasadena. Both stations quickly became popular with their innovative formats, and brought the owners more success than they ever encountered before. But it was to be short-lived. After conflicts with the stations’ owners, the Donahues, Reed and the rest of the KPPC and KMPX staff left both stations and went on strike. As prospects for resolving the strike looked hopeless (the owners had hired scabs to continue the rock programming), Tom Donahue looked elsewhere, and eventually convinced Metromedia to install KPPC’s format at KMET. They did likewise at KMET’s sister station, KSAN-FM in San Francisco. Many of the personalities at both stations eventually wound up at Metromedia.
The KPPC format was only mildly successful. After leaving KROQ AM/FM, Shadoe Stevens was hired by General Manager L.David Moorhead in 1974 to create something new and exciting for the struggling format KMET had put in place. With a staff that included B. Mitchell Reed, Stevens, Jimmy Rabbitt, Brother John, and ("The Burner") Mary Turner, Stevens introduced an irreverent, exciting new rock format that retained some of Donahue's progressive freedom but gave it energy, consistency, and a branded attitude filled with radio theater, featured programming, and high production values similar to those that had been integrated at KROQ. Stevens also designed a massive, hilarious futuristic billboard campaign called "Hollywood as seen from Mulholland Drive in the year 2525." It was the talk of Los Angeles.
Artist Neon Park did ads for KMET as well as the famous billboards. With this new programming design and branded marketing, in 1975 KMET became the number one radio station in Los Angeles and was on its way to being what would become one of the most influential rock stations in the country.
KMET's station identification jingle, "A Little Bit of Heaven, Ninety-Four Point Seven - KMET - Tweedle-Dee" was written by Shadoe Stevens as part of his new programming initiative and recorded live during an interview with the Pointer Sisters in 1975. It was later re-recorded by The Rainbow Choir—Sandy and Teresa Smith, Melissa Levesque, and Beth Underwood—performed live in the broadcast booth on the Jeff "The Gonzer" show. Sandy and Beth had rewritten the lyrics to Deep Elem Blues, renaming that traditional tune "Deep L.A. Blues," specifically for Jeff Gonzer's show. After the live performance, KMET asked the Rainbow Choir if they had any other "stuff." This request was unexpected, and several station IDs were quickly thought up on the spot, all of them recorded, but only one was ever used. This ID "jingle" came to be emblematic for KMET. The live recording was used for years, but was rerecorded in the late seventies or early eighties with session singers.
Stevens left in 1975 to begin a production company and the station went on to be programmed by Sam Belami. Sam, who had been hired from Billboard Magazine, had been Stevens' assistant for most of the time he programmed the station. She took the station to new and innovative heights that lasted into the mid-1980s, attaining a legendary status in Southern California.
At the time, the studios of KMET and its local AM counterpart, country-western KLAC, were located across the street from the famous La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Blvd. In Summer 1976, both stations moved to the then-Metromedia complex where KTTV Channel 11 was located.
KMET stood in direct contrast to other music stations of the era. Rather than the tight, high-energy Top 40 sound of popular AM stations such as KHJ, KMET and other progressive rock stations played more eclectic artists with much longer songs and more socially-conscious lyrics. The disc jockeys talked much less, and in a more personal, relaxed manner. They were also not afraid to voice their opinions on controversial topics, such as politics, the Vietnam War and civil rights, and most importantly, they chose the music that they played on the air. There was no playlist. Evident of this approach is longtime KMET late night host Jim Ladd (recently fired by onetime rival KLOS-FM), whose laid-back philosophical ruminations usually led into a song, from artists such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, The Doors or Led Zeppelin - that underscored his point.
KMET often mixed counterculture comedy skits by Firesign Theatre and The Credibility Gap with the music. The Credibility Gap broadcast satirical skits during Pasadena's Tournament do Roses Parade in the 1970s. Another KMET staple at the time was Dr. Demento, whose variety show began on KPPC-FM. The "Dr. Demento Show" moved to KMET-FM in 1972 and soon became the most listened-to Sunday evening radio program in Los Angeles. Following Dr. Demento on Sunday nights, Mike Harrison hosted a phone-in talk show called Harrison's Mike.
On July 7, 1978, KMET aired Bruce Springsteen's legendary concert live from the Roxy. Many songs from that broadcast were included on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's historic album Live/1975–85.
The adventurous KMET was a member of a fraternity of widely respected progressive rock stations that emerged across the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, along with KSAN, WNEW in New York, WBCN in Boston, WMMS in Cleveland, KQRS-FM in Minneapolis, and others.
The 1978 movie FM was reportedly loosely based on KMET, written by former employee Ezra Sacks. The lead character was based around Mike Herrington, the program director for much of the era preceding the film. Much of the history of the salad days of KMET is documented in Jim Ladd's book Radio Waves, where the station is referred to as Radio KAOS and many of the DJs are given pseudonyms.
The progressive format thrived on KMET throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s, at one time becoming one of the most successful FM stations in the country. But changing trends in music, culture and society, and the advent of strict formatting in radio eventually turned KMET into a relic of the past. The staff and management of KMET were unsure how to continue in the wake of these occurrences. Soon, the station was besieged by staff turnover, radio consultants, corporate meddling, tight playlists and an increasingly impersonal approach typical of the more mainstream album oriented rock format.
The station’s owners finally gave up, and KMET signed off on February 14, 1987 with The Beatles singing "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make" from "The End". KMET was immediately replaced with New Age KTWV "The Wave," much to the consternation of its fans, many of whom called it "the Valentine's Day Massacre". Today, like many other new age music stations, "The Wave" has evolved into a Smooth Jazz format and is presently owned by CBS Radio. The KMET call letters have been since reassigned to an AM Talk radio station, KMET in Banning, California.
On June 21, 2009 Los Angeles radio station The Sound 100.3 announced that on July 10, 2009 it would do a one-day revival of KMET complete with the original airchecks and many of the on-air staff from the station's heyday. The Sound had another KMET reunion from November 1-3, 2013.