Pirate Radio goes on the air
in Los Angeles by "taking over" K-Lite 100 (KIQQ). Operating from an abandoned warehouse off Interstate 10, the transmitter is blowing 200,000 watts! Or, so that was the claim.
Scott Shannon and Shadow Steele launch the wild new station with none other than "Welcome to the Jungle", the Guns N' Roses tune that would become their anthem.
The Boomer Generation immediately begins flooding the switchboard, telling the operators that pirates have taken over the station and that they can't get their easy listening anymore!
Lending credibility to this "hoax" is the echo-ey on air sound of the DJs and repeated announcements that this station will play NO commercials! (Incredibly, not ONE was played the first two weeks! That first commercial went for a then record $2,000! Subsequent spots were $1,000-1,500. And they intentionally sold only one spot per hour.) (Click here for an article in Variety magazine-courtesy Brian Wilson.) They put down all the other Los Angeles stations, and invite listeners to call in and "flush" their former favorite station. Callers are heard flushing KLOS, KROQ, KRTH, Power 106, KIIS, KCAL, and tons more. Even the obligatory top of the hour call letter announcement is buried in audio fine print in an attempt to further the take over theme. The "pirates" begin to tell boomer listeners where they can tune their dial to find easy listening. (Mistakenly during one of these announcements, they identify KTWV The Wave as 97.7---it's actually 94.7).
On the second day of operation, the DJ's begin keeping track of days on the air, by saying "Day 2", "Day 3", etc. This goes on for over a year!
They take caller after caller, putting them on the air. Each one tells them how great the station is and says it's about time something like this hit the air! If they request a song, the Pirate plays it! These guys aren't blowing off their listeners like the other radio stations. They're talking to them like they're best buddies, playing whatever they want to hear, and having as much fun as their listeners are. This is radio at its finest!
On Day 2 (March 18, 1989), this site's creator learns of Pirate Radio for the first time. "My father came to my house in Lancaster that day to help me load the U-Haul truck to move to San Diego. He told me how some pirates had taken over K-Lite. He was obviously unhappy with the situation, and wanted me to figure out what was going on, and to tell the truth, I think he thought I could fix it! I tuned in and listened for a couple of hours while loading the U-Haul. I finally heard the quick station ID at the top of the hour and deduced that these pirates had legally taken over the station, and that K-Lite was now history.
My old man's former favorite station instantly became MY favorite station!"
A VERY big thank you to Jim Duncan and his son Jason Chandler for creating the KQLZ dot com sweeper now used on this site! Jim created the original "The Mothership Has Landed" sweeper
back in 1989 in the Westwood One Studios. He was given just 15 minutes to come up with something. He and his engineer whipped up that now legendary sweeper, and had another guy drive it to the Pirate Studio. He got it there just in time for airing!
According to Jason, "He got a call that morning and he just happened to be at Westwood One in Culver City, editing a show....He and his board/op, Jeff Park, came up with the idea of putting all of the Los Angeles stations at the beginning (the opening segment on March 17-ed) and my dad thought up the "mothership" phrase".
Shadow Steele told us this about it: "We came up with the idea
for the sweeper one day (I stole the basis of it from an old black jock in
Detroit from the 70s, mentioned it to Scott - and the proverbial light bulb
went off - we knew we had a winner and had to get it on the air
immediately.) The voice guys we were using were not based in LA, and
pre-internet you could not get voice tracks faster than 2-3 days - so we
asked the guy at Westwood One if he could do it, and voila!"