Sunday, August 19, 2007

When I Was A Kid Old People Didn't Get It

I remember that day that Elvis died, Tuesday, August 16th, 1977. I was 12, almost 13 and dreaming of a career in radio when I grew up. I had become a fan of a talkradio program that aired then on the Cal State Northridge radio station, KCSN. The current format of the public radio station owned by the University is "arts and roots radio," but back in 77 it was more of an eclectic mix of talk and music more akin to KCRW.

I was more than thrilled on that Tuesday afternoon that a then talk host on the station had invited me to visit the studio after I had called his about a half dozen times. I was sitting in the control room when the engineer received a phone call. He hung up the phone and announced to us, "Elvis Presley just died."

A call was placed to the station manager as to whether or not the current broadcast should be interrupted to announce the King's death. The response back was "Our listeners would not be interested in a rock and roll singer. We can wait until the news at the top of the hour."

Every other television and radio station in Los Angeles broke into programming to carry the news of the passing of Elvis.

Another example of the difference in the older generation when I was a kid compared to now is a similar but different experience I had at the assassination of John Lennon in 1980. At that point I was a junior at San Fernando High School. I had asked the school principal if the school would fly the flag at half staff in honor of Lennon. The principal declined, telling me "Michael, Jack (sic) Lennon was not a very savory individual. I don't think it would be appropriate to lower our flag in his honor."

This is the same San Fernando High School that refused to place a photo of alum, rocker Ritchie Valens on their wall of fame in the school office. Why? I was told because he had never actually graduated (of course he died at 17). It took almost another generation and a hit movie about the singer (some of which was filmed at the school) to get Ritchie's picture up on the wall as well as his name on a park in his hometown of Pacoima.

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