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AIRCHECK, The Story of Top 40 Radio in San Diego

What Readers are saying about Aircheck.

Dave Leonard is the best at knowing the history of this market better than most. He even "corrects" me when past memories fail in accuracy. You can't speculate when Dave's around.


                               Gary Allyn (KCBQ and KDEO)

I cannot tell you how mesmerized I was with the book after my wife gave it to me for Christmas. MEMORIES! I heard just about all of the people listed, even though I didn't arrive in San Diego until 1969. I'd been listening to those stations back into the 50's, so they, plus KOGO and KFMB were very familiar. Shotgun Tom's CD was just great, and it may be the first of my CD's to wear out from repeated play.


I went back and read the comments by the readers on your site, and found some familiar names there. Gary Allyn mentioned the great Q newscasters. None was better than Reid Carroll. I used airchecks of Reid when he was at KFMB as samples for my students at Palomar College, and I was pleased to talk with him many times. When I was briefly at Helix High in La Mesa I placed some "intern" types at KCBQ with Reid, and he was a big inspiration. One grew up to be a Senior Producer at Channel 7 in San Francisco and last I heard from him he was a TV News Director in Charlotte, NC. Again, many thanks for the memories. You did a great job with the book. 


                               Russ Jackson, Palomar College Radio-TV/KKSM (retired)



I couldn't resist starting to read the book, and I can't put it down. So far I can say you did a marvelous job of tracking the history from the beginning of both KCBQ and KGB. Thank you for preserving radio history by writing such an interesting book. (1st Message)........I wanted you to know I finally got the chance to read Aircheck. You did a thorough and extremely interesting job of covering a story that went on for decades. I am certain it was a daunting task for you to research and write. I don't know how you did it. As we know, the radio name game can be humorous. You did a terrific job of tracking down and tracing the personalities and their multiple names (an in some cases multiple personalities working under the same name). Each day it was a pleasure to know that at the end of the day I would settle down and enjoy your book in the evening. I wish to thank you for doing a marvelous job of preserving a decades-long facet of San Diego radio history for generations to come. You and your fine work will be long remembered.


                                                       Stan Kelton (formerly KJLH, Long Beach)



Great Book! Some time back, I purchased your San Diego encyclopedia of radio personalities....fantastic presentation and in-depth bios on many people I grew up with listening to KCBQ and KDEO.


                                                               John Hart



It (the book) arrived Tuesday. Very impressive. Excellent work, a fine companion to "LA Radio People." I appreciate all the effort and research that went into the book. Every market should have this kind if permanent record of local radio.


                                                                 John Mehno



Regrettably, I purchased Mr. Leonard's "Aircheck" book. As a Broadcast Historian myself, I focus mainly on the New England area. Thus, I thought I could just breeze through this book, as San Diego stations are not my main interest. Unfortunately, the utter degree of detail and care Mr. Leonard poured into his book disabled me from closing the book on time, forcing me to lose valuable time in my day I could have devoted to other projects...time I cannot recover.


Before I call my attorney asking him to sue Mr. Leonard for time lost, I suggest the author add a forewarning to the book advising that it may be virtually impossible to put down, and that it also may be construed as a blueprint of the highest quality for other Broadcast Historians.


                                     Rev. Sheldon Swartz, wrko.org and top40surveys.com



I just read your book and all I can say is WOWEE!

KCBQ was one of the most memorable places to work...good memories as well as some bad, but that is what life is all about...and in the end we mostly remember the GOOD...and in this case GREAT!


                                                              Linda Fox (Kamen) (KCBQ 1976-1979)



Aircheck was a great read! WKRP in Cincy had nothing on KCBQ of '65-'68. KGB had little to worry about with Lee and Phyllis in charge. George Wilson doesn't win any kudos for his incompetence either with his firing of Mike Scott and Lee Simms. I wasn't aware that Gary Allyn wrestled back the #1 ranking in the Fall of 70 only to be pinked slipped by Wilson and replaced by the colorful but over rated Buzz Bennett.


KGB's ownership and management I believe are accurately portrayed. Willett Brown was a class act, and gave programming the tools they needed to win....The biggest surprise was perhaps the level of talent of KDEO, a significant number of their jocks were later to be heard everywhere from WABC, WLS, KFWB, and KRLA. 


                                                                 Kevin Barrett



I just completed your book. A great job I must say. It sure gives one some insight to the Top 40 world of San Diego. I thought you did a real great job of blending the station's history and happenings in with the DJ bio's you presented in the style of the LA Radio book. All the pictures, including the various chart styles, was great. Too bad they could not have been bigger. But it is great you have them, as charts seem to get overlooked in many radio books.


                                                             Charles J. Brown


I...receive(ed) the book...Good job-read most of it so far...Some minor items if you ever do a second edition...KCBQ 1978-Ted Brown was Production Director/ weekends for all or part of the year, going to KMJC in 1979 (same job there I believe). Oz Nelson was a KCBQ weekender in 1979...Danuta was a KCBQ fulltimer in 1979 (they were AC in 1979 rather than still Top 40...).


Magic 91 was Top 40 in 1977-79 rather than  Aduly Contemp...I have airchecks of Ted Brown, Kevin O'Day, Mike McGregor, Pat Michaels, Chris Collins, Peter Good, Chuck Littlefield, Terry Gibb (Jeff Salgo) and John McKay at Magic 91 from 1979....by early 1980, they shifted to Oldies to compete with KBZT in that format...The oldies format was between Top 40 and the shift to Chrsitain...Jaff Salgo was the PD after Roger W. Morgan; not sure if he instituted the Oldies format or not...


                                                                       George Junak

                                                                       California Aircheck



The book was a big hit...I ended up giving each of my AE's a copy...they loved it. One rep has been selling KGB for over 30 years and knew many of the people in the book. My old GSM, up in Riverside at KFROG was married, years ago, to Bill Wade on KGB, so I sent her a copy. SHE LOVED IT. The staff has decided to buy books and send them out for Christmas gifts this year to the bigger clients on the station. I'm getting a list together, could be 30-50 books. Do you or will you have that many on hand? It is really a great book and I'm glad you had the energy and time to put it together...


                                      Cory Cuddeback, General Sales Manager,

                                      Clear Channel Communications of San Diego 



Gabriel Wisdom turned me on to Aircheck, The Story of Top 40 Radio in San Diego and sent me the copy that you had inscribed for me. Thank you for the nice message. I found reading your publication to be very intriguing and full of warm memories. (1st Message).................Your publication was very well researched and I had difficulty in finding any discrepancy, however minor. You did a great job. It was a wonderful salute to San Diego radio and all who made it what it was during those wonderful years. (2nd Message)


                                                           Mike Brown, Brown Broadcasting

                                                           (Owners of KGB Radio 1961-1979)


I just wanted to say that I love, love, love your book. I have a hard time putting it down. I grew up listening to SD Top 40 and have most of the on air line ups/formats during the 70's & 80's memorized. I was very impressed with your accuracy as it was not easy, I'm sure, to research that period. I remember how tiring the mighty 690 was with their 10 song playlist in the early 80's. I also remember hearing Tony Maddox on 13K in 1981, he sounded great. Just out of curiosity, why did you leave B-100 out of your book? Once again, Congratulations on a fabulous book.


                                                                 Tim Hemphill


"Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!" David Leonard has a solid gold, be-bop-a-lulu-love-you-baby hit. A Top 40 Smash hit! A home run? I rate it a triple.


Why? Triples are more exciting than home runs. Leonard has captured the excitement of Top 40 Radio in mid-century San Diego when the Padres played at Lane Field and Westgate Park. Let's not forget recreated games on the radio with Al Schuss. "And there it goes..."


Many times I have fallen asleep reading old newspapers on microfilm while doing research for my baseball books at the San Diego Historical Society. My friend, Donna Van Ert, manager of the Historical Society gift shop, suggested a new book, "Aircheck," because I would appreciate the extensive research done by author, David Leonard. Since I enjoyed listening to rock' n roll spun by KCBQ, XEAK, and KDEO disc jockeys back in the mid-Fifties and early Sixties, I bought the book.


"Aircheck" is much, much more than a nostalgic trip down "Primrose Lane," but I was also hoping for a visit to "The Tijuana Jail." It's my understanding that the DJs on the Mighty 690 were not allowed to play this song which was written about an actual raid on the gambling casino at the Rosarita Beach Hotel. The Gringos without "Mordida" went to jail. Maybe they didn't play the song on XEAK because the Kingston Trio was a folk group. If you know the answer, "Just send my mail to the Tijuana Jail."


                           Bill Swank (Author of Baseball in San Diego: From the Padres to Petco, Echos of Lane Field: A History of the San Diego Padres, and more)


Just a belated note to let you know the book arrived a week ago last Wednesday. What a great job you did! Of note ot me was the coverage of Mr. (Charlie) Van Dyke. I was listening to an aircheck of him on KHJ the other day, and his voice mechanics are as close to perfect as any human can get. Charlie makes it all sound so effortless.


This guy Lee 'Babi' Simms...I need to get an aircheck of him, there are some on the internet. I've often thought finance companies were pirates too!


                                                            David Gilstorf


I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your very informative book about San Diego radio. It seems you covered just about everyone whoever graced the market. Great job!!


By the way, while I was at the "Q" I was working weekends at KFI. So, I didn't leave KCBQ until Rook gave me the afternoon shift at the "Big 64." (May 18, 2004)


                                                           Bob Shannon


I've read "AIRCHECK", and you should be proud of the time & effort you put in. I learned a few stories not heard before...particularly about P(hyllis). Sandin. When you look at your work from afar, stepping back from then to now...one is taken with the number of souls, living entities, that this business touched in one small space & time called: San Diego-1950's-80's. You have captured this quite well, I think. 


The only "errors"(if you can call them that) as it regards me, are mentions of me getting my start in The U.S. Army. I had seven years in Radio when I was drafted at 25 years of age...I had already worked at (four stations). I had also formed my own Record Company  LYN records..LYN being last 3 letters of ALLYN. Also, I never worked weekends in San Antonio..always a full shift... These are small things that don't necessarily reflect on San Diego's radio history...but I wanted you to know for accuracies sake. I came to San Diego in June of 1965 with Stan Richards from KIMN in Denver. Stan and I traveled as a programming & music Director "Team"..We (had worked at … KONO,…WCPO in Cincinnati…(and) KIMN. I had 10 years in the biz before coming to KCBQ. Mike Scott(Belile) worked weekends for me at KONO in 1967 while he was in the AIr Force at San Antonio...we were old buddies.


As to other observations:  Your comments about Buzz Bennett being the first to use call letters first when coming out of music is a bit off… It was just that he brought back an old Top 40 fundamental. Call letters, time, Call letters, call letters, call letters. Then, dial position, dial position, dial position...Our view, then, was that the listener (and the rating services) needed to hear both our name & address to get a complete point in the ratings. Buzz can be credited with

starting the use of Fusion logos such as Y-100, 13Q, B-100, etc… Buzz was best at Psyching UP his staff, while trying to Psyche-OUT his competition. I just never paid any attention to this stuff. Buzz told me once, that I was the most difficult PD he programmed against because I never reacted to him… That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.


One more thing I thought you might have dwelled on a little more, were the News people in S.D.Radio. You mention and list some, but news played a big part in Top 40 Radio's "sound". Pat Michaels was good, J. Paul, & Paul Oscar A. were mentioned, but there were many more. Richard Mock, Jim Buckalew, Reid Carroll, Wade Douglas Jim Marshall, John Demott, to recall a few. These guys were true newsmen, and entertaining  personalities as well.


Over all, Dave, you did outstanding work. You can tell it was a labor of love. The fact that I was a small part in inspiring this painstaking work of yours, I feel my Radio trip was well worth the time it took. Thank you for all the kind mentions in AIRCHECK...you wonder though...how many other stories are out there...still untold?


                                               Gare Allyn (KCBQ 1965-1966,1968-1971)


It's Don Sainte-Johnn (formerly of KFRC) with congrats on your Aircheck publication. My best pal Bobby Ocean turned me on to the book. Way-cool! I am amazed at the number of great on-air talents who once worked in San Diego, including yours truly (Lord Wylbers at XEGM Rock 95, 6-9 PM, Summer 1968, 4550 Logan Avenue with "open" window viewing). It's amazing that I've worked with such alum as Dean Goss, Chuck Geiger, Gerry Cagle, Bobby Ocean, Shotgun, Beau Weaver, The Chucker, etc.

                                                                      Don Sainte-Johnn

Got the books today and have thoroughly enjoyed what I have read. You got everything about me exactly right. I can't believe how many of the guys in there I knew. I'm dazzled by the amount of work that you put into this treasure. Again, thanks for a job well done.

                             Chuck 'Huckleberry' Clemens (KCBQ 1966-67, KGB 1974) 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I got your book this afternoon in the mail, and it was everything and more! What a great trip through memory lane! Congratulations on a very professional job well done! Thank you for the autograph also. I have to admit, I never expected anything like this. I just do not know how to thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this book. I truly wish you could have been with us in the 70's when it was all happening. But it is almost like you WERE there. Your picture even looks familiar, although I know we have never met. But you are a kindred spirit, and thank you again for A JOB WELL DONE! (

                                           David "Snake" London (KCBQ 1972)

I really enjoyed your book. I have a fairly good knowledge of Los Angeles radio history, so it was interesting reading about San Diego.

I wish there was someone like you who would do a similar book for all the important markets. I have been wanting to do something similar for Memphis for over 20 years, but I just can't find the time to devote to such a project

                                                                         Brian Craig 

I couldn't put this book down once it arrived in the mail today. Great research! A wonderful read!!! Thanks for taking the time to put all this together.

                                                                  Mike Haile

Thank you for sending my copy of Aircheck so promptly. It has absorbed my entire day! You've done a fantastic job on it. Just for giggles, I thought you might enjoy these tidbits: "Jesse Bullet" (page 65) was General Manager of KRLT (FM) and KOWL (AM) here at Lake Tahoe working for owner "Dex Allen" (page 27)--small world! Richard retired to Desert Center ner Palm Springs when Dex (Commonwealth Communications) sold the stations last December. We're still in touch.

I wanted so badly to become a deejay! I watched Ernie Meyers, Frank Thompson, and Bob Donnelly {at the 690 recording bungalow behind the Mission Valley Inn}. Bob Donnelly ("Ted Lake" page 92) of Mighty 690 became program director at KXRX in San Jose in the 1960s and then became anchor of all-news KCBS 740 San Francisco in the 1970s.

I've just retired after 45 years of deejaying and engineering. Your book is a treasure chest of memories, including the surveys and coverage maps. I'm a nostalgia nut, I guess. Thanks again!

                                                                Bob Kingman

Excellent job on Aircheck which, rather than reading from cover to cover, I've chosen to graze. More fun that way. I either open a page at random or I flip through the index until I see a name that interests me. Either way, I'm finding fascinating nuggets on nearly every page. One tiny f'rinstance: Whenever I mentioned to people that Sam Riddle once worked at KDEO, they've refused to believe it. He was there such a very short time that it's been forgotten.  But I vividly remember hearing him when I was in High School. The only thing you left out was that as I recall, he used the name Rocky Riddle on KDEO. But the point is - you had it! That would have been an easy one to miss. On the same page I discover that 'Coffee' Jim Dandy became KRLA's beloved Jim Washburne! I had never made that connection and I was in the biz!........Fascinating. Lot's of other stuff like that along with things and people I already knew about but found it a pleasure to revisit.

                                                      Neil Ross (KCBQ 1969-1971)

You brought us all together again, after all these years. I cannot begin to express my gratitude. Although I have been out of the radio biz for years, the friends and adventures have never been far from my mind. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to stay in touch with some of them. Thanks again for all the time and work you expended on us "old radio farts", and my order will be in the mailbox shortly.

                         David Cockrell "Dave 'The Snake' London" (KCBQ 1972)

Got the book. More than I expected. Good reading. I can see it took a lot of work to find all these people. Too bad that radio chews up so many talented people in the industry! Charlie Van Dyke was my favorite PD to work with.

                                                   Dick Eller "Don Dale" (KGB 1969-1971)

I'm enjoying the book. You might look into a show you don't have listed, and I can't recall the name exactly, I think it was Chuck Courtney overnight on the Mighty 690 playing a jazz show. I listened and that's where I first got interested in jazz.

We listened to the four days of "boompity bomp" - you can't imagine how disappointed all of us high schoolers were when, after the replay of some 1950s World Series game from McLendon's (the Old Scotsman) defunct Liberty Broadcasting System, we heard the first broadcast of "XTRA News 690" over Los Angeles. 

                                                                Richard Martin

AIRCHECK is a grand slam and a knockout winner! Your book, David, is BOSS!

                  Bill Earl (Author of Dream-House and When Radio Was Boss)

The book came today! It was GREAT!!!! You did an amazingly complete job, I really appreciate it. Your info on XEAK was especially interesting, it was my favorite station when I was a kid, largely because I spent a summer on a farm in No. California and it boomed in there every night. Thank you for doing the book, thanks for sending it, and good luck in all things. 

                                                                 Bob McWilliams

Kudos, kudos. I just loved your book! It was illustrating, fun to read about all of the personalities and the history, memorabilia, and coverage maps that are featured in Aircheck. A walk down memory lane for certain. It was sort of like going back to the KCBQ 25th Anniversary Reunion! A must for all that are mentioned in the book or for people who are big radio, boss radio fans. Great idea to put this compilation together. Gracias David.

                                                               Lupita Ramirez

Your book, "Aircheck", arrived in yesterday's mail. Fascinating. What really amazes me is the amount of work you put into it. Gathering all the information was a formidable chore but assembling it in chronological order? A huge effort. Well done. Congratulations!

                                   Harry Birrell aka "Jerry Walker" ( KCBQ 1958-1965)

See links to the best web sites about San Diego radio on the 'Stores' Page.