Blast from Your Past Book 3 1970s Excerpt 1: William F. Williams

Excerpt from Blast from Your Past – Book 3 (2022 work in progress)
Rock & Roll Radio DJs: The Psychedelic Seventies

'Mornin’ Glory! You’re wakin’ up to BFYP-FM 84.8 on your Rock & Roll Radio dial! We’ve got some blazin’-hot groovy tunes ready to psych you out!

Into each life a little Fire and Rain ♪ must fall … don’t believe it all.


William F. Williams
Best known at KMEN/San Bernardino, California
and KPPC-FM/Los Angeles

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Rock & Roll music and disc jockeys blazed new radio trails in the concrete jungles. As they navigated new sounds, technology in the studio, and a new kind of hip audience, the airwaves heated up with excitement, confusion, and creativity all rolled up into one crazy fire ball.

Let’s catch you up to William F. Williams’ early jock career capriciously wandering through the ‘50s and ‘60s. He described learning new DJ techniques in small markets like KAFY/Bakersfield, California (1958), “You were a monkey on a hot rock, arms and legs flying,” he vividly recalls. They ran the turntable, mostly followed the format, and often running the engineering board, all while taking fan calls.

That type of frenetic action wore him out, so he skidded into KBIS (another Bakersfield gig) as a “rotation jock,” which made it difficult for fans to follow. Moving up to program director and forced to fire his friends, from day one, his attitude soured until he, too, was fired. Less than a year in that one.

Always landing on his feet, William’s trail took him to ill-fated KDAY/Los Angeles, California, December 1959. With the venerable Alan Freed, he waited for the station to receive FAA clearance for longer hours. So William began the 1960s hanging out in the glamorous Knickerbocker Hotel, getting paid to warm a bar stool. Who wouldn’t kill for that job?

Believe it or not, boredom set in, and KDAY’s general sales manager didn’t want to wait around anymore, so he took over KUDU/Ventura. “The minute he got the job,” William recalled, “he wanted me to be program director.” Also tired of holding up a bar stool, he readily accepted.

KUDU proved to be another short stint and he soon began seeking the next best radio gig. William put an end to the rambling 1950s once and for all, as he moved into the big leagues at KRLA/Los Angeles. He offered them a fresh FM style for their evolving, formerly staid format.

If you were brought up on SoCal Sixties Rock, you enjoyed the early careers of KRLA radio and TV heavy hitters, Bob Eubanks, Wink Martindale, Casey Kasem, Dick Biondi, Bobby Dale, and Gary Mack. Just a few notables of many. Alas, for William, KRLA didn’t last long either. They just weren’t quite ready for him.

Through the early to mid-Sixties, William traipsed through several Southern California stations, including KBLA, where he met Atlantic Record’s promotion guy, Doug Cox. That meeting set the stage for a later providential offer that would pull him out of radio hiatus and rope him back into the studio.

Back into radio? Yep … after a string of unmemorable, lackluster broadcasting gigs, William enjoyed the tickle of a different wanderlust … screenwriting and songwriting temporarily captured his attention and the station mic became a forgotten tool. 

He recalled the latter part of 1966: “I left radio to co-found Canopy Productions with my friend songwriter, Jimmy Webb. Out of that partnership came the title song of a screenplay I had written, ‘Up, Up, and Away’.” Sound familiar? It should. That song became the title song of the debut album by The 5th Dimension in 1967.

Wearing thin on writing after a couple years, he returned to his old Lake Arrowhead stomping grounds in the verdant San Bernardino Mountains, and laid low for a while. Call it early retirement. Until, Doug Cox called again.

December 1968: “… Doug is a very persuasive guy,” said William, “and I eventually surrendered to his ever-sweeter offer … and his massaging of my ego.”

Doug now ran the programs for KRLA and persuaded William to re-join him. Not an easy task. William pushed his limits with Doug, insisting he would not conform to a standard format. He tested Doug’s commitment to him, beginning January 1, 1969, at six a.m. He broadcast a promo that in those days would have given most PDs an apoplectic fit.

Hi. Do Sixty-nine with me, William F. Williams. On KRLA! Ring out the old and ring in the new. Sixty-nine every morning six-to-nine with William F. Williams on KRLA! 

True to form for most DJs, however, Williams soon split like a banana from KRLA and exiled himself again for a year or so, to pursue another passion or two. And then came the Psychedelic Seventies

Let’s Make a Deal

As we trip intrepidly into the early 1970s, William wanted nothing to do with radio. He happily commuted on his too-cool Harley (motorcycle of course) from artsy Lake Arrowhead to the Brooks Institute of Fine Arts in Santa Barbara. Pursuing a different passion, he focused heavily on the postproduction of a docu-film about land speed trials of “futuristic” electric cars.

In the meantime, his friend, Doug, worked his way up to general manager at KPPC, a freeform station in Santa Barbara. And he needed a dynamic DJ/PD. He turned to William, who was decidedly not interested.

But … “The freedom that Doug allowed me [while at KRLA] was precedent for me to again succumb to his entreaties and return to radio. Only this time, it took Doug much longer to prevail and my ‘freedom demands’ were broader. They were, in fact, ludicrous.”

William told Doug he hated what radio had become and he was “done” with radio. They often met for lunch or dinner, and Doug kept at him. Again, I couldn’t possibly improve on William’s visual rhetoric that tells of his return, despite all odds. So, in his own words …

“One evening after dinner, as he walked me out to my bike [a Harley, of course], he asked me what it would take to get me back on the air. I said, as I had on many other occasions, that there was nothing, and saddled up. Doug said, ‘Think about it. Did you do everything you wanted to do in radio? Is there anything you would like to do if you could? Just think about it and the next time you drop in let’s talk about it.’

“I roared off and never gave it another thought. I was through with radio. Not just because I hated what it had become, but also because I knew deep down that I was burned out on ‘being a jock,’ no matter what. Over the next few weeks, I stopped in occasionally at Doug’s. On every occasion, he brought up the radio thing. Each time I gave the same ‘no’ answer.

“Then one evening, quite stoned on some Big Purple Bud (not Doug … he didn’t do drugs), in response to his constant, never-ending question, ‘What would it take?’ I said, without thinking about it, and not even meaning it … just to shut him up I said, ‘I would have to be allowed to do anything I wanted to do.’ He said, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’

“He kept pushing and (I totally made this up as I went along) I said, ‘Okay’ and went on a ramble that went something like this: ‘I do morning drive and every morning when I come in I just do whatever I feel like that day … play music if I feel like it … whatever music I want … rock, jazz, country, classic, mix it up … whatever … maybe not even play music … if I feel like talking I just talk … about whatever is on my mind … maybe mix it up with music, maybe not … whatever … just do whatever the fuck I want … every day.’

“I knew how idiotic this was even as I was saying it and when I finished Doug said, ‘Okay. You got it.’”

Coup, Coup-kee-choo

To shake things up at the station, Doug planned a “bloodless coup” – he fired the entire on-air staff and hired Dick Moreland as PD. A perfect setup for William and his free-wheeling jock personality.

It kept William in the L.A. area and with KPPC-FM, or as he soon named it, “The PP” enjoying a couple years of fame before succumbing to poor management and fiscal issues, late 1972. As an aside for station call letters, KPPC stood for K-Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Reverence meets irreverent!

But, oh, what a couple of years …

Before beginning the KPPC gig, William was content in his mountain hideaway, with his radio listening time between 1969 and 1971 pretty much zippo. Nada. “I had no idea that up in San Francisco some guy named Tom Donohue had created some kind of new album-oriented ‘music format’ on FM radio. FM? What was that?”
[Image: c. 1972; Tom & Raechel stirred up KSAN’s music pot …BFYP Collection.]

Prepping for KPPC, he figured he should probably check out the new happenings before he stepped into the studio. William headed over to Dick Moreland’s pad, a longtime friend from the Don Martin School of Broadcasting and KPPC’s new PD. “I had never heard, or even heard of, ninety percent of the artists [sister station] KMET-FM was playing.”

For his first KPPC morning on-air, Dick brought William a box of LPs to play. It was soon evident his listeners were less than enthusiastic about the music and him. As with most fans, they groused the first few days about someone replacing their favorite DJ. But these folks were mean.

He began playing some of the more creative “you suck” calls on-air. “There were a lot of them,” said William. “After a couple of ‘I’m going to start listening to KMET’ comments I said something like, ‘Go ahead. Play with big time KMET’s corporate meat, or play with your own PP. KPPC-FM, YOUR radio station. Independent and unpredictable!’”

Apparently, he just needed to wax irreverent to get their attention. The “cool” comments came in slowly but surely. “And,” said William, “this brings us to that ‘magic moment.’

“I had never heard of Cheech and Chong, but a few weeks into my run I found their self-titled album in the stacks and decided to check out their ‘head’ humor.” William chose a track at random that lit up the airwaves with their 1971 bit many of us identified with, “Acapulco Gold Filters.”*

William slapped the record on the turntable about 7:15 a.m. The doobie duo noisily sucked on a stick of new Mary Jane. “Man! This is some powerful motherf*cking weed!”* Yep. On-air. True to his hiring edict, William is testing Doug’s promise to give him his head … he thought he might get it on a platter at this point.

With nothing to lose when he opened his mic, “’You may think you just heard the word “motherf*cker” on the William F. Williams show, but I assure you, you did not hear the word “motherf*cker” on the William F. Williams show, and you will never hear the word “motherf*cker” on the William F. Williams show.’ And, for no particular reason, I then played Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas.’ It was not the season.”

*Obviously, the bit by Cheech and Chong aired a certain word in its entirety. Because I hope young adults, older teens, and those who don’t curse will read this book, I thinly disguised it. William, however, in his quest for outrageousness and “… the freedom that came from not caring if I got fired …” listened to the uncensored record and laughed throughout, as did most of his radio fans.

The key word above is “most.” One mother, not happy about her ten-year-old daughter hearing one of broadcasting’s seven verboten words on-air, wrote to Doug, demanding he fire William.

William, still in his devil-may-care attitude with an apologetic twinge, read the woman’s letter on his next show and followed it with a phone call in which he apologized to both mother and daughter. His charm won out and they forgave him.

Doug needed to rebuke his unorthodox, but very popular DJ; he did not fire him as the FCC strongly suggested, but suspended him—in a week-long hiatus—to Hawaii. Did William learn his lesson in a grass skirt? (Pardon the pun!) Oh, no, he didn’t stop there …

Returning from the enchanted islands of palm trees and hula dancers, William wondered what penance he would pay at KPPC. Contrition and orders to behave? Hardly.

He recalled with a chuckle, their program director told Doug he wanted to quit radio, “... sit home, drop acid, and listen to music.” William accepted Doug’s offer of a promotion to PD. Oh, that we could all be rewarded for our impudence! 

Said William, “Doug, more than anyone I’ve known since, managed to be like a colorful kite [through all his escapades]: darting here and there on the wind, but always grounded. And, truly, I have no idea why he continued to tolerate my antics and my attitude.

Naked is as naked does  

Open your mind, recall the brashness of youth, coupled with changing mores … much like the 2000s era. Remember, Doug said William could do “anything.” If you want to know just how far William would go, keep reading …

This is one of those “I kid you not,” moments in relating my Rock Radio DJ stories. Some of this stuff—especially William’s—I couldn’t make up if I tried.

He tugged at his memories and began …

“The cast of ‘The Dirtiest Show in Town’ [in which they appear nude on stage] came in for an interview. That day I started my show [tongue-in-cheek] by warning my listeners not to let their young children watch the radio because I would be doing my entire show in the nude. I then played David Rose’s “The Stripper” [remember the instrumental bump-and-grind?] and then proceeded to do an audio strip tease, describing over the music, each piece of clothing as I ‘took it off, took it all off!’”

I’ll give you a moment, readers, as you let that scene sink in … do you think everyone got the satirical “watch the radio” comment?

“As for the show cast, I greeted them wearing only a bandana on my head, and my best smile. They were not amused. They obviously hadn’t been listening [to his show] because all during my show I had been talking about my nude cast and promoting their interview.
[Image: c. 1972; compliments of William, fully clothed w/trademark bandana.]

“As I recall, four cast members showed up—two girls and two dudes—and I was shocked that they were shocked that I was naked. I had really expected that they would get into the theater of it all and get naked with me. But they were really, and I mean really, put off by the whole thing.

“I tried to keep it light but they were so uptight I finally just started mocking them, gently, by asking if the nudity in their show was meant to actually be salacious or was it (and here I got mock artsy-fartsy) a metaphor for society’s prudishness, such as they themselves were now exhibiting.

“I’m afraid the irony was lost on them. My own third act was when I had Mike Haggler, our news director, enter on a pre-arranged cue and hand me a ‘bulletin’ that I had to broadcast, thus ending the interview. And oh, by the way, Mike was totally nude.

“With a completely straight face I introduced him as our news director, and with an equally straight face, as if nothing was out of the ordinary, Mike shook hands with each of them (they shook hands with him as if he might have cooties) and Mike exited. End of interview. And no, unfortunately, no one in the studio took pictures.”

Believe it or not, he escaped the firing squad again! Doug, then General Manager, was his biggest fan. And Hair shed its locks to bareness as the #1 Broadway hit in 1968, while streaking hit its stride in 1973, so getting naked in public was no big deal. William was just ahead of his time for radio.

From calling their advertiser, Chevy Vega, “a little shit-can” (yes, on-air), to seeing Christina Applegate naked, as a baby—the diaper-wearing kind—to asking B.B. King if a prison band called The Killers (uh-huh) could open for his concert (he said yes), William offered up dozens of printable and unprintable stories.

He left broadcasting after KPPC. Is it any wonder? Radio just didn’t understand him.

LR Note: William’s story is longer than most BFYP DJs’ tales because he personified so much of the changing radio and social mores of the era, and believe me, this anthology is not big enough to include even a fraction of his hilarious antics.

‘80s and Beyond: William’s life after the Golden Age of Rock & Roll Radio included acting and screenwriting, and enjoying his mountain home. Unfortunately for us, he laughed his way to DJ Heaven December 27, 2019. Hopefully, he left his memoirs for us mere mortals to enjoy.
[Image: c. 2008 compliments of William.]






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