Monday, January 4, 2010

"Everything I've ever told you has been a lie, including that"

"Including what?"
"That everything I've ever told you has been a lie. That's not true."

A young Orson Welles got a theatre job in Ireland by saying he was a big Broadway star. He wasn't. Peter Sellers called up a BBC producer pretending to be, not one, but two, comic actors praising the talents of a young comedian they had seen named Peter Sellers. I got my first radio job pretending I was English. I wasn't. The year was 1968. The station was KTBT FM in Garden Grove, CA. And I felt that the world needed a program that played all those really cool British songs that only appeared on the imports--not on the American releases. Beatles, Kinks and Who albums in England would usually have 12-14 songs on them; American companies would release them usually with 10 songs, saving the remaining songs to make up another album that they would sell later. So for a short period of time, these extra songs of England would be "rarities" or unreleased in this country, and would have an air of excitement about them, if any American DJ would play them. Often they would appear as exclusive cuts debuted on local AM stations like Los Angeles' KHJ, KRLA or KFWB (before it became a news station).

KTBT was one of the first, so-called, freeform FM rock and roll stations challenging the Top 40 AM format. KPPC in Pasadena was another in Southern California. KTBT, however, sounded like an AM station--a sort of KHJ on acid, with album oriented cuts mixed in with the Top 40. I called my show "British Underground," with my affected British accent, but I used my real name, Guy Guden. All the other DJs used fake names, like Charlie Hookah and J. William Weed. The radio station broadcast in the middle of a stereo store in a shopping mall in Orange County. The announcer and engineer would broadcast in the center of the store in a booth. I, playing Jeff Beck's "Beck's Bolero," while customers are pondering the purchase of a Sansui receiver, and perhaps a pair of Quadroflex speakers. It was strange, but somehow I carried on. I'll never be sure if the station management really believed I was British. It didn't matter. The deed had been done. And it was the start of it all.