KSON’s Bluegrass Special went on the air for the first time on March 7, 1976 from 9 PM to midnight. The first few programs were aired on KSON-FM 97.3 which at that time was called “Country 97” and honestly had very few listeners. Most country music fans listened to KSON-AM 1240. AM radio was still king 39 years ago.
But after a few months, station owner Dan McKinnon decided the Bluegrass Special deserved a bigger listening audience, so the show was moved to KSON-AM from 4 to 7 PM. At that time, the KSON studios were located in College Grove Center, one of San Diego’s original shopping malls—and the control room was visible to mall shoppers behind a big glass window at the bottom of the mall elevator. Back in those days, you did your radio program not only for listeners on the radio but for a live audience of spectators. I must say that I was happy when my show moved to back to my original slot, 9 PM to midnight, after the stores were closed for the day.
It took quite a few years for FM radio to catch on with the public but by 1989, AM radio was pretty much obsolete except for news and sports stations. So KSON let all its AM staff go and began simulcasting its programming over both KSON FM 97.3 and AM 1240. I was among the staff let go at that time but it wouldn’t be for long. Within a few weeks, KSON’s program director found a spot for me on Sunday nights on the FM station, from 10 PM to to midnight. In his words, “Your fans have spoken and we got the message loud and clear!”
So Sunday nights at 10PM it has been ever since. For the last 25 years, it has followed three hours of country classics (oldies), first hosted by Bill Mackey, then Doc Holliday, now Rick Jackson, who is also our station’s GM and one of the nicest guys in the world.
It’s a testament to all the wonderful people I’ve had a chance to work with at KSON that I’m still there after 39 years. I’ve been very blessed to be accepted as part of the KSON family even though bluegrass music is generally not accepted by country radio. Of course KSON isn’t your typical country music station. It’s San Diego’s country music station and that makes all the difference in the world.
So this coming Sunday night (March 8) is my 2019th radio show, the Bluegrass Special’s 39th anniversary. I still love doing it each week and I’m thankful that I now benefit from technology that allows me to pre-record the show a day or two earlier and listen to it myself on Sunday nights. Of course I still enjoy doing the show live on Sunday nights when I can do it that way. I also love having bands come into the studio and play live on the air, mistakes and all. In my opinion, that’s good radio and I’m so thankful to KSON for letting me do it here in San Diego for so long. I’m also very grateful to the bluegrass music fans who listen faithfully every week. That’s really why I’m still on the air.
So here we go, pushing on to our 40th anniversary celebration next year! Same time, same station!