|Rick Dees en la mañana: Back on air, in Spanglish|
|BY FRED SHUSTER, Staff Writer|
LA Daily News
|When Rick Dees returns to the local radio waves Monday after a two-year break, he will be counting on star power in the form of Jack Nicholson to make a splash in a market where 86 competing signals pour into the city. |
In turn, Movin' 93.9 - formerly country KZLA and now Dees' new home - is not only counting on the legendary DJ's longtime popularity to lure listeners but also on a new format that uses liberal doses of Spanglish.
Both Dees and co-host Patricia Lopez will lapse into the popular mix of Spanish and English whenever the mood strikes during their Monday-through-Friday morning show, which will run from 5 to 10.
It's an approach that hasn't been tried before on English-language radio in the nation's No.2 radio market and No.1 Latino market.
"The biggest segment of the population here speaks both languages," says Dees, who lives in Toluca Lake. "I'm playing the odds. We'll go back and forth in English and Spanish, sprinkling in as many elements as we can. That's how a lot of people talk to each other now, and I believe local radio should reflect that."
The new morning show, which will debut at 5 Monday, borrows from "Mex 2 the Max," the innovative music video program Lopez hosts on LATV, a growing bilingual television network beamed into 3million homes. Lopez, who grew up in L.A. and is a former Elite model and CBS Evening News entertainment reporter, was chosen, Dees said, because she's quick-witted and vivacious in front of the microphone.
"Any female on the radio - especially in the morning - should have a voice women love and men want to make love to," Dees says. "Patty has that."
Movin' 93.9's contemporary pop format is also appealing to the majority with a music mix of chart-topping artists such as Beyonc , Gwen Stefani, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, Black Eyed Peas and Gnarls Barkley.
"We studied the market from all angles and saw there was a real void we could fill with this station," says Jimmy Steal, vice president of programming at Emmis Communications, which owns both Movin' 93.9 and hip-hop station Power 106, which has made significant inroads among the Latino community. "All signs pointed toward this."
Emmis kicked country off the air at its Burbank-based station last month despite the fact the music is popular in Los Angeles concert halls and at retail. But in radio, it all comes down to numbers in an industry that turns on fractions of ratings points.
"The audience was shrinking, not growing," Steal notes. "We're in a business where we're expected to do better in the ratings, and we just weren't seeing much impact."
KZLA ranked 20th among the 86 radio signals available in the city, drawing about 550,000 listeners a week. Steal said the new format targets women ages 25 to 54, a demographic where KZLA ranked 19th. In recent years, Spanish-language, hip-hop and Top 40 stations have dominated the Los Angeles ratings.
"I was skeptical at first," says Darnella Dunham, rhythmic music editor at radio industry trade weekly Radio & Records, where she has written about the attempt by English-language radio to appeal to multiethnic audiences. "But I heard Rick do his syndicated countdown show, where he incorporates Spanish phrases, and it didn't seem contrived at all. He does it very effectively. He's still Rick Dees, but he's able to use Spanish in his traditional Top-40 jock way. I was really impressed."
Also setting the stage for Dees' return is the radio quake that occurred when Howard Stern moved to satellite radio at the beginning of the year, leaving a large percentage of morning listeners up for grabs. Since leaving his nearly 25-year roost at KIIS-FM two summers ago when Ryan Seacrest was brought in, Dees kept mum while sitting out the end of his contract.
"People have been coming up and asking what happened to me for the past two years," says Dees, 56, who has been doing radio since he was a teenager in Greensboro, N.C. "I kept telling them nothing's happened to me. I didn't want to go off the air. I missed being able to communicate on a daily basis with people. I love radio. Not being able to do what you love hurts. It was almost like being in prison for two years. I'm hard-wired for this."
When Nicholson comes on the air with Dees, it will probably be the three-time Oscar winner's first-ever extended radio interview, Dees says.
"I said, `Jack, can you make it at 6?' and he said, `Next question.' So, he'll be here around 7."