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An Exercise by Chet Flippo Austin Here it is spring and time for another FM housecleaning in Austin. Last year, the Kingstip Corporation abruptly threw out a progressive rock staff at KHFI-FM and turned to Beautiful Music. This spring, it was radio magnate R. Miller Hicks’ turn and he banished a staff that had been at his KRMH for six days. These follow a trend begun by wholesale dismissals at two progressive stations elsewhere in Texas, KFAD in Arlington and KFMK in Houston. It’s probably overestimating management to charge, as some wronged parties have, that these purges were Machiavellian. More likely, they were simply matters of single-minded businessmen doing what they have always done. Businessmen will be businessmen, after all. Philistines, some will say. What they did, in these instances with a Texian flair for directness, was to get rid of what they didn’t like. Just the way they swat a mosquito or stomp a cockroach. No pussyfooting about it, no subtle hints, no inter-office memoranda. Git, boy! At KHFI-FM last year, management \(after a series control room door. That was to let the announcers in church in Texas, and a long interview with Evelyn Johnson about the early days at Duke-Peacock records in Houston which included a thorough account of the death of Johnny Ace \(via Russian Even though the Texas Special turned a nice profit for KRMH \(the tape was bought for $400 from KSAN, the Metromedia station in San Francisco; the gives angina pectoris to Texas radio barons: “controversy.” “Controversy” in this context means anything out of the ordinary. Controversy makes people nervous: advertisers, matrons with telephones, business associates. Whether it actually makes the people who listen regularly nervous is an open question. “The purpose of radio,” Fischer told me, “is to serve the listener.” It did not seem, he continued, that anything in bad taste served anybody. This man Fischer’s role in the KRMH brouhaha is still puzzling. Lee Gaddis is nominally the station manager and he was the one who brought in an FM hero from California, Larry Yurdin, to be program director; who approved the hiring of four more professionals from outside Texas, agreed to the Texas Special, and assented to Yurdin’s reshuffling of know that they weren’t welcome any more. No message; we’re strictly bottom-line men who don’t need to complicate the profit sheet. If, as it appears, FM rock is becoming a junkyard, that’s the main reason for it; even more than timid owners and apprehensive managers yielding to vague government warnings and a few listener complaints. FM rock stations in Austin have always been successful by default. Since there’s no competition, there’s no need to tamper with a format that gives you 52 percent of the audience, as KRMH has had. The dismissed staffs failed to consider that, in their earnestness to bring good radio to town. Businessmen don’t necessarily want good radio. You might say that what they like to do is to make money. Take Norm Fischer, executive vice-president and general manager of KRMH. All he wanted was a nice “morning voice that’ll make us a must buy and give us the demographics all day.” His new staff of whiz kids from California and elsewhere not only didn’t give him that, they wanted to mess around and experiment with things that some people actually didn’t like: playing “The Ballad of Charles Whitman” and airing a 24-hour documentary called the “Texas Special” that seemed to blister a few sensitive ears. That program, consisting of Texas music and interviews with Texans of varying interest from the Mad Dogs to the Travis County sheriff, seemed to be a sore point with Fischer. Although any documentary that included Jim Franklin leading a tour of Congress Avenue, Larry King expounding on high and low extant station personnel. It was Fischer, however, who breezed back into town from a business trip to complain about all the strange people he saw in KRMH’s offices, to grow anxious over a change he detected in the station’s sound, to wax indignant over the transfer of his favorite morning voice, to disapprove of the “poor taste” of the Texas Special, and, finally, to order Yurdin and three others fired. Gaddis relayed the word to Yurdin and to Enos Doyle from Cleveland, Terry Higgins of Santa Cruz and Bill Ashford of Denver. Doyle and Ashford have made national reputations in FM and Yurdin himself has amassed quite a resume: started in 1963 as producer of the first “underground” FM show, Bob Fass’ “Radio Unnameable” at WBAI in New York; produced the syndicated ABC-FM rock format, organized the Alternative Media Project at Goddard College and worked as news and public affairs director for KMET in Los Angeles, one of the country’s foremost FM stations. Yurdin spent four weeks at KRMH; the others were there six days before being cashiered. There is no doubt that they improved the station’s sound, that they built up the record library \(described as creating a station that consisted of more than random songs filling in the space between commercials. That is not necessarily what radio businessmen want. There is every indication that Yurdin & Co. underestimated the ownership they were not accustomed to dealing with thickskinned, impatient Texas tycoons. Their impression of management came from Gaddis, who