Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Hawthorne Thing

In his later years Jim Hawthorne was a contributor to which is how I came to know of him. His radio career took in the 1940s on KXLA in Pasadena, CA. He was a wacky DJ playing novelty songs and spinning his shtick three decades before Dr. Demento got into that racket. The good doctor himself described Hawthorne as "one of a kind."You can hear air-checks here.

He was born in Victor, CO, a suburb of Colorado Springs in 1918. He enrolled at Denver University and fresh out of college in 1941 he found work on 1340 KMYR-AM in Denver, CO. (No connection to the form FM station) KMYR-AM was founded in 1940 by Frederick W. Meyer, a local grocer. The studio was on the second floor of the Industrial Federal Savings and Loan Building at 1626 Stout St. It appears that the original building still stands.

Hawthorne relocated to L.A. the following year to start at KXLA. His show was more reserved at first but by 1947,  Time magazine described it as "Hellzapoppin on the air." His overnight program featured songs by Tex Ritter,  Spike Jones, Homer and Jethro, Buddy Baker, Red Ingle and Slim Coates, and cuts that were already old even then by Arthur Pryor, Billy Murray. That's when he started cutting novelty 45s. Don't even get me started about the hogan-twanger. More here.

Starting in 1948, he produced and starred in his Saturday night syndicated NBC program, "The Hawthorne Thing." Most sources list it as starting in 1950, but Billboard clearly lists it in issues as early as 1947. But he hopped around after that. He did a Top-10 type program at KYA in 1957. He went back to LA in 1959 for a gig at KDAY, then in 1960 he worked at KFWB but the station was shut down by an AFTRA strike in 1962 and flipped to all-news. More here.

1965 he did a children's show on KMGB-TV in Honolulu from 1965 - 1969.  He was on KOA-AM back home in Denver starting in 1974 doing overnights and then PD for both KOA and KOAQ-FM. He left there in 1985 when Jacor bought the cluster and "retired" him. He was 67 and not quite done, he popped back up in 1991 on 1500 KIEV-AM to recreate his classic KXLA schtick as a weekly program. then he retired for real. He died in 2007. He was 89 years old.