Monday, February 02, 2015

DJ Ben Fong-Torres

Last year I wrote about how under-represented Asian programming is on American media outlets. [Link] About 5% of Americans are of Asian origin. While that is a smaller group than African-Americans (12.6%) or Hispanics (16.4%) that's still 14 million people. So in light of that demographic data. Ben Fong-Torres is one of those names in radio that you don't know, but you really should.

Before we start the story let me tell you that Ben Fong-Torres is alive and well today. His own website is here. I first encountered his his name when he was managing editor at GAVIN. He was there from 1993 to 1997. He left that position to write the book The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio, which is a must-own among radio men. He wrote four more books since then, including Becoming Almost Famous, which brought his tally to 9 books I believe.  Note about that last title... his character does appear in the film Almost Famous, he's portrayed by actor Terry Chen. Did I mention he was also a DJ?

Let's back up.  In 1966 Ben graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in radio-TV-film. While enrolled there he was DJ on KRTG-AM, the universities closed-circuit AM station. What got Ben into the music industry, and therefore radio, was Rolling Stone magazine. He was one of their original writers in 1967. He wrote for the magazine until 1981. In the mid 1960s he was a night announcer on KFOG-AM. But in 1970, while still writing for Rolling Stone he became a DJ for KSAN-FM.

Ben remained at KSAN from from 1970-1980 arguably the station's peak years. After Rolling stone he joined the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was  radio columnist until 1992. He came back in 2005 to write the bi-weekly column "Radio Waves." In 1994 he began hosting the program Fog City Radio, on KQED-FM. If that's not enough Reel Radio lists that he has guest DJ's on KUSF, KIOI, KPOI, KTIM, KVYN, KFRC, and KRQR.