I moved to Sunnyvale California in 1979, right after coming home from a little thing called the Iranian Revolution. Before I had moved to Iran in 1976 I was a poor little Long Islander whose entire musical knowlegde base consisted of what ever was playing on the New York Radio Stations, some Doobie Brothers, some Santana, but no real hard core rock ( none that I had heard anyway) In Iran I was introduced to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Boston, Deep Purple, Nazareth , Black Sabbath, and Aerosmith…. the best of the rock scene. I had come alive.
Coming to California was like moving up from the minors to the big leagues. And living in Sunnyvale, going to Peterson High meant that my rock radio virginity was lost to KOME. I will never forget the nights spent sitting in my room after the folks had gone to sleep listening to the greatest voices, the best DJ’s ever and of course the sweetest music. I think that it was Rock Radio heaven for all of use who grew up in that time in the Bay area.
Today I am so bloody proud, so honored to have this interview with Laurie Roberts. She has always floored me with not only her rock voice, and her ability to know exactly what song to play but her real love for radio.Laurie is a powerhouse of rock knowledge. My uncle Dick Summer is another DJ who has spent his life being in radio, not a part of it, not a part time player but a deeply in love with music DJ. Laurie has always been to me a part of what I secretly wished to be, a Rock and Roll DJ to beat all. She just rocks.
Thank you Laurie, for the many years of rock history and fun on the air and also for all my memories. You were a big part of my growing up and to me you will always be like family.
************* Interview with Laurie Roberts *********************************
1.. When did you know you were going to be on the air, was there one
moment or event that helped you decide?
Well, I went to Chico State as a Journalism major and Broadcast minor,
but it got mixed up and they put me in advanced Broadcast courses. I
had never even been in a radio station. I took to it like a duck to
water. I remember the first time walking into the on campus station -
there were two, the Broadcast Dept. station, KCHO, and the on campus
station, KCSC – anyway, there were egg shell cartons on the wall for
the acoustics, and a cool, dimly lit control room with tons of albums.
I felt like I had come home.
2.. Was your first choice as a career to be a Rock DJ?
After I was at Chico for a few months, yeah, that was many people’s
dream. I was one of the lucky ones to get to live that dream.
3.. When did you begin your on air job as DJ in the Bay Area and what
station did you begin with?
I started at KOME in Nov. of 1978, on my birthday. Mikel Hunter
(Herrington) was the Program Director, and he changed my life. He
passed away about 12 years ago. He was doing mornings at KOME, using
the name Lefty. Every day after he died I dedicated each show to him,
‘putting another on the shelf for Lefty’, as without him I would not
have had the success I have been fortunate to have. He is a legend in
the rock radio business to this day.
4.. What was it like to be a women on the air as a Rock DJ when you began,
was it hard and were there many other women Rock DJs’ on the air at that
No, it wasn’t hard at all, at least where I was. Chico State had many
women on the air, and at KOME it was one big party. We were all at the
station all the time, just hanging out together. We appreciated each
others talent, male or female. There were many women on the air on FM
rock radio that, well, felt that the only way to be accepted was to
sound sexy. Bonnie Simmons at KSAN was a big trailblazer locally that
brought content to what she did, not just another breathy voice.
5.. Do you have any D J’s that really stood out for you from all the
When I was growing up KSFO in SF had the best jocks – real personality
people that connected with the audience, which I think is the only way
to go. Guys like Carter B. Smith, Gene Nelson, Dick McGarvin, Terry
McGovern. They were great.
6.. Now for a few rock related questions:
1.. How have you been able to lock away all the fantastic rock history
trivia that you have, is it something you have worked on ?
Yes, it takes consistent research, also, just paying attention in your
every day life, and locking those little factoids away as you come
2.. What era in Rock music do you like the best, the least.
I think there is something to like in all the eras – 50′s up til now.
3.. Is there any band that you wished to see and were not able to?
The Beatles. Even though they only played for 20 minutes, and everyone
was screaming so much you couldn’t hear them, it still would have been
4.. What bands visited the stations you worked at that were over the top
fun to visit with?
Greg Kihn was always fun – he came prepared with his A game each time,
and it was great later on to work so closely with him at KFOX. Roger
Daltry was a pleasure, Neil Young was interesting, Robin Trower was
very nice, Van Halen was wild, Sammy Hagar always fun, Huey Lewis also
was always a good time. In the sports world, Will Clark was a blast.
He guest dj’d on my show a few times, and was not only fun, but he got
a big kick out of refiling the cd’s. He had great follow through in
baseball, and radio, too!
5.. What is the concert that most stands out in your memories?
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1978 at Winterland. I hadn’t
been that big of a fan, but everyone said I should go. I had just
started at KOME, and had gotten tickets through the station. I was
with two college friends, and we got to the door, and they said the
tickets were for the prior night, and no good. Well, my friend spots
Bill Graham and says ‘you’re in Bay Area radio now, go talk to him’. I
couldn’t have been more nervous to approach this man I’d heard so much
about. I explained our situation, and he smiled and said ‘go ahead in,
enjoy the show’. We walked in, and Bruce had just hit the stage, and
was playing ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’, and he was being passed around on
the upheld hands of the crowd. We hadn’t been drinking, or doing any
other recreational items, and I was so blown away by him, I forgot to
breath. I have seen him at almost all Bay Area shows since, and met
him three times.
6.. What was it like to be able to introduce new bands and music to your
That’s a lot of fun. I love playing a song and getting calls or emails
w/ people enthusiastically asking ‘who was that? it was great!’
7.. Do you have any one band that is your favorite?
Hard to say. I think my top ten would include Bruce Springsteen, the
Beatles, the Stones, Motown, Jimmy Buffett, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis &
the News and some players to be named later.
7.. Do you have any interests besides music and radio, such as hobbies or
I love exploring the world of wine. Also, I am a major San Francisco
Giants fan. I also am very involved in animal rescue.
8.. The Internet has become a fast growing place for on line radio, would
you be interested in doing something like Blog Talk Radio ?
Not really, because it just seems like there are a zillion people
doing that, and it would be like yelling down a canyon. I’d rather
focus on what I can do on air.
9.. What was it about KOME that grabbed the rock fans attention in the Bay
Under Mikel Hunter, it was great sounding, with personalities that
were incredibly creative and colorful with a great sense of humor. Too
much radio takes itself too seriously, and so many dj’s think they are
way too cool. There was none of that at KOME, it was crazy, silly and
10.. Final question’s-
1.. What advice would you give to a person who wants to start out doing
Rock Radio, or who just wants to be a Rock historian?
For someone wanting to be in rock radio, the best thing is to check
out the stations at the local junior colleges. Some of them have great
programs and you aren’t spending a lot of money. Four year colleges
have some good broadcast departments, as well. From there get an
internship at a local station. Do really, really well – show up on
time, do anything they ask, pay attention. Chances are you can get on
part time as a Board Op, and then from there it’s up to you. Also, if
you are really into it, be prepared to work in small markets for
basically no money, but you get to polish your craft. Become a
untility player, be able to do any shift asked of you, plus
production, news, promotions and more. That way you are valuable
because you can do so many things, and these days those are the ones
surviving. To be a rock historian – listen without attitude. Don’t
discount something because it’s popular. There is a reason it’s
popular – people like it. Just because it’s some band nobody every
heard of’s 12th track on their 4th album that nobody bought doesn’t
make it good, and it doesn’t make you sound any smarter to be into
only that kind of thing. Be open minded. Like the obscure, but don’t
discount the hits.
2.. Is there anything about being on air as a Rock DJ that you would do
These days there are a lot of Program Director’s and corporate types
that think that having the dj’s only talk 20 or 30 seconds is the best
thing. The point is to have someone interesting on the air that get
can get across personality, music and other pertinent info in an
interesting way. As Shakespeare said (and Mikel trained us) ‘brevity
is the soul of wit’.