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 THE DISC JOCKEYS


Gary McKenzie
 

Gary McKenzie started out in radio with the goal of becoming a boss jock like those he grew up listening to at 93 KHJ Los Angeles. In the 60's he did studio set-up in Hollywood for the likes of the Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas and Frank Sinatra. That groovy 'echo chamber' effect you hear in the Beach Boys '66 #1 'Good Vibrations'? McKenzie had a hand in building it for the song. While in the military he was a member of Armed Forces Radio. He debuted commercially at a station in the Carolinas around 1970 (WJRM). In 1971, Gary moved west to 55 KAFY in Bakersfield. It was there that his aspirations shifted to news. In 1972, McKenzie moved up to the coast to take a gig at KISN in Portland, Oregon. In the Rose City, he was known by the name of Grant Jackson. In 1973, it was back to Bakersfield for a stint at KREM. Just before landing that position, he took a crack at the big-time and secured an interview with his beloved KHJ. As Gary tells the story at www.440int.com, KHJ News Director Lyle Kilgore asked, 'So what makes you think you have what it takes to work at KHJ?'. McKenzie didn't get the job. He said 'the best revenge is doing well'. Gary was in Bakersfield for a short time, and later in '73 made the cross-country trek to Philadelphia. He was hired at 99 WIBG, the home of Hy Lit and Joe Niagara. By this time, Gary's news skills were getting noticed in other areas. In 1974, McKenzie went to New York as News Director for RKO's flagship FM, WXLO. It was in the 'Big Apple' that McKenzie found his stride, but still had the goal of going to L.A. radio. He achieved it in 1977 when he was hired in a similar post at KIIS-FM. When 1980 rolled around, McKenzie received a tremendous opportunity from the new RKO Network in New York. He took the offer, moved back east, and New York is where settled for a decade. Over the years, RKO became Unistar, United, and finally were swallowed up by Mel Karmazin and company. At that time, Gary decided to go in another direction. In 1992, Gary McKenzie founded Ask the Expert Media, an advertising agency and public relations firm. Other than a network anchor stint with CBS Radio at the end of the 90's, McKenzie has pretty much stayed the course and has added to his business dealings with the founding of MallRadio, Inc., a firm which builds radio stations for malls. He's come a long way since 1970 at WJRM in Troy, North Carolina. In late 2002, Gary himself provided us with another take on his career. 'In your account of my radio career you say I started at WJRM. Well sort of. My father James Robert McKenzie founded the station in 1961 in his hometown of Troy, North Carolina. The place he left thirty years before when he joined the Navy. We actually built the Bauer transmitter from a kit in the living room! My Dad retired from the Navy as a Commander at Armed Forces Radio and Television Network in Hollywood in 1958. He collected most of the WJRM studio gear from his L.A. radio buddies including a 16 pot General Electric console from the old KMPC. I was also in AFRTS and after my two year Army stint started my commercial radio career at a 250 watt "coffee pot" KTOT in Big Bear Lake in the mountains outside L.A. (a station just like my high school days with dad at WJRM) I worked first at KREL in Corona, California for Paul Crouch who owns the Trinity Broadcasting System Christian Television Network. then to Bakerfield and KPMC and on to the Big 55 KAFY, up to Portland, then back to Bakersfield at KERN in 1973. Then to Philly at WIBG, then to 99X New York working for my old Bakersfield radio buddy Jerry Clifton. Then back to Bakersfield (now there's a lateral move! My then wife is from Bakersfield and wanted to go home to have our baby). I lasted two years working for Buck Owens at KUZZ, then on to hometown LA and News Director of KIIS-FM, and on the strength of multiple Gold Mike winning performances in the City of Angels I was hired by Dave Cooke to anchor for the RKO Radio Network in NYC. RKO was America's first satellite delivered radio network. Dick Clark bought the operation in the mid 80s and I stayed on more than 15 years through United Stations and finally Unistar in Washington DC. In 1992 I started Ask The Expert Media producing radio infomercials and continue to media buy and produce conversations that inform and sell to this day. My last news job was anchoring for the CBS Radio Networks in the late 90s. The ultimate thrill anchoring on the big eye coast to coast. My first shift after being out of the news business for nearly five years was a baptism by fire. CBS went into Special Report mode to cover the Swissair disaster and I worked 14 hours straight. What a way to get back on the horse! It felt wonderful!!!' E-mail Gary at asktheexpert.com. He'd love to hear from you.

  

 
     

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