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The Beat: KKBT 92.3’s Golden Era and Hidden Struggles

KKBT 92.3 in Los Angeles, “The Beat,” was all the rage in the late 80s and early 90s. But all that glittered was not gold for Black men.

Nationally, it was THE station and a place where black announcers wanted to work badly. The station, located on Yucca St in Hollywood at the time, was historic and the very place I was working when the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit while I was on the air doing an overnight shift.

Outside of pure talent and extremely good looks, I have no idea how I got in (laugh). Perhaps it was timing. Mike Stradford didn’t hire me, but as soon as he was out, John Monds hired me when I sent in my, by that time, 20th air check. I am still friends with John Monds to this day.

Monds was a great PD, and working at the station was like Heaven and hell at the same time, but the money, compared to the urban stations I had worked at previously, was like night and day

In urban radio, we were trained to think that we should be grateful to have ANY job at all in radio because the white stations didn’t hire black jocks. I used to hold that against Black owners when I was younger, but I get it now. They were being honest and speaking from their own personal experiences years before my generation when radio was racist. Racism in radio has gotten better over the years, but it was still bad in the 90s.

KKBT, the beat, 92.3

KKBT was a great place to work, but at the same time, it was the most racist company I have ever worked for. They had a thing against black men. Black men at the station mainly were used to giving up cultural secrets, slang, and concepts to help program the station then we were quickly tossed to the curb. Oddly, the three Black men who outlasted everyone, Micheal Mixxin Moore, Tre Black, and Captain G., are all deceased and died young.

Black Men Need Not Apply Unless You Surrender Your Cultural Concepts

Black women could work there, but black men were not so fortunate. Ironically, black men, as in artists, rappers, and producers in hip-hop, were the main people the station used to garner success. They were none the wiser. They didn’t see the exchange. They were being supported and used simultaneously.

John Monds Photo 480x600 1 » 1994 Northridge earthquake
John Monds

Things changed drastically when John Monds left as a PD and Keith Naftaly came in. First, John’s small office was relocated for the new PD to an office five times the size with a fireplace. I knew my days were numbered at that point. The energy at the station had changed.

The morning show was hosted by John London and the House Party, which included a mixture of people from all races but a white host, which was very odd for an urban station at that time. London was somewhat distant and private, and I never had a lot of conversation with him, but I give him credit for completely being himself. He was not acting black or trying to fit in. He was himself. The black audience in LA ate it up, but I was never into that show.

Once new management came in, just about all the black male announcers were out, including Tavis Smiley, whose midday segment was canceled after a white woman at the station complained his segments were racist. Smiley’s segments were about empowering Black people.

Whatever Happened to John London from The House Party?

The station opted to bring in men who could emulate black culture instead of hiring black men, and that’s not to take anything away from jocks like Theo Mizuhara, who I worked with. He was an excellent jock and a great guy, but I was confused as to why only stations playing black music had to be multicultural when all other formats didn’t.

“No Color Lines” … Starting with Black Men

The station had a slogan, “No Color Lines,” which the black male jocks made a joke about by saying … “starting with black men.” I don’t know who created that cheesy slogan, but it made no sense since it was not and had never been an industry-standard in radio. I could never imagine a country radio station or a rock radio station having a slogan like that. The slogan wasn’t about acceptance as much as it was an excuse.

There was a black woman who worked at KKBT who was playing both sides, and she helped the white management eliminate the black male talent by acting like she was compassionate with the racism that was taking place and learning how we felt. Then she returned what we said to the management members, like the late Craig Wilbraham.

She played us and she played us well. To be honest, I don’t know what’s worse … the racist management or black people helping them BE racist.

All Hell Breaks Loose

The late Michael Mixxin Moore was brought in at the end of his career, and he was considered a legend in the market. He remained when most of us were fired, but he was eventually fired too… and he went left when it happened.

The late Micheal Mixxin Moore died in 2006 at 46 years of age.

I saw Mike at an industry event after I was fired, and he told me he was going to expose The Beat for being the most racist station in the industry. All of the former black male jocks felt the same way, so that was nothing new to me. I asked him how he planned to do it. He told me he would get a helicopter and fly it over the station’s Summer Jam concert. I didn’t believe him and laughed it off. I never told a soul about it.

Then … Mike hired a helicopter and flew it over The Beat’s Summer Jam JUST like he said he would. He disbursed thousands of flyers while weaves and paper plates flew everywhere from the helicopter. The paper said the station should be called KKKBT and was racist, and had homosexuals in management … These were the days when rumors like that could get you blackballed. The whole situation was historical, and the station tried to press charges against Moore with the FAA to no avail.

The same woman who betrayed the black male jocks immediately took to the stage to defend the station for not being racist. Which was the furthest thing from the truth, and that’s when we knew she had been playing both sides.

KKBT was as racist as the day is long, and I was very surprised to see her do that … but then again, after all that happened. I was not surprised at all.

Keith Naftaly left the station and radio sometime after that and was replaced as the PD.

… And “The Beat” Goes On

In addition to Mike, the late Tre Black also had a dispute against the station for racism. I saw him at an Urban Network conference, and he told me he was completely burnt out by the racism at the station, and it was a matter of time before he was going to be fired.

hqdefault 11 » 1994 Northridge earthquake
The late Tre Black

Tre was an excellent jock. One of the best in the nation, and shortly after I saw him, he decided to send out a memo ON KKBT LETTERHEAD describing how racist they were to all the industry trades. Of course, Urban Network opted out of running it, but had TheIndustry.biz been around then. I would have run it. Tre was out after that.

Keith Naftaly came in and was promoted to the PD at KKBT from the San Francisco market station KMEL. Industry vets informed me that respected radio vet Lee Michaels trained Naftaly. While he was at the station, I don’t think we spoke more than one sentence, and I was fired shortly after he started. I didn’t care for or trust him or the GM, the late Craig Wilbraham.

Lee Michaels Head Shot » 1994 Northridge earthquake
Lee Michaels

He wanted to go more Hip-Hop for KKBT. So many more rappers were coming up to the station, like Easy E, Ice Cube, Snoop, and others, to support the station on the air they thought was supporting them. They were right and wrong. The support benefited them AND the station.

Unbeknownst to them, the station passed out memos and reminders telling the staff to make sure their desks and offices were locked because the rappers would be coming there during the weekends.

NAACP … Hard Lesson Learned!

After I was fired along with the other black jocks who the woman at the station betrayed, we decided to go to the Hollywood branch of the NAACP to file a complaint.

Around the same time, Arsenio Hall, who was super hot with his TV show and at the time had just had a huge falling out with the same branch and then president Willis Edwards as they were complaining that Arsenio wasn’t hiring other black people for the production of the show. Arsenio flat out said that Willis asked him for $40,000, and he refused to cough up money as other organizations did, and THAT was the problem. It became a huge mess, and Arsenio even talked about it on his show.

The NAACP organization at that time did not have the best reputation in Hollywood circles, and we were aware of that, but we didn’t know where else to go. We were young and a bit green.

By the time we approached the organization, Sandra Evers-Manly was the president. We told her what happened in a meeting, and she agreed to meet with the station.

00575220 1 221258 » 1994 Northridge earthquake
The late Craig Wilbraham KKBT/GM

We followed up with the branch a week or so later, and our call was unanswered or returned. We called again the next week and the next and the next, all to no avail.

Manly was very familiar with the racism problems at the station as our group was one of several black men who complained to the NAACP’s Hollywood branch.

Finally, there was a meeting called, and the late Craig Wilbraham, who was white, declared the station employed a majority of black employees, but that was not true, and there were very few, if any, in management or decision-making positions.

By the time we went to the Hollywood Branch of the NAACP, the complaints from Black men who had worked at the station shortly before us were mounting. KUDOS to Billboard for having the balls, unlike the black trades at the time, to run the story on the situation. See the story here.

After Manly and the station met several times, we were finally told that the situation had been resolved and KKBT would meet a list of demands, one of which was sponsoring the NAACP’s breakfast meetings. None of the demands benefited the black men unjustly fired from the station. I lost all respect for the NAACP from that moment through today.

Unrelated but related

Early on, when I started TheIndustry.biz, I went up to another station to do a story on racism by a janitor who was used by the white morning team to do bits on the air. He was young and naive, and they were being racist with him, and he ended up suing them.

The GM of the station flat-out asked me what I wanted. I’m sure it was instead of running the story. That’s when I met face to face with understanding how the situation at KKBT had worked. I was a black organization that could profit from a black man suing if I played ball.

Finally, we went to BRE. We were pretty confident that the last Sidney Miller, the publication’s founder, would help us (I know vets in the black industry reading the previous line are already laughing at our naivety). I’m embarrassed to tell you what a mistake that was, so I will leave it at that. After our meeting, KKBT sponsored a pool party for one of the last BRE conferences.

No Experience is a Bad Experience when it Comes to an Education!

I was fully educated at this point.


I had realized how much power the press and organizations have, but I planned to do things differently than the experiences I had with KKBT. So right around the time, I started the magazine, I put the station on a complete blast and told the whole story in one of the first issues, and the response was so phenomenal with other black jocks around the country who felt the same way I was encouraged to keep going.

The whole situation was a great lesson in not only racism but greed and betrayal and more, even amongst our own.

Whatever Happened to John London from The House Party?

All in all, I’m glad I worked at KKBT. As stated, it was a far cry from the urban stations I had previously worked at, but I understood that what the older owners said was now confirmed. KKBT was still a much better station than many of the Black-owned stations I had worked at but all those black owners warned me about stations like KKBT before I got there and they were right. The money was good, but the racism was bad. It was a great lesson I will never forget

See the vintage KKBT’s Facebook page here.

Kevin Ross
Kevin Ross
Kevin Ross is the CEO of Radio Facts. He is a music and radio industry vet who has been a programmer and a radio host in several markets like Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, and more. He started The Industry Dot Biz in 1995 as a voice for Black industry executives to have a voice in the industry. Ross is a musician, writer, voice talent, and author. The Industry Dot Biz is currently the largest urban industry trade and site.



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