Top 40 Pioneer has died

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Posted by jerry on March 06, 2010 at 10:24:46:

Gene Chenault who invented, "Boss Radio" at KHJ in LA, along with his partner Bill Drake helped shape Top 40 Music Radio in the 60's and 70's...passed away.

If you look around you can find some great air checks of KHJ with Robert W Morgan, Don Steele and many others. Hear Boss Radio! Gotta know where you've been before you know where you're going.

Gene Chenault dies; shifted radio formats to less talk, more tunes

Gene Chenault, 90, half of a team that helped revolutionize rock radio programming in the 1960s with the "Boss Radio" format, first at KHJ in Los Angeles and then coast to coast, died Feb. 23 at a hospital in Tarzana, Calif. He had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In the 1960s, Mr. Chenault partnered with Bill Drake to launch a successful radio format that turned poorly performing stations into ratings winners and made household names of radio personalities, including Robert W. Morgan and "the Real" Don Steele.

Drake was the driving creative force, introducing a formula of less talk, fewer commercials and more music, which became known as the "Drake style."

Mr. Chenault was a mentor to the younger Drake, having the business acumen and management experience needed to propel the formula to success at a time when the radio marketplace was changing and FM radio was assuming more prominence, said Carl Goldman, who worked for Mr. Chenault at KIQQ-FM (100.3), which was known as K-100.

"They were there at the right time," Goldman said. "They both recognized that radio was going through a transition. They already had experience and a vision of where radio needed to head, knew what was needed to get there and had the ability to execute it."

The game-changing success of KHJ Boss Radio was noted in a 1968 Time magazine story. The RKO-owned station rose from 12th-ranked locally to No. 1 within six months after its format change in 1965.

Stations in San Diego, San Francisco, Boston and New York soon followed.

The duo then formed Drake-Chenault Enterprises, a national radio-consulting service that syndicated radio packages such as "Hit Parade" and "Solid Gold," as well as jingles performed by the Johnny Mann Singers, to 350 radio stations.

Lester Eugene Chenault was born June 12, 1919, in Eldorado, Okla. He moved with his family to California at a young age and had already developed an interest in radio before being drafted into the Army during World War II.

While in the service, he met Carl Goldman's father, Leo, and they began a lifelong friendship that included starting Fresno radio station KYNO in 1947. It was at the Fresno station that Mr. Chenault hired Drake, a brash, young program director.

In 1969, Drake-Chenault Enterprises produced a syndicated 48-hour radio special, "The History of Rock and Roll," which has since been rewritten and updated.

Mr. Chenault retired in the mid-1980s.

Drake died in 2008.

-- Los Angeles Times

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