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Interview: Veteran DJ Dave Hull recalls the Beatles, AM radio's crazy '60s

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(Introduction: Dave Hull, aka “The Hullabalooer,” was a hugely popular disc jockey on KRLA, one of the big AM radio stations in Los Angeles during the '60s, and also was heard on several other stations during the course of his career. It was KRLA that got the Beatles to play the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium. Hull has just published a wonderful autobiography called “Hullabaloo: The Life and (Mis)Adventures of an L.A. Radio Legend” (co-authored with Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas, with a foreward by fellow KRLA DJ Bob Eubanks) that recalls those crazy days of the '60s with many untold stories about the Beatles from someone who was right in the middle of it. We questioned him by email.)

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Q: What was it like in Los Angeles competing with rival stations for the Beatles?
Dave Hull: “Early on, KFWB was KRLA’s only competition for audience — until KHJ came along! Back when it was just the two of us, we captured the #1 spot from KFWB early in 1964. We stayed that way until KHJ brought in their Boss Radio “more music" format in ’65, which cut way back on DJ talk. The two big on-air personalities there were Robert W. Morgan and “The Real Don Steele,” who are both now deceased. In ’68, KFWB switched to all-news, leaving KRLA and KHJ to go back and forth until KHJ eventually won the war in 1970.”

Q: Can you reveal who made the phone call that you described in your book that told you about the Beatles flying into LAX? (In the book, Hull says he received a mysterious phone call with what proved to be a spot-on tip that the Beatles would be flying into town.)
Dave Hull: “
You know, I never did know who the male caller was!”

Q: What was your most interesting Beatles' encounter?
Dave Hull: “When I first met John Lennon and George Harrison at LAX the day after the unknown phone call, things began to happen quickly for me, leading to many 'interesting' encounters! But one of the most memorable was when I was invited by the Beatles to the Bahamas to live with them for three weeks while they were filming their movie 'Help!' Derek Taylor, who by then had resigned from the Beatles staff and was now working for Bob Eubanks, was also along on that trip. He and I shared a hotel room that adjoined with the rooms of Brian Epstein, John and Paul, and George and Ringo. I wrote extensively about that trip in 'Hullabaloo!' because it gave me the opportunity to really get close to the boys — and their personalities. And at that stage in their career, those personalities were really beginning to change and evolve. “

Q: What was the '64 Hollywood Bowl show like from your perspective?
Dave Hull: “The crowd was like nothing seen in L.A. before! Thousands who couldn't get tickets sat on the hillside overlooking the Bowl and watched and screamed through the entire performance! It was totally remarkable! Not to mention a bit uncomfortable for me personally when KRLA DJ Charlie O’Donnell and I leapt into the 'moat' in front of the stage to rescue a teenage girl who was trying to swim her way to the Beatles!”

Q: How different was the Monkees' phenomenon from the Beatles?
Dave Hull: “I believe the main difference was in what ultimately became each group’s audience: Beatles fans growing into young adults right along with the musical phenomenon and craze, while the Monkees had young teens watching them on TV at home. And there was no comparison in the quality of the music between the two.” All in all, the Beatles and their members had a total of 22 number 1 hits to a total of two number one hits for the Monkees. Personally, I think that proves my "no comparison" comment.

Q: Who besides the Beatles and the Monkees was most memorable for you?
Dave Hull “Musically, it would have to be Patsy Cline, who came out of nowhere one night in 1962 to introduce her hit 'Crazy' at a record hop of mine in central Ohio. She lip-synched her song and the crowd went nuts! Her hit was born!

“Another memorable time with a major act was also at a live venue. The Chicago Transit Authority (who would, of course, later become just Chicago) brought their entire band to a little rec center in Redondo Beach where I was hosting a dance. Casey Kasem had asked me to fill in for him as the emcee because Casey was becoming a bigger and bigger star all the time and these kind of small-time gigs weren’t exactly high on his priority list anymore. Anyway, this virtually unknown Chicago Transit Authority played nonstop for four full hours! Again, that crowd went nuts and this band charged me only $750 for the performance! That’s not a lot of money, even for those days; especially when you figure it had to be split up among all those guys in the group!

“Apart from music artists, I also have to include my L.A.-to-Liverpool 'information-gathering' phone conversations with George Harrison’s late 'mum,' Louise Harrison, among my most memorable interactions. She would tell me things about 'her boys' that no one else knew. She was my 'spy,' my secret contact, who told me everything personal about the Beatles (their addresses and girlfriends and what they were all doing at the time!). It was information no one else could find!”

Q: How would you compare radio then and now?
Dave Hull: “
Honestly, there is no comparison to the radio of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s to what is heard today. Then, radio meant something wonderful to teenagers everywhere. It brought them together. Today, no one even cares about radio because they have their own "self-made" CDs and iPods of their favorite artists and songs in their cars and in their homes.”

Q: Who were the rival DJs (in L.A. and elsewhere) you have the most respect for?
Dave Hull: “
Early on in 1957 through 1960, it would have been my competitor, Jim Runyon, in Dayton, Ohio. (He was also present when I was hired at WTVN in Columbus. See page 90-91 in 'Hullabaloo!' for the whole wild story!). Some of the others I respected most were from KRLA, of course: "Emperor" Bob Hudson, Casey Kasem, and Bob Eubanks of the original "1110 Men." And from KHJ, I had a lot of respect for Robert W. Morgan. Toward the end of Hullabaloo!, we had a lot of fun doing a bit of a retrospective about a lot of the DJs that I had known and/or worked with; from Dick Biondi to Hunter Hancock!”

(You can read more about Dave Hull's thoughts on the Monkees on our Monkees Examiner page.)

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