Saturday, May 19, 2018

R.I.P.: KMEN, KHJ Radio Personality Bill Watson

Bill Watson
Bill Watson, a popular Inland radio disc jockey who was instrumental in bringing the Rolling Stones to San Bernardino for their first concert in the United States, died Tuesday, May 15, in San Diego.

He was 88, according to

Watson helped propel San Bernardino-based KMEN into the top radio station in the region in the 1960s.

“He was able to project himself as a really cool guy,” said Chuck Street, a San Bernardino native and longtime radio personality. “He had a presence on the radio. He had a swagger. All that adds up to charisma.”

Watson was working at San Bernardino-based KMEN when the Rolling Stones performed at the now-defunct Swing Auditorium on June 5, 1964.

He had been sent a Rolling Stones album, which he played on the air in its entirety, and the phones exploded, Street said.

Watson told Street he found the name of Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham in the record label and called him in London, asking if the band would play in San Bernardino.

“The manager asked, ‘Where’s San Bernardino?”

“It’s a suburb of Hollywood,” Watson told him.

Clemans was in the car with Watson when they picked up the Rolling Stones from the Ontario Airport for the first show. He said the young musicians seemed weary of all the attention they were receiving.

“They were really, really arrogant,” Clemans said. “Bill and I never said a word to them.”

Clemans said Watson worked with promoter Bob Lewis, who paid $6,000 for that first appearance. The band came back a year later and the cost was $60,000, he said.

Watson began his broadcasting career in the mid-1950’s in Sacramento as rock ‘n’ roll started taking over the airways. He moved south and ended up at KMEN as the afternoon drive host and program director.

At its peak, the station pulled in 70 percent of the listening audience in the region.

The 1290 AM station’s call sign became KMEN in 1962 and was changed to KKDD in 1998 to accommodate Disney satellite programming. The station is now 1290 NewsTalk.

Watson went on to help create the “Boss Radio” format when AM radio was the only option most listeners had, working with such stations as KHJ and KMPC in Los Angeles.

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