Polynesian Pirate
AWOL from airwaves

Listeners hear ‘oldies’ instead of
‘music with an attitude’

By Blaine Fergerstrom
Special to the Star-Bulletin

With little fanfare, KGMZ (107.9 FM) in Aiea, simulcasting Maui radio station KAOI-FM to a Honolulu audience, abruptly changed format last Friday, removing familiar on-air radio personalities and substituting the station's previous rock format for oldies.

KAOI, known as a Maui and Big Island radio beacon with the latest rock and island music, as well as classic '60s through '80s rock, plays a pleasing amalgam that the station calls "quality rock."

Honolulu KGMZ listeners tuning in expecting to hear favorite on-air personalities like Tommy Ching, also known as the "Polynesian Pirate," and his mock-pirate-radio show were surprised by the change. Instead of Ching's trademark "music with an attitude and comedy with color," they were treated to a canned play list from 1956, and no Pirate.

Similarly missing were program director Jack Gist and the popular afternoon drive host with the mellow voice, Cindy Paulos, among others.

KAOI-FM, 95.1 on Maui, in the past two years had expanded from a limited neighbor island station into nearly a state-wide powerhouse of classic, quality rock, simulcast in Hilo, Kona and, in Honolulu, through 100,000-watt KGMZ. In a management change and possible station sale, all on-air personalities disappeared and KGMZ began playing oldies from the '50s and '60s.

Station general manager Austin Valli, also of NPR and KRTR-96 in Honolulu, said that NPR had acquired a management lease agreement for KGMZ from the Maui-based KAOI group last Friday and hopes to purchase the station by the end of the year.

Until then, Valli is developing a new format for KGMZ. He hopes to have all new on-air personalities in place in three weeks. Part of the new format involves adding the best music of each year into a computerized program, he said.

Valli also has been playing the news, starting with 1956 on Jan. 15, and progressing each day to each successive year, to give listeners a feel for the period. The station recently played the news announcing the inauguration of President Eisenhower and the hit song "Run Around Sue."

Why did Valli choose to start with 12 songs from 1956?

"That's the music I remember," Valli said. "I just made 41."

Meanwhile, Ching said by telephone from Maui last night that KAOI was intact and still broadcasting its trademark signal on Maui at 95.1, with repeaters in Upcountry Maui at 96.7, 92.7 in Hilo and 101.5 in Kona. Ching said that callers were expressing outrage at the station change and were going to great lengths to catch KAOI's signal on Oahu.

Ching, originally from Hauula, said callers were reporting that listeners from Hauula to Waikele could pick up the 95.1 signal from Maui, with strong reception in North Shore areas.

Callers to KGMZ's Oahu number were referred by recording to the Maui number yesterday.

Star-Bulletin Maui correspondent
Gary T. Kubota contributed to this report.

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