KSSK-AM radio lays off veteran Dick Wainwright


POSTED: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Longtime KSSK-AM 590 radio personality Dick Wainwright, heard on the station for 30 years, lost his job yesterday as did five others in the Texas-based company's latest round of cost-cutting. It was the second round this year and left 590 people, or 3 percent of its work force, unemployed.

They received severance pay equal to three to six months, according to radio industry publications.

In many markets, Clear Channel will replace local shows with national hosts. Hawaii Clear Channel officials declined comment beyond a prepared statement.

Wainwright's deep, resonant and cheerful voice had been a fixture on the station since 1979, longer than the celebrated morning show hosted by Michael W. Perry and Larry Price, who teamed up in 1983.

Disclosure: Your columnist was their co-worker for 14 years.

KSSK-AM will now be simulcast round the clock with KSSK-FM 92.3, adding FM personalities Kathy “;with a K”; and Curt Williams to the AM lineup. The syndicated John Tesh show has been dropped, but AM 590 will still air top-of-the-hour news breaks.

“;The AM had a 5 (share in ratings) with only one employee,”; Wainwright said. “;I think a hell of a lot more people listen to AM than they expect.”;

His company, Tropicals, produces tropical flowers for Chinatown vendors—and he does voice work, including a session yesterday with Jeff DePonte LLC, in a video for Hawaii Pacific Health.

“;He's the guy that's going to be responsible for the consumption of a lot of Kleenex Saturday night,”; when the video is played at an event, DePonte said.

Wainwright said he is weighing his options, adding, “;If somebody would call me, I'd like to go to work.”;

“;We should find a private investor to buy some little podunk station in this town, 2 watts, and load it up with some people that could do some good radio. It would be a giant-killer. ... There's a whole bunch of people out of work in radio that would love to do a good job,”; Wainwright said.

Now 62, he started in radio at the old KPOI-AM 1380 in about 1964.

Other marquee names and veteran voices also lost jobs yesterday, including Lanai Tabura and Junior Kekuewa Jr. of the morning show on KDNN-FM 98.5, both employed in radio for decades.

Replacing them are Rory Wild and Gregg Hammer of KIKI-FM 93.9, who join Crystal Akana.

“;For years, the people of Hawaii have loved the music on Island 98.5 and loved the Wake Up Crew with Rory and Gregg. Now, they finally will be able to 'have their cake and eat it too,'”; said Jamie Hyatt, operations manager and director of programming, in a statement.

The new morning hosts on “;Hot 93-9”; will be DJ Maleko and Natasha Jackson. Maleko also will continue to host afternoons on KUCD-FM 101.9.

“;Maleko is a rising star in Hawaii radio and (we knew he) would one day host a morning show for us,”; said Chuck Cotton, vice president and general manager, in a statement.

The voice of former KIKI personality Pablo Sato, now at KOHT-FM 98.3 in Tucson, Ariz., will soon return to KIKI in the afternoons.

Big Koa moves to evenings, while KIKI personality Krystilez and two other, non-air staffers, also lost their jobs yesterday.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).