Pounding poi for 50 years


POSTED: Monday, June 22, 2009

Its been almost exactly 50 years since the call letters KPOI were first heard on Hawaii's airwaves. The original “;Poi Boys”; revolutionized radio in Hawaii, and KPOI continued to be a high-profile station brand through the decades that followed.

Visionary Related Entertainment, the current owner of the name, celebrates “;50 Years in Rock”; Friday with a concert starring Pablo Cruise and Friends at Aloha Tower. As a warm-up for Friday, here's a look back at the past 50 years of KPOI through the eyes of seven of the countless disc jockeys and “;air personalities”; who contributed to the legend that is KPOI.





        » Where: The Waterfront at Aloha Tower Marketplace

» When: 7 p.m. Friday


» Cost: $35 advance (available at Ticketmaster outlets); $40 at the door


» Online: www.ticketmaster.com and www.craterman.com





        » Call letters: KPOI-FM

        » Frequency: 105.9 FM

        » Known as: 105.9 “;The Ride”;

        » Owner: Visionary Related Entertainment

        » Format: Classic hits

        » You'll hear: Hits from the '70s, '80s and some '90s




» Years at KPOI: 1983 to 1993
» Jobs held: Afternoon drive, and later morning shows, including the “;B.rock and Charly”; program with Charly Espina
» Station frequency: 97.5 FM (”;The Rock You Live On”;); owned by Woody Sudbrink (1983) and Kilohana Broadcasting (mid-'80s)
» Format: Album-oriented rock. “;From 1988 a mix of mainstream rock and the brand-new alternative music was featured in the evening hours.”;
» You'd hear: “;Jump”; by Van Halen, “;Don't Stop Believing”; by Journey, “;Pride in the Name of Love”; by U2, “;Sweet Child of Mine”; by Guns N' Roses, “;Take on Me”; by A-Ha, and “;How Soon is Now”; by the Smiths

B.Rock Remembers

“;KPOI was a leader in what has become known as 'brand marketing.'”; In the mid-1980s you could not go anywhere without seeing a 98 Rock T-shirt. At one time there were more than 25 different designs. Demand was so high that we opened 98 Rock shops in J.C. Penney stores throughout Oahu. KPOI also published its own magazine, 'The Beat,' and there was the annual 98 Rock calendar and the 98 Rock Calendar Girls.

“;KPOI in the mid-'80s not only played music, it made music. The Electric Lunch Band was created by the late Mike Vasser, the sales manager. It was made up of KPOI staff members including Bill Mims on guitar, Marti Kerton on vocals (and) I was on drums. ... The band was a regular feature at downtown block parties and occasionally at the Wave (Waikiki). The Electric Lunch Band even opened for the Jefferson Starship in Blaisdell Arena.

“;The KPOI personalities had great freedom in music selection and the speech content of their individual programs. Bono and The Edge of U2 spent two hours on my show during their first trip to Hawaii, picking music (for me to play) and talking about their hopes for the future.”;


Fil Slash

» Years at KPOI: 1997 to 2004
» Jobs held: Disc jockey (nights, midday host of the “; '80s Flashback Cafe,”; and then afternoon drive), music director, assistant program director, manager.
» Station frequency: 97.5 FM (”;The Rock You Live On”;), owned by Chuck Cotton, Caribou Broadcasting, New Wave Broadcasting, then Visionary Related Entertainment
» Format: ”;They ranged from alternative to modern rock to active rock.”;
» You'd hear: “;Spread so Thin”; by Sunburn, “;Surfer Girl”; by Homegrown, “;Just a Girl”; by No Doubt, “;Jenny Says”; by Cowboy Mouth, and “;Good (That's Right)”; by Better The Ezra.

Slash Remembers

“;I saw it all at KPOI. From the last dying vestiges of a 24-hour live DJ programming (with) cart machines, stacks of records and audio-tape filled studios to today's computer-assisted, voice-tracked radio.

“;The concerts KPOI brought and the listeners who attended them defined the era—from the Gin Blossoms' infamous 1994 New Year's Eve bash at the Hard Rock ... to broadcasting live from Blink 182 in 2004 at the Blaisdell when the signal got yanked.

“;And then there's the tale of the floating cat: Double D and Blunt had a morning show bit where they used a helium tank. One morning they were playing with it to see how many balloons lifted various objects around the studio. Eventually Double D sends Blunt to his apartment to fetch his girlfriend's cat, they put the cat in a basket and attached balloons to see how many balloons it took to make the basket float.

“;The cat scratched Blunt, he dropped the basket, and off she went soaring into the skies. Calls came in all day with sightings as far away as Maui.

“;It was all a hoax. They had substituted a stuffed toy cat, but the animal safety officers of the Hawaiian Humane Society were not amused. We had to put an hourly disclaimer on the air.”;


Phil Abbott

» Years at KPOI : 1982 to 1986
» Shift: Morning drive (”;Rabbett 'n Abbott”;) with Robert Abbett
» Station frequency: 1040 AM (KPOI-AM) and 97.5 FM (KPOI-FM)—known as “;KPOI 10-40”; (1982-1983) and “;98 Rock”; (1984-1986); owned by Sudbrink Broadcasting of Hawaii (1981 to1986)
» Format: KPOI-AM, middle of the road (1981 to 1982); contemporary hit radio/top 40 (August 1982 to August 1983); modern rock (August 1983 to 1986)
» You'd hear: Under MOR, “;Have You Never Been Mellow”; by Olivia Newton-John, “;Imagine”; by John Lennon and “;It's Impossible”; by Perry Como. Under CHR, “;Mickey”; by Tony Basil, “;I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)”; by Darryl Hall & John Oates and “;Truly”; by Lionel Richie. Under modern rock, “;Sunday Bloody Sunday”; by U2, “;Edge of Seventeen”; by Stevie Nicks and “;You've Got Another Thing Comin' “; by Judas Priest.

Abbott Remembers

“;Rabbett 'n Abbott had the highest ratings—No. 2, for ages 12-plus—in the history of KPOI/98 Rock. The show lasted from 1984 to 1986. One morning, during our battle with Michael Qseng and KQMQ, our phones lit up with callers tipping us off that over at KQMQ, Qseng was doing a parody of Rabbett 'n Abbott as 'Bugs and Bud' (a reference to Bugs Bunny and Bud Abbott). We retaliated by creating a fictitious character named Mikey Ginseng. A slightly flamboyant aphrodisiac of a personality. It was a mistake to engage—but so much fun!

“;I also created a feature based on Larry Price's journalistic style called 'Larry Vice Talking Straight at Eight.' It was a free-form comedy routine which was quite popular amongst KPOI/98 Rock listeners. Later on in my career, I would work with Larry Price at KSSK and even worked side-by-side with him when I sat in for Michael W. Perry. Larry, whom I have great respect for, never let me forget what I did to him.”;


Charly Espina

» Years at KPOI: 1988 to 1996
» Shift: Morning drive
» Station Frequency: 97.5 FM—known as 98 Rock (1988 to 1993); 97.5 The Edge (1993 to 1996); owned by Chuck Cotton
» Format: Album-oriented rock from 1988 to 1993; modern rock from 1993 to 1996
» You'd Hear: Under AOR, AC/DC, Van Halen, Guns 'n Roses, Pearl Jam and Aerosmith Under modern rock, REM, the Cure, Green Day, Alanis Morrisette, B52s

Espina Remembers

“;I had so many partners who were fired or quit that someone nicknamed me the Black Widow of Radio. (My) best and most fun partners at 98 Rock were B.Rock Whaley and Chris Rowe. Chris coined the way all us DJs said 'Van Haaaaalen,' dragging out the 'aaaaa.' It was awesome when we finally got to meet them backstage at the Blaisdell Arena in 1992. One other thing I remember from the 98 Rock days is autographing the back of 98 Rock POGS, then putting on deep red lipstick and sticking a lip print over my signature. Wonder if anyone out there still has one of 'em?

“;Most memorable from The Edge days, we had an awesome softball team.”;


Ron Jacobs

» Years at KPOI: May 18, 1959 (KPOI goes on air) to 1962
» Jobs held: 6 to 9 a.m. morning drive; and also spent time as program director until 3 p.m., “;when I did afternoon drive, then did production and crashed on a couch in my 'office.'”;
» Station frequency: 1380-AM (1380 KPOI)
» Format: Rock 'n' roll/top 40

Jacobs Remembers

“;Two days before we went on the air (with the new format) we started playing the same song over and over and over for two days. The worst song we could find. It was called 'Tom Cat.'

“;The Poi Boys specialized in what I call 'Circus Radio.' KPOI jocks were featured in 'Thons' that got much newspaper publicity. The first, and greatest, was when Tom Rounds, our news director, stayed awake in a department store window for 8 1/2 days and broke the record in the Guinness Book when few people even knew (the book existed).

“;KPOI jocks sat in cars suspended from cranes, broadcast underwater from a Waikiki pool, and competed in Drum-A-Thons, Pool-A-Thons, Insult-A-Thons, donkey basketball games, and endless stuff that caught the fancy of the kids turning on to Elvis, Frankie (Avalon), Ricky (Nelson) and Fabian.

“;(In the studio) we ran our own board, answered the phones, filled out two logs, played two-minute records, watched the news wire and made our own coffee.”;


Michelle Shockley

» On air at KPOI: 2007 to present
» Air shift: Afternoon drive, 3 to 7 p.m.

Shockley Remembers

“;As a broadcasting student, I read about the original KPOI-AM and the Poi Boys. Having the opportunity to work at a station that was the launching pad for Ron Jacobs and Tom Moffatt is quite a thrill.

“;Since joining the staff at KPOI, I've had many opportunities to talk with and meet performers visiting the islands. Even after all these years, I'm still a fan and find it refreshing when these rich and famous people end up being so much like the rest of us.

“;It is (also) a joy to meet the people who listen in their cars, their offices and homes. It is an honor to be invited as a friend into their lives! With the new social networking sites, like Facebook, we've been able to become even more connected!”;


'Uncle Tom' Moffatt

» Years at KPOI: May 15, 1959 (when pre-programing began) to 1974
» Jobs held: Everything from disc jockey (”;In the beginning I was 9 to noon and 6 to 9 at night—a double shift”;) to music director, program director to vice president and general manager
» Station frequency: 1380-AM (KPOI-FM was introduced as “;KPOI-FM Sunshine”; about 1967); owned by Fin Holliger and Jock Fernhead
» Format: ”;There was no 'format.' We played rock 'n' roll 24 hours a day.”;
» You'd hear: 1959 to1963, Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Teddy Randazzo, Everly Brothers, Johnny Crawford, the Royal Drifters; from 1964 to 1968, Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, Supremes, Temptations, Young Rascals, Monkees, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Spirits, Undertakers; from 1969 to 1974: Credence Clearwater Revival, Chicago, Sly & the Family Stone, Tower of Power, Society of Seven, and Sweet Marie

Moffatt Remembers

“;The biggest interview we did (in the early years) was in the summer of '59 when I interviewed Elvis from Germany. We ran huge ads on that. That was a big deal. Nobody talked to Elvis in Germany, but (Elvis' manager) the Colonel (Tom Parker) set it up. That was the biggest one.”;

“;In 1967 or '68 I came up with 'KPOI-FM Sunshine' for the FM station. That was the beginning of 'FM radio' in Hawaii. Up until then it was just an easy-listening station. There were a couple of other (FM stations) but they all played elevator music. I was the first one to put rock 'n' roll on FM. That was KPOI-FM. We did the first KPOI-FM Sunshine Festival January 1, 1969, in Diamond Head Crater. I did five of those. They were all free and they were all sponsored by KPOI-FM.”;