JOE PYNE -- The first and best of the Shock Jocks!

Ray Briem Interview

Richard Borys, who spent years trying to develop interest in a Joe Pyne documentary, has furnished us with a unique video interview with a Joe Pyne contemporary, the late Ray Briem.  He was interviewed by Richard on January 30, 2006.  Briem, another talk radio pioneer, passed away on December 12, 2012.  The interview, which runs 37:42, includes Briem's recollections of Joe Pyne when both were broadcasting from KLAC in Los Angeles; Pyne's radio talk show ran from 8:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight; Briem's ran from 12:00 Midnight to 5:00 AM. 

Briem was originally a disc jockey, playing records; he was brought down from Seattle, where he had the top-rated pop-music radio and television programs.  He recalled that Pyne was the one who persuaded him to change his format to talk radio, instead of just playing records. He says that he first heard Joe Pyne on KABC shortly after he moved to Los Angeles.  He said that Pyne really changed talk radio from “one way” talk shows, in which the guests just talked about what they wanted to talk about, without challenge or interaction by the host.  Pyne on the other hand was provocative: “Go gargle with razor blades” or “Take those false teeth out and put them in backwards and go bite yourself in the neck” and “You know what?  Every time you call this program and open your mouth, nothing but garbage falls out.”  Pyne was particularly adept in circumventing the “Fairness Doctrine” which was put in place by the Federal Communications Commission.  It was in substance that if a person was attacked on air, they had to be notified and given the opportunity to respond within seven days. Pyne was so confrontational that the station had people who did nothing but send copies of tapes out. Briem noted that he opposed the Fairness Doctrine, and that it was ended in 1986, paving the way to Rush Limbaugh and other broadcasters who can attack all they want.

Pyne was instrumental in persuading KLAC to change to “all talk radio.” KLAC was the first 24-hour talk radio station in the country.

Pyne was “also a showman” who “would play his audience – let them be part of the act.”  Pyne would let them “spew their venom” as much as they wanted, but he would lower the volume and just start reading the weather forecast, or the traffic report, as the caller kept talking.  Eventually, he would turn the guest volume back up, and say something like "I've heard enough of you." and cut the caller off the air. Over time, Pyne was successful enough to have a chauffeur, and to broadcast from his home.

"Kudos go to Joe Pyne, who set the stage for modern talk radio.... There were no limits [for talk subjects, as had previously been the case] to Joe.. He broke those barriers" .... In fifty years, in the “history of radio,” Pyne will be remembered as the person who started conroversial talk radio.

An indirect Pyne story involved a bird:  He recalled how KLAC insisted that he get a “mascot” – since he was on at night, they wanted him to get a pet owl. He persuaded them to let him get a talking Mynah bird, and he had a big naming contest for it. The winning name was “Major Mynah.” He would leave the bird in its cage, covered by a towel, in the control room when Pyne was on the air.  Callers always began by saying “Hello Joe.”  The bird picked up the phrase; whenever Briem would ask Major Mynah on-air what he had to say, the bird would respond “Hello, Joe!”

Ray Briem's Obituary follows:


One of the first conservatives to establish a beachhead in radio, Ray Briem consistently attracted the largest ratings of any overnight talk show. He championed Propositions 13 and 187.

December 13, 2012|Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times

Ray Briem slammed liberals, championed conservative causes and extolled the big-band music he loved. Ray Briem, the longtime KABC-AM talk show host who ruled all-night radio for nearly three decades with his phone calls to the famous and the quirky and his opinionated banter slamming liberals, championing conservative causes and extolling the big-band music he loved, died Wednesday at his Malibu home. He was 82. The cause was cancer, said his son Bryan.

Briem spent most of his life on the radio, reaching his largest audience as the host of a popular midnight-to-5 a.m. talk show on KABC from 1967 to 1994. During those 27 years he helped set the mold for what has become a major radio genre."We consider him one of the most important radio talk-show hosts of all time," said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, the main trade publication for the talk radio industry. "There were only a handful of stations in the entire country doing talk then. It hadn't been formulated, researched, standardized and consulted. It was all based on these creative characters … and Ray Briem was one of the originals." One of the first conservatives to establish a beachhead in radio, Briem dominated the post-midnight hours, consistently attracting the largest ratings of any overnight talk show. The year he left KABC he was drawing 15.7% of the available audience, a remarkable share in any era. He was also one of the station's most effective pitchmen, whose show "brought in more than a million dollars a year in revenue," said former KABC General Manager George Green.His political crusades also turned tides.

Briem gave Proposition 13 author Howard Jarvis a regular platform during the 1970s and was credited by Jarvis for helping build the public groundswell that led to the anti-tax measure's resounding victory in 1978. Its passage proved that conservative radio did not play "only to the fringe," Briem said, but had mainstream appeal. "We spoke to the people, and the people responded," he told The Times in 1996.The veteran broadcaster later bolstered the campaign for Proposition 187 led by Harold Ezell, who credited Briem with helping to get the controversial initiative cutting state services for illegal immigrants on the 1994 state ballot. Briem also defended President Nixon during the Watergate scandal, which so endeared him to one loyal listener that when she died at 100 she left Briem her house.

An avid pilot, Briem sold the house to buy an airplane.

"He was of a different era," said Michael Jackson, another talk-radio icon who was a daily presence on KABC but attracted a more liberal base than Briem. "Politically we disagreed on almost everything, but I liked him — you couldn't help it. He had no affectation. He cared about the caller. He was always fair.... And his audience trusted him."

Briem was born Jan. 19, 1930, in Ogden, Utah, where his mother was a teacher and his father was a railroad engineer. He briefly attended the University of Utah, where he studied chemistry but abandoned his plans for a science career after "he blew up his chemistry set in the house," his son said. By then Briem already had the radio bug. When he was 15, he and his buddies conceived a 15-minute radio drama called "The Adventures of Vivacious Vicky" that Ogden's tiny radio station agreed to air. When a staffer at the station went on a drunken binge on V-E Day in 1945, Briem was asked to fill in. Later that year, he was hired full time.

He worked with Armed Forces Radio during the Korean War, hosting live shows with big-name bands, including those led by Harry James, Guy Lombardo, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

In 1953, after completing his military service, Briem moved to Los Angeles to spin records at KGIL-AM. He remained a deejay through the early 1960s, including a stint in Seattle where he worked for King Broadcasting on both its radio and TV outlets. He hosted a popular teen dance show that led fans to call him "the Dick Clark of Seattle."

In 1958, he married Elsie Child. The marriage ended in divorce in 1964. He is survived by their two children, Bryan, of Malibu, and Kevin, of San Diego; and five grandchildren.”

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