91X program director Halloran remembers the dark days, suggests future brighter for unsigned bands
San Diego’s on-air Energizer bunny is still going and going... But now he has a louder bass drum.
Mike Halloran, the DJ who has always said he cared more about the music he played than the business of radio, and who has outlasted all of the corporate radio cogs who have fired him over the years, is back in the saddle as the program director of 91X. As PD, Halloran can now decide which DJs and artists are heard.
This will be his second time leading the 100,000-watt station. When Halloran first came to 91X from Detroit in 1986, he championed artists such as Violent Femmes and the Beastie Boys. He worked his way up to 91X program director but left in 1996 when that station was taken over by the Jacor/Clear Channel mega-group, which many thought sucked the soul out of their once-beloved radio friend.
“Those were the beginning of the dark days,” Halloran tells the Reader. “But even during the dark days, 91X remained legendary...but, yes, the [Clear Channel] hillbillies are all gone.” (The Federal Communications Commission forced Clear Channel to sell 91X in 2005 because Clear Channel controlled 11 local stations, and the limit is 8 per market. 91X is now owned by Local Media San Diego.)
As Halloran came and went as PD at other now-defunct local rock stations, such as KUPR, Flash/92.5, and Y107, he continued to champion adventurous play lists. But it was at the tiny 92/1 station in Carlsbad, in 2000–2001, where he proved that creativity would win out. “We had 580 watts, and we beat 91X, which had 100,000 watts. We killed them in North County. We were a group of pirates in a dinghy who picked off an aircraft carrier.”
Although 92/1 didn’t last, its David-beats-Goliath legacy caused heads to roll at 91X and convinced the owners of 94/9 to drop oldies and go head-to-head with 91X in 2002. FM 94/9 flipped to rock and hired Halloran as music director and afternoon DJ. He left 94/9 four years ago when that station took a right turn and brought on the ill-fated all-talk Mikey Show. Halloran rejoined 91X three years ago as an afternoon DJ, a shift he says he will keep as PD. He says, however, that he may not have time to host his Sunday night all-local Loudspeaker show.
Over the years, Halloran gave airplay to unsigned local artists such as Jewel, P.O.D., Jason Mraz, and blink-182. He won’t get specific about any plans, but says he will “more than likely” play unsigned bands who may not otherwise get airplay.