Bay Area residents are waking up this morning, shocked and saddened to learn that after 20 years, popular long time, Bay Area fixture Chuy Gomez was unceremoniously let go from radio station KMEL..the so-called ‘People’s Station‘.. There was no Good-Bye to the listeners.. No on air thanks you for his years of hard work..There was no going away party.. Gomez came in yesterday and was basically shown the door..All he got was a ‘Peace out‘..
For those who don’t know, Chuy was very well liked, always down to make room on his show for folks and pretty damn good at his job…But sadly Chuy works for Clear Channel and industry trades have been talking for weeks about how this Bain Capitol owned media empire owes billions of dollars and that they would soon be doing massive cut backs, further consolidation and a lot more smoke and mirror tricks like voice tracking on air deejays who are made to pretend they are in your market while prerecording shows in other cities.
Internally Clear Channel employees are finding their pocketbooks being hit.. Those who make ‘too much’ find their salaries or benefits are reduced or their duties vastly expanded to the point of being overwhelmed as they are made to take on the jobs that were once handled by 2 or 3 people.
Others are simply replaced with thirsty, naive folks who are willing to work for super cheap wages. This is happening at stations all over the country. Some say that’s just the way radio works. Others say its simple exploitation. Looks like longtime radio vet Chuy got caught in that chopping block..
Now because of Chuy’s talent and popularity its anticipated that he’ll land on his feet somehow someway. After 20 years its assumed that he got a halfway decent severance package.. The video he posted on line suggests he’s good..
What’s problematic is that listeners who have literally grown up to him are left hanging. For tens of thousands of listeners Chuy is their favorite personality. He wasn’t your prima donna jock who would only go out in the community when paid. He genuinely likes people and has always made himself available. He comes from the school of radio where its about building community.
But sadly the public airwaves where such relationships are supposed to be fostered are disrupted by wealthy bankers who now own many of these big radio outlets and are determined to make money at all costs. This has resulted in many markets have syndicated morning shows..
So for Bay Area listeners in the past 2 years they have lost 5-7 iconic long time radio personalities. Folks are still reeling from KGO which was number 1 for over 30 years. An out of town company Cumulus came in and got ride of everyone from Ray Taliafero to Gene Burns.. Folks were devastated..
Next Bay Area fans were dealt a blow when long time jock Cousin Kevin Brown who was on KBLX for a good 20 years was fired, new station owners found it was cheaper to bring in the syndicated morning show from Steve Harvey. This change happened last year resulting in thousands being deprived of local flavor and engagement on their favorite station.
3 thousand miles away in New York City, folks are dealing with last week’s mass firing of all the popular social justice deejays that were on WBAI including the legendary Gary Byrd. Many of those jocks like Chuy were near and dear to the hearts of their listeners..
Back in the Bay Area, prior to Kevin Brown being let go, , popular morning show host Renel was let go and replaced by syndicated host Tom Joyner. Listeners were outraged and stopped listening to the station in droves.. Joyner was eventually let go and Renel brought back..Many are wondering if lightening can strike twice as thousands of people have been posting on line that they have no intention of listening to KMEL ever again.. Will a boycott of the station work??
Complicating all this are the new PPM rating systems that operate in such a way that all it takes is two or three people to switch stations to mess up a station’s standings. This has resulted in many stations ignoring the wishes and concerns of the majority of listeners to hone in on those very few who have the devices. Stations live and die by those handful of PPM device holders.
Many deejays especially those on urban outlets have been encouraged not to get too controversial or make waves on a political tip for fear of offending those few with monitoring devices. Hence the controversies that are frequently brought up tend to be around celebrity gossip which have been deemed safe… So if one has to choose between talking about the outrage over the Zimmerman verdict or a police shooting versus Kanye West beating up a camera man or Kendick Lamar housing someone on a song then the latter choices will more often than not be made.
As for Chuy Gomez, after 20 years just about everyone has a favorite story or memory. For me, I recall when Chuy first came to KMEL and was doing evenings with Rosary..Their show was dope.. Those were fun times.
Before that, I recall Chuy being sidekick to a deejay named Mancow Muller who banked off Chuy and got all this credit for a stunt that Chuy actually pulled off with his homies.. Many will recall when Chuy stopped traffic on the Bay Bridge so he could get a shave.. He was imitating then President Bill Clinton who at that time, famously held up airplane traffic to get a hair cut.. The story made national news with Mancow taking all the bows and getting all the credit resulting in him getting a multi-million dollar contract for a radio station in Chicago. Chuy not too long after left then rival station KLYD, came over to KMEL and got busy..
There are tons of stories folks can tell about Chuy..As noted he is good at what he does and hopefully he lands on his feet elsewhere.. With his departure, it’s truly the end of an era.. Sana G who we know from doing middays and blows things up on the gossip tip will now be doing mornings.
Ideally people should be pushing for media outlets that responsive to community needs from being responsive to the local artist community to be accessible and informative around pressing community issues above and beyond a few PSAs..
One thing that was challenging was that when Chuy would interview guests who had info about the community they would sweat him if they appeared before 9 am when everyone was listening or or he kept them on for ‘too long’.
At other times he would get in trouble and even suspended for speaking ‘spanglish‘ on the air.. The management didn’t want listeners getting confused with KMEL’s once rival station and now sister station KYLD which targeted Latinos..Behind the scenes in cities where corporate outlets own multiple stations the audiences are studied and carefully carved up by ethnicity in a colonizing type of way with little room for going out of your lane to appeal to others even if you are of the same background.
There is so much that can be done to improve these outlets, so hopefully wherever Chuy lands its a place where his talent is respected and has much more freedom.. Bay Area listeners deserve that..Perhaps they will get together and throw Chuy a proper Goodbye Party since Cheap Channel aka Clear Channel didn’t have the decency and respect.