Popularity of tigers adopted by area radio station
In writing two weeks ago about Jimi Hendrix’s 1970 concert at San Bernardino’s old Swing Auditorium, I mentioned KFXM-AM, a popular Inland Empire Top 40 station of the 1960s-’80s.
I’d seen a page from a 1960s KFXM newsletter, which used the motto “The California ‘Tiger’ ” alongside a drawing of a tiger in spectacles. “Perhaps someone can explain that,” I wrote.
“I read your column where you raised a question about KFXM’s use of the ‘Tiger Radio’ slogan,” writes David Leonard, a radio historian who authored “Aircheck: The Story of Top 40 Radio in San Diego.”
Three stations owned by the same two men, Howard Tullis and John Hearn — KAFY in Bakersfield, KDEO in San Diego and KFXM in San Bernardino — “used a ‘Tiger Radio’ slogan to distinguish themselves from the more successful Boss Radio format that swept the state in the mid-1960s,” Leonard explains. “The common slogan allowed them to use the same weekly survey format at all stations.”
Tigers were popular at the time, with Uniroyal’s Tiger Paw tires and the gasoline slogan “Put a tiger in your tank,” Leonard says. He didn’t mention Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger, so I will.
KFXM, 590 on the AM
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dial, broadcast from San Bernardino’s Holiday Inn — the studio overlooked the swimming pool — and also accepted mail at Riverside’s Mission Inn.
I learned loads about KFXM and its tiger from kfxm-kmen-radio.blogspot. com/, which has uploads of many issues of the station’s weekly Tiger magazine newsletter, among other memorabilia and background tidbits.
The KFXM tiger was introduced in 1964. In the newsletter, the cartoon tiger was depicted standing on his hind legs, holding a stage microphone, looking suave, usually wearing glasses, and clad in either a tuxedo or a sweater.
The mascot’s name: Ed GRrrrrr.
Ed was, almost literally, a paper tiger. Yet he also existed around the station as large stuffed toys, which were ferried around the area for promotional purposes in the “Tiger Car.” Ed was identified in Tiger magazine as its columnist and “senior tiger.”
A fellow columnist! I respect Ed even more now. We are brothers under the fur. Still, professional jealousy compels me to note that he started with an advantage. I had to earn my stripes. He was born with his.
Soon, an actual tiger bounded into the picture.
KFXM advertising salesman Al Barnett, whose hobbies included raising exotic animals, announced one day in 1966 that he was getting a baby Bengal tiger.
That summer, Barnett’s tiger cub arrived via Riverside’s Flabob Airport, after being picked up in Portland, Oregon. He may have originated in India, but it’s not clear from what I read. For all I know it was Battle Creek, Michigan.
“ ‘Tiger Radio 59’ is the first radio station anywhere to claim as their mascot a real live Bengal tiger,” Barnett bragged in the Tiger newsletter. He said he would train the tiger to appear with him at on-location broadcasts and promotional events.
That fall, the Bengal was the object of a “name the tiger” contest.
Winning name: Jocko. Yes, Jocko.
Ehh, I prefer Ed GRrrrrr.
By late 1966, Jocko had been to a feed store in Rubidoux and to restaurants in Redlands, Ontario and San Bernardino. He was kind of adorable in his photos, still looking like a cub.
In a photo six months later, Jocko looked fullgrown and was said to weigh nearly 260 pounds.
I don’t know how many appearances Jocko made, or how many listeners he ate, or where he ended up.
Riverside native Julie Lewis tells me she used to catch glimpses of the tiger in its cage behind a Victorian home on Main Street downtown — Barnett’s home, perhaps — as she went to and from Central Junior High in the early 1970s.
“It was in the back of somebody’s house,” Lewis recalls. “It was in a big cage. He would walk back and forth.”
You have to wonder what the neighbors thought. But with a tiger next door, perhaps they kept to themselves.
Speaking of Hendrix’s 1970 concert, the one that led to a riot, reader Kerry Wayland chimes in: “I was one of those on the outside with a ticket … I remember a phalanx of police and of course the tear gas. There was a large fountain in front of the east entrance to the Swing and people were running into it for relief. My friends and I retreated to a McDonald’s across from the Orange Show grounds and were told to leave” by police. Wayland concludes: “Thanks for the memories and for providing proof to my kids, now adults, that Pops used to get out and about.
“And some of my stories are real.” David Allen, your nontiger columnist, writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, go to insidesocal. com/davidallen, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @ davidallen909 on Twitter.
In the 1960s, Top 40radio station KFXM’s cartoon tiger mascot had competition from a live tiger, as announced in the station’s weekly newsletter at the time.