The A Train Derailed Off KRKH Radio

If the last two Friday nights have felt emptier than a bum’s beer bottle, here’s the cause: without warning, “The A-Train,” KRKH 97.3 FM’s Friday night rock n’ roll show, was forced into an unwarranted and untimely end. As with infants and ejaculation, there ain’t nothin’ good about being premature.

On the morning of Monday, March 12, The A-Train’s host–Maui’s beloved radio personality “Johnny A”–was served a surprise proverbial pink slip from H. Hawaii Media. And this, despite being the radio group’s top sales producer for the more than three years he worked as their marketing professional. Taking the high road, Johnny simply cites “a difference of opinion” with the owner of the company.

Entirely a labor of love, no one–including Johnny–was ever paid for workin’ on the A-Train railroad. It was simply a chance to party to some great rock tunes, celebrate sponsors and welcome another weekend in paradise.

“I’m very disappointed I can’t go on the air to do The A-Train anymore,” Johnny told me. “But it really sucks that I never had the chance to say goodbye to our listeners.”

The A-Train was the last live show on the KRKH station, one of just two live shows left in all of H. Hawaii Media (which also owns KONI 104.7 FM and KRYL 106.5 FM). The station’s other live shows–Ace’s Radio Rehab and Spike’s Sonic Playground, which Johnny also launched–met a similar end last Fall.

See, live radio’s an endangered species. Today’s technology allows for everything to be pre-recorded and redone to the point of losing spontaneity’s charm (one of The A-Train’s most winning qualities). “A programmer’s four-hour shift’s now relegated to a 40 minute shift,” Johnny explained. “The quality’s terrible. You might as well be listening to an iPod.” (Read: enjoy your icky Nickleback, folks.)

Fortunately, the pendulum’s swinging back toward the human element, as (most) company owners are realizing that live shows, which connect with real people in real ways, get better ratings–and better ratings mean a better bottom line.

The A-Train began in November 2008, building off Johnny’s popular early ‘90s shows “The Bone Jar” and “The Monkey Spankers” (on Pacific Radio Group’s KLHI 101.1 FM). In my metalhead high school years, I listened to these programs’ wild antics with rapt admiration. Lo and behold, this “Kula Kid” (kind of) grew up, and since last summer I’ve been–er, um, was–an A-Train co-host. (PS: I’m not sure how many people get a gig by making an impromptu hymen joke, but that’s how I did it.)

At the risk of missing someone (forgive me if I do), I’ll at least mention the core crew of boys–”Pistol Pete,” “Cuzin Larry” and “Old Hickory”–whose witty personalities were the crux of the show, alongside our conductor, Johnny. But because no one likes a sausage fest (unless its literally sausage), and because Johnny’s balder than a bowling ball, he had to get a harem. So too, applause is due to hottie co-hosts like “Lovely Lana,” “Holly Rocks” and “Knockout Natalia.” Plus, I’d be remiss to not mention “Abe’s Logic,” who composed each of our theme songs and segment drops.

My time on The A-Train was an education: musically, professionally and personally. Every week I learned a little more from Johnny’s understated, consummate cool. He’s the kind of guy who makes me wish I was in the US Marine Corps, too (he served from ‘84-’88, at Camp Pendelton, CA, Twentynine Palms, CA, and Quantico, VA, and abroad in Okinawa, Japan and the Philippines). But I’m the kind of girl who during commercial breaks can be found in the stairwell, sneaking tokes and ciggies and swigs of anything with a bite that lasts ‘til morning.

The day after the show’s demise, I had a somber lunch in Ma’alaea with Johnny, K-Rock Kara and fellow journo Trish “The Dish” Smith (who, since the beginning of the show, had a lively “What’s Going On” community segment). The owners of Beach Bums–Skip Hildreth and David Mecklenburg–saw Johnny, and approached him to re-up their radio ads, so Johnny had to give them the news.

The restaurant owners gushed, “Sorry to hear that, man… We’ll follow you anywhere… It’s the most effective advertising we’ve ever done… Your creativity connects with people in a way that no other ad can, and we can’t thank you enough.”

I think I speak for the rest of the A-Train crew when I say that I can’t thank you enough either, Johnny. We’ll all follow you anywhere.

“It sounds cliche,” said Johnny, “but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that when bad things happen, you just gotta roll with it.”

But without a chance to say farewell on his own platform, Johnny prepared a few parting words that I’d like to share on mine:

“The A-Train was on every Friday at the same time [3-9pm] for three and a half years. It has been one of the best experiences of my life–and I thank all the good people who helped make it happen every week, my co-hosts, and my sponsors. Most of all I thank the folks that tuned in an enjoyed our show. We had such a blast every Friday, and it always blew my mind that you guys actually enjoyed all the goofy shit we pulled on the air. Knowing that so many people listened and had fun will stay with me always. Thank you.”

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