Legendary US Programmer Steve Rivers dies

Staff Writer


This article is reprinted in full from Radio Ink magazine in the US.



Steve Rivers, former SVP/Programming for CBS Radio and the legendary programmer of such stations as WXKS/Boston, KIIS-FM/Los Angeles, and KMEL/San Francisco, has died of cardiac arrest. Rivers, who lived in Tampa, had been in poor health for some time following a series of strokes.

"Steve was one of my closest friends, and this is a huge personal loss," Radio Ink Publisher Eric Rhoads said. "My heart goes out to Steve's family. Steve and I became friends when we worked together at 96X in Miami in 1975 and have been close ever since. We worked together again when he joined me at RadioCentral, my Internet radio startup in San Francisco. Steve was soft-spoken but carried a big stick. He was a powerhouse radio programmer and one of the most fair and gentle men I have ever known. We last spoke following his stroke, when he was bedridden in the nursing home in Tampa. He was frustrated that he could not work and was doing station critiques while listening to stations online. He never lost his passion for radio. He will be deeply missed."

From left to right in this picture are: Lynn Powell, Michael Martin, Steve Rivers, Karen Tobin, Steve Ringold, Mike Callahan, Kevin Weatherly, Jerry Burnham and Jack Silver.

KLOS/KABC Program Director Jack Silver tells Radio Ink, "I first met Steve at KMEL in San Francisco in the mid 80’s…And he became a major mentor to me and all those around us brining his top 40 skills from Tampa and sharing them with me and Keith Naftaly. Then, in the late 80’s, Steve brought me to KIIS-FM to work with Rick Dees and later music director.It is a sad day for our industry in that we lost a guy who truly loves radio and shared his expertise with those around him. On a personal side, I loved smoking a cigar with Steve, and sharing radio stories.  He was a pioneer in our industry."

B101 Philly PD Chuck Knight tells Radio Ink, "Steve was the VP of Programming for Pyramid Broadcasting in the mid-90s. He believed in me enough to bring me to Philadelphia for the first time to program Star 104.5. Steve had a low-key, dry sense of humor and I remember him always giving me a hard time for driving a big, old-man, 4-door Buick. Ironically, I thought of him and that memory this morning while I was driving into the office.  It made me smile.  I guess Steve was checking in on a few of us this morning."

KISS-FM (L.A.) Program Director John Ivey had been friends with Steve Rivers a long time. They are both from Kentucky. They are also the only two PD's that can say they programmed both KISS in Boston and KISS in L.A. Ivey tells Radio Ink Rivers plucked him out of Nashville where he had just signed a 3-year deal at Y107. "They bought out my contract and hired me as P.D. at KISS in Boston. A dream job. About a year later, Steve came into my office and said he didn't think this was working out. I told him there was no way anyone here was going to listen to me as long as he was still in the building. The next month I opened the trades and read he was moving to Seattle. It was Steve getting out of my way. I programmed the station for 6 years until coming to KISS in L.A. 11 years ago."

Kevin Weatherly of KROQ told Radio Ink, "The passing of Steve Rivers is a very sad day for all of us who had the privilege of knowing him, and especially for those of us fortunate enough to work for him. I'll never forget the day I got the phone call from Steve asking "Hey man….do you wanna be the Music Director of KIIS/LA?". I learned so much from him in a very short-time. He was the master of the "blocking and tackling" of programming fundamentals. At the same time, his stations always sounded "bigger than life"…much like the man himself. Every week when I do music rotations…Steve's words of wisdom still ring in my head….."Just play the hits!". He was a mentor and a wonderful human. He will be missed by many."

This article has been reprinted in full from US website Radio Ink, which you can visit here.

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