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GOODBYE KIIS RICK DEES LEAVES SHOW AFTER 22 YEARS.

Byline: Fred Shuster Music Writer

The spectacularly successful morning drive time marriage of Rick Dees and KIIS-FM ended abruptly Tuesday after 22 years - and it wasn't amicable.

Pop radio's first million-dollar man and a Radio Hall of Fame disc jockey, Dees told his listeners that he's leaving the popular chat and music program he helmed since 1982.

In Tuesday's pre-recorded 5 a.m. announcement, Dees said, ``It's been decided that I will no longer be doing the daily morning radio show on KIIS-FM ... I love you all deeply.''

Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio company, was just as terse, offering only an e-mail message from KIIS general manager Roy Laughlin: ``We can't confirm anything other than what Rick has already said today. We will provide our listeners with information on KIIS' morning show in the near future.''

An announcement is expected today that ``American Idol'' host Ryan Seacrest - Dees' longtime fill-in - would take over the show.

Dees, a Top 40 radio giant with his ``Rick Dees in the Morning'' show on the Burbank station, helped make KIIS-FM (102.7) the highest-grossing radio property in the world.

He fought off onslaughts from shock jocks and others attempting to knock him off his perch, and the end apparently came when contract negotiations broke down. Speculation on his future included the possibility he might resurface at an adult contemporary outlet also owned by Clear Channel.

``This is a major event,'' said Don Barrett, editor of www.laradio.com, an industry Web site covering the radio industry.

``For a generation of listeners, there's nobody bigger than Dees. To have lasted 22 years and been so dominant is unheard of in Top 40. Nobody was better at connecting with his listeners. He had a rare empathy with what was going on in their lives.''

Even when Dees was threatened by the popularity of frenetic ``morning zoo'' formats or the syndication of outrageous morning man Howard Stern, he maintained an often family-friendly show that rarely went over the line of good taste.

``Rick stuck to his guns,'' Barrett said. ``You knew what you were gonna get when you tuned in. He knew how to drive that morning truck and a lot of people don't. You can't just go in there and wing it. His show seemed to be in tune with people's daily morning rituals - when you got in the car, you knew what you'd hear. There was comfortability.''

The Dees program is considered the highest-earning morning show in Top 40 while KIIS itself is among the world's top revenue-earning stations with more than $60 million billed last year. In 1999, KIIS was the top-earning station in the world; its annual revenues each year are higher than that of the entire radio industry of Canada.

Contract renewal talks with the 53-year-old Dees, who lives in Toluca Lake, had been ongoing for several weeks, sources said. Dees was the first pop DJ to break $1 million in annual salary at least a decade ago and is now thought to earn several times that amount.

``There's been some ratings erosion across the board (at KIIS) but, generally, Rick's ratings were staying put,'' said Kevin Carter, Top 40 radio editor at Radio & Records magazine. ``It's hard to say what was going on behind closed doors, but they felt a change was necessary and the torch needed to be passed.''

Seacrest is expected to make the announcement of his new job at the start of his Fox-TV talk show at 5 p.m. today on KTTV (Channel 11). A few months ago, he quit his longtime afternoon slot at Clear Channel-owned KYSR-FM (98.7) - Star 98 - and recently took over Casey Kasem's hosting duties on the syndicated radio fixture ``American Top 40.''

During his final KIIS show Tuesday, Dees said he would continue hosting the syndicated countdown show, ``Rick Dees Weekly Top 40,'' heard in 320 stations each weekend, including KIIS at 8 a.m. Sundays.

Without elaborating on his reasons for leaving, Dees thanked his morning team and signed off Tuesday to the strains of the ``Superman'' theme. The station will probably spin music in the mornings until Seacrest is expected to take the reins. More than 1 million people tune in to KIIS each week, giving it the city's largest radio audience.

Dees, who was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1999, won Billboard's Radio Personality of the Year trophy 15 times in a row and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was raised in Greensboro, N.C., and earned a degree from the University of North Carolina.

Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676

fred.shuster(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Radio personality Rick Dees kisses Sofia Nipote, 3, the daughter of Joe Nipote, who worked on the ``Rick Dees in the Morning'' show on KIIS-FM. Dees' run at the station ended Tuesday after 22 years.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer

(2) ``American Idol'' host Ryan Seacrest, joined here by singer Sheryl Crow on his ``On Air With Ryan Seacrest'' show on Fox-TV, is expected to replace longtime DJ Rick Dees on KIIS-FM.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 11, 2004
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