In the Wake of Taylor Hawkins’ Death, How Radio Rose to the Occasion

Published At: 29 March 2022 , 12:30 PM

The sudden passing of the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins sent shock waves around the rock world, and radio immediately rose to the occasion in paying tribute to the beloved drummer by playing music, sharing old interviews and airing calls from grieving fans.

SiriusXM host Howard Stern honored Hawkins on his channel Monday morning by playing old interviews and clips not only of Hawkins’ live drum solos, but his vocal performances, particularly his recent rendition of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” Stern took calls from listeners remembering Hawkins performing in his solo band and looked back on interviews that brought Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl and Hawkins’ friendship into focus, which he called one of the great partnerships in music.

“He was a supportive guy,” Stern remembered. “He wasn’t a jealous guy… He looked like a rock star. He had everything. He had the talent, he was an excellent drummer [and] had that long blonde hair like a surfer.”

“He’s gone and I’m sad. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Just a sweetheart,” Stern said of Hawkins, who had just appeared on the show one month earlier with Grohl to talk about the movie “Studio 666” and the band’s recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Other stations, like Meruelo Media’s KLOS (95.5) and Audacy’s KROQ (106.7), both in Los Angeles, switched to all-Foo Fighters playlists with tributes interspersed throughout the weekend.

When the news broke on Friday night, KLOS sprang into action with hosts Greg Beharrell, Matt Pinfield and Stew Herrera sharing stories, interview clips and audio from Hawkins and his numerous in-studio visits.

“Taylor became a friend 27 years ago, so for me and so many of us in the rock community, it was a crushing tragedy,” PInfield tells Variety. “But on the radio, I wanted to celebrate his life, legacy, music spirit and influence. He was one of a kind — a bright light with unparalleled energy. We will miss him terribly.”

KLOS Program Director Keith Cunningham talked of Hawkins and his “special relationship” with KLOS.

“He often told us stories about growing up in Southern California and listening to KLOS.  And while he was a frequent in-studio guest or even guest host, it was the charitable things he was always willing to help with that show you what a great man he was, like helping us to raise money each year for St. Jude or donating his time and playing for free to raise money to fight cancer in honor of KLOS DJ Bob Coburn,” he said.

Cunningham said that Hawkins was always in touch.

“I remember I got a text from Taylor one day because he was so stoked we were playing Van Halen’s ‘Mean Street.’ Taylor loved Van Halen, and when Eddie passed, he was the first to call in and share emotional memories of one of his favorite guitar players of all time,” he said.

The radio station also posted a few videos on social media of when he was at the station, one of which shows him playing a kids’ drum set and jamming with Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones.

“Who else but Taylor Hawkins would bring a kids drum set to jam on?” Cunningham said.

KROQ — as well as all of Audacy’s alternative stations, including Alt 923 in New York City — spread Foo Fighters songs throughout the weekend as well, and directed listeners to listen to the Foo Fighters station on the Audacy app for more content. KROQ also removed all commercials for an all-hands-on-deck situation with morning host Kevin Klein, KROQ afternoon host Megan Holiday and KROQ MD Miles Anzaldo going live until Saturday. Veteran KROQ midday host Nicole Alvarez played Foo Fighters music, which also included live performances from KROQ and concerts in Los Angeles through the years. That night at 7 p.m., KROQ replayed the Foo Fighters’ 2017 KROQ Sound Space performance. Sunday night, the station hosted a “Locals Only” edition of all Taylor Hawkins projects, and Monday morning the “Klein and Ally” show took calls and played “nothing but Foo Fighters music,” including an encore of the Foo Fighters’ 2017 KROQ Sound Space.

“I’m trying not to stay in the sad part of it,” Alvarez said on-air Saturday afternoon. “I just want to celebrate the fact that we got to share some time on earth with somebody as magnetic and just magnificent as Taylor Hawkins.”

Immediately after the news broke, KYSR (ALT 98.7) PD Lisa Worden had on-air personalities Booker and Stryker turn their cars around and head back to the radio station.

“Oddly, I was still in Burbank and turned around when I got the text,” Booker said. “Stryker and I met up to go live until midnight talking to some very emotional callers, reading their texts and also sharing our interactions with and our own memories with him. We just wanted to be there with the fans that we’ve stood with at shows countless times.”

Adds Worden: “They played nonstop Foo Fighters music until midnight while taking calls and reading texts from listeners. Stryker has a 20-plus-year history with the band so he had some great personal stories to tell.”

She continued, “The response from listeners was overwhelming; they were thankful to have a place to express their grief and share their own personal stories with people who could relate. We then continued to be live all weekend long while playing tons of Foos music, interview clips, etc. honoring Taylor all weekend long. Tonight we are rebroadcasting their performance from our iHeartRadio ALTer Ego 2021 concert across all iHeartMedia Alternative and Rock stations (about 90 radio stations).”

On the east coast, iHeartRadio”s Q1043 aired a produced sweeper honoring Hawkins, playing plenty of music as the news broke and tracks throughout the weekend. Like all iHeartRadio stations, the radio station will replay the Foo Fighters’ iHeartRadio ALTer Ego 2021 show on Monday night.

In Philadelphia, Beasley Broadcast Group’s WMMR launched a nearly three-hour tribute hosted by Ryan Shuttleworth and Sydney Taylor, with veteran mid-day jock Pierre Robert dedicating two hours to the drummer Monday. Other stations honored Hawkins as well, including  iHeartMedia’s WXTB Tampa (97.9),WEBN Cincinnati (102.7) and KEGL Dallas (97.1) Cumulus Media’s “Rock 100.5” WNNX Atlanta, Beasley’s WRIF in Detroit, Hearst Television’s WIYY Baltimore, Audacy’s WXRT (93.1) and Beasley’s 95.9 The Rat, Belmar.

Read more: https://variety.com/2022/music/news/in-wake-of-taylor-hawkins-death-how-radio-rose-to-the-occasion-1235217487/