After 23 years, the popularSunday radio showBreakfast With the Beatles is set to go off the air September 3. Host Chris Carter announced the bad news midway through last Sunday’s broadcast: “We can hear the Beatles on a lot of stations,” he said, voice cracking, “but there’s only one Breakfast With the Beatles, and there’s only one Breakfast With the Beatles audience.” Carter then played “Apple Scruffs” by George Harrison — the show’s de facto theme — and invited listeners to call in. Within the first 40 minutes, the station logged some 300 calls.

For many, many more, Sunday morning is going to have a very big hole left to fix.

Overall low ratings at 97.1 KLSX-FM (a.k.a. Free FM) since Howard Stern’s defection are at the root of the cancellation. KLSX plans to fill the slot with infomercials and football during the NFL season. (Sounds like it’s going to be a real hoot.) Officially, the cancellation is being called a “hiatus,” but there’s no indication the show will be reinstated when football season is over in January.

“I have no hard feelings with KLSX,” says Carter off the air. “I just want to find a home for the show so we can keep it going for another 23 years.”

Founded by maverick DJ Deirdre O’Donahue, Breakfast With the Beatles is the nation’s longest-running Beatles radio show and, like the band itself, it has grown to become more than the sum of its parts. When the show began in 1983 at hippie-turned-hard-rock station 94.7 KMET-FM, “it was the first of its kind,” says Rob Christie, BWTB’s producer from 1998 to 2001. “KMET handed the show to Deirdre, and she just ran with it.” The program moved to KNX-FM for a year (1987-88), then found its home at KLSX. It even survived that station’s switch from classic rock to talk. The model was imitated nationwide — and here in L.A. (K-Earth does Beatles programming on Sundays.) “Just the fact that after Deirdre started the show there were copycat versions popping up all over the country is a true testament to her original vision,” says Carter.

Carter took over after O’Donahue’s sudden death six years ago, and made some changes. “I thought it would be interesting to play things that most listeners had never heard before on the radio, or anywhere, for that matter.”

From Carter’s first appearance, the show took on a whole new flavor — rarities and hidden Beatles gems became the norm. “Plus, the fact that we had actual Beatles on the show really helped in giving the show some new cred with the fans. It made them feel that they were a part of the Beatles’ inner circle.”

Current producer Michael Wulusko was around 15 years old when he started listening. “You don’t have to be grown-up to like good music — my 3-year-old listens to the Beatles. Where else are you going to find something on the radio that you can listen to with your kids on Sunday? They’re getting rid of something pure and great and replacing it with corporate dollars.”

I’ve been a huge Beatles fan since 1964, when my big brother, Jamie (RIP), sat me down in front of the black-and-white television to watch these four grown-up guys play these things called electric guitars and shake their incredibly long hair on The Ed Sullivan Show. My dad hated them and my brother’s and my crewcuts started to wilt. Back then, nothing was better than hearing the Fabs on the radio. Breakfast With the Beatles brought back a lot of those great feelings that were doused by a world that doesn’t realize that singing about Strawberry Fields and fools on hills might be better than fighting over oil wells and blowing stuff up. I’ll go ahead and say it out loud on behalf of everybody who loves the show and all the guys who worked so hard on it. This really sucks.

A fan crusade is afoot (savebreakfastwiththe, and Carter’s not hopeless: “Hey, who knows? Maybe we’ll return to KLSX in January. Maybe we’ll move on to another ‘rock’ station. Maybe we’ll have to go to a big field, set up a PA system and hang out like hippies on Sunday mornings.

“It really doesn’t matter,” he adds. “The Beatles are FOREVER! Yeah Yeah Yeah! . . .

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