Claremonter lands dream radio job at KLOS
by Lisa Butterworth | special to the Courier
By 10:30 a.m. on a recent Friday, Rene Casas had already met rock star Billy Idol, celebrated National Cuddling Day with a consenting colleague, and namedropped his alma mater, La Verne’s Bonita High School, on live radio. It’s all in a day’s work for the Claremont resident who operates the board for radio station 95.5 KLOS’s iconic “Heidi and Frank” morning show.
“It’s like the legendary rock station,” Casas said. “Which is crazy, because in the L.A. area, it’s one of those stations that you grow up listening to. I gotta pinch myself, ’cause now I’m working here.”
Music has been a constant in Casas’s life, and a love of radio followed suit. “When I was growing up, my dad was a musician. He was into Latino music, like Santana, Poncho Sanchez, Los Lobos, and artists like that,” said Casas, who became a musician himself, playing bass in a reggae-ska band called Better Chemistry, and later in a reggae-rock band called Natural Heights.
“[My dad] would listen to this radio DJ on KPCC in Pasadena, whose show was called ‘The Sancho Show.’” Daniel Castro, better known as “Sancho” on air, would often interview children as part of a regular segment. Thanks to his dad’s music scene credentials, Casas was one of the kids Sancho interviewed on air, and it sparked a lifelong interest. “From that moment, I just kind of fell in love with radio,” said the 43-year-old.
After high school, Casas took communications and liberal arts classes at Citrus College in Glendora, but knew he needed some real-world experience to break into a competitive industry like radio. He began interning at the podcasting network Toad Hop, which was owned by Frank Kramer, of “Heidi and Frank” fame. It was here that Casas first proved his mettle to the popular radio personality, driving from San Dimas, where he lived, to Universal City, “on my own dime, to work for free, just to learn the ropes and get the experience, and surround myself with successful people in the industry,” he said.
That’s also where he got to know Johnny Ice, a member of the “Heidi and Frank” morning show. “Johnny was one of the first people I met at Toad Hop. He showed me the ropes and was kind of like my mentor,” Casas said. “He would take me with him into KLOS and I would help him behind the scenes.”
From Toad Hop, Casas landed a job at I Heart Radio’s ALT 98.7, learning how to run the giant radio boards. A few years later he moved to AM political talk station 790 KABC. One of the perks was that KABC shared a building with KLOS, his dream radio destination. “I’ve been a ‘Heidi and Frank’ listener and fan for a long time, since my early twenties,” Casas said. “I told myself, ‘I’m gonna work for that show one day.’ And it happened, I made it happen.”
Just over a year ago, when Casas heard that the longtime producer of “Heidi and Frank” was leaving, he applied immediately. The position was filled from within, but thanks to his skills, personable demeanor, and on-air ease, not to mention his long-term friendships and connections, he was hired as the board operator and engineer. Now he arrives at the KLOS station every weekday at 5:30 a.m. His responsibilities include prepping the studio for going live, producing and queuing up commercials, playing songs, editing traffic reports, firing sound effects, and most importantly, ensuring that listeners never hear silence. “Dead air is the number one thing that you don’t want to happen in radio,” he said.
He’s also become an on-air presence, participating in segments like a daily history quiz, and chiming in on various topics from behind the board. It’s a high-stress job, but that doesn’t faze him. “It’s not really work if you love what you do. I’ve done construction, I’ve worked in the restaurant industry, I’ve worked for car dealerships along the way. But radio’s always been my passion,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
Casas moved to Claremont in 2021, but growing up in La Verne in the 1990s, he was no stranger to the town. “I would go to [former Claremont denizens] Rhino Records once a week,” Casas said, buying “must-have albums” from the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. He would also scour the CDs for bootleg versions of live recordings from Sublime, one of his favorite bands. “Those were very, very hard to find, but Rhino would have them every now and then, and I would snatch them up. It was my go-to,” Casas said. He also remembers scoring a VHS of The Beatles’ movie Help! at the former Rhino Records spinoff, Video Paradiso.
The regular visits cemented Casas’s love for the Village, which made Claremont an obvious place to put down roots when he and his wife Sherry, a local Re/Max Resources realtor, were looking to buy a home. Casas’s brother, Nathan Casas, also teaches math at Claremont High School.
“It’s a beautiful city, there are cool places to hike, we can walk to the Village from our house, it’s a safe neighborhood,” said Casas. Those are just a few of the reasons he loves giving Claremont shoutouts on the “Heidi and Frank” morning show. “I bring a local flavor to the airwaves. I’ll reference the Village, and Laemmle, little local places that I know,” Casas said. “If we talk about food on the show I’ll be like, ‘Oh, you know what has the best burger in town? The Back Abbey in Claremont!’”
The “Heidi and Frank” show airs Monday through Friday from 6 to 10 a.m. on KLOS 95.5, via the Heidi and Frank or TuneIn Radio apps, or at 955klos.com.
“I’m just trying to get the word out to Claremontians,” said Casas. “Hey, you have someone from your city on the radio every morning! Tune in, you might like the show.”