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The Legend of KZAP
by Alex Cosper

The history of freeform radio (before 1968)
Early KZAP History (late sixties/early seventies)
The Peak of Radio Anarchy (early seventies)
Transition from Freeform to Album Rock (early to mid-seventies)
The Emerging FM Audience (late seventies)
KZAP Rules the Market (early eighties)
The Greatest Rock Battle ...(mid-eighties to early nineties)
Reflecting on the Legend



VIDEOS

1. Jeff Hughson Interview #1: The Dawn of Freeform Radio
2. Jeff Hughson Interview #2: The Birth of KZAP
3. Dennis Newhall Interview: 70s Freeform Radio
4. Robert Williams Interview #1: KZAP Programming
5. Robert Williams Interview #2: 70s Rock Scene



THE PEAK OF RADIO ANARCHY


Several members of the original KZAP staff bolted in April 1970 after attending the Alternative Media Conference in Vermont. According to Phil Glatz (pictured left), who arrived at the station around that time to do late night and morning air shifts as well as commercial production, "The original crew was a visionary lot, many from commercial radio. After some of them left, they were replaced by a number of folks coming from the Sac State broadcasting department - that included me, Robert Williams, Ken Wardell, Tasha Covington and others."

For awhile Cary Nosler was the Program Director, not that it was a job he really wanted to do. The jocks still programmed their own music and to some degree, remembers Cary, chose their own shifts when they felt like it without any regard to ratings. But by 1971 Cary wanted to move on to his main interest since junior high, which was educating people on nutrition. After he left KZAP he got a call from Johnny Hyde, who was now Program Director at a contemporary music and talk station KCRA AM, which was the sister property of the city's most popular television station as well. "I didn't want to do radio anymore," says Cary. "He kept offering me different shifts and I kept turning him down. Finally he asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to talk about nutrition. So then he gave me a weekend show and named me Captain Carrot. I started at KCRA TV six to eight months after being on the radio. I had long hair and I was the first hippy to work there. "With Cary's departure, KZAP went without a PD for about a year.

During the time Phil Glatz worked at KZAP in the early seventies, the station remained freeform. "The only rule was no rules," he recalls. "We had a large collection of all kinds of music, from current pop stuff to spoken word to comedy to children's stuff. We didn't play purely commercial stuff like the Archies, that were made just to sell records, but a lot of popular music of the day was played. Remember, in those days many radio stations played popular music that encompassed a much wider range of genres than you hear today. A pop station might play the Beatles, followed by Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin, and Nelson Riddle ... In those days, FM stations rarely made money. We still had (but didn't use) the original Muzak equipment that had been in place earlier. FM stations made more money selling subcarrier rights for background music than from commercials. At the time, few realized what the unique strengths of the FM media were, and the underground movement pointed the way to profitability by playing long album cuts and taking advantage of the higher fidelity of FM. It was a movement that was taking root in many cities and there was a lot of cross-pollination between the various underground stations. We looked towards KMPX and KSAN with respect, they had lots of integrity."

In describing his show, Phil says, "I played a lot of avant-garde music, bizarre stuff, and alternative comedy, stuff that was generally ignored. My background was classical and electronic music, as well as rock. I also did some innovative commercials, such as some of the first radio spots for mainstream porn theatres."

The free-spirited nature of freeform radio that had blossomed across America started to meet resistance from the FCC in 1971. The Commission began looking into "questionable practices" at a freeform station in Des Moines, IA. But instead of a crackdown on "over the line," risque or anti-social content, the Commission warned station owners to voluntarily impose stricter programming of content. The "anything goes" concept gradually began to fade into history. Around that time WPLJ in New York had been experimenting with freeform, but started imposing stricter playlists as control over music shifted from disc jockeys to the Program Director. This had already been the case with AM pop stations since the early sixties.

In May 1971 KZAP began to take heat as both The Bee and The Union ran stories about the station's airing of "dirty words" around midnight one night in March on a newscast. A local real estate investor lodged a complaint with the FCC in April about the airing of risque four letter words in a reading of author Henry Miller along with a critique of the film Quiet Days In Clichy, which was based on Miller's writing. KZAP also aired the film's title song by Country Joe and The Fish, which also contained x-rated lyrics. The articles dealt mostly with the fact that the complaint was being ignored by the FCC. KZAP News Director Allen Cherry told the Union the obscene words "were used in a news story we did about a bunch of women complaining about the film ... The station personally does not use obscenity. We feel to extract the words from a piece of music is like putting fig leaves on a nude painting."

Country Joe and The Fish also did a live performance on KZAP that year, that resulted in complaints about obscene lyrics. Another complaint was made about "Sammy's Song" by David Bromberg, which was about a 16 year old boy who goes to a brothel in Spain to have oral sex with a prostitute. Although the FCC looked the other way, there was a sense that KZAP management did not want to deal with any more possible government investigation and began enforcing its own crackdown on suggestive content. By 1972 jocks were issued a memo that stated "our policy at KZAP will be to avoid the common vulgarities and to work continuously to try to define contemporary community standards." The memo also condemned drug use at the station and restricted visitors after business hours.

An FCC ruling that favored KZAP, though, was in 1971 when a radio engineer named Ed Meece launched KOME, a new freeform station on the 98.5 frequency in San Jose, about 90 miles southwest of Sacramento. Meece was warned not to bleed over KZAP's coverage area on the same frequency. Sacramento rock fans commuting to the Bay Area could hear continuous freeform radio without changing the dial, but it should be pointed out that KZAP used to be heard all over the Bay Area before KOME came on the scene. Nevertheless, KZAP could still be heard instead of KOME in northern parts of the Bay Area such as Marin and Sonoma counties. From the beginning KZAP used innovative
engineering.

The history of freeform radio (before 1968)
Early KZAP History (late sixties/early seventies)
The Peak of Radio Anarchy (early seventies)
Transition from Freeform to Album Rock (early to mid-seventies)
The Emerging FM Audience (late seventies)
KZAP Rules the Market (early eighties)
The Greatest Rock Battle...(mid-eighties to early nineties)
Reflecting on the Legend


MORE VIDEO ABOUT KZAP

KZAP Returns on KDVS Part 1: Michael Taber
KZAP Returns on KDVS Part 2: Freeform Era
KZAP Returns on KDVS Part 3: College Freeform
KZAP Returns on KDVS Part 4: The 60s
Freeform Radio Survives














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