by Alex Cosper
Alan Beim worked in sales at KZAP from January 1972 through June 1977. Prior to coming to KZAP he played Mod Squad in reverse, shifting from cop to outlaw. He had actually been an Oakland Police Officer. Alan reveals, "I started that job in '69 when Abby Hoffman recommended it and left in '72 after being arrested because pot was seen in the living room of my house by a date of my roommate. I made network news and had Chet Huntley talk about me on network tv so my mom could hear about it. The woman who informed on my roommate gave him the pot she said she saw in the house and she went on to help bust Grateful Dead, Tommy Smothers and then the Hells Angles and was one of the three bodies that they found buried on their ranch. Any way, my lawyer said get a job and get some left wing media contacts, so I decided to do both at the same time. I had like a 10 year suspended sentence which for an ex-cop was a death sentence for a year and a half. Some of the programming people thought I was there to bust everyone so I had to smoke pot like 20 times a day so people would feel safe!"
During Alan's time at KZAP the station sold commercial time for $4 a spot, even when the station hit number one in the market in the 18-34 age group. He said ratings in those days did, in fact, matter: "It mattered in that I think it bothered the world that such big numbers were listening to a revoution at least from an art standpoint." Because of the art versus commerce mentality, the station's advertising was minimal and placed under tight scrutiny. Even for the spots that made it on the air, there was no guarantee the sales person would get a commission, but Alan does concede "the free T-shirts were good."
Alan has a few distinct memories about the resistance the sales team faced from an artistic group of jocks. "One was getting Tower Records on the air again only to have the jock say after the spot something like 'yeah go on down to Tower if you want to support a store that rips off the hippy world to make big profits to feed their greed.' At the time I think they had like five stores. The second was going to meet a Mormon lady at Size 5, 7 and 9 Shop. She had some bad memories of KZAP programming and she tuned into the station and they were talking about how women masturbate. I went out there like a few months later and she tuned on the news and I thought I was safe, but they had an interview of a porno star talking about giving a group of men oral sex. I thought that woman was going to blow like a volcano."
Toward the end of his days at KZAP, Alan had a son named Jeremy, who came to be known as "the KZAP baby." After KZAP, Alan did sales at a disco station and then wound up doing sales in San Francisco for KSAN's final two years of its progressive era in the early eighties. Today he remains in the Bay Area as President of Ads That Work and he still holds on to the magical memories of the station that transformed his career. "Life has blessed me with many wonderful times and my times at KZAP were some of the best of them," he says. "I have never stopped getting involved with people at KZAP and some of my relations with people at KZAP bloomed throughout my life. I still work with Dennis (Newhall) and he still deals with my spelling screw-ups. He must have been mean to me in a past life!"
Looking back on KZAP's impact on Sacramento, Alan says, "For many people KZAP personified into a best friend. The best and worst example I can think of is when some mass murderers where held up in a house by SWAT PD teams and the suspects said, they would only come out when KZAP said it was ok."
On the engineering side was Paul Paterson. Phil Glatz remembers him as "a radio engineer from UC Berkeley who held things together for years with bailing wire and bubble gum. We later got two 5KW transmitters that were retired from KCRA. I remember driving down to Pasadena with then-GM Sherman Renius (who used to be a truck driver) and hauling them down a rainy dirt road on a high mountain. Sherman also did a Sunday evening show for awhile called A Mystic Speaks. He was a Rosicrucian and discussed spiritual issues. He was older than most of the staff and knew something about business, and was respected as a leader (although his tenure as GM would only last a year).
"Another engineer who did audio work for live broadcasts and a few street concerts was Barry Thornton, who ran a pioneering audio amplifier company called Quintessence, out of an old school district warehouse on north C street. A very sharp guy, with a great love of high quality sound, he was to KZAP like Owsley was to the Dead. He had two gigantic guys who worked with him, Po and Henry, who helped with setup of equipment. All were very dedicated to getting the best sound out of the emerging high-end technology of the day."
Phil also describes how KZAP experimented with a new idea of adding a third signal to the station's stereo sound. "This was the time quadraphonic sound was being tried, and we figured we could give a good spatial experience with stereo in the front and a single channel in the rear. We christened it the 'Trisonic' method. Turntables Unlimited put up the money to lease a dedicated phone line between KZAP and the KERS studios at Sac State. This was way before digital, and I remember the phone company sending an engineer out to adjust the line to get a high fidelity bandwidth out of it. I brought up a Buchla Synthesizer from the Music Department, played some tapes I had prepared, and local composer Stan Lunetta brought up some of his equipment and some other musicians. The program was a great success and enjoyed by many but is now just a footnote in the history of audio engineering."
Charlie Weiss holds the record for most time spent at KZAP. He says, "I was fired twice, hired four times and worked for all four owners until its demise. I was announcer, music director, news director, production director, traffic reporter and morning personality at various times. My stints there were '68-'72, '75-'80 and '86-'91." Like many other early KZAP jocks he got his start in radio at CSUS college station KERS. In college he majored in Speech and Journalism. He was among the first announcers, at age 19, when KZAP signed on the air on November 8, 1968.
"I was fired for a month soon after the station went on the air - probably around January 69," Charlie admits. "I won't get into the details but I was rehired and relegated to the all night shift for about 9 months before I started doing mornings with Ace Young. I used to throw the I Ching each morning to see what the day would be like." He bounced around on airshifts but inevitably became more of a morning guy. He was fired in March 1972 by the unpopular PD John Williams for refusing to stop mixing in jazz. During the eighties, in addition to doing news, he hosted the freeform flashback show "Psychedelic Sunday" for awhile, but then GM Tom Weidle asked that he be taken off for being "too esoteric."
Some of the news stories that Charlie covered included a big series on nuclear power plant Rancho Seco and Greg Luckenbill's desire to build a professional stadium on prime agricultural land north of Sac that became Natomas. Charlie was one of the original contributors to "The Legend of KZAP" and like everyone else, was very enthusiastic about it. He says, "I've always considered writing a book myself about the place - probably more on a personal level. It's just one of those things that I've never gotten around to."
Jeff Hughson credits Charlie as the central figure throughout the station's history. He says, "Charlie really symbolizes KZAP because of his long life there and because he embodied so much of what was always pure about us, which I believe is what made people loyal to ZAP. He's Mr. Good Time, always smiling and laughing, he's very sincere, he knew his music and he would always try to see that the right thing was done. I mean pushing for as much political stuff as possible and just being nice and caring...always supporting the good cause, like Mick."
Jeff Hughson began his radio career while attending Sac High at age 16, spinning jazz on KXRQ's overnight show in 1968, and on the Sunday morning blues show. After the station sold that year, Jeff stayed on the same frequency but now played rock, jazz, country and classical music and whatever else he felt - freeform style on KZAP. He stayed with the station until 1971 and then took a job doing the short-lived AM progressive format on KNDE. Through the seventies he also worked at KXOA-FM and Earth Radio. In the eighties he worked at Sacramento country station KAER. Since 1975 he has bought and sold records and memorabilia. He still holds the values of those early KZAP years.
Jeff's inspiration to get into radio stemmed from a KERS jock named Larry Stanfill, who did a Monday night blues show in the 1966-1967 period called "Blue Monday." Jeff says, "I started off just listening. Then I would visit him and bring my records. Sometimes he would ask me questions on the air. This really gave me the bug to get on the radio and program my music." While Cary Nosler was playing non-top 40 progressive rock on KJML in 1967, Jeff was mixing in progressive rock on his Sunday morning blues show on KXRQ. "In 1967, I was programming the Mothers of Invention, the first Paul Butterfield album, some Motown and soul music. This was played alongside all forms of blues music, much from my personal collection and some from the station library on my Sunday morning show."
One of the things that made KZAP different from the earlier progressive radio shows was that it was more intertwined with the social consciousness of the era. Jeff recalls that KZAP was very political its first two years because of the Vietnam War. He says, "We were strident and rightfully so. I mean history supports our opinion and position. It was very political. That's the big distinction between the original '68 and '69 KZAP and what came after that. We were very strident and political. These issues were being discussed in the music as well. The Vietnam War was our lives. It dominated everything in the world at that time. You were either fighting the war, or like me, fighting the draft. I fought it for years and never had to go. I did everything you could do and almost got arrested. So KZAP was very political and got in trouble over it. It was definitely anti-Nixon. It was very anti-war...'68 to '71 I was of the opinion that we were on the precipitous of a revolution. And that the world was going to definitely change. It was going to reflect our values, our ideals and anti-war, freedom of thought: As long as you're not hurting other people just do what you wanna do."
Robert Williams was originally from Oakland, CA but grew up in Woodland, about 20 miles Northwest of Sacramento. He grew up listening to Bay Area top 40 stations such as KFRC and KYA. In the Sac area he liked KXOA better than KROY because he thought the former was more progressive. In the late sixties he listened to KMPX while living in the South Bay Area. In 1968 he went to Sac State and was involved with KERS, where he met Ken Wardell, who he followed to KZAP. Wardell hit the airwaves first on KZAP then Robert debuted in November 1969 on the air as the rest of the staff attended the station's birthday party with the Grateful Dead.
"I was hanging around all its first year," reflects Robert on his early days at KZAP, in which he was completely envious of the jocks as he spent time getting to know them. At that time his only air-time was on KERS, which was still very important to him. "In hindsight college radio was the breeding ground for a whole lotta this kind of thing. I had gone to Sac State thinking I would be there for only a semester. I wanted to go to San Francisco State because that was close to where radio was really exciting. KMPX and KSAN were going strong. Somehow I thought if I could get into college radio maybe I could evolve to that level in San Francisco. But they were full. Then I went to Sacramento thinking I'd stay a semester and transfer back." That was the Fall of 1968 when KZAP was going on the air.
During his first few years working for the station, Robert oversaw public affairs shows and announcements. When Wardell left KZAP in May 1972 to work for RCA Records, it created a vacancy for Music Director, which was filled by Robert. A few years later Robert became PD, in which he made Bruce Meier his MD. Robert says, "I enjoyed finding people and pulling them into the radio station primarily from KERS and KDVS in Davis." Robert became a key player first as MD then as PD in leading the station to a more structured format, which helped KZAP build a larger audience throughout the seventies.
Robert's interest in radio definitely grew from paying attention to what Tom Donahue was doing at KMPX and then KSAN. He says, "I knew who Tom Donahue was because my grandparents lived in Oakland and so I spent a lot of time in the Bay Area. He had the clout to put the idea to practice. Other people might have had the same idea, more or less simultaneously. But he put it to practice. To me, he's given general credit for that and I agree, with creating what's called freeform or progressive. The first time I ever talked with him I called KMPX to make a request. I was a college student at Foothill College near Palo Alto. He answered the phone, I never expected that. He had that voice that was so dramatic that I started stammering. I couldn't make sense out of what I wanted to say."
But Robert was able to establish a relationship with Donahue. Robert says, "That led to a high point a couple years later of him introducing me when I did a fill-in shift at KSAN. The all night guy got sick and nobody could fill in and I happened to be partying with the Program Director. He looked at me and said 'do you want to go on KSAN tonight?' Sure. I was still at KZAP at the time. There was no conflict of interest or any kind of competitive issue, so sure. I followed Tom and Raechel at midnight one night and I have it on tape. And just over the years before Tom died (in 1975), I was always involved with promotions that took place in San Francisco. So the KSAN staff and Donahue and the KZAP staff - that included me at the time - would end up being invited to the same things like rock shows, dinners, promotional parties, record release things in San Francisco. So hanging out with these people gave me the opportunity to get to know them. I always looked at myself as a big fish in a little pond. I considered my sphere of activity and involvement to include San Francisco."
Robert stayed on the air at KZAP the whole time he was PD (doing weekdays 12n-2p) because he wanted to, because it was all about the music. "I kept myself also on the air Saturday nights because that was my time. I had fun. It was date night in the Capital City. I did Saturday nights for years because I wanted to. I was putting myself into a six day work week because there wasn't anything better to do."
During his years at KZAP one of Robert's favorite things to do was introduce bands at shows (see Robert pictured left with Marla at Cal Expo in 1973). "That was my ego trip - getting onstage," he confesses. "I enjoyed that sort of thing, I took it seriously. I hated hearing announcers that you couldn't hear. They'd mumble. So I tried to be real clear. I tried to make sure the mike was on before I started talking. I just wanted to do it right. These were concerts that KZAP was sponsoring."
Robert remained KZAP's PD until January 1979. The new ownership of Western Cities in late 1978 gave no indicators that anyone would lose their jobs. Robert remembers, "We did our tenth birthday party in November at the Turf Club up at Cal Expo and got an artist that we played quite heavily and sold a bunch of records. This was another case of us promoting an artist that no one else was playing, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. And we knew that the new owners were taking over the first of the year. We were being told by those new owners, mainly Tom Weidle, that nobody has anything to worry about. They like what KZAP stands for, they like what KZAP's doing and they don't anticipate any changes. So I remember going out and partying New Year's Eve '78 into '79 and doing a show. I had a headache. I was fired the first business day of '79 by Weidle. They had a new guy literally waiting at a motel to come in and take my office. Within a week of my firing most of the people that I had hired or worked with had been fired. Not all, but most. Newspapers were all over it as a major change."
It turned out that this gave Robert an opportunity to work at his dream station, KSAN. Robert says, "My good friend Zohn Artman, who worked for Bill Graham, knew of my plight immediately." Both Zohn and Ken Wardell arranged for Robert to audition at KMEL and KSAN in San Francisco and by March 1979 Robert was on the air at KSAN, hired by PD Abby Melamed. Robert remembers, "Zohn, who was 'pitching' me to her, and she got along very well so that helped, I'm sure. Zohn Artman was the press/publicity person for Bill Graham...his biz card read: Resident Wizard."
Robert enjoyed his brief stay at KSAN doing weekend afternoons and fill-in shifts for full-timers in the spring and summer. "Working seven days a week was not uncommon, and not a problem...quite to the contrary," he remarks. Robert left the station by November 1979 as the owner, MetroMedia, was doing some belt tightening and the newest people were the first to go. This led to the station flipping to country music in the early eighties. Robert remembers the legendary station during his time there this way:
"Freeform might not be the best word for KSAN in '79, but AOR might be too restrictive, especially the way the image of AOR evolved to mean a tighter playlist. Song choice and sequencing was still very much up to the person doing the show. Here, again (as with KZAP), the staff, to varying degrees, was interested in gaining/holding as large an audience as possible....a task made more difficult because of the other album stations now available to Bay Area listeners. KSAN had the reputation, credibility, and history behind it, but we were learning more about how fickle an audience can be."
Some of the music industry people who visited KZAP in the seventies in no particular order include: Bill Graham, The Beach Boys, Graham Parker, Bev Bevan/ELO, Lowell George/Little Feat, Papa John Creach & Craig Chaquico/Jefferson Starship, Hall & Oates, Loggins & Messina, Dolly Parton, Bo Diddly, Sylvester, Firesign Theatre, Country Joe McDonald, Sal Valentino, Dan Hicks, Jesse Colin Young, Rick Danko/The Band, George Fenneman & Harry Von Zell, Emmy Lou Harris, Jackson Browne, Frank Zappa, Southside Johnny, Boz Scaggs, Chrstine McVie & Bob Welch/Fleetwood Mac, David Byrne/Talking Heads, Dave Mason, Tom Constantin/Grateful Dead, .....there are many more.....
Jack Traylor had a particularly close relationship with KZAP personnel, including Robert Williams. He was vocalist for local band Steelwind and was involved with Jefferson Airplane. Jack wrote and sang lead/background on a couple of songs that Paul Kantner and Grace Slick did on a couple of their 'solo' records between the Airplane and Starship. Jack and Paul were friends from the early sixties folk music days when the circle of friends included David Crosby, David Freiberg, and Gerry Garcia. According to Robert Williams, "Jack and Paul had a falling out over Paul's 'stealing' Craig Chaquico from him for Jefferson Starship."
Jim Hilsabeck, in addition to doing the 6-10p show on KZAP in its early years, also helped put KSJO in San Jose on the air as a freeform station earlier in 1968. He got his start in radio at college radio station KCSM at the College of San Mateo, which played classical music. He did crazy stunts on KZAP such as run for sheriff of Sacramento, only to withdraw on the air based on astrological readings. Despite a perception among KZAPers that he had been killed in a motorcycle crash in Santa Cruz in the mid-seventies, Jim was alive and well when he offered a few comments for this project in early 2004. He says about KZAP, "Unfortunately, I have little memory of the charade."
At one point he worked on the air at KABC in Los Angeles and in later years, Modesto radio. For many years he held a marketing position at Cisco Systems. He now lives in Napa, CA and does commercial production work for Hilsabeck & Associates and runs a website at www.hilsabeckproductions.com. On his site, he says, "Several of us put ZAP on the air - we air dudes all lived together in an old Victorian - it was nutz and extremely fun." Also on the site he sells a documentary CD called "Refer Madness...the history of marijuana's prohibition in the United States."
Big Deal Farm was the meeting place where several KZAP air staff members got together each week to discuss the station in the early seventies. Phil Glatz says that Big Deal Farm "was the place Jesse Robinson (and his wife Robyn, another air personality) lived on, an old Almond ranch behind what later would become Sunrise Mall. Jesse was a remarkable guy and loved by all. He was an ex-Marine from Tennessee who got turned on and mellowed out considerably. He brought a great knowledge and love of country and traditional American music to the station, and had a great influence on the rest of the staff. This was at the point where records like the Flying Burrito Brothers and 'Workingman's Dead' were coming out, and everyone was interested in learning about the roots behind this music."
Aside from the music, KZAP was also known for its talk shows and news commentary. Travus T. Hipp, who started at the station phoning in national and international news to Ace Young in the late sixties, did his own Sunday night talk show on KZAP throughout the seventies. His program was called "Travus T. Hipp and the Rawhide Reality Review." Travus says, "My program was always political, mostly radical action, which was the daily dose in those halcyon days, with anti-war, prisoner rights, pot laws, panthers, SLA and the Mansonettes. Patty Hearst and her gang were hiding out in Rancho Cordova and listened religiously I'm told. Guests were few but fun, both local activists and national figures on tour. Mostly it was the callers, however, that made the show cook. I believe that any random audience of ten thousand or more includes at least one expert on any subject you can bring up, and the talent for the host is to inspire that person to call in."
Jack Androvich started as a substitute DJ while the full-timers were in meetings and was on call for last minute all night shifts. Eventually he did a weekend morning show that was followed by Bill Fuller's show. "We were both Bonzo Dog, Neil Innes and Captain Beefheart devotees so the programs really ranged far and wide," reflects Jack. "I also did cameo interviews with groups like the Cockettes (led by Harold Thunderpussy). They were this outrageous gay group of cabaret performers who were sort of an off-broadway version of the Tubes...A lot of us were part of the KERS-FM staff or management at CSUS. It was your typical college radio station that ran alongside other innovators like KDVS at UC Davis, where I also did some stints. It also was the recruiting pool and farm league for many of the original KZAP DJ's. By the way, KZAP also had some threads into the local AM radio scene with DJ's like Don Wright who also was a KERS veteran who first introduced me to Charlie Weiss." Wright had worked at KNDE with Don Imus, who went on to become a national radio personality.
Michael Sheehy worked part-time for KZAP from 1968 to 1970. Then he worked two years at crosstown KNDE followed by gigs in Santa Rosa (KSRO) and Houston (KAUM). In April 1974 his friend from KNDE Don Wright invited him back to Sacramento to help launch Earth Radio. Don had worked in sales at KZAP in 1968. Earth Radio started their library with 100 of Michael's albums. Initially Don and Michael were the only two jocks on the new freeform station. Michael's voice was used for Earth Radio's ID for five years, with the slogan "Earth Radio for all of Northern California." After the owner offered Michael a raise from $500 to $525 per month, Michael bolted in May 1975 to program KPOI in Honolulu, which turned out to be more of a brief vacation before moving on to nights at KGB in San Diego, leading them to their best night ratings in their history. Then he really hit the big time by programming KNX in Los Angeles from 1976-1983. After building his own recording studio in 1983 he joined Killer Music in 1985 and then KTWV in Los Angeles in 1990. Since 2002 he has been a freelance producer, running his own company Michael Sheehy Productions.
Michael remembers KZAP as a learning experience: "I started my broadcasting career in 1968 and KZAP was one of the first places I cut my radio teeth. I never earned a dime there but...this was the place where I got to learn the sheer terror of flipping on the mic switch and assumed millions were hanging on my every word. It was my learning place. I doubt many would remember some of my early exploits in Zap-land as I didn't get much airtime. Why you ask? 'Cause I was bloody awful. Incidentally, I'm still bloody awful but I get paid a lot more for it now!
"Here's a little story to give you an idea of my KZAP experience. I remember working one New Year's Eve at the top of the Elk's. Got there about 2 a.m. for my shift - fully loaded with records from home...come to think of it "fully loaded," period. I like any other old radio fossil still have nightmares about the current record running out and the next one not being ready to go... and at KZAP you sometimes did shows with just one turntable. Don't ask me how we did it, but we did. At any rate, I was loaded for bear and bound and determined it wasn't going to happen to me. I was going to be prepared...woof woof! Around 4 or so I was playing the last track on a Jeremy Spencer album. As many may remember, Jeremy was an early member of Fleetwood Mac. But in this case, he was doing a very campy Elvis impression which concluded with an exhausted "uh-huh" or something like it.
"The KZAP air studio at that time consisted of a cheap mic, a little board, two turntables and then behind you two floor-to-ceiling walls of records. Talk about a kid in a candy store. I was gone...this was nirvana...true nirvana! I was focused...searching for that next record and really focused...focused to the point where I didn't notice when Jeremy's 'Elvis' impression ended and proceeded to slide over into the lock groove at the end of the album...as it wasn't a normal record but a campy 'exhausted Elvis' impression it didn't go into the regular 'thump thump...thump thump...thump thump' like any normal record. Noooooooo...this one went 'uh-huh...uh-huh...uh-huh!' I'm not quite sure how long this went on but I'm told about 20 minutes - hey, I was focused. The funny thing is...I did not get ONE phone call...not one! This was the open range happy campers...the wild west...wild and wooly...loose and free...and nuts. To this day, one of my biggest fears is somewhere out there some poor bastard is still sitting in front of his speakers going 'uh-huh...uh-huh...uh-huh.' "
"These days my voice is heard by millions on a daily basis. I've worked with the biggies, produced albums, programmed radio stations, done national voiceovers, produced music libraries and hundreds of jingle packages. But I'll always owe those precious baby steps to KZAP...and that's the truth...uh-huh...uh-huh...uh-huh."
Don Wright worked a few times at KZAP. In the very beginning he did sales in 1968. He never did an airshift in those days but on his return to KZAP in the early eighties under PD Les Tracy he did regular shifts. In 1985 he filled in mornings for Tom Cale on occasion. "I was an infrequent guest on Jack Normal's show and with Ken Wardle and Robert Williams, but I never did my own show at KZAP during the freeform era," says Don. "All of my KZAP airshifts were during the oppressive Tom Weidle era. If I had done my own show during the freeform days, I would probably have done it stoned and played lots of Bonzo Dog Band, The Who, Moby Grape and some Fugs."
Don arrived at KXOA in June of 1969 just after a big airstaff shake-up. Long time KXOA personalities Johnny Hyde and B. Winchell Clay (Bud Zumwalt) along with part-timer Hal Murray had just joined rival KROY, where Hyde took the PD position. On the flipside, local radio legend Jack Hammer jumped from KROY to KXOA as PD and air personality. In the spring of 1970 Don was doing midnight to 6am when the station got a new GM named Jack Thayer, who promptly hired Don Imus in morning drive.
Don Wright recalls, "Imus had just been fired from KJOY in Stockton for running an Eldridge Cleaver look-alike contest on his program, among other things. Imus had to commute from Stockton in a heap of a 1959 Oldsmobile which was not very reliable. As a result, I became the midnight to 7:15 or 7:30 jock on many mornings. I always got along great with Imus, but I know he caused PD Les Thompson untold headaches. Imus could basically do whatever he wanted because he was Jack Thayer's Golden Boy, and the PD had no authority over him. I remember one jock meeting where Program Director Les Thompson was seriously talking to the airstaff when Imus suddenly jumps up on top of Les' desk and does some country jig-tap dance thing while wearing some scruffy old cowboy boots and yelling "yee-haw!". Some of us laughed, others rolled our eyes, and poor ol' Les could do nothing but sigh...again and again. Imus got loads of local press and hype during his brief stay in Sacramento, but never scored that well in the ratings. He did originate some famous bits here though, including his soon-to-become classic '1200 Hamburgers To Go.' "
Thayer and Imus along with Sales Manager John Lund bolted for WGAR in Cleveland in the fall of 1970 as KXOA's impending sale was announced. Imus, of course, eventually went on to become a syndicated national radio host. KXOA-AM then became KNDE ("Kandie Radio") in December of 1970. Don Wright remained at KNDE until October 1972, only to return from March 1973 through March 1974, when KNDE went from album rock(ish) to all out Boss Radio. "I did a few top 40 airshifts at Kandie using a gravelly voice and the name Scott Free," Don admits.
Don had actually been offered the morning drive shift at KZAP in 1974 but a better offer came up: the PD gig at a new crosstown freeform station called Earth Radio. Don programmed the station until 1975 when he took the same position at KSJO in San Jose, where he stayed for five years. He then moved to Los Angeles and worked on the air at KCBS-FM and KNX-FM, where he did morning drive. In 1981 he returned to the Sacramento area and became PD of a national radio programming service for 130 stations called Concept Productions. Don also worked part time for Dennis Newhall at KROY-FM and then for Les Tracy and Tom Cale at KZAP. He filled in for Tom's morning show a few weeks in May 1985 before accepting the production director position at KFBK where he also did talk show fill-ins for Rush Limbaugh through 1988. Also in the eighties Don was PD of news talk KGNR 1320 AM.
"I also hosted a (recorded) top 40 countdown show in Japan called Rock In America from 1986-1991," says Don. "I made three different tours of Japan doing live shows. I went by the name Don Jackson, a name thrusted upon me by my Japanese manager. I finished my on air career at the The Point 100.5 FM from 1988-1991 and doing weekends and fill-ins for KMYX 'Mix 96' from 1991-2000.I still write copy and do voice-overs, as well as audio archiving and restoration." Don and his wife had their first child in June 2003 as Don decided to concentrate on family life.
One of Don's favorite KZAP memories was when he worked on the air in the eighties. "I'll never forget the caller who kept requesting 'I Was Barney Rubble' by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. He was serious! He was really shocked and embarrassed when I convinced him that the song was correctly titled 'I Was Born A Rebel.' "
by Viola Weinberg (2004)
I had moved to Sacramento in 1968 from Marin County where I had already gotten hooked on KSFX, the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore and great scenes at the Mt. Tam amphitheater. I was a young poet, married to Steven Weinberg then, a fairly well known sax player whose real forte was jazz. I was very pregnant and depressed that we were moving to Sacramento. We were settled in our new apartment for about 36 hours when I went into labor and Susanne was born late on the winter solstice of 1968. On the way to the hospital we tuned in KZAP, which seemed very odd because we were sure there was nothing like it in this backwater town!
Within a couple of years, I had added another daughter, Zoe, to my brood and gone back to school at CSU Sacramento, where I had a show on KERS and met other nutty folks like Jack Normal, William H. Fuller III and the ubiquitous Charlie Weiss who was at KZAP (and everywhere else it seemed) by that time. At one point, I had a five-hour talk show on KERS where every woman on campus was invited to get on the air and bitch about men. It was not very popular with men, but guys like Leo Hoyt and Jack Normal helped me learn engineering and managed to curb their opinions while we railed on. Soon after this phase, I was single and helped found Women's Studies on campus, where I taught for three years. During this time, I became very fond of KZAP and became good friends with Jok Church, who worked with Shannon and Richard Dunk in the so-called "News Closet" high atop the Elk's Temple - then the tallest building in Sacramento.
Jok talked Melinda Barry and myself into doing a 15-minute show that we called "Woman Waves." It was a beautiful little public affairs show that ran twice a week for five years on Tuesdays at noon and Saturdays at 9 a.m. Our proud sponsors were Tower Books and AAA Auto Wreckers, which we adored. I had partners that came and went on this show, including Barny McKye, Susan Staley and Beth Underwood. I interviewed so many great women - everyone from the first Western women to climb Mt. Everest to Dolly Parton and Phoebe Snow.
After a year or so, I began doing news with Jok. It was a wonderful and silly time when we used music and sound effects to comment on the news stories. I broke lots of stories and joined the Capitol Press Corps. It was really the beginning of my life as a writer beyond poetry. By this time, KZAP was at the building on Ninth Street across from "Wino Park." It was exhilarating as a culture. William Fuller and myself put together a performance group called Audion and used poetry and electronic music and effects to stage pieces that were held (variously) in a garden in Curtis Park, at Cal Expo and Sac State. By this time, Fuller's group Ozzie was playing in San Francisco at the Mabuhay Gardens. We were having a blast. We hired Charlie Weiss (who had been out of radio for a number of years) to be our stringer and Charlie's career in news began - we paid him $7.50 a story!
Doing the news at KZAP was always controversial. I was also the so-called Public Affairs Director - and supposedly managed Travis T. Hipp (as if anyone could), May Brussels and God knows what or who else! We were willing to talk to visionaries, soothsayers, crop circle creators, draft dodgers and incognito heiresses. I relished saying Pr-r-r-esident Nixxxxxon with a flourish. The night that Nixon resigned was kind of a holiday for Jok and myself. We drove to the twin cinemas on Arden way and listened to his resignation speech on the radio while we cheered - and to solemnize the occasion, we went to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I personally interviewed Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford while at KZAP. I got in trouble for airing a story in which Jane Fonda accused Coors Beer money of financing Anita Bryant's campaign against gay people. Coors monitors heard the 'cast and I was fired and hired again the next day. Things like that happened all the time. One of my fondest memories was the night Elvis died and I had the freedom to give that news as a poem, a sexy poem about loose hips and wet lips. It wasn't your typical news day - ever!
KZAP was changing, and after Gordie Beimfohr's father died, the station went up for sale. It took a year, but in one day, it went from New Day Broadcasting to Grabbit, Inc. - an organization based in Las Vegas, NV. I left Sacramento for the Bay Area again and lived in Sausalito on Gordie's houseboat, the Sea Muse. I soon joined Jok Church and Don Platt at KTIM for a little more fun before radio became completely meaningless to newscasting.
When I look back on that time, I am happy. They were wild times, and the freedom "to tell the truth and shame the devil" was our right. I went on to work for Mother Jones Magazine and private foundations and brain trusts - but nothing was so sweet as the wild airwaves of KZAP. I'm sure I took it for granted at the time - but when I was a part of the 30th reunion of the station, I had nothing but wonder to convey. I've had many successes as a writer since then - I'm widely published and happily married. Recently, I was named the first Poet Laureate of Sacramento. But the time at KZAP was formative for me. It was a time, all right, quite a time, and it ushered a big life in the arts that made me who I am. My "girls" are now middle-aged mothers and I have five grandchildren. When Zoe and Susanne and I are alone, occasionally I will say to them, "Four, three, two, one," to see if they remember how to be quiet when the red light goes on. And, of course, they do.
by Viola Weinberg (2004)
I still have a tape of the interview with Dolly. It was wonderful. We had 15 minutes scheduled, but she stayed about 45 minutes. At one point, we took a break and she asked me to close the newsroom curtains and asked if I wanted to see her real hair. She unpinned her wig and pulled out a strand -of absolutely unremarkable brown hair! We had a good laugh over that. She talked about all sorts of things - she's very bright - and told me that she had a book contract (and now, I forget the publisher, sigh.) Apparently, she never wrote the book, but she said it was about sex and religion. That night after her gig at the Memorial Auditiorium, I came to a party in her room at the Mansion Inn. She was really fun and we giggled like little girls. Truly memorable.
I've also interviewed Phoebe Snow (depressed after her divorce and trying to raise her brain damaged daughter alone), Bonnie Raitt (drunk and rude), and Carla Bley. Carla Bley was a huge thrill for me because I loved jazz, rarely heard on KZAP, except for William Fuller's Sunday morning show.
Ronald Reagan was governor when I interviewed him (many times). He was charming and vile at the same time. Recently, I attended a meeting of the Sacramento Press Club where Governor Arnie was the guest - and he was very similar. Reagan, said one of my older mentors from the Press Corps, "Had old-fashioned Irish charm and made everyone feel important. He'd offer you a jelly bean, but suddenly you'd realize he was stealing your wooden leg!" So true. He could compliment you on the color of your eyes, and in almost the same breath say something like "if it takes a bloodbath, so be it (about putting down student unrest on the UC campus)." In my life as a reporter (at different stations and networks) I came across the Reagan cabinet many, many times. A friend of mine shot the photo of his near death at the hands of David Hinkley - he built a career on it.
And Gerry Ford...lord, lord. I interviewed him on the runway of the Sacramento International Airport. He was in town for a fundraiser and didn't intend to make public appearances. Squeaky Fromme had tried to kill him in Capitol Park a year before, so I guess he was truly "gun shy." It was just me and a Newsweek photographer at the airport that day. I had to get a "Q" clearance to do this - and security was all over the tarmac. The plane pulled up and out walked President Ford - his right hand in a huge bandage, just like the Chevy Chase send-up on Saturday Night Live. Somehow, I kept a straight face and asked him questions about foreign policy for about 15-20 minutes. It was so hot, my feet were sinking into the asphalt! Someone was holding an umbrella over his head. Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer and asked about his bandaged hand. He said he and Betty had been at the country club the night before and he wanted to choose his own lobster! I guess the lobster fought back. He seemed very tentative when he spoke. I remember I was angry at him because his first act in office was to pardon our disgraced President, Nixon. He didn't seem smart enough to be President.
After KZAP, I interviewed many powerful people (notably for PBS and NPR), but I never was as thrilled as the first time I saw Jimmy Carter close up. I was an unseasoned reporter who would do anything to meet a President! I tagged along with a singing telegram delivery person who sang to him at a hotel on N Street across from the Capitol. I asked him a question about solar tax credits. He seemed very tired, but gracious in that lovely Southern way - a nice guy and very smart. He had a wonderful laugh. No visible security. I was also at an official visit he made to Sacramento where he spoke on the K Street Mall. It was a crush of people and intelligence folks and one of the KZAPers who came along came close to fainting.
While at KZAP, I spoke with Jerry Brown (the man who "wouldn't be President") on many occasions (Governor Moonbeam wasn't really as groovy as he was on first appearance). I found him awkward and secretive. I got to know quite a number of his inner cabinet, but one person I could never get a read on was - Gray Davis! It was like talking to a wall, and I guess things haven't changed much.
One of the personalities let go in the new regime shake-up of the late seventies was Cary Nosler, who had returned to the station awhile back while continuing to work at KCRA-TV as Captain Carrot. At the time he was doing his own daily commentary show on KZAP called Captain Carrot's Organic Tymes. But for Cary his departure may have been a blessing in disguise as he went on to deliver his message to a national television audience.
The KCRA show Weeknight, which featured Captain Carrot, inspired another show called Evening Magazine. This show aired on stations owned and operated by Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. "The first one to get it was KPIX in San Francisco," says Cary, "where I was among the first 'tipsters' (experts in various fields like nutrition, entertainment, cooking, etc). When the show was syndicated to other markets it became PM Magazine. I was now a national tipster, appearing on all the PM Magazines, and for awhile I also co-hosted the local Sacramento PM show on KXTV-10." PM Magazine started in 1979 and lasted through the mid-eighties.
Cary went on to be a recognizable voice on several Sacramento radio stations with his Captain Carrot nutrition features. He also became an author of Cary Nosler's Everyday Tips For A Healthier, Longer Life and Captain Carrot's Book of Good Health. In the eighties his nutrition tips were sponsored by Raley's and featured on several Sacramento radio stations. In the nineties he began doing a nutrition talk show on KSTE in Sacramento, which he continues to do in 2004.
Mick Martin not only keeps the spirit of feel good blues music alive with his band Mick Martin & The Blues Rockers, but he also does a weekly Saturday (1p-5p) show on Sacramento pubic radio station KXJZ (88.9 FM). It's the original signal of KERS, which was Sac State's college radio station in the sixties where a lot of the early KZAP people, including Mick came from. He had a show in those days called 'Musical Underground.' Mick explained in a video interview on Feb. 28, 2004 what his show the Mick Martin Blues Party is all about: "It's all of us together and trying to create enthusiasm for what we love. That's what to me makes life worth living - the community."
In the late sixties Mick worked directly for Russ Solomon, founder of Tower Records, at the original 16th & Broadway location. Mick credits Russ for having a big impact on his life and his search for great music. While working at Tower Mick was approached by Ed Fitzgerald about what to play for the upcoming KZAP in 1968. The station's first Music Director Jeff Hughson and Mick worked together at putting together the list.
"Basically Jeff Hughson and I sat down and made out a list of what we needed," says Mick. "We went home and made a list of albums. We went through the whole history of rock as well as certain jazz and even some classical pieces. I was working at Tower so I was constantly re-filing records, being exposed to music that I didn't know that well. And so because of that and the people I worked with I would hear records by their favorite artists that I wouldn't have put on. And so those would end up on the list too. I had been there since I had left high school so there was just this magical lock that happened with my being at Tower at the same time KZAP started out. Plus, Tower was the only place to hang out so that's where I got my musical education."
Mick also credits the San Francisco freeform station KMPX in the late sixties as a key influence to discovering music. "The way I heard a lot of things for the first time was by listening to KMPX," he says. "Of course, the signal would go in and out. But I would sit there waiting for certain things. And of course 'Purple Haze' you could hear on AM radio but a lot of the things that they were playing on FM radio at KMPX until we got KZAP here were things you couldn't hear anywhere else. For me it was all about discovery. So here at the Blues Party we try to recreate those days.
Mick would find himself in several seminal stages of monumental local events. His on-air partner was Whitey Davis on Saturday afternoons. Whitey, who was Assistant Manager of the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, opened up a night club in Sacramento he managed called the Sound Factory on Alhambra Blvd, which became a key meeting grounds for the early KZAP audience. Whitey was allowed to be a disc jockey on KZAP to work off the payment of his Sound Factory advertising. As a musician, Mick formed a local blues rock band called Wake Forest, who opened for Pink Floyd in 1968 at the Sound Factory. At the time Pink Floyd was not yet well known and still featured singer Syd Barrett.
At KZAP's first birthday party in 1969, Mick was master of ceremonies and introduced the Grateful Dead at Cal Expo. Mick also started the Sacramento Blues Society with Jeff Hughson, who served as the organization's first President for a year and put on 75 shows. Once Mick hung out with Janis Joplin when she came to Sacramento and she joked about life on the road with him while they shared a bottle of Southern Comfort. Mick had also found himself in the company of Keith Richards on a stretcher after the guitarist had been electrocuted onstage while performing with the Rolling Stones at Memorial Auditorium in the mid-sixties.
After Mick had gone on to write music and movie reviews for the Sacramento Union throughout the seventies, he re-emerged at KZAP in the late seventies as the voice of movie reviews. He also co-wrote movie guides published by Random House based on a suggestion from Cary Nosler. Together with co-author Marsha Porter, they wrote the noted DVD Movie Guide. In August 1989 KZAP gave Mick a Sunday night blues show, in which he was allowed to play whatever he wanted. At first PD Pat Still made out a playlist but after a few weeks he realized Mick knew what he was doing so he just let Mick take control. The show lasted until KZAP pulled the plug on rock and switched to country in early 1992. Mick's show on KXJZ is a continuation of what he did on KZAP.
Mick's Blues Party offers a wide range of blues and blues-based rock. He plays the seminal influences of rock such as Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters as well as Led Zeppelin. He ties it all together with stories such as how Dixon sued Led Zeppelin for lifting some of his music without credit. He says the band was simply naive and doing it out of tribute but that it all worked out because it finally gave Dixon the money and recognition he deserved.
"I'll come in with an outline with what I want to do and I'll get hit with an inspiration and everything will go out the window," Mick says desrcibing his show on KXJZ. "I'll get something in the mail, whatever. I figure I'm trying to tune into what the listenership is doing. It's the same thing I do onstage with the band, Mick Martin & The Blues Rockers (pictured left). You're trying to connect with your audience. And there are times when I feel I'm going in the wrong direction and I'll change it. But I don't see that as much different from what freeform was all about, although there was a certain sense of well, if you don't like it, too bad. For me, I've got my four hours a week and I want to make sure I hold them all the way through. "
While a lot of people may define blues by its riffs, Mick pays attention to the lyrics as well as the feel of the music. He says, "I think that most blues deals with adult issues, universal issues. You can be an angst-ridden teenager or a downtrodden adult and still identify with it. Or even somebody who the outside world looks like they got it made but inside doesn't quite feel that way. It's all about a personal story and people generally connect with a personal story. Cute love stories aren't quite the same as 'I Can't Quit You Baby.' To me blues is close your eyes and move your butt music."
As far as where radio has been, where it is and where it is going, Mick stays focused on the importance of a pure format that directly serves an informed and curious community. "Radio was art rather than art as commerce. I think radio as art can be radio as commerce but radio as commerce very seldom is radio as art. So once you're stuck with a playlist of x amount of songs, there goes the disc jockey's ability to kind of mold an experience as opposed to selling whatever's gonna come up next on the commercial end of it. I mean there really is a possibility still for radio to be artistic. But I think right now it's community radio and public radio keeping that alive because we're the only ones to have freedom.
"It was the concept of freeform radio that mattered. The fact that you had the freedom to play whatever you felt was going to get your listeners excited or that you felt excited about playing for them. It's about radio is a medium of communication and enthusiasm. And that's what I took away from freeformradio was the fact that it was about the music, first and foremost."
Jok Church was perhaps the first openly gay announcer to speak on Sacramento airwaves. After learning the ropes on college station KERS, Jok says, "My relationship with the radio station started with the Ronald Reagan look-a-like contest." He got an honorable mention thanks to his cartooning skills. In the early days he actually volunteered to work for free at KZAP. "I approached Shannon Tolson who was the news director then," Jok remembers. "Beimfohr hired her over me and when I didn't get the job and she did, I just said I'd work for free and she said yes. Shannon was an intern at KSAN when she was hired. Shannon and her husband Richard left the station and when no one else was in line for the job, I got it."
Part of what drove Jok to work for KZAP was his admiration of the Robert Williams show. "He would put together four hours of the most beautiful sonic mural," Jok reflects. "I think the world is a much poorer place today without Robert on the radio. If I could win the lotto, I would buy a radio station and put Robert on the air." Eventually Jok was put on the payroll and became News Director.
Through the decade Jok worked with several morning personalities such as Zack Boles, Bill Slater, Scott McConnell, Marla and Eileen Fields. He also hired and worked with several different news people over the years including Richard Beban and Judith Nielsen, who both went on to write the script of the television series Barney Miller and other shows. He also hired Viola Weinberg and says "her interview with Dolly Parton was one of the best interviews I have ever heard." Jok himself interviewed celebrities including Frank Zappa, who he remembers as a "very nice person." He was so in awe of the artist that Frank had to tell Jok not to be so nervous. "He said 'relax, I'm just a person,' " Jok remembers. It was refreshing for Jok to deal with someone down to earth since he was used to artists and politicians being very arrogant. This was his impression of Governor Jerry Brown, someone he interviewed many times, who he says was "really in love with himself."
One of Jok's most revealing reports he did for KZAP was a study about the sex lives of politicians. Jok says, "I polled state legislators about their sex practices. At the time the only legal sex act was the military missionary position between married couples. I wanted to find out how many of these guys knew the law and if they were following it. It turned out 80% had done illegal sex acts and didn't know it." Jok thought it was interesting that the lawmakers didn't even know what the law was.
Jok also created unorthodox news research projects like having the station release 2,000 helium balloons from the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant. "We got this moving van in my drive way and the station staff came over and we started filling up balloons and tying on tags at around 3am Viola brought her daughters because she thought it would be better than another day in school."
"We pushed the balloons out and started answering the phones. We got calls from North Highlands in 20 minutes. SMUD was claiming that any accident wouldn't be detectible in southern Sacramento for 45 minutes, while the balloons had gone miles and miles beyond that in half the time. The balloons were tracked as far as the northern edge of the Sutter Buttes in mere hours and it kind of blew away all of SMUD's safety claims. By the time the Sacramento Union and the local TV stations reported the news it had devolved into our misguided attempt for publicity and they completely left out what we discovered. Of course it was about publicity but that isn't any good without results. It's a big part of the difference between KZAP's vital connection to the community of the audience and the then more-straight media whose job seemed to be distributing the approved corporate view of what's happening."
Unlike the common rip and read pseudo-news heard on many stations, Jok actually researched and wrote the news. He did eight newscasts in the morning, each one being different, and then he did a noon hour report as well, leading into the Robert Williams show. When new corporate ownership arrived in 1978 and demanded a more conventional rock format, Jok asked to be laid off. He went on to work at rock station KTIM in San Rafael and then for George Lucas at Lucasfilm Ltd. Eventually he became the creator of the children's comic strip You Can with Beakman & Jax, as well as writer of the television show Beakman's World, aired on CBS in the nineties. The comic strip is featured in 300 newspapers including the Sunday edition of the Sacramento Bee.
"I still have dreams about KZAP," Jok confesses. "My life there is such a part of my life now, I dream about ending the high Noon News and introducing Robert's show and that dream can take so many forms I welcome most of them into my evening."
"KZAP was absolutely vital and essential to the community. You couldn't believe anything you heard on the straight news news. I mean we were in the middle of the Vietnam War and the news kept telling us how well things were going and what a good thing it was. The only essential news you could get was on KZAP." Jok, like most of the KZAP audience, leaned toward the anti-war movement and compiled his information from alternative news sources such as Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the Pacific News Network. "These organizations were anti-war because they were reporting what was really going on," he says.
While working as "Special Projects Manager" for George Lucas in the eighties, in which he answered the movie maker's fan mail, he was "George's representative on Earth." He was the guy the company sent to science fiction conventions to present the upcoming films. It was doing this job that he realized fan was short for fanatic. But he was also inspired to create a comic strip for children. "I started realizing how fearless children were," says Jok. When the Star Wars popularity subsided after Return of the Jedi he was laid off and found it difficult to decide what he wanted to do, as he journeyed through a series of odd jobs. "I finally decided I had it better than most artists because I got paid for my art," he explains. He began concentrating his long term career goal on cartoon art while he worked at a print shop to pay the bills.
He launched Beakman in 1991. "The reason I did Beakman," Jok reveals, "is that the news is the same story every day: good versus evil. I got tired of writing about good versus evil. I wanted to give children the tools they need to answer real questions - what and how? You can't get to why until you answer what and how. That's basic philosophy. I can tell you how the sky is blue but not why the sky is blue. I get hundreds of letters from children asking questions about what and how and I think I give them the tools to understand."
Gradually more and more newspapers picked up the comic strip and in 1992 it led to the creation of the Saturday morning CBS show Beakman's World, which featured real actors and was written for children and adults. He wrote the show for about a year and then decided to concentrate on the comic strip while the show continued for about three more years. Part of what made the show unique was that every show used about 1500 different sound effects that came from Jok's original sound effect library he created. He ended up winning two Cable Ace Awards and an Emmy for sound effects editing.
Today Jok owns over four hundred acres of land in the middle of Tennessee, where he continues to create Beakman. He also stays in touch with several KZAP friends and still considers the decade in which he worked for the station to be some of the greatest years of his life.
KZAP was the launching ground of many media figures to follow. One of the most prominent media figures in Sacramento in the 2000s has been KXTV Channel 10 Anchor Cristina Mendonsa, who got her start in radio news at Q97 in Modesto, then FM 102 in 1986, before arriving at KZAP. She says in June 2005, "My role at KZAP was small but had a big impact on me. I was there from 1987 to 1989 and went by the name Cristeen Carr. Pat Still was the PD at the time. I was the news assistant. This was just as the big corporate push into Sacramento radio was being talked about...it hadn't happened yet. KZAP was caught between trying to grow up and staying the creative playground it had been for so many years. I was a reporter and fill-in news anchor for the morning show. I was only 19 and exposed to many antics and parties that are still unrivaled in my life!"
The late eighties was still part of the era when radio stations playing music had news departments, which allowed Cristina to master her craft in news reporting before moving on to television. She left KZAP for a news job at K108, which had a bigger news department. In this new position, she was able to get deeper into politics, which was one of her strongest interests. From there she entered the world of television news, starting at Channel 31 in Sacramento, where she wrote news. Then she got her first television anchor gig in Redding, CA. After a year she moved back to Sacramento to work two years at KOVR Channel 13. This experience led to her being hired for an anchor position at KUSA in Denver. She returned to Sacramento in 1995 to work at KXTV, where she became anchor for the early evening and late evening newscasts.
As much as she loves her television career, she enjoys reminiscing about her time at KZAP. "Everyone worked hard and played hard and felt good about being part of such a radio institution," says Cristina. "Charlie Weiss was a mentor who encouraged me to follow my dream of a TV journalism job. I also enjoyed the stories of Bob Keller and Bob Galli. I was relieved to hear Keller on the air when I came back to Sacramento in 1995. He's a radio legend and I never get tired of Cafe Rock."
The link between jazz, rock and classical was pulled off by William Fuller, who worked at KZAP throughout the seventies. He did a Sunday morning (6a-12n) show and fill-ins during his reign. The Sunday show was mainly music but it also featured Spencer Sparrow who read children's stories on the air - mainly novels, for about fifteen minutes every week. Toward the late seventies, William's show also featured a ten minute spot each week with artist D.R. Wagner, discussing the arts scene. He was the owner of Open Ring Galleries, a Sacramento art gallery featuring prominent local artists. In addition to his eclectic music mix show, Bill periodically did commercial spots and produced specials that included a couple of weeknight prime time new wave/punk mixes, assisted by Tommy Gross. Bill also interviewed a few people, including Robin Williamson from The Incredible String Band.
Like many other early KZAP personalities, William got his start at the CSUS student-run station KERS. "As a matter of fact," says William, "that was how I got my job at KZAP - I used to have a show on KERS on Friday nights. One week I was doing a show with a war theme and this jock from KZAP called up (I'm sorry to say I have forgotten who) and said he loved the show and that I should contact this other person at KZAP. I got a couple of "audition" spots on KZAP and then they offered me a job!"
Even though Bill came to believe that jazz and classical could mix with any other types of music, including rock, he started out wanting to play mostly rock. "Shortly after I got my Sunday morning show," he reveals, "the station manager, Ed Beimfohr, demanded that I play some classical music for at least a portion of the show. He wanted to hear some classical on Sunday mornings. I was outraged! At the time, though my tastes were extremely eclectic, they tended not to stray too far from rock. But realizing I basically had no choice, I began going thru the classical music then in the station's library. Being a bit, er, on the contrary side in those days, I thought about how I might deal with this musical intrusion. So on the very first show with this 'long-hair' stuff, I followed the first movement of a Beethoven sonata with Capt. Beefheart's 'Orange Claw Hammer.' I did a couple of similar segues that first show, sort of testing the waters by combining seemingly disparate pieces of music in as dada and surreal a manner as I could. Within only a few weeks, some interesting things started happening: I really began to actually like the classical stuff I was finding, I started to throw in other genres of music, especially jazz, and I made more of a conscious effort to combine all this stuff in a way that would break down musical barriers and hopefully expose listeners to other kinds of music by carefully taking them from song to song."
Ultimately, William Fuller's show developed a structure: around 6am he would play about 15-20 minute "Anthologies" by one artist, usually rock, following their career through 5 or 6 albums. Then around 9am Spencer would read. At around 9:15 William would start the classical music and would slowly incorporate jazz, then country and rock. Toward the end of the show absolutely anything could happen. "I was very lucky in that I never had to follow a format," William admits. "It's so hard to imagine now that this was commercial radio! I also played punk and new wave, so you could listen to my show and within a couple of hours hear Mozart, Keith Jarrett, Brian Eno, Sons of the Pioneers, The Patti Smith Group and The Clash! I think this kind of mix was a lot more like what KZAP was when it first started. It was risky business trying to fit everything together, and it didn't always work, but it was quite a ride. How Program Director Robert Williams put up with some of this I'll never know."
Asked what he enjoyed the most about being on the air, William says, "the creation of diverse soundscapes and moods using all kinds of music. The destruction of musical barriers and potential for introducing people to different kinds of music. I was very much into radio as a creative vehicle for presenting music, as opposed to radio as being driven by the disc jockey's personality."
But KZAP's transformation into a highly structured format in the late seventies with the arrival of corporate managers would mark the end of William's experimental radio shows. Like many of the KZAP jocks who had defined experimental radio for Sacramento in the seventies, Bill was let go by the new regime. He found out that the Abrams-consulted format would take over in 1979 from morning man Bill Slater, who he considers "a truly great DJ." Slater said it was very bad news. "Within a couple of weeks," William Fuller remembers, "the Abrams people came in and told all of us that our jobs were safe, not to worry, we were going to forge ahead to a grand new ratings-dominated future! Then they began the purge: one by one 90% of us were fired over about two months. I was told my show would have to start incorporating some religious content - Sunday morning, get it? And a couple of weeks after they instituted their "400 song playlist," I played several songs that, er, weren't on the little playlist cards. I was called into the Program Director's office the next day, asked what I thought I was doing and where I got that music, had my keys taken from me and was thrown out. Hey, everything changes - right?
"It's hard for me to evaluate KZAP after that, because when Abrams took over, it was so painful. The format went from a sort of controlled 'anything goes' to a very strict playlist of about 400 songs, and virtually everybody was fired. In general, and this is no offense to the jocks of the later eras - though I hope it's offensive to the management of later eras - I found the station unlistenable." William resurfaced on the radio again in 1989 and did an alternative rock music show on public radio station KVMR Saturday nights for about a year. His memories of the eclectic era of KZAP remain strong in his mind.
© Playlist Research. All rights reserved.