by Alex Cosper
Take a virtual tour of Sacramento at SacTV.com
see also American Radio History
see also KZAP, KROY, KSFM, KWOD, KRXQ, KNDE, K108, index
Don Wright worked on-air at KNDE in the early seventies during its venture into album rock. "KNDE was a genuine album rock/underground format when it made its debut," says Wright. "All of the jocks, except for Jack Hammer, John Peters (aka The Kandie Man) and yours truly, were directly from the staff of KSJO in San Jose, the leading underground FM station in the South Bay at the time. Out of alleged neccessity, the station became more and more commercial over time, eventually becoming a straight ahead top 40 station programmed by Dave Williams and Kevin Manna by mid 1973 through 1974 and beyond until its unnoticed demise. KNDE was at its best musically, airstaff-wise, ratings-wise and most fun to work at during the all too brief reign of Rick Carroll/Neale Blase/T. Michael Jordan, etc."
A town full of rockers: KZAP, Earth Radio, K108, KNDE, KXOA, KERS, KDVS
The rise of FM radio in the market was led by KZAP in 1968 under the ownership of Lee Gahagan. KZAP introduced the freeform rock sound that was beginning to spread around the country, in which jocks such as Cary Nosler and Jeff Hughson picked their own music and based their choices not on popularity, but on artistic considerations of music flow from one song to the next. In the early seventies KNDE AM briefly experimented with a similar format under consultant Rick Carroll and then KXOA FM did as well. In 1974 KSFM (102.5 FM) introduced another album rock format as Earth Radio, programmed by Don Wright, who worked closely with former KZAP jock Michael Sheehy to craft its initial sound.
Also in 1974 KXOA-FM adjusted its rock format and became K108, which started out as hit-oriented but soon called its format "mellow rock" and had a mascot on the streets called "The Mellow Beaver." Another draw to the station was that it carried popular syndicated shows such as Dr. Demento and Casey Kasem's American Top 40. KERS (90.7 FM) was the hip college station coming out of Sac State (CSUS) that rivaled KZAP in terms of adventurous experimentation. Many students who went through KERS ended up as jocks on KZAP. Another hotbed for Sacramento air talent was the U.C. Davis campus station KDVS (91.5 FM).
Earth Radio's first News Director Ken Beck succeeded Wright in 1975 after most of the station including Wright moved to San Jose freeform rocker KSJO following an incredible ratings book that yielded little reward from upper management. Karen Hadlock, Ken's future wife, did mornings opposite KZAP's Marla. Ken Beck was able to increase salaries for jocks to a respectable level, but his leadership only lasted about a year. Patrick Moore tried to tighten up the station's programming in 1976, but his stint also lasted only a year. The station's final PD was Dennis Newhall, who had previously worked at KZAP and KSJO. Newhall shifted the station back to a free-spirited nature and emphasized creative segues, which became the station's hallmark, along with unpredictable jocks. Ken went on to continue radio work in several major markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco and eventually he became an executive VP for Entercom in Seattle.
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