KPOP in the 1980s
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
KPOP plays new wave "rock of the eighties"
In 1983 KPOP (93.7 FM) dropped its long-time soul format and began flirting with the format that Rick Carroll had invented at KROQ called "Rock of the '80's." Carroll, who programmed KROQ, started a consultancy in which KPOP was a client along with a handful of other modern rock stations around the country and MTV. It was based on new wave, punk and techno/pop music, with a heavy emphasis on British acts. But after a year of failed ratings KPOP flipped to regular top 40 to compete with KWOD and FM 102. KWOD and KPOP started having a similar pop sound while FM 102 played beats. The battle of morning shows in 1984 became FM102's Morning Zoo, KWOD's Masters & Johnson and KPOP's Robbins, Kinney and Cowan.
The Features, fronted by John David Pride, were a popular Sacramento band whose shows at Lord Beaverbrooks were reguarly promoted on KPOP, where Carmy Ferreri was Music Director. Pride reflected in 2012, "When I got to Sac, radio was still under the thumb of Burkhart-Abrams. When KZAP offerred the Features side one, cut one of the Homegrown album, I turned it down because we existed to rail against that machine (No Rock and Roll Radio was written about this). The New Wave movement sought freedom from the 'Free Bird' and 'Stairway 24/7' mentality of rock radio at the time. Rick Carroll was my hero. KPOP and KROY gave us a forum for expression. Carmy was a big part of all that."
Fuller-Jeffrey in the pre-consolidation era
For awhile Fuller-Jeffrey ruled the golden state when radio chains weren't so gigantic. The radio group was started by Bob Fuller. After moving to California from Maine in 1967, Bob began selling advertising for KROY in 1969. By the eighties he was a radio owner. The company bought KPOP (93.5 FM) and KPIP (1110 AM) on Jan. 1, 1984 from Don Reeves, an original founder of the station who also was a broker in the sixties selling radio properties for Hamilton/Landis. Reeves also launched KWUN AM in Concord, CA.
Shortly after Fuller-Jeffrey moved in, KPOP's format flipped to teen oriented top 40 and a few years later to rock, which marked the birth of 93 Rock. KPIP became KRCX, which stood for "Radio Capital." In the nineties Fuller-Jeffrey sold off those stations and put Talk 650 KSTE on the air. It started as a Spanish station at the same studios once used by KQPT The Point in Rancho Cordova. KPOP operated out of Quail Lane off Eureka in Roseville then the FM moved to Madison Avenue in 1984.
Bob Fuller remembers in 2005, "In the summer of '88 we finally got our upgrade from 3,000 watts and moved to 93.7. In order to upgrade the power of KRXQ I had to purchase South Lake Tahoe and Chico (stations) and work out an arrangement with an Anderson, CA station. They were all on co-channel or adjacent channels to 93.7. It took four years." In addition to moving the signal, power was raised to 25,000 watts. This new upgraded signal was transmitted from the old KFIA 710 towers near Old Auburn Road.
"When we bought KPOP as a 3kw in '84," Fuller continues, "it had massive interference in Downtown Sacramento from 92.5 KAER. Running over 100kw from a very short tower, when they moved out to the Rio Linda area with more height and less power, the interference went away. KPOP was then transmitting from Citrus Heights off of Auburn Blvd."
The power increase certainly helped the station's ratings from that point on, as KRXQ cornered the rock market and drove their heritage competitor out of the market. But Fuller-Jeffrey didn't just make waves in Sacramento. As Fuller says, "Hard to believe now, but before deregulation, for awhile Fuller-Jeffrey was the largest owner of stations in California in the late eighties, as far as number of stations, not revenue, obviously." The group's roster of stations beyond Sacramento included KHOP/Stockton-Modesto, KHOV/Mariposa, KFMF/Chico, KSCO and KLRS/Santa Cruz, KRLT/South Lake Tahoe, KSRO and KHTT in Santa Rosa. They also had stations in Iowa, Colorado, Maine and New Hampshire.
Dave Skyler's morning stunt turns KPOP into 93 Rock
Dave Skyler probably holds the record for working at the most stations in Sacramento. He came from Southern California to Woodland to do evenings at FM 102 in late 1984. Six months later he jumped to KWOD to fill the overnight show vacancy due to Melanie Evans taking his shift at FM 102. But after KWOD's incredible three point jump to 8.9 (KWOD's all-time high) in the Spring Arbitron 1985 12+ ratings, KWOD went from long shifts to four hour shows as Skyler found himself doing 10p-2a.
On August 7, 1985 the Sacramento Bee reported that KPOP morning team Robbins, Kinney and Cowan were leaving for Detroit radio. Soon after, Skyler was contacted by KPOP about doing the morning show. Skyler says in our March 2000 video interview, "KPOP got a new Program Director from WZOU in Boston, who I had met previously, Dave Gariano. He called right away and offered me morning drive." It was an offer for a prime shift, more money and even health insurance, so he couldn't refuse.
The new KPOP morning show was called the Rude Awakening, anchored by Dave with Andy Roberts. Despite a funny show with lots of phone bits, KPOP continued to trail FM 102 and KWOD in the ratings. So one day Skyler was called to a meeting at a local hotel that involved Gariano and consultants who began to discuss format change. Skyler says, "I was invited to the hotel room. We discussed what we were gonna do with the format. We had definitely said yeah, top 40 ain't workin' for this station. It never has. So they thought well, let's play rock...but not just rock music because you have legendary KZAP, you know, a heritage radio station and it would probably be suicidal to go up against them. So why don't we give them a rock hits type format? Originally it was designed like the Arrow in Los Angeles. I remember I'm the one who suggested 93 Rock. Bill Cloutier wanted it and Gariano didn't have a preference."
Then on January 10, 1986 KPOP decided to go after KZAP. Morning man Dave Skyler barracaded himself in the station with his new partner Rusty Humphries for six hours during their "Rude Awakening" show until management agreed to switch the format to rock, which actually began during that show. They made fun of their own call letters and jingles and severely criticized the competition even saying "KZAP sucks." According to Skyler this was a staged event. Nevetheless, it got local television coverage. After that, the new station went through an identity crisis and continued to have low ratings the next few years.
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