Sacramento Radio History
KROY in the 60s

by Alex Cosper

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see also American Radio History

see also KZAP, KROY, KSFM, KWOD, KRXQ, KNDE, K108, index

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Battle for the hits: KROY vs. KXOA

In the fifties 1470 KXOA flipped from its original MOR/block programming to top 40 hits. The other two teen stations at the time playing a similar format were KGMS (1380) and Stockton-based KGDM (1140). The rest of the AM dial - which was KFBK, KROY and KCRA - played MOR for adult listeners. As KXOA emerged as the hit music leader, in the early sixties both top 40 competitors flipped to MOR. With KGMS taking the lead in MOR programming, KGDM flipped again during that period, this time to KRAK as a country station. KXOA's main rival became KROY (1240), which flipped to top 40 in February 1960.

KXOA and KROY battled for double-digit market shares throughout the sixties. This period featured KROY night jock Mike Larsen, who went on to write a book called Three Score and More about California radio. Future TV star who did mornings at KROY during this era was Gary Owens, who went on to be a comedy act on the television series Laugh In. Owens left town in 1961 and went on to work at KFWB then KMPC in Los Angeles. Owens worked at KMPC from 1962 to 1981 before moving on to a series of other L.A. radio gigs. Another future star who worked at KROY was Lynn Anderson, who was the station receptionist in the mid-sixties before appearing regularly on the national network TV program The Lawrence Welk Show and scoring a string of country hits.

KROY's on-air line-up in 1963 included Don Mac Kinnon in mornings, Hap Hopkins in middays, Tony Bigg in afternoons and Mark Ford at nights. Tony Bigg, who later became Tony Pigg, moved on to San Francisco radio at freeform rocker KSAN before moving on to the bigger New York market at WPLJ and WNEW in the seventies. From there he became the announcer for the TV show Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and then Live with Regis and Kelly. Robert W. Morgan, who would eventually become a big time Los Angeles jock until his death in 1998, briefly worked on the air at KROY in the early sixties as "Bob Morgan."

Mike Larsen talks about KROY in the early sixties

Mike Larsen describes his time at KROY in the early sixties this way: "When I came to Sacramento Ralph Kiner was the general manager at KROY. Ron Lyons was the Program Director. My friend Ted Randall left radio as a jock, to do programming for a number of stations in Northern California. He was signed to do the programming for KROY and wanted to change the old style pop music they were playing, to rock & roll. He sent me to the station and Ralph hired me for part time. My first shift was 6 to midnight, but it turned into full time. A year later I went to the opposite, midnight to 6. Both were great. Our top 40 survey was called the 'Color Radio Tunedex.' Cool Huh?"

In 1963 there was a major shake-up in the market. Larsen says, "All of the jocks were fired. I went to KSEE in Santa Maria as PD. Tony Bigg went to San Francisco and changed his name to Tony 'Pigg.' Mark Ford went to Oakland, 'Happy' Hopkins went to Montana. Gary Owens had already left for Los Angeles. By the way, KROY's address was 1010 11th street, just a few blocks from the State Capitol building." In the late sixties KROY moved its studios to 977 Arden Way, a decade before moving to Old Sacramento.

Musical chairs between KROY and KXOA

In 1962 KROY's Program Director was Mark Ford. The on-air line-up that year was Dick "Buffalo" Burch (6a-9a), Sam Danos (9a-12n), Mark Ford (12n-3p), Tony Bigg (3p-7p), Hap Hopkins (7p-12m) and Mike Larsen (12m-6a). It was Dick Burch who lined Robert W. Morgan up with a gig at KROY. Burch says, "I knew him from the Monterey Bay Area. I drove down to Fresno to tell him of the upcoming job. He was at KMAK with Ron Jacobs at the time." Burch left KROY in 1963 to be number one in the mornings at KXOA. Burch says, "Morgan and I exchanged tapes many times over the years. I sent him a tape of my 'Good Morning Karate Chop' which he changed and made it his own thing...'Good Morganization.' We joked about it when we met in L.A. for drinks."

Buck Herring took the programming reins of KROY in 1963 but left that same year to program crosstown competitor KXOA. Robert W. Morgan was then briefly KROY's PD through 1964 then left for Los Angeles. During his brief tenure, Morgan hired Johnny Hyde a month before Hyde moved on to work for Herring at KXOA. Hyde went on to have a progressive rock feature called "The Gear Hour." After Morgan left Sacramento for bigger success in Los Angeles, Don MacKinnon took the KROY morning slot. MacKinnon had come from KWEB in Oakland. MacKinnon moved on to L.A. radio at KFWB (KEWB's sister station), but was killed in a car accident in 1965. He was considered a very innovative and energetic entertainer of his time.

In 1964 KROY went through a series of musical chairs with PDs. Ron Lyons, who had done top 40 radio at KEWB in Oakland and on-air at KROY before that, became KROY's PD in October 1964, but took the reins of San Francisco station KNBR the following January. Hap Hopkins was his successor then Bill Keffury, who went on to program KYA San Francisco and KRLA Los Angeles in a two year period. Keffury later programmed oldies KCBS-FM and news/talk KPIX in San Francisco. Buck Herring shook up the Sacramento radio market again in 1965 when he returned to KROY as PD.

Johnny Hyde remembers KROY and KXOA during the British Invasion

Johnny Hyde was a jock at KXOA when the Beatles first big American hit "I Want To Hold Your Hand" was number one in early 1964. KXOA had actually played the Beatles song "Please Please Me" in May 1963, several months before the group had their first big American hit. Johnny recalls in 2004, "KXOA played every candy ass record ever recorded. Remember, these were the days of The Singing Nun, The Mermaids, and the closest anybody came to rock was The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and The Chords. That's when I started searching for something new and pulled out some of the old Beatles stuff that I had been playing at KYNO, Fresno in 1962. Those songs, 'She Loves You,' 'Till There Was You,' etc. were later released on the VeeJay label. My copies were on the old Swan label. That's also when I started importing The Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, Long John Baldry, etc. and playing them on the 'Gear Hour' every night at 9:00 on KXOA. The audience was ready and grew by leaps and bounds. That's when Buck and KROY announced they would not play any song until it was available at Tower Records. That was a gift from God."

ogram Director. He stayed with the station through several shifts in station direction through 1974. It was Les who hired Don Imus from KJOY Stockton, CA to do morning drive in 1970 on KXOA. Although Imus never made a ratings splash during his brief stint, his career elevated after leaving the station. First at WGAR Cleveland in 1970 then at WNBC New York the following year, his career skyrocketed. In 1993 his show Imus In The Morning became nationally syndicated.

KROY spends six years at the top

Under the reign of GM Dwight Case, KROY had an incredible run at the top in which Case remained the mainstay, hiring the top decision-makers. William E. Bauer, who did on-air news for the station for two years, became Operations Manager but then the station's consultants were blown out shortly afterward and the station drifted toward limbo. Then Johnny Hyde soon arrived as Program Director with a plan. In 1968 KROY began to use the identity "music power" in their slogans. That year KROY was the number one rated radio station in Sacramento for the 12+ audience. KROY remained on top for six straight years. The winning sound was patterned after "Boss Radio," a format credited to radio consultant Bill Drake at stations KHJ in Los Angeles and KFRC in San Francisco three years earlier.

The Drake-Chenault consulting firm influenced several stations around the country in the RKO chain. KROY was not an RKO station, nor was it consulted by Drake-Chenault, yet it was emulating the very structured high-rotation high-energy presentation that characterized the successful consultancy. The jock was very tight and fast-paced with an upbeat personality. Basically it trimmed the playlists and the chatter, resulting in an accelerated feeling of hearing the most exciting hits most of the time, based on research. The upbeat sound was candy-coated further with sweet jingles, wild slogans and bigger than life contests.

In 1969 Lincoln Dellar sold KROY to partners Ralph Guild and George Fritzinger under the name Atlantic States Industries. They owned other stations such as KFAC Los Angeles and some stations in Ohio. KROY's station manager throughout their heyday was Dwight Case, the future RKO President who in 1994 would purchase the 1240 AM dial position.

The Program Directors at KROY who pulled off the incredible accomplishment of a six year run at the top were Johnny Hyde (1967-1970), Bob Sherwood (1970-1971) and finally Chuck Roy (1971-1973). After Hal Murray ("The Big Stallion") succeeded Roy, the station continued to have success but wound up in a tighter battle with KNDE as both top 40 outlets began to lose ground to the emerging FM dial. In its heyday as a number one station, KROY had big name jocks like Johnny Hyde, Bob Sherwood, Wonder Rabbit (Martin Ashley), Terry Nelson, T. Michael Jordan, Gene Lane, Dave Williams, Dr. Tom Becker, Donovan Blue, Bob Castle (The Blue Whiz) and others.

Other stations playing contemporary hits in the market in the seventies were KPOP and KJAY. KCRA (1320 AM) and KGMS were considered "middle of the road" stations, playing more adult-oriented hits. Two Bay Area top 40 stations whose signals clearly reached Sacramento were KFRC (610 AM) and KYA (1260 AM).

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