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Sacramento Radio History
by Alex Cosper
Take a virtual tour of Sacramento at SacTV.com
see also American Radio History
see also KZAP,
See The KROY Story Video Series at SacTV.com
The seventies mark the end of the AM top 40 giants
KROY's exciting six-year ride at the top of the Sacramento ratings ended in 1974. Interestingly, the KROY PD Chuck Roy
left KROY at the end of 1973 and joined adult contemporary station KCRA for middays in early 1974, under the programming of former KROY PD Johnny Hyde, who became head of KCRA's programming in 1971. At that time Hyde brought in sixties KROY personality Lee Kirk. In many ways, the success of KCRA in the seventies was built on the prior success of KROY. In 1971 Hyde hired Cary Nosler from KZAP, who he had tried to hire while PD at KROY, but the rock jock preferred freeform. It was Hyde who gave Cary the nickname "Captain Carrot." More familiarity was brought to KCRA when Dave Williams, in a two year period, jumped from mornings at KROY to Los Angeles to PD/3-7p jock at KNDE to a short stint in Memphis, then landing at KCRA in 1975. He did production, news and a talk show before moving to mornings in 1981, which became a top rated show in town for four years that marked a preview to even bigger career achievements.
Steve Rivers jumped from KNDE, where former KROY jock Dave Williams had programmed, over to KROY to be PD along with his MD Joe Krause (Jo Jo Weed) in
early 1976. Rivers, whose real name is Steve Humphries, became a well known consultant in the radio industry and is not the same Steve Rivers
who was also a radio consultant and programmed KMEL in San Francisco and KIIS in Los Angeles. At KROY Rivers gave Tony Cox and Rick Shannon their
first radio jobs in town.
In 1976 KROY picked up a sister FM station KROI (96.9 FM), which had previously been country station KEZS. Steve Rivers took over programming
of the FM in August 1976. Rivers left KROY in the Spring of 1977 to program WIFI 92 in Philadelphia, leaving Joe Krause in charge of programming.
Krause, however, left shortly afterward to return to Michigan. KROY AM morning show Uncle Byron & T.N. Tanaka followed Rivers to Philadelphia,
as did Jeff "Mutha" Robbins. For awhile the FM was nicknamed I-97, but in 1979
it was renamed Y-97 as the call letters shifted to KROY-FM. To be different from the AM top 40 station KROY-FM focused on a more adult-approach to top 40
rock hits. But the format never seemed to stay consistent as it shifted several times, sometimes leaning more pop and sometimes more rock.
On September 30, 1978, Brown Broadcasting, who had already owned KXOA-FM for five years, turned their new property KNDE back into KXOA-AM, once again returning the format to album rock. For awhile it was called "AM 14, the Rockin' Home."
In January 1980 KXOA played with their identity again by starting to call themselves "The New 14K." People either didn't get it or simply were too busy listening to the same music on FM. So the station kept fishing for a format. By the fall of 1981 they were back to 50s/60s oldies, which failed. To make a long story short, their status as a leading AM station was the forties through the seventies.
KROY FM went through a series of Program Directors in its first few years that included Robert John (late 1976-September 1977), Steve Michaels (1977-1978) and Terry Nelson (1978). Then on Halloween 1978, Richard Irwin arrived as head of programming. The morning show on KROY-FM at the end of the decade was Russ Martin and Barry K. Fyffe (who had previously done mornings with Terry Nelson on the AM). During this period Ann Schmidt rose from receptionist to newscaster and later
went on to work at KPOP and then afternoon drive at KFBK with Ken Yearwood. She dabbled in television for awhile at KCRA-TV, producing a news magazine show called "The West,"
before moving on to a series of Public Relations jobs including work at the California Farm Bureau in the 2000s. She also launched her own company, Ann Schmidt-Fogarty Communications.
In 1978 the KROY AM & FM combo changed ownership from Atlantic States Industries to Jonsson Communications. The AM sold for about $3 million and the FM sold for about $1 million. Mark Jonsson had convinced his father Kenneth to buy a couple Sacramento stations, a couple Reno stations,
Sacramento Magazine and Heavenly Recording Studios. Both stations were still big players in the market at the time (the AM had an eight share), but within
two years KROY AM had fallen off in ratings along with much of the nation's heritage top 40 stations. Popular music formats were migrating to FM.
Still, it was a good investment because when KROY-FM sold seven years later it went for $11 million.
Shortly after Jonsson Communications purchased the combo, technical disaster struck the FM when vandals cut cables and destroyed the station's antenna at the
transmitter site, forcing it off the air for several weeks. Then the station returned on partial power until a new tower was built several months later. According to Mark Jonsson, "Between an
underpowered AM signal and a dead FM signal, our audience was basically wiped out. It took considerable time and money for us to build back even a small
audience for either station."
Mark Jonsson refects on KROY in 2010: "AM top 40 radio was in a serious state of decline all over the country when we purchased the stations in 1978.Ê
In Sacramento, KROY AM was the lowest powered radio station in the market with a daytime power of 1000 watts and a nighttime power of only 250 watts.
The KROY signal could no longer cover the growing metropolitan area around downtown Sacramento (where the transmitter was located) and the listeners were
expressing a strong preference to hear music on the higher quality FM stations." The programming staff believed the AM should stay the same while the FM take
on a more rock feel, competing with KZAP.
© Alex Cosper. All Rights Reserved.