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San Francisco
Bay Area Radio History

by Alex Cosper


San Francisco Bay Area Radio Dial

1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s



The radio industry was one of the most exciting forms of entertainment throughout the 20th century, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the story literally began. Many people may not realize that the very first broadcast of a human voice was in the Bay on the station that eventually became KCBS. This report on San Francisco radio history covers the entire span of radio beginning in the early 1900s. Some of the most legendary call letters in history have come from the Bay including KFRC, KGO and KFOG.

This report covers a wide variety of stations up and down the dial from inception through the new century. It's a flashback of some of the great moments that entertained and informed residents all over Northern California. KFRC's signal was so big is could be heard in Sacramento and as far as Lake Tahoe. A lot of music from Northern California helped shape modern music, thanks partly to adventurous radio stations.

One of the most legendary stories about San Francisco radio was the rise of freeform radio in the late sixties. During the late sixties through the mid-seventies Tom Donahue was a leading radio program director who shaped the freeform sound of KSAN for many years until his death. It was a very influential station for launching the careers of several Bay Area musicians. KSAN continued to play rock through the early wighties until is switched to country. Eventually it came back as a classic rock station called The Bone.

Some of the most innovative Bay Area radio has come from Live 105, especially during the eighties and nineties. The station, under the direction of Richard Sands and music experts like Steve Masters, Roland West and Aaron Axelson, broke many creative artists of the alternative rock format. The station has featured many memorable concert festivals and has brought many new sounds to the Bay.


1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s








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