Sacramento Radio History

by Alex Cosper

Take a virtual tour of Sacramento at

see also American Radio History

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

Sacramento Radio in the 1950s

In the fifties, television casts radio into a new role

When television began saturating homes in the fifties, radio was greatly eclipsed by the visual medium. Up until television, radio was the most popular form of media. As national networks began moving away from radio to concentrate on their television properties, radio began to reinvent itself. For a period in the early fifties many stations began experimenting with block programming, implementing a wide variety of shows and musical genres in scheduled time slots. As rock and roll music became popular in the mid-fifties stations had to decide which audience they wanted to serve: kids or adults. With the baby boom, a whole new market was emerging with youth culture accelerated in the late fifties by the popularity of the transistor radio, which allowed listeners to fit radios in their pockets and take the airwaves with them wherever they went.

KGMS rocks in the fifties

In the fifties a few more stations popped up on the AM dial. One was Auburn community station KAHI at 950 AM in 1956. Another was KGMS, whose three owners had last names beginning with G, M and S. Those owners were Steve George, Jack Matranga and Irv Schwartz. Matranga later went on to own television station KTXL Channel 40. KGMS sprung up at 1380 AM in the mid-fifties. It began as an MOR (middle of the road) station but by the end of the fifties the format drifted toward current pop hits. They continued this approach until about 1962 when they went back to more adult Sinatra-type artists and instrumentals with the slogan "the good music station," which also went along with the KGMS call letters. It became one of the top stations in town both in billings and ratings throughout the sixties. A familiar voice on the station during the sixties was news announcer Ray Hasha.

From 1959 to 1961 Jim Hadlock was the KGMS Program Director before he moved on to do voice work for local television station KXTV Channel 10. Jim introduced a format called "Select 60" at the station, which was a rollout of the sixty biggest hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. During his tenure Jim also did morning drive followed by Lou Guttenberger (middays), Jack Haskill (afternoons), Jim Barber (evenings, later worked at KCRA TV Channel 3) and station engineer Jim Lehman (overnights). Jim Hadlock's daughter
Karen Hadlock (now Karen Beck), became a morning host on KSFM in the seventies during its Earth Radio days. After Jim Hadlock left in 1961 the station went a little more rock and roll for about a year before shifting back to MOR.

Bill Rase swings at KCRA

KCRA featured big band music in its programming throughout the fifties, which is why the station hired local orchestra leader Bill Rase in 1952. Bill became a popular disc jockey at the station until his departure in 1965 to create his recording studio, Bill Rase Productions. From 1955-1965 he also produced a live variety show for KCRA-TV Channel 3, which aired every Saturday afternoon. On the show he was known as "Bosun Bill." The Bill Rase Orchestra has since played at countless local events, including rallies for local politicians of both major parties. His band played over 7,000 events for a half century, according to the Sacramento Bee. Rase passed away at the age of 79 on May 18, 2006.

FMs begin to appear in the 40s/50s/60s

The FCC was slowly easing FM stations on the air by allowing AM stations to simulcast their broadcasts on sister FM signals. The first four FM stations in Sacramento appeared in the late thirties through the late forties. These early FMs were sister stations of the existing AM empires of the airwaves: KROY-FM (94.5), KCRA-FM (96.1), KFBK-FM (96.9) and KXOA-FM (107.9). In the fifties KGMS-FM (95.1) and KJML (106.5) were added to the dial while the 94.5 and 96.9 frequencies went dark for awhile. In the sixties the 100.5 frequency was added and became religious station KEBR. KXRQ (98.5) came on in the sixties as a lite pop in the day and jazz at night station. In 1968 it changed ownership and format to freeform rock as KZAP.

Broadcast Engineer Fred Morton says, "All commercial FM had basically no power limits until the last major set of FM rules went into effect in 1961. Those that ran more power and/or height than the rules of 1961 permitted were allowed to be grandfathered in at that power and height. If they moved, all bets were off. It's interesting that KFBK's FM station still runs higher than normal power, but never took advantage of its former sister TV station's tall tower in Walnut Grove when that stick went up in 1959."

After the FCC ruling KEBR was Sacramento's only FM example of a station previously broadcasting at 100,000 watts, which meant the station was allowed to continue at that output. Another new FM was at 102.5 in 1961 when KATT appeared but floundered and went dark circa 1967-1968. It came back in 1970 at first as top 40 station KRBT with live jocks then as an automated station called "Robot Radio."

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