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 1970s

see Sacramento Radio dial in 1974 as listed in the Sacramento Union.

Drake-Chenault moves in

The team of Drake-Chenault, once a proven success, went beyond their consulting services and actually began purchasing stations. The KXOA (1470 AM and 107.9 FM) combo had changed hands in the sixties from Polaris Broadcasting to Fukua. In 1970 both the AM and FM stations were sold but to different owners. Drake-Chenault acquired automated country station KXOA-FM (107.9 FM) and changed the format to automated "solid gold oldies." The format was delivered via reels of tape from Los Angeles as the station was called "Stereo 108."

KXOA-AM was acquired by an investment group out of San Jose headed by Scott Elrod. In December 1970 the AM then changed call letters to KNDE. At first the station flipped to progressive rock as "Rock KANDIE" on January 8, 1971. Briefly that year KNDE was consulted by Rick Carroll and played underground music with a top 40 presentation. Even though Carroll brought KNDE its best ratings ever, KNDE General Manager Bob Sobelman ironically fired him. KNDE then moved more toward album rock before making a gradual transition back to top 40 throughout the first half of 1973. After Carroll left KNDE, he then began working as a consultant for the Drake-Chenault team, which included consulting KXOA-FM in the early seventies while it was an experimental syndicated underground format with a top 40 presentation called "Earth Rock."

But due to listener complaints from fans of the "solid gold oldies" format, KXOA-FM switched back to regular oldies in 1973. The station was later taken over by Brown Broadcasting led by Mike and Willard Brown, who had been associated with the Drake-Chenault team. The station became "K108" in 1974, while keeping the KXOA call letters.

Remember KANDIE?

Don Wright worked on-air at KNDE in the early seventies during its venture into album rock. "KNDE was a genuine album rock/underground format when it made its debut," says Wright. "All of the jocks, except for Jack Hammer, John Peters (aka The Kandie Man) and yours truly, were directly from the staff of KSJO in San Jose, the leading underground FM station in the South Bay at the time. Out of alleged neccessity, the station became more and more commercial over time, eventually becoming a straight ahead top 40 station programmed by Dave Williams and Kevin Manna by mid 1973 through 1974 and beyond until its unnoticed demise. KNDE was at its best musically, airstaff-wise, ratings-wise and most fun to work at during the all too brief reign of Rick Carroll/Neale Blase/T. Michael Jordan, etc."

KROY Veterans Advance Nationally

By the mid seventies one of the top radio chains in the country was RKO General, which owned monster hit stations like KHJ/Los Angeles and KFRC/San Francisco. Dwight Case, who had been GM at KROY since the mid sixties, left KROY in 1972 to become President of RKO. The connection between KROY, RKO (which never owned KROY) and a rising industry trade magazine called Radio & Records is incredible. The magazine was founded in 1973 by Bob Wilson, a KROY employee under Dwight in the sixties. Wilson went on to be PD at KDAY/Los Angeles, where he transformed KROY's Dr. Becker into Bo Donovan for afternoons. Wilson later hired Paul Drew, who had programmed RKO stations KFRC and KHJ in the early seventies and became RKO's National PD. The magazine's first location was on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles in the same building as the RKO people such as Bill Drake, Gene Chenault and Dwight Case. As the seventies unwound, the radio industry began to regard Radio & Records as the "industry bible," while Billboard became thought of more as a street publication. It was R&R more than any other trade that began coining format terms such as "Contemporary Hit Radio" "Adult Contemporary." R&R also became the definitive trade magazine in the industry that grouped stations in panels and assigned "reporter status" to stations whose airplay contributed to their national charts. Wilson sold the magazine in 1979. It eventually fell under the ownership of Westwood One and then Perry Capital.

KCRA: A Haven for News Talent

"KCRA Radio was an amazing place in the '70's," says Dann Shively, who had previously worked at KROY, KXOA, KRAK and Channel 10. Although Dann would make a bigger mark over the years as a news reporter with KCRA TV, he still has fond memories of his years at KCRA Newsradio 132, which was a unique mix of news and pop music. "It was a great place to work with a talented and fun staff and we were number one for several years. We did news in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon drive. In between and at night there were live personality driven DJ's and pop music. You might not think a mixed format would work, but work it did. I was there from '72 to '79." Virge Clemons was General Manager and Larry Page was the news director and morning anchor. Gil Krause was the afternoon news anchor. DJ's included Dave Darin, Lee Kirk, Randy Comstock, Tom Romano and Chuck Roy from KROY and Hal Murray.

Shively remembers, "Johnny Hyde later joined the staff as PD and host of a popular afternoon talk show, The Love Line where mostly women called in to talk their love lives. This was a great time in my life. Other news people included Bob Van Roy and Keith Adams and a lot of the Channel 3 news staff with whom we shared a newsroom. Harry Geise, Harry Stockman and Tom DuHain shared TV and radio weather duties. Bud Zumwalt came aboard as production director. It's funny that we were up against the giant McClatchy-owned KFBK whose studios were in the Bee building. Despite the fact they were a 50,000 watt station and we were only 5000/1000 watts, we were the dominant news station. When we reduced our power at sunset we couldn't even reach Roseville! Eventually we built a second transmitter site (the first was on the Garden Highway) near the Antelope area. This allowed us to stay at 5000 watts at night and improved out coverage area. There was one transmitter site for day and another for night."

Also part of the KCRA family was the FM simulcast of the AM, KCRA FM. Then the FM changed to KCTC as "The California Sound," playing a mix of pop music programmed by Dean Cull. The KCTC call letters reflected the name of a sister company called California Television Corporation, which was the Zenith distributor for much of Northern California. The automated KCTC-FM consisted of air team Dean, Gil Bouchet and Bill Zimlich. Throughout the sixties and seventies the KCRA dynasty of the AM, FM and TV stations was owned by Kelly Broadcasting. In 1977 Kelly Broadcasting sold the AM and FM to the Chicago Tribune for $5.6 million and the AM's call letters changed to KGNR. Before Dann Shively left in 1979, he was joined by Dave Williams. Shively went on to be a familiar television news personality in Sacramento as morning anchor for KCRA-TV most of the eighties.

A town full of rockers: KZAP, Earth Radio, K108, KNDE, KXOA, KERS, KDVS

The rise of FM radio in the market was led by
KZAP in 1968 under the ownership of Lee Gahagan. KZAP introduced the freeform rock sound that was beginning to spread around the country, in which jocks such as Cary Nosler and Jeff Hughson picked their own music and based their choices not on popularity, but on artistic considerations of music flow from one song to the next. In the early seventies KNDE AM briefly experimented with a similar format under consultant Rick Carroll and then KXOA FM did as well. In 1974 KSFM (102.5 FM) introduced another album rock format as Earth Radio, programmed by Don Wright, who worked closely with former KZAP jock Michael Sheehy to craft its initial sound.

Also in 1974 KXOA-FM adjusted its rock format and became K108, which started out as hit-oriented but soon called its format "mellow rock" and had a mascot on the streets called "The Mellow Beaver." Another draw to the station was that it carried popular syndicated shows such as Dr. Demento and Casey Kasem's American Top 40. KERS (90.7 FM) was the hip college station coming out of Sac State (CSUS) that rivaled KZAP in terms of adventurous experimentation. Many students who went through KERS ended up as jocks on KZAP. Another hotbed for Sacramento air talent was the U.C. Davis campus station KDVS (91.5 FM).

Earth Radio's first News Director Ken Beck succeeded Wright in 1975 after most of the station including Wright moved to San Jose freeform rocker KSJO following an incredible ratings book that yielded little reward from upper management. Karen Hadlock, Ken's future wife, did mornings opposite KZAP's Marla. Ken Beck was able to increase salaries for jocks to a respectable level, but his leadership only lasted about a year. Patrick Moore tried to tighten up the station's programming in 1976, but his stint also lasted only a year. The station's final PD was Dennis Newhall, who had previously worked at KZAP and KSJO. Newhall shifted the station back to a free-spirited nature and emphasized creative segues, which became the station's hallmark, along with unpredictable jocks. Ken went on to continue radio work in several major markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco and eventually he became an executive VP for Entercom in Seattle.

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 as the shifting sands of the radio industry began to reshape the dial and the audience. The rest of the decade dealt with the growing popularity of FM and the sliding interest in AM for music listening. Read more about
KROY's fate in the 70s.

The Crossroads of Jazz

In January 1977 Royce International Broadcasting, owned by Ed Stolz, launched a jazz station at 106.5 FM with the call letters KWOD. Previous owners programmed syndicated soft instrumentals. The frequency signed on in the late fifties and went through a freeform period in the late sixties with the call letters KJML. Kevin Childs was KWOD's first Program Director. Childs reflects in 2006, "Ed and I discussed the local Dixieland Jazz Festival and I suggested that a more logical mention of that event would include the more diverse areas of jazz in general." The station then began airing a mix of easy rock and jazz, aimed at mainly 25 to 49 year old males. Childs put the music library together after compiling more than 2500 albums.

Early air talent at KWOD during its first few years as a jazz station included Kevin Childs, who did the morning show, Jim Ayers, Jeff Kepley, Pete Peterson, Dave Keon, Donna Perry and former KZAP morning host Helen Meline. During the daytime hours KWOD included popular adult rock hits by artists such as Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Boz Scaggs and James Taylor. Then at night the station went completely jazz with the program "Crossroads of Jazz," hosted by Jim St. John. The name of the show came from the station's location, which was at the Crossroads Shopping Center, across from Executive Airport.

KWOD got its name from a new technology that never really caught on. It was quadrophonic stereo. KWOD actually broadcast four signals - which could only be heard as quadrophonic sound on four speakers. Since most people were happy with two speakers, quadrophonic sound took a backseat to other emerging technology of the time, which included the advent of "spacial" technology. In 1979 KWOD kept its call letters but flipped the format to contemporary hits as a challenge to the fallen AM top 40 stations and the new hit music leader, FM 102.

© Playlist Research. All rights reserved.