Sacramento Radio History
KXOA 1960s
by Alex Cosper

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KXOA in the 1960s

1470 KXOA was the hit music leader in Sacramento in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Starting in 1960 KXOA's main competition was with 1240 KROY as other stations in town began to focus on adult hits. The hits of the period were dance party craze songs like "The Twist" by Chubby Checker and girl groups along with doo wop and ballroom ballads. During this period the surf craze hit the charts, which influenced dozens of local Sacramento bands following in the footsteps of the Beach Boys and the Ventures, although not much of it ever made the airwaves.

Les Thompson's Memories of Programming KXOA

KXOA's only lead over KROY in the battle of top 40 listenership from the mid-sixties through the rest of the decade came in June 1966 under PD Les Thompson. "It was the best time of my life," Les recalls in 2008, "Not a care in the world and getting paid for something that was great fun. When I came back from building KPLS in Santa Rosa for the Polaris Corporation (who owned KXOA at the time), KROY had been the top dog for a long time and they had gotten lazy."

Les turned things around quickly as PD of KXOA when he re-organized the staff and crafted a tight "wheel" format that everybody followed. "I had a contest every hour," says Les. "In those days you could trade top ten records at Tower Records. So I would give away a hit (new or oldie) every hour. It took one rating book to knock them off. The June 1966 book was the best. Let me say this, I was just an instrument. The jocks were very important, and I couldn't have done it without the talent there. But I will always contend that it's the format, not the jocks that make success. How we did it without a signal I'll never know. We had the worst signal pattern in radio. It was great beating KROY. But KROY had one thing we didn't, and that was their manager Dwight Case. He was a talented guy with insight to sales."

Early in his career, Les had worked at KGMS in 1960 then was hired at KXOA a few years later. In 1964 he took off for Santa Rosa, CA radio. In 1966 he returned to KXOA as Program 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.

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