If you remember waking to Terry McGovern and Scoop
Nisker. If Bonnie Simmons got you through midday and Bobby Cole -
never without his trademark shades - drove you home. If whacked-out
Richard Gossett stepped up as the dreamweaver of your paisley
evenings. You weren’t alone. You harken back to those long ago days
when KSAN was a rock station like few others in the world..
You dug Ben Fong-Torres, who was at the time
contributing to Rolling Stone. San Francisco Giants media maven Kenny
Wardell handled on-air promotions as well as on-air shifts. Then there
was the Big Daddy who pioneered 94.9 FM’s groundbreaking format… the
late Tom Donahue. Tom’s young and beautiful wife Rachel was a rising
star and so was Big Daddy’s protégé, Tom O’Hair. O’Hair was thought by
many to be the off-the-wall glue that led KSAN to great success for
Metromedia Broadcasting. The nationally lauded and respected Met
boasted a like-minded flagship station in L.A. billed as "A little bit
of heaven, ninety-four point seven, KMET, the Mighty Met."
KMEL met KSAN head to head. "The Beast of the Bay"
came to San Francisco and quickly dried up that unique oasis that was
KSAN. Century Broadcasting out of St. Louis dangled enough dollars in
front of O’Hair (he would become KMEL’s program director), Bobby Cole
(afternoons and music director), and Wardell (weekends and promotions)
and it robbed Tawn Mastery from us at KSJO.
"KAMEL IS A DRY HUMP!" So read the graffiti above
KSJO’s on-air studio. And so it seemed when "Formula Rock" came to the
Bay Area. KMEL’s music when it debuted that 4th of July weekend
twenty-five years ago - we called it canned - would seem today as far
out as what Robin Williams’ antics in "Good Morning Vietnam" sounded
like to his commanding officer.
But when KMEL launched its desert sands approach, they
brought ammo Schwartzkopf would be proud of - thirty days of
commercial-free canned rock. Their overwhelming success would in time
bring old friends together. Tony Kilbert and I, who some said were
joined at the hip, would soon be reunited at the Hump. But not before
TK left KSAN too, to dabble in the very experimental rock that
newcomer KSFX was attempting.
I was to stay at KSJO a while longer, long enough to
relish KSAN’s demise and witness a few other changes to the musical
chairs that is still today the essence of a life on-air.
The station you know today as Radio Alice, at one
time, believe it or not, was known by an even stranger name.
Billboards grew out of the Bay Area landscape like poppies in
Afghanistan. "Monster Radio" growled to life. Even if its CBS owners
lacked radio savvy, they always boasted the strongest ad budgets of
any rock competitor.
They used even more cash to brand TK - who would go on
to host nightly movies for Jim Gabbert’s TV20 - a bona fide Bay Area
star. In their infinite wisdom, CBS put together a fine line-up to
headline the Monster. What they never quite did, however, was educate
the audience that the Monster referred to their behemoth signal, all
69,000 watts of it. That monster would in almost no time shrink to
Shrek size and be re-dubbed yet again as KRQR, the "Bay Area Rocker."
There were many more significant experiences headed my
way in my waning months at KSJO. Next week: Sting’s Star Status, Steve
Perry’s U-Haul, and Fee Waybill of The Tubes looks like he put his
finger in a hot socket.