There have been several radio personalities who passed through the Bay Area on their way to greater fame in show business — Al Pearce, Merv Griffin and Art Linkletter many years ago, and Carson Daly more recently — but none of them remains "ours" the way Jim Lange does.
Born August 15, 1933, in St. Paul, Minn., "Gentleman Jim" began his broadcasting career as a teenager after winning an audition at a station in his hometown. "They wanted a boy and a girl," he told the Bay Area Radio Digest in a 1992 interview. "They wanted the boy to do sports and the girl to do the dances and stuff that was going on in the Twin Cities — very sexist — and play music once a week. It was sponsored by a local department store."
He remained on the program for two years before heading off to the University of Minnesota (graduating with honors in 1954) and a three-year hitch in the Marines, which included an assignment with the Armed Forces radio and television service in Hawaii. He left the military late in 1957 and arrived in San Francisco in search of a civilian job in radio.
His first opportunity came at KGO in January 1958 on the overnight shift. Despite the late hours and the relative anonymity inherent in the time slot, he built a substantial audience as "The All-Night Mayor" on KGO, which afforded him the chance to make a significant leap within two years, joining KSFO in January 1960 as afternoon disc jockey during that station's rise as "The World's Greatest Radio Station."
His first network television job came in 1962 as announcer and sidekick on "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show." In 1965, while still working his weekday job at KSFO — which included occasional early wake-up calls when a fill-in was needed for Don Sherwood — Lange began hosting "The Dating Game," which brought him even wider national recognition. He continued to host the show in its original form until 1986. (In high demand as a game show host, in later years he also hosted "Oh My Word," "Hollywood Connection," "$100,000 Name That Tune," "Bullseye," "$1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime" and, for one season, "The New Newlywed Game.")
After the sale of KSFO, former station owner Gene Autry invited Lange to move to KMPC in Los Angeles, where he settled in from 1984 to 1989. Growing tired of splitting time between home in the Bay Area (where his wife, television host and former Miss America Nancy Fleming, remained) and his job in Southern California, he signed on with Magic 61 (KFRC, during its incarnation as an Adult Standards station) in 1990, hosting middays until an ownership change and personnel moves landed him on the morning shift. Another ownership change and format switch at KFRC led Jim to KKSJ in San Jose (1994) before arriving at his current radio home, KABL, in 1997.
Dino Donikian, Jim's longtime sidekick on KABL, said, "I've had the great pleasure of working with Jim for almost 14 years. After all that time it never felt like 'work.' The person you hear on the air is the same person you get off the air — a true gentleman who has a warm personality. ... Jim has been blessed with one of the greatest voices in radio history; his voice is unmistakable."
With the sale of KABL in the Summer of 2005, Jim Lange announced his retirement from fulltime broadcasting as of Thursday, July 28, 2005. He was elected to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2006.