On July 31, 1925, Reverend George W. Phillips, who provided the inspiration for the radio station, informed the Radio Division, Bureau of Navigation, U. S. Department of Commerce, that his station was constructed and ready to operate. The Bureau granted authority to operate and assigned call letters KTAB to the Tenth Avenue Baptist Church on August 1, 1925. Upon receipt of the confirming wire, KTAB went on the air Saturday evening, August 1, 1925, utilizing 215.7 meters (equal to 1390 kilocycles) with 1,000 watts, feeding a T-type antenna system.
KTAB was granted its first license by the Bureau of Navigation on August 10, 1925. In this permit, power authorized was 1,000 watts Sundays only — the station was envisioned to be in operation mostly on Sundays only — with 500 watts authorized for other broadcasting periods. Eight days later, KTAB began a daily schedule on a new dial position, 1250 kilocycles, on August 18th. Programs at this time were non-commercial in nature and were mostly religious services conducted by Rev. Phillips.
The Associated Broadcasters leased KTAB from Rev. Phillips' Tenth Avenue Baptist Church effective March 25, 1926. Formed March 11th, The Associated Broadcasters stockholders were members of the church, and entered into a 20-year lease agreement with the church for the operation of KTAB. This was to allow the station to accept commercial business without reflecting on the dignity of the church (most church-owned stations at this time were, on the surface, very anti-commercial). At this time, KTAB continued to use 1,000 watts for its Sunday broadcasts, reducing power output on other days to 500 watts. Oakland's KTAB remained located at the corner of Tenth Avenue and East Fourteenth Street after its transfer to The Associated Broadcasters. (Entrance was gained through the First Baptist Church's auditorium, at 1010 East Fourteenth Street).
As a result of the breakdown of radio regulation in early 1926 in which the Department of Commerce was unable to assign wavelengths or power levels to stations under the provisions of existing radio law (The Radio Act of 1912), many stations at this time took this opportunity to change dial position and increase power at will, causing disruption and interference to its listeners in. While legal, since no radio law was actually in effect, these changes were widely inaugurated by stations unhappy with their assigned facilities. As KTAB was now operated as a commercial enterprise, as desirable a dial position as possible was sought by The Associated Broadcasters, but its station was relegated to 1250 kilocycles, not known for its favorable position on local radio dials. In June 1926, KTAB shifted to 990 kilocycles, a spot unused by any other Bay Area broadcaster. While licensed for 1,000 watts on Sunday and 500 watts the balance of the time, most likely KTAB was quietly using full power for all of its broadcasts. On into early 1927, while licensed for 1250 kilocycles, KTAB was to be found to be operating on 990 kilocycles.
Upon enactment of the Radio Act of 1927, under the supervision of the Federal Radio Commission, KTAB was relicensed in April 1927 to operate on 1070 kilocycles with a fulltime power of 500 watts. This change took effect June 1, 1927. KTAB was unhappy with this assignment, and many applications and letters were presented to the FRC for more favored status. The Associated Broadcasters, lessee of the station, quoted a long history of hindrance (i.e., not receiving approval for its numerous requests for improved facilities), and was faced with choosing from 500 watts fulltime hours, or 1,000 watts on a shared time basis with other local stations. They argued that KTAB had broadcast with 1,000 watts for two years "and should be allowed that privilege now (June 1927.)" On July 14, 1927, the FRC granted authorization for KTAB to use 1,000 watts "on the next four Sundays" (July 17, 24 and 31, and August 7).
By April 1928, KTAB was using 500 watts for its daily broadcasts, but was equipped with a Western Electric 1-KW transmitter. On August 1, 1928, KTAB's lessee, The Associated Broadcasters (along with its 20-year lease of the station), was acquired by the Pickwick Broadcasting Corporation, a subsidiary of Pickwick Stages Corporation. Studios were moved by the new owners from Oakland to San Francisco on September 29, 1928, to the commonly-owned Pickwick Hotel at Fifth and Mission Streets. Mel L. LeMon was now Manager of KTAB while Glenhall Taylor was Pickwick's Vice President in charge of their growing chain of stations (KTAB now joined KNRC Los Angeles under Pickwick's ownership).
A new Western Electric 6A 1 KW transmitter was installed at 1410 Tenth Avenue, Oakland, by the end of September 1928. Also in the late summer of 1928, KTAB changed frequency from 1070 to 1280 kilocycles. This changed to 550 kilocycles on November 11, 1928. Concurrently, KTAB was required to begin sharing time on the new assignment with KLX, Oakland. These changes were a part of a nationwide frequency reallocations, effective at midnight (Pacific time) on Saturday, November 11th.
In early 1929, KLX was reassigned to 880 kc, allowing KTAB to become the fulltime occupant of 550 kilocycles in the Bay Area. At this time, KTAB's air slogan, derived from its call letters, was "Knowledge, Truth, and Beauty." KTAB was exchanging programs via wire line from the other Pickwick-operated stations (KTM/Los Angeles and KGB/San Diego). Their sales and programming operations were directed from the Pickwick offices in Los Angeles, which operated the three stations in conjunction with its bus terminals, motor coaches, and hotels in all three California cities. By November 1929, KTAB's frequency was shifted slightly — from 550 to 560 kilocycles.
In early 1930, KTAB was acquired fully from the former church interests by The Associated Broadcasters, Inc. (Pickwick Stages interests), and power was raised to 1 ,000 watts for experimental daytime usage, while night power remained at 500 watts, its licensed power output. KTAB finally was licensed for fulltime 1,000 watt operation in early October of 1930.
By 1932, Manager of the independent outlet was Tom Morgan. In 1932, KTAB was in danger of losing its license over the broadcasts of mind reader "Zoro," a popular program feature of the station at the time. The FCC took a dim view of the broadcasts in which listeners were cajoled into sending in a dollar and have any question answered. A personality such as KTAB's "Zoro" was a popular staffer at many of KTAB's contemporaries around the United States. Zoro's act was cleaned up, and the FRC renewed KTAB's license. A studio and transmitter move was anticipated in the latter half of 1932; in November, the station announced that its studios and transmitter would be moved to Sweet's Ballroom in Oakland.
On February 24, 1933, the FRC granted a modification of KTAB's license for a move of its studio from Fifth and Mission Streets, San Francisco, to 1424 Franklin Street, Oakland. On March 14th, KTAB's main studio was moved to the new Oakland quarters in Sweet's Ballroom. By June of 1933, KTAB maintained auxiliary San Francisco studios in the Kohler-Chase Building.
In the fall of 1933, KTAB's licensee, The Associated Broadcasters, Inc., was sold by the Pickwick Corporation to Wesley I. Dumm and Philip G. Lasky. Mr. Dumm, a mortgage banker, was President of KTAB's licensee corporation after this transfer, and named H.P. Drey as the station's new manager. Main studios were then moved from Oakland to San Francisco; relocating to penthouse quarters in the Russ Building, 115 O'Farrell Street.
H.P. Drey left KTAB to become president, general manager and part-owner of the Educational Broadcasting Corporation, licensee of Oakland's KROW, in late 1934, and was succeeded as KTAB general manager by vice president Philip G. Lasky, effective February 1, 1935.* New enlarged studios and offices for KTAB, occupying the entire 31st floor of the Russ Building, were opened on April 11, 1935. Call letters were changed from KTAB to KSFO in the summer of 1935. At this time, KSFO was rebroadcasting some programming from ''The Western Network," a West Coast chain fed by Hollywood's independent powerhouse KNX.
KSFO joined the nationwide Columbia Broadcasting System network on January 1, 1937, replacing KFRC as San Francisco's CBS outlet. Columbia aired a welcoming program on January 2, commemorating the addition of both KSFO and Hollywood's KNX. In January 1937, a five-year lease was executed between Wesley I. Dumm and the Columbia Broadcasting System for KSFO; this lease was not carried out at this time.
The Federal Communications Commission granted KSFO a construction permit February 2, 1937 to move its city of license and transmitter from Oakland to San Francisco; to raise daytime power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts (1,000 watts at night); and install a new vertical radiating antenna tower. On September 14, 1937, KSFO began operating from its new 389-foot steel self-supported steel tower, manufactured by Truscon, at its new site at Pier 92, Islais Creek, San Francisco, with daytime power upped to 5,000 watts. An FCC license was issued to the station on September 14th covering these technical changes.
Studios were moved from the Russ Building to San Francisco's Palace Hotel (off Market and New Montgomery Streets) on August 12, 1938. A specially constructed annex to the hotel was now the home of KSFO, and facilities there, including six studios and two small theatres, were to be shared with the Columbia "chain." At this time, KSFO's slogan, used both on the air and off, was "The CBS Station." It was in operation from 6:15 a. m. until 1 :00 a. m. daily. In 1939, co-owner and General Manager P. G. Lasky purchased part interest in Oakland's KROW, and left KSFO by January 1940 to manage his new acquisition.
On January 15, 1940, Lincoln C. Dellar became KSFO's new General Manager, having resigned his managerial post at WBT/Charlotte, N.C., in December of 1939. On the last day of 1941, KSFO's CBS affiliation was terminated when that network opted for a liaison with San Jose's KQW. KSFO, effective January 1, 1942, became an independent music and news outlet.
In August 1943, KSFO moved its studios to the 17th floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, on the northeast corner of Pine and Mason, atop Nob Hill. The Associated Broadcasters, Inc., had signed a long term lease with the hotel back in April 1942, and had renovated the space specifically for its purposes. Edward J. Jansen was named Co-General Manager on February 14, 1944, sharing duties with Linc Dellar. Later in 1944, Mr. Jansen was succeeded as Co-General Manager by Wilton Gunzendorfer.
Ray V. Hamilton was appointed General Manager of KSFO by President W. I. Dumm in 1945, but was succeeded in that position by Philip G. Lasky, who became KSFO's Vice President and General Manager in 1946. KSFO contemplated improved facilities in the late forties, in part as an attempt to regain its previous CBS affiliation. A construction permit was granted by the FCC in 1948 for a change in frequency to 740 kilocycles and a raise in power to 50,000 watts, swapping facilities with San Jose's KQW, which would move to 560 kc. This permit was modified in 1949 to specify two pattern directional operation for KSFO at the new dial position.
In 1950, KSFO's construction permit to swap dial positions with KQW was dropped, with CBS agreeing to offer network affiliation to KSFO's new co-owned television station, KPIX (Channel 5). KSFO remained on 560 kilocycles with 5,000 watts days and 1,000 watts nights, while KQW — now KCBS, owned by the CBS, Inc. — moved to 740 kc and boosted its power to 50,000 watts.
KSFO's studios were moved in February 1952 from One Nob Hill Circle (the Mark Hopkins Hotel) to a new combined radio-television studio-office building at 2655 Van Ness (at Greenwich Street), sharing space there with commonly-owned KPIX (TV). Becoming General Manager of KSFO in 1952 was Alan Lee Torbet, formerly KROW's Manager. Mr. Lasky continued as Executive Vice President of KSFO's licensee. Wesley I. Dumm was President while Franklin M. Dumm was Secretary-Treasurer. In 1953, KSFO adopted a fulltime popular music and news format, dubbed ''The New Sound." Operating hours were from 6: 15 a. m. until 12: 15 a. m.
KSFO was transferred from The Associated Broadcasters Inc. to San Francisco Broadcasters Inc. (no actual change of ownership) in an FCC-approved action taking place May 25, 1954. This was in anticipation of the sale of co-owned television station KPIX, which was spun off by the Dumm-Lasky interests to the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company on July 2, 1954. New studio quarters for KSFO were then needed and found at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, California Street wing, on February 15, 1955. Transmitter and tower remained at Pier 92, Islais Creek (behind Royal Tallow & Soap at 429 Amador). Roman W. Wassenberg was named KSFO General Manager in 1955, succeeding Alan Torbet. Wassenberg became Executive Vice President and General Manager of KSFO in early 1956.
San Francisco Broadcasters, Inc. (W. I. Dumm, President), sold KSFO in August 1956 for $951,333 to KMPC, The Station Of The Stars, Inc., headed by legendary movie cowboy Gene Autry and his business partner, Robert O. Reynolds. This sale garnered FCC approval on July 19, 1956. Mr. Autry (51% owner with his wife, Ina) was Chairman of the Board, while Mr. Reynolds (17.83 % owner) was President of KSFO's new licensee. William D. Shaw joined KSFO as General Manager in the late summer of 1956, and later became Vice President and General Manager. Bert S. West was named Assistant General Manager in December 1956; he was also KSFO's Sales Manager. In early 1957, KSFO's licensee name was changed to Golden West Broadcasters.
By the early sixties, KSFO was in operation 24 hours a day from its studios at 950 California Street, with a personality-driven "middle-of-the-road" music format. In late 1964, Loyd C. Sigmon was named Executive Vice President of Golden West Broadcasters.
William D. Shaw was appointed Group Vice President of Golden West in February 1968, while still serving as KSFO's General Manager and based in San Francisco. In September 1968, he replaced Robert O. Reynolds as President of Golden West Broadcasters. Bert S. West was named to succeed Mr. Shaw as KSFO's General Manager in December 1968, later becoming the station's Vice President and General Manager.
Herbert S. Briggin was appointed Vice President and General Manager in 1974. William Shaw again became KSFO's Vice President and General Manager in April 1975 with Mr. Briggin reassigned duties as Assistant Manager. He continued however as a GWB Vice President. When Mr. Shaw retired in March 1977, Jack J. Bankson was appointed Vice President of the personality "Adult Contemporary"-music outlet. In January 1979, James Myers was named Vice President and General Manager.
In mid-April 1979, the FCC granted KSFO a construction permit to increase night power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts and to install a multi-tower directional antenna system.
At the start of 1980, the station affiliated with the American Entertainment Network. Talk and conversation programming was added by the summer of 1980. In November 1980, KSFO joined the Mutual Broadcasting System network while retaining its liaison with the ABC Entertainment Network. In late 1981, night power rose to 5,000 watts, matching its daylight power output. A second tower was added just east of its existing self-supported tower near Pier 92, Islais Creek.
Effective April 6, 1982, Bill Ward was named President of the Radio Division of Golden West Broadcasters. Gregory Reed succeeded Jim Myers as Vice President and General Manager of KSFO in mid-November 1982. The station's licensee was reorganized in April 1983 when Gene Autry obtained sole ownership through the purchase of stock from the Signal Companies (who then got sole ownership of Autry's KTLA (TV) Los Angeles). The deal was approved by the FCC March 28, 1983.
In October 1983, KSFO was sold by Golden West Broadcasters (Gene Autry; the estate of Ina Autry; and Stanley B. Schneider) to the King Radio Broadcasting Company for 6 million dollars. This transfer obtained FCC sanction October 19, 1983 and was consummated December 13. (Listen to Larry Ickes' final broadcast on KSFO from December 12, 1983.) Ancil H. Payne was President of the Seattle-based privately-held broadcast group, and named Fred Schumacher to the post of General Manager in December 1983. Also in December, studios were relocated from the Fairmont Hotel to 300 Broadway, San Francisco. On December 13, 1983, KSFO inaugurated a personality "Traditional MOR" music format.
KSFO began broadcasting in AM stereo, using the Motorola C-QUAM system, in early 1984. Ron Saito succeeded Fred Schumacher as Vice President and General Manager in late April 1984. Also in that year, KSFO's ABC Entertainment Network affiliation was dropped. Its Mutual Network liaison ended in 1985.
In 1986, Ken Dennis became KSFO's new Vice President and General Manager. KSFO switched to an "Oldies Music" format, duplicated by FM sister station KYA (FM), in 1986. It was now dubbed "The Oldies Station." Steven Clifford succeeded Ancil H. Payne as President of KSFO's licensee in 1987. Former co-owner and General Manager Philip G. Lasky died on November 14, 1989, at the age of 80. A former shipboard wireless operator, he co-founded KGHF/Pueblo, Colorado, and in the early thirties became manager of KDYL/Salt Lake City.
In early 1991, KSFO's licensee name was changed from the King Radio Broadcasting Company to KSFO/KYA Inc. (same ownership as before). On January 27, 1992, KSFO and FM sister station KYA (FM) were sold for 13 million dollars to the First Broadcasting Company (Ronald A. Unkefer, et al.). FCC approval took place October 18, 1991. In early January 1992, Ed Krampf joined KSFO as Vice President and General Manager. Former General Manager (1940-45) Lincoln Dellar died at his Santa Barbara home at age 85 on June 26, 1992. He was a founder and/or owner of several California AM and FM broadcast properties after he left KSFO.
KSFO returned to fully separate programming effective September 28, 1992, when it began an oldies music and sports format. Sports was scuttled in mid-December 1992. Succeeding the resigning Ed Krampf as Vice President and General Manager of KSFO in late July 1993 was Robert J. Vistocky, better known by his air name, Bob Hamilton. A talk format debuted in early September 1993. Affiliations with CNN Radio and NBC's TalkNet were then added. Later in 1993, KSFO added network talk programs from the Mutual Broadcasting System and the Unistar Networks. At about this time, its Motorola C-QUAM AM stereo system was turned off.
The sale of KSFO to Capital Cities, Inc., for $9.5-million was announced in the summer of 1994. Beginning September 1, 1994, the station was to be operated by Cap Cities, which also owned San Francisco's KGO, under a Local Marketing Agreement (LMA). Also on September 1st, KSFO debuted a "Hot Talk" programming format under new President and General Manager Michael (Mickey) Luckoff, who fired its former air staff. KSFO then dropped its affiliations with NBC's TalkNet and the Mutual Network. Offices and studios were moved from 300 Broadway to the ABC Broadcast Center, 900 Front Street, in late 1994.
The station was acquired by KGO-AM Radio, Inc., a division of Capital Cities-ABC, Inc., in early 1995. The new owners paid $10-million dollars to the seller. (Concurrently, First Broadcasting sold KYA-FM to new owners for $18-million dollars, pocketing a $15- million profit for its three years of ownership of the two stations). On Friday, February 9, 1996, KSFO's licensee parent was acquired by the Walt Disney Company for $18.5-billion dollars. FCC approval took place a day earlier. Effective October 1, 1996, KSFO's licensee parent name was shortened to ABC Inc. Its CNN Radio affiliation ended in 2002.
Today, KSFO "Hot Talk 560," California's 24th oldest continuously licensed AM broadcast station, operates on 560 kHz with 5,000 watts (directional signal during nighttime hours only) from studios located at 900 Front Street, San Francisco, Calif., and is licensed to KGO-AM Radio Inc. (an ABC Inc. subsidiary). Mickey Luckoff is President and General Manager of the independent 24 hour-a-day talk radio outlet.
* — In 1939, Lasky, Dumm and KQW's Fred Hart purchased KROW, which they operated in conjunction with their San Francisco station, which by that time had been renamed KSFO.