KABL 960 Radio
Midday Masterpieces and Limelight
Thursday, September 8, 1960
Featuring John K. Chapel with the news
These early broadcasts from Gordon McLendon’s legendary KABL, shortly into its long run as the preeminent “Beautiful Music” station in the Bay Area, is a perfect illustration of the genre at its very best.
KABL, which went on the air from Oakland as KFWM under the ownership of the Oakland Educational Society on July 8, 1925, became KROW in June 1930. In 1939, the station was sold to the owners of San Francisco’s KTAB, who, in turn, were required to sell it in 1944 as a result of the FCC’s “Duopoly” edict, which forbade ownership of more than one station in a market area.
On December 19, 1944, Sheldon F. Sackett, publisher of the Oakland-based Olympic Press weekly newspaper, bought KROW for $250,000 and continued operating it until May 1959, when he sold the station to Gordon McLendon and his father, Barton, for $800,000. (For audio of KROW “stunting” before becoming KABL, please click here.)
It was McLendon fils who rebranded the station KABL (pronounced “Cable”) and inaugurated the “Beautiful Music” format that would define the station’s image for the next three decades. The KABL call letters, meant to evoke a connection to the beloved cable cars of San Francisco, were part of a concerted effort by McLendon to associate the station with the more cosmopolitan city across the Bay from its more working-class Oakland home — right down to the clever twist on its legal station ID: “This is Cable, K-A-B-L, Oakland, on your San Francisco dial — 960 … in the air, everywhere — in San Francisco.” (Listen for it about 75 seconds into the full-length broadcast.)
The voice of “Midday Masterpieces” — who also introduces the newscast — is believed to be that of Ray Yeager, according to longtime KABL star Bill Moen. (Moen, who worked the morning shift at the station from January 1960 until January 1993 and was elected to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2006, can be heard on the “Deep Night” spot during this broadcast.)
Notable in this recording is a long news report from Ivan Ivanovich Nicholai Nikolaivich Putily Vasily Kuropatkin du la Chappelle, a Russian prince who came to America and became the respected newscaster known simply as John K. Chapel.
Bill Moen, writing about John K. Chapel for the 440: Satisfaction website, recalled:
In January 1960, I arrived at KABL in San Francisco (Oakland, actually) to take over the morning “trick.” One of my duties was to introduce “John K. Chapel, News and Commentary” on his morning newscasts.
John was an old, typical radio humbug who tap-danced through a long career pontificating to the non-cognoscenti on his morning newscasts. (He actually asked me once, during the 1960 campaign, if Hubert Humphrey was a Democrat! I assured him that he, indeed, was, and John, on his next newscast, authoritatively referred to him as such.)
After three years of introducing John as “Author, Lecturer and World Traveler, John K. Chapel!” he, alas, went the way of all of us in broadcasting. On our last day together, after the last newscast, he came into the control room and said to me “Goodbye, Bob.” I was touched.
Midday Masterpieces, the daily afternoon program on KABL, as heard on September 8, 1960:
KABL’s evening program, Limelight, as heard on September 8, 1960:
Excerpted from the above Midday Masterpieces program, here’s John K. Chapel’s daily newscast:
The Bay Area Radio Museum gratefully thanks Bill Moen and Johnny Williams’ 440: Satisfaction for their generous assistance in developing this exhibit.