KEWB Channel 91, Oakland
Wednesday, January 19, 1966
A forty-five minute broadcast excerpt from Oakland’s popular KEWB featuring Johnny G, including the tail-end of Barney Lee’s newscast. (Another newscast near the middle of the program was not included in the original recording.)
Johnny Gilbert, who worked at KEWB as “Johnny G,” began his career at WBAM/Montgomery, Ala., WLOF/Orlando and WFUN/Miami, Fla., and WPOP/Hartford, Conn., before coming to KEWB in 1965.
Johnny was transferred to sister station KFWB in Los Angeles before bouncing back up to KEWB, then — after the station became KNEW) went on to KCBQ/San Diego, KOY and KRIZ/Phoenix, and WINZ/Miami. He was working as an airborne traffic reporter at KULF in Houston when the light plane he was piloting crashed, killing him on March 15, 1974. He was 27 years old.
Johnny was posthumously named as the recipient of the Steve Pieringer Award by the Texas Association of Broadcasters in 1974. The award is given to a deserving newsperson for “providing lifesaving continuing coverage in an emergency, or being jailed for refusing to reveal a confidential source and even for suffering injury or death in the pursuit of the day’s news.”
During this KEWB broadcast, Johnny makes several references to “Fun Town USA,” the teen dance promotions that he ran in partnership with his KEWB teammate, Ron Reynolds.
“We were on stage together to introduce the Beatles at the Cow Palace in 1965,” Mr. Reynolds said. “He and I were partners in presenting rock band dances at the Veteran’s Hall by Lake Merritt in Oakland for a year or two back in the mid-1960s. I made enough money to make the down payment on our Walnut Creek house.”
“In fact, he and I at one point decided to expand our base and put on dances in San Francisco,” Mr. Reynolds continued. “We located a dump called the Fillmore. We decided it was just in too bad a part of town, so we passed on it and Bill Graham grabbed it. Then we attempted to lease an auditorium off of Van Ness, but lost out to Chet Helms who started the Family Dog at the Avalon. Great timing … lousy decisions — oh well.”
KEWB had begun its life back in 1922 as KLX under the ownership of the Knowland family, which also published the Oakland Tribune. The Knowland family operated KLX until June 8, 1959, when it was sold to Crowell-Collier Publishing for $750,000 and became Top 40-formatted Color Radio 91/KEWB.
By the time of this broadcast, KEWB was in the final months of its mostly successful run as a Top 40 station. On April 30, 1966, the station was sold by Crowell-Collier to Metromedia Radio for $2,459,000. Shortly thereafter, in early September 1966, KEWB became KNEW under new general manager Varner Paulsen and dropped Top 40 for talk programming.
Johnny G on KEWB Channel 91 (January 19, 1966)
Please note that an additional Johnny G broadcast recording from August 1965 may be found in the Complete KEWB Airchecks Collection (see link below).
Special thanks to Ron Reynolds and Ed Brouder
for their invaluable assistance in developing this exhibit.