The Big 610 Collection
The first generation of KFRC’s “Big 610 Men” — the Class of 1966 — striking a classical pose.
From left: Royce Johnson, Mike Phillips, Bobby Dale, Steve O’Shea, Howard Clark, Ed Mitchell and Glenn Adams.
The text for this exhibit is currently in process. Until it’s ready, we hope you’ll enjoy this look at the Big 610 from one of its most legendary voices…
Those were good times — even though we bitched from dusk to dawn, telling management the opposite was true. Of course, then, we did not know how good we really had it. Wasn’t it William Bell who said you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry?
The times? They were good, great, fantastic — at times — even orgasmic! We did not have iPods, MP3s, DVDs, DVRs, PVRs, PDAs, PCs, SatRad, online radio, cell phone radio, TiVo, Satellite TVs, 500+ channels, or other New Media marvels. KFRC was top banana! The head-on competition was great: KYA, KSOL, KSFX, K101, KDIA, KLOK, LIVE 105, KMEL (with the two humps).
The talent was of the Top Gun-variety, including, but not limited to Rick Shaw, Sue Hall, Chuck Buell, Bobby Ocean, Mucho Morales, Dr. Don Rose, Dave Sholin, John Mack Flanagan, Beverly Foxx, Jack Armstrong, Bill Lee, Big Tom Parker, Mark McKay and numerous others.
KFRC management would seek out the talent; they would — in the words of Bush 2 — hunt you down, offer the job to those who fit the mold, those who had kept their noses clean, those who had that RKO sound (whatever that was), while most other stations would wait for the DJ to approach them for a job. Also, there was bias towards hiring former program directors, talent that knew the inner-workings of the radio business, talent that often times did not require heavy maintenance; however, there were a few exceptions — those rebels who made the General Manager sweat bullets.
Most of us cut our teeth — doin’ the PD thing — in small-to-medium markets. Personally, the PD bug bit me in St. Louis (KWK Radio) and San Diego (Rock 95), where I worked before coming in for the landing at The Big 6-10.
The pay was top-shelf dollars, with actual performance bonuses, phat talent fees and contracts to boot. The company took an affront to talent leaving, as was the case when I threatened to bail, after an L.A. station pursued me for the second time within a year. The company’s top brass moved in to squelch that notion, bringing mo money, and I quickly came to my senses — that’s right, green money is spoken here! BTW, while working (playing) at 6-10, we were given the company-preferred discount when purchasing General Tires (the station was owned by RKO-General). Wow!
Thought I’d never be able to admit it, however, the time does seem appropriate and the statute of limitations had surely been exhausted by now. I, Don Sainte-Johnn, once made an on-air “boo-boo” while working at RKO’s KFRC in San Francisco! During the mid-70’s — when the incomparable Doctor Don still ruled the airwaves — there was a Bay Area sponsor called Shirtique [Pronounced: (1) shirt-ah-Q, (2) shirt-teek]. The name isn’t terribly important, but it is connective to the story.
The closing line for the spot was “get your shirt together!” — which proved to be nightmarish for me one late Saturday night and early Sunday morning at approximately 1:50-ish. After doing two shifts in the same day — an event that was unheard of at the time — I managed to give in to over-exhaustion and replace the “shirt” in the tagline with “sh*t.” It was the most embarrassing moment in my career, up until that moment.
As fate would have it, I did have an ENGINEER-board operator who was America’s #1 prankster, Sir Kent Hedberg, and who somehow managed to incidentally, and quite innocently, I should add, roll tape of the show as I announced to North America: “GET YOUR SH*T TOGETHER!” The tape has surfaced at many Christmas parties and proved to be a thorn in my side for years.
(Doctor: Now that I have done this on-the-couch thing, I feel much better.)
Curator’s Note: Don Sainte-Johnn was elected to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2010.
A Brief History Of KFRC Program Directors
With special thanks to Michael Hagerty, Chris Sharp, and Marc Schoenitzer
KFRC launched its Big 610 era in February 1966 with Tom Rounds (photo, right) as program director. Tom left in October 1967 after a disagreement with Bill Drake (RKO General’s national program director) about the unique musical tastes of San Francisco listeners. Tom believed they had some, and his resignation made the front page of the first issue of Rolling Stone (which was published in San Francisco in those days).
Les Turpin had the gig until February or March of 1969, when Ted Atkins was brought in from CKLW/Detroit (Windsor, Ont.). During his tenure, Atkins imported Charlie Van Dyke from CKLW in July 1969, then brought in Marc Elliott (Ed Mitchell) to replace Chuck Browning in March 1970.
Atkins remained at KFRC until the Spring of 1970, when he went to KHJ/Los Angeles and was replaced by Paul Drew. Drew stayed until ’71, when Sebastian Stone came in from WOR-FM/New York.
In the summer of ’73, the longest streak for a KFRC PD began. Michael Spears lasted almost four years, to May 1977, when he left for KHJ. Les Garland from WRKO/Boston took over until leaving to be MTV’s first PD in July 1980. Marvelous Mark McKay, KFRC’s afternoon man, filled in as interim program director until Gerry Cagle took over the position in September 1980.
Cagle stayed until early ’84, when Mike Phillips came in for a year or so. The baton passed to Dave Sholin for the final year as a Top 40 (until August 1986), but he was dealing with consultant Walt Sabo and a desperate “try-anything” attitude from RKO.
A pair of ‘scoped Summer of Love airchecks from Jay Stevens, beginning with an undated July 1967 clip, followed (at about seven minutes into the recording) by another from July 11, 1967.
A snapshot of KFRC in the Winter of 1967, including Howard Clark, Les Turpin, Mike Phillips, Jay Stevens and Dale Dorman, plus news with Ron Robertson, Bob Safford, Mel Knox and Art Laskey.
Doctor Don’s second day at The Big 610 after arriving from Philadelphia.
Two hours of the biggest hits and news headlines of 1976, counted down by Mucho Morales (in for Mark McKay) and Tom Parker.
A sample “God Squad” segment by Father Harry Schlitt (later elevated to monsignor) of the Archdiocesan Media Center.
A capsulized audio overview of KFRC from the radio trade magazine known as “Fred.” These recordings, issued on a pair of 45 r.p.m. discs, featured rapid-fire clips of KFRC’s stellar air staff — including Dr. Don Rose, Tom Parker, Bob Anthony, John Mack Flanagan, Robin Bailey, Don Sainte-Johnn, Rick Shaw and Harry Nelson, plus brief snippets of news reports from Paul Fredericks, Jo Interrante, Connie Gordon, John Winters, Mike Colgan and Robert McCormick — on the first disc, while the second highlighted the production side, leading off with the Clio Award-winning, Paul Frees-voiced “Close Encounters” promo which found KFRC offering eight seconds of radio silence to allow extra-terrestrial beings to use the 610 frequency to contact Earth. You may also listen to Aircheck #1 and Aircheck #2 separately.
A bit more than an hour of Bill Lee, with the rhymes flowing to perfection, beginning just before 8 p.m. This broadcast, which takes place a day before John Lennon’s final interview debuts on KFRC, includes a Beatles song (“Back In The USSR”) and a Lennon song (“Imagine”), as well as a promo for the interview by Dave Sholin. In addition, Connie Gordon presents a community-service report on family life in the 1980s. (A few audio level drops occur near the start of the recording, but don’t mar the overall listening experience.)
Two excellent samples of the great Jack Armstrong (John C. Larsh) on The Amazing AM.
The tail end of the Jim Bridges show, followed Big Tom Parker and Bill Rafferty as the Million Dollar Thanksgiving Weekend gets underway. This broadcast, presented in magnificent AM Stereo, also includes newscasts anchored by Abby Goldman and cutaways to Vince Garcia in the Mobile Sturgeon Studio.
Jim Bridges hosts the finals of the big money contest in the KFRC Game Zone.
The history of The Big 610 is presented in a one-hour audio documentary, which first aired on Valentine’s Day weekend in February 1986, just six months before The Amazing AM’s demise. Click the link above to hear the entire presentation in sequence, or listen to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 or Part 5 individually.
A short sample of Renel (later of KMEL and 98.1 Kiss FM) on the final weekend of The Amazing AM.
The original Big 610 era comes to a close as the station segues into Magic 61, featuring Jack Silver, Joanne Green and Doctor Don Rose.
BONUS COVERAGE: A magnificent audio documentary created in honor of The Big 610’s 25th anniversary celebration and reunion. “Legacy,” which features the voices of each KFRC program director and audio clips of virtually every jock to crack a mike on the station, was written by Bobby Ocean and Elizabeth Salazar, and produced and engineered by Ron Hummel, with former PDs Gerry Cagle and Dave Sholin serving as executive producers. The retrospective closes with “The KFRC Song (I Won’t Forget You),” performed by Scott Chapin, who was known as Scott Simon during his days as one of the Big 610 Men.
BONUS COVERAGE: Having been acquired by Bedford Broadcasting in 1991 — as the last broadcast property to be spun off by RKO General — 610/KFRC returns to its roots, playing the Top 40 hits of the past.
BONUS COVERAGE: Infinity Radio trades 610/KFRC to Family Stations for 106.9 FM in order to acquire a television station in Sacramento.
The 610/KFRC Class Of 1986 (Final Edition)
— Exhibit includes text and audio. — Exhibit includes audio.
— Edited version (scoped aircheck). — Poor to fair audio quality.
* — Included in the K.O. Bayley Collection.
** — Included in the Dr. Don Rose Collection.
BAR — Courtesy of Barry Salberg.
CA — Courtesy of George Junak and California Aircheck.
CBS — Courtesy of Carter B. Smith.
DJ — Courtesy of David Jackson.
DP — Courtesy of David Palmer.
JB — Courtesy of James Baker.
JL — Courtesy of Jeffrey Leonard.
MS — Courtesy of Mike Schweizer.
PS — Courtesy of Paul Shinn.
TR — Courtesy of Tom Richard.
SOURCE: Photograph of the Big 610 Men (top of page) from the centerfold of the San Francisco premiere edition of “I.D.: The 1966 Band Book,” collection of the Bay Area Radio Museum.