Dr. Don Rose
Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame
Class of 2006
As difficult as it may be to believe, Dr. Don Rose was not a licensed medical doctor.
“I studied medicine in Cairo,” he explained to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1975, “I’m a chiropractor.”
Get it? If not, read the quote again. Slowly.
With his constant barrage of double entendres, wacky sound effects and a cast of characters that included a drunk, a dog and a leering cow, Dr. Don — born Donald Duane Rosenberg, a native son of North Platte, Neb., in the heart of corn country — would appear to have been a poor fit for the sophisticated San Francisco listener. Instead, he attracted a large and fiercely loyal morning audience unmatched since the days of the homegrown king of Bay Area radio, Don Sherwood.
Although he got his first taste of broadcasting at age 15 (reporting on his trip to the Boy Scout National Jamboree in Valley Forge, Penn., for KODY in North Platte), Dr. Don Rose began his professional radio career in 1955 at KWBE in tiny Beatrice, Neb., while majoring in accounting at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
He moved to KLMN/Lincoln shortly thereafter, and then was hired by KOIL/Omaha, a job that appeared to be so promising that he quit school in the midst of his senior year. He was fired by the station four weeks later.
(Despite his short tenure at KOIL, it was here that a creatively thinking program director, Chick Crabtree, shortened “Rosenberg” to “Rose” and adapted the disc jockey’s initials, D.R., to create his doctoral persona.)
His next job, at KTSA/San Antonio, also lasted only four weeks. Returning to Nebraska, he held an announcing position at KRNY/Kearney for about fifteen months before being pink-slipped again.
His next employer, the Union Pacific Railroad, offered only manual labor — pounding spikes into the railbed — but he continued to pursue work in radio, and finally landed a job at KTUL/Tulsa.
His next stop in radio’s minor leagues took him to historic KWMT/Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he first spiced up his corny one-liners with cowbells and other barnyard sounds. His stay in Fort Dodge wasn’t lengthy, but it did bring him a wife, Kae, to whom he remained married for the next 45 years of his life.
From Iowa it was on to WEBC/Duluth, Minn., followed by his first taste of big-market success, as morning host at WQXI/Atlanta (“Quixie In Dixie”), his fame made ever-lasting by his inclusion as the 1967 entry in the popular series of “Cruisin’” LP records. Originally hired for the nine-to-noon mid-morning slot, he was shifted to morning drive shortly after his arrival, and soon became the number one deejay in town.
Dr. Don moved on from Atlanta in 1968 to even greater acclaim as the morning star at WFIL/Philadelphia, once again hosting the top-rated morning show in town. In October 1972, he suffered a heart attack that kept him off the air until June 1973; the botched heart surgery that followed the attack would bring him continual pain through the rest of his life. Despite his poor health, he was named Disc Jockey of the Year for 1973 by Billboard.
While at the Billboard convention to receive his award, Dr. Don encountered RKO Radio programming chief Paul Drew, who offered him a prized opportunity he couldn’t resist. Within weeks, Rose had packed up his wife, kids and cowbell and headed for KFRC in San Francisco as the Big 610’s new morning man in October 1973.
He remained at the station until 1986 — through the end of its days as a Top 40 station and its transition to the nostalgic “Magic 61” in August of that year — building a large and devoted following that could hardly consider waking up any other way than with Dr. Donald D. Rose.
His departure from KFRC was followed by a short stint at KKIS/Concord-Walnut Creek beginning in 1987, where his son, Jay, was chief engineer. (For audio from Dr. Don’s first day on KKIS, scroll to the bottom of this page.)
After a failed attempt at buying the station, Dr. Don moved to mornings at K101/San Francisco; four months later, he suffered a heart attack while on the air. He never returned to broadcasting on a full-time basis.
Continually beset by medical problems throughout the latter part of his life, Dr. Don required eleven surgeries to his knee as the result of his failed 1972 surgery; he ventured to the religious shrine at Lourdes in 1978 in search of a cure, and believed that his afflicted leg had begun to heal. However, he stumbled over a log while on a camping trip in 1984 and broke the leg, which led to its amputation.
Dr. Don had battled pneumonia for several months before he died on March 30, 2005, at his home in Concord. He was 70.
In recognition of his contributions to local radio, Dr. Don Rose was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2006 as a member of the first class to be enshrined.
Dr. Don Rose
Don Rose: The KWMT Audition (1956):
An amazing recording of young Don Rose (at about 22 years of age) in an audition tape from KWMT in Fort Dodge, Iowa, demonstrating the full range of his capabilities. Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (Tuesday, October 16, 1973):
The Good Doctor’s second day on KFRC after arriving from Philadelphia. Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (November 20, 1973):
Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (November 27, 1973):
The Doctor holds court on the Tuesday morning after Thanksgiving, along with Jack Hines (news) and John Bentley (sports) … plus a little taste of Jack Friday at the end. Courtesy of John Schneider.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (March 16, 1974):
It’s the Saturday morning before St. Patrick’s Day with your Fuddy-Duddy Buddy!
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (August 9, 1974):
Plus KFRC news on the hour with Jack Hines.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (October 1974):
With special guest Charlie Van Dyke, visiting from 93/KHJ in Los Angeles to pay off a World Series wager by pushing Dr. Don around Union Square in a wheelbarrow. Bobby Ocean also makes a brief appearance. About 12 minutes into the recording, Charlie takes a shot at his “third-favorite announcer” – leading into a Matthew’s TV & Stereo spot featuring Tom Campbell, who also mentions that he is hosting “Super Bowling” on KPIX (Channel 5). Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (April 1976):
Plus KFRC news on the hour with Paul Fredericks. Courtesy of David Palmer.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (June 1977):
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (March 1978):
Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (June 8, 1984):
Doctor Don’s 2,500th show on The Amazing AM. Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC (Friday, August 8, 1986):
DDR Show #2925: a wistful Doctor Don begins winding down 610/KFRC’s Top 40 era as The Amazing AM, days before the switch to Magic 61, with nearly wall-to-wall jokes and sound effects, plus news with Robert McCormick. Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose on KFRC/Magic 61 (Monday, August 11, 1986):
The Big 610 ends with Jack Silver’s farewell show, and – following Joanne Greene’s newscast – the Good Doctor helps usher in the new Magic 61 (about 19 minutes into the recording). Read more about this exhibit here. Courtesy of Carter B. Smith.
Dr. Don Rose on KKIS (January 5, 1987):
After departing KFRC following an extraordinary thirteen-year run, it’s DDR’s first morning on the Contra Costa County station, from an in-studio recording.
Dr. Don Rose on 560/KSFO (October 2000):
Dr. Don phones into the Lee Rodgers program with Melanie Morgan and Officer Vic (Tom Benner) for a lively discussion on his career, his life after radio, and the political scene. Courtesy of Sam Gold.
Dr. Don Rose KSTN Imaging Voicers (January 14, 2003):
The Good Doctor visits the Stockton studios of KSTN (1420 AM) to record a series of IDs for the station, which was owned by his great friend, Knox LaRue. The session, which includes several long stretches of silence and a few flubs, was produced by KSTN’s nonpareil engineer, Paul Shinn.