KPEN 101.3 FM, San Francisco:

The Complete KPEN Collection

“Proud to be Northern California’s most-listened-to
FM station, according to Western Union survey…”

James Gabbert founded KPEN with Gary Gielow in 1957
James Gabbert founded KPEN with Gary Gielow in 1957

At noon on Sunday, October 27, 1957, from a 120-year-old adobe hut on Kings Mountain overlooking the San Francisco Peninsula, Stanford University students James Gabbert and Gary Gielow fired up their transmitter and placed KPEN on the air with 1,490 watts at 101.3 megacycles on the FM band, launching a radio station that would become a local institution.

On August 25, 1959, KPEN’s power was increased to 35,000 watts from its new transmitter site on San Bruno Mountain, making its high-fidelity monaural signal available to a greater number of audio enthusiasts around the Bay Area.

KPEN began test broadcasts in multiplex stereo in July 1961 (receiving full FCC authorization on August 10, 1961), becoming the first station west of the Mississippi using this method of transmission, at which time “Excursions In Sound” became “Excursions In Stereo.”

In December 1968, KPEN became KIOI and began announcing itself under the trademarked “K-101” identifier to more closely associate itself with its position on the FM dial.

Mr. Gabbert continued as principal owner of the station until October 1980 when it was sold for $12-million, at the time a record for an FM station. He would later own San Francisco’s KOFY-TV (Channel 20) and two Bay Area radio stations that were also known as KOFY (1050 AM and 98.9 FM), as well as the legendary Oakland soul station, KDIA.

Mr. Gabbert was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2006.

Note that another local station, originally known as KPGM, adopted the KPEN call letters in December 1969, one month after they became available. That station, located in Los Altos and broadcasting on 97.7 FM, was not related to Mr. Gabbert’s station.


KPEN Book Cover (Image)

Read the complete history of this historic station. The “Story of KPEN” by Gary M. Gielow.

 CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW. Only $23.95 including shipping.

Watch Gary Gielow’s presentation featuring the history of KPEN from his talk at CHRS Radio Central December 2014:


On The Air Sign (Image)

KPEN 101.3 FM

1959-1962  KPEN 101.3 “Excursions In Sound & Stereo,” 1959 through 1962:

BARHOF Media Player (Image)

Early versions of “Excursions” in mono and multiplex, hosted by James Gabbert. Click here for the full story.

1964  KPEN Presents “War Of The Worlds,” April 17, 1964:

The KPEN Stereo Drama Workshop, under the direction of James Gabbert, presents an updating of Orson Welles’ historic “War Of The Worlds” broadcast, transplanted from New Jersey to the Bay Area. The KPEN version features several well-known radio personalities, including Wayne Jordan and Terry Smith, and KPEN co-general manager Gary Gielow. The recording was made in 1964 by John Bigbee, who generously provided a copy to the Bay Area Radio Museum for presentation here.

 KPEN 101.3 Mighty Wurlitzer Concert, May 30, 1964:

Live from the Paramount Theatre in San Francisco. For the full story behind this broadcast, please click here.

1965 KPEN Presents “War Of The Worlds,” (1965?):

An alternate version of “War Of The Worlds,” presented on KPEN presumably sometime late in 1965. (A song featured in the broadcast, “The Sound Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, was released in September 1965.) This recording, which features Bill Browning as the music program host from the KPEN Penthouse, was generously provided to the Bay Area Radio Museum by Michael Santo.

1967 James Gabbert on KPEN, January 11, 1967:

Mr. Gabbert notes that he has moved to mornings after doing afternoons on Stereo 101 for the past nine years. In this fair recording (in mono), he plays a familiar mix of good music and is joined by Hap Harper for airborne traffic reports and Michael Barrow with news. (The date of this recording was triangulated, based on the news item announcing Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s engagement to an airline stewardess “yesterday.”) Courtesy of Hap Harper.

Bill Browning on KPEN, January 23, 1967:

A mix of Easy Listening sounds, from Frank Sinatra to Ernie Hecksher, on a rainy January Monday from the KPEN Nob Hill Penthouse. Includes a news report with Ronald Robertson.


We invite you to enjoy more rare and unique broadcast
recordings featuring James Gabbert on KPEN and K101
from the private collection of Dave Billeci.




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Jim Fewel
Jim Fewel
7 May 2023 1:34 PM

This is great, but it seems that the K101 air checks link is not working.

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