560 KSFO, San Francisco John Gilliland The Pop Chronicles Presents The Forties Sunday, November 5, 1972
Billed as “The World Premiere of John Gilliland’s ‘The Pop Chronicles Presents The Forties,'” this edition of the venerable series was Gilliland’s magnum opus: twelve hours of music and interviews detailing the music of the 1940s, broadcast in two six-hour segments in the Fall of 1972.
The excerpt heard here is from part two of “The Forties,” aired by KSFO on Sunday, November 5, 1972 (part one was broadcast one week earlier, on October 29), presented by Citizens Savings & Loan and Canadian Pacific Airlines.
John Sanford Gilliland, Jr., was born in Quanah, Texas (population: 3,022), on October 15, 1935, and died there on July 27, 1998. He began his life in radio as a part-timer at his hometown’s KOLJ in 1952, and worked as a Top 40 disc jockey at KCUL in Fort Worth while earning his B.A. in English at Texas Christian University in the same city.
Upon his graduation, he moved briefly to Gordon McLendon’s KLIF in Dallas before transferring to the news department at co-owned KILT in Houston. After two years there, he moved west to San Diego, shortening his last name from Gilliland to simply “Land” while working on the radio and television news teams at KOGO.
In 1965 he hired on with the news department at KRLA in Los Angeles, working alongside newsman Lew Irwin, who would create the satirical comedy troupe known as The Credibility Gap, with Gilliland as a charter member. (Another Gap member, the folk singer Len Chandler, would perform the brief “The Chronicles of Pop” jingle used in the radio series.)
With the Monterey Pop music festival serving as an inspiration, Gilliland created “The Pop Chronicles” in 1969 while at KRLA, launching the syndicated series with a marathon history of pop music from the 1950s up to the current era. He worked at KRLA until 1970, then was hired by KSFO in 1971, where he continued producing “Chronicles” while also hosting the station’s evening “Comedy Hour” and broadcasts of old-time radio programs. He left KSFO in 1978.
According to an October 1972 column by Oakland Tribune columnist Bob MacKenzie previewing the “Forties” broadcast, Gilliland had quit KILT because he could no longer stand the music of Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello and Fabian, reportedly leaving the station muttering “How in hell did music get to this state?”
“The Pop Chronicles” series, which Gilliland produced and hosted, was his way of answering that question.
“The Pop Chronicles Presents The Forties” was the byproduct of two years of research and 77 interviews with the singers, songwriters and band leaders of the period by Gilliland, resulting in a history that placed the music into the context of the times; not only are musical luminaries such as Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Van Heusen, Tex Beneke and Bing Crosby heard, so are Adolf Hitler, Humphrey Bogart and Franklin D. Roosevelt. An abridged version of “Forties” was released on audio cassette in 1994 by Soundelux Audio Publishing.
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of the Pop Chronicles, which originally aired in 1969 and is heard here from a broadcast on July 15, 1974, aired on KSFO and hosted by John Gilliland.
Recordings from the collection of John J. Sweeney; acquisition for the Bay Area Radio Museum made possible by Randall H. Tamberg from the estate of Bill Rogers. Biographical information and photograph included in this article from the John Gilliland Collection at the University of North Texas. Digital audio mastering by David Ferrell Jackson for the Bay Area Radio Museum, who also wrote the text for this exhibit.