The World’s Greatest Radio Station

KSFO: The Golden West Era


Gene Autry (1907-1998)
Gene Autry (1907-1998)

In 1926, less than a year after it went on the air, Radio Station KTAB was leased by its owner, the Tenth Avenue Baptist Church of Oakland, to a group of church members that had organized as The Associated Broadcasters. The group oversaw the operation of the station under a twenty-year lease, including a call letter change to KSFO in the Summer of 1935.

In the mid-1940s, with the hope of regaining an affiliation with the CBS radio network that the station had enjoyed from 1937 to 1941, KSFO’s owners commissioned engineering studies that would have resulted in a power boost to 50,000 watts, along with trading dial spots from 560 kilocycles to 740 kilocycles — which happened to be the frequency occupied by San Jose’s KQW, the station that CBS had moved its network programming to in 1942.

The FCC approved the plan, but it stalled for several years until, finally, a deal was struck: KSFO’s owners gave up their bid, CBS acquired KQW (rebranding it as KCBS) and obtained the permit to increase its power to 50,000 watts on 740 kc. In exchange, CBS made KPIX-TV (Channel 5) — also owned by The Associated Broadcasters and KSFO — their affiliate in the Bay Area.

560 KSFO Radio Ad (Image)
The KSFO lineup comes to bat in this early 1960s promo for The World’s Greatest Radio Station, with Don Sherwood in the leadoff spot, followed by Jack Carney, Jim Lange, Dave Niles, Herb Kennedy and Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins. (Courtesy of Chris Treadway.)
Fairmont Hotel (Photo)
KSFO’s home from 1955 until 1983 was at 950 California Street, in the landmark Fairmont Hotel and Tower

KSFO, meanwhile, remained an independent station until the Summer of 1956, when it was sold for $951,333 to legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry and his business partner, Robert O. Reynolds, who also owned KMPC in Los Angeles.

Under Autry’s ownership and the deft guidance of general managers Bill Shaw, Bert West and Jack Bankson, KSFO became the station that virtually everyone in the Bay Area tuned to, whether it was for the personalities — Don Sherwood, Jim Lange, Jack Carney, Del Courtney, Al Collins, Dan Sorkin, Terry McGovern, Gene Nelson and Carter B. Smith were just a few of the Hall of Fame-caliber voices heard at KSFO — or the first-rate news team, or its professional sound and presentation, or its sports coverage, with the Giants, 49ers and Stanford in its stable.

Autry, who also owned the California Angels baseball club as well as Golden West radio station KMPC/Los Angeles, decided to sell KSFO in 1983 after more than twenty-five years of ownership.

On October 19, 1983, the FCC approved a $6-million deal that transferred ownership of KSFO from Golden West to King Radio Broadcasting Co. of Seattle, which had been the owner of KYA (1260 AM and 93.3 FM) in San Francisco.

KSFO was subsequently moved from the Fairmont to new quarters at 300 Broadway. King sold KYA-AM to Bonneville International, at which time it became KOIT, the simulcast partner of the company’s light rock FM station.


KSFO Air Team (1970 Photo)
The 560/KSFO air team in 1970. (Courtesy of Chris Treadway)
Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame Logo
On The Air Sign (Image)

KSFO In San Francisco

Legendary Station Award

Art Finley interviews Buster Keaton, September 20, 1960

Finley Keaton note

Don Sherwood on KSFO, November 22, 1960


Art Finley interviews Buster Keaton, September 20, 1960

Don Sherwood on KSFO, November 22, 1960 Text and Audio PresentationPresentation includes audio*


The Great Race of 1961 (Video), February 12, 1961 Text and Audio PresentationPresentation includes audioNH

Classic newsreel-style video of the “Great Race” between KSFO’s Jim Lange and Don Sherwood, narrated by Aaron Edwards.

Don Sherwood on KSFO, March 3, 1961 Text and Audio PresentationPresentation includes audio*


Jack Carney and Don Sherwood on KSFO, June 1962 Presentation includes audioBD

An amazing 15 minutes of the Jack Carney program, with an assist from Mr. Sherwood. Bill Dodd, who provided the recording, noted:

The “C.B. School of Modern Radio Technique” was the Chris Borden School of Modern Radio Technique. Chris had the weekend and fill-in gig at KSFO at the time, and they didn’t want his name on the spots. Chris was the guy who told the engineer to roll the tape that day; he knew it was going to be special. He’d probably be amazed that I’ve kept it after all these years.


Carter B. Smith on KSFO, July 24, 1963 Presentation includes audioCBS

Carter has arrived at KSFO (from Berkeley’s KRE) as a staff newsman, but finds himself pressed into service as Temporary Morning Man (“It appears that Mr. Sherwood is ill today,” Mr. Smith notes.) This recording is also included in the Carter Smith Collection, along with his audition tape from KRE.


Don Sherwood on KSFO: The Russian Dancer, July 2, 1965 Text and Audio PresentationPresentation includes audio*

Sherwood, in the guise of “Frank Honest,” welcomes an unidentified Russian dancer into the studio…


A Day In The Life Of KSFO: 1968 (12 minutes) Presentation includes audioEdited (scoped) aircheckJS

A ‘scoped “mix tape” from The World’s Greatest Radio Station, 1968 Edition, featuring Dean Webber (in for an ailing Bobby Dale), Herb Kennedy,  plenty of Carter B. Smith, and a guest appearance by program director Al Newman. Based on audio clues, the recording is probably from early September.


New Year’s Eve on KSFO, December 31, 1969 Presentation includes audioFair-to-poor audio quality RT

A 25-minute segment of KSFO’s evening broadcast for the last day of 1969, presided over by Jack Carney, and featuring a complete Lon Simmons 5:45 p.m. “Sports Roundup” looking back on the previous year’s sports highlights (with the voices of Russ HodgesBill Thompson and Don Klein also included), plus a newscast anchored by Herb Kennedy. This excerpt, courtesy of Ron Tamm, was salvaged from a full-length reel-to-reel tape of the evening’s festivities; unfortunately, the tape had been damaged by motor oil that had seeped into the storage carton, mostly destroying the recording.


Giants Baseball on KSFO, June 5, 1970

Russ HodgesLon Simmons and Bill Thompson bring all the play-by-play action as the Giants take on the Cubs at Wrigley on KSFO and the Golden West Radio Network.

KSFO News: “The Earthquake Series,” Circa 1970(?)

The KSFO news department presents a special series on the effects that a major earthquake would have on the Bay Area, including a dramatic live report on the “aftermath” featuring Jeff SkovAaron EdwardsDave HendersonBill HeywardChet Casselman and Warren Boggess.

Norman Davis “The Unforgettable Years: 1969” on KSFO, Circa 1970-71 ND

“Norman’s Organic Mind Garden” on KSFO, Circa 1970-71 (Aircheck Demo) ND

Norman, working weekends on KSFO during 1970 and 1971, has the pleasure of producing and hosting two of the most interesting programs heard on the station during the Golden West era. “The Unforgettable Years,” heard on Sunday nights, was a four-hour aural retrospective of one year between 1929 and 1969. “Norman’s Organic Mind Garden,” heard for four hours on Saturday nights, was significantly more esoteric in both sound and content — and would perhaps have led the listener to believe that he or she had tuned to KSAN or one of the more underground “acid rock” FM outlets rather than more stately and staid KSFO.


Jim Lange on KSFO, July 1, 1971 Text and Audio PresentationPresentation includes audioJS

Terry McGovern on KSFO, July 1, 1971 Presentation includes audioJS

Dan Sorkin on KSFO, July 1, 1971 Presentation includes audioJS


Terry McGovern on KSFO, September 27, 1972 Presentation includes audioPoor audio quality

If you tuned in this morning to have Jim Lange wake you up, you’ll find KSFO afternoon star Terry McGovernsitting in, with Chet Casselman delivering the news.

John Gilliland: The Pop Chronicles, Nov. 5, 1972 Text and Audio PresentationPresentation includes audio

A segment from Gilliland’s epic twelve-hour “Pop Chronicles Presents The Forties,” broadcast over two weekends in the Fall of 1972.


The KSFO Blooper Show, December 31, 1975 Presentation includes audioVI

Bill Dodd presents a historical (and hysterical) revue of KSFO flubs, goofs and blunders from over the years, with appearances by such notables as Don SherwoodJack CarneyAaron EdwardsScott BeachTerry McGovern,Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, among others.


A Tribute To Don Sherwood (1925-1983), November 4, 1983

Having battled emphysema for many years, Donnie Babe passed away just weeks after the sale of KSFO was announced, and a bit more than a month before the station moved out of the Fairmont Hotel and became the property of King Broadcasting. KSFO suspended regular programming for the day to pay tribute to The World’s Greatest Disc Jockey.

Larry Ickes on KSFO, Monday, December 12, 1983 (90 minutes) Presentation includes audioAK

Larry’s final show on Golden West’s KSFO, including farewells from “singing newscaster” Aaron Edwards and staff engineer Rich Schmale, and plenty of sentimental tunes, with a heavy emphasis on Sinatra.

KSFO: The Final Night, Monday, December 12, 1983 Presentation includes audioMS

Jerry Gordon hosts the final “KSFO Comedy Hour,” with Mal Sharpe and a very convincing Gene Autry impersonation by “Fiddle Ray” Landsberg, as a bevy of local television news crews crowd into the Fairmont Hotel studios to record the station’s waning moments as the property of Golden West Broadcasting. In the final half-hour, Don Sherwood (via the magic of audio tape) reads from “Winnie The Pooh,” before Jerry Gordon signs off “The World’s Greatest Radio Station” for the last time with the legendary “Sound Of The City” KSFO theme song.

…Then, at midnight (about 45 minutes into the recording), as Golden West turns KSFO over to King Broadcasting, the station begins its next era with comments by general manager Fred Schumacher and program director Ken Dennis before Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins makes his return to Bay Area airwaves from WNEW/New York. In addition, KSFO’s new midday personality, Russ “The Moose” Syracuse, and PM driver Carter B. Smith make surprise appearances by phone.


Text and Audio PresentationPresentation includes audio— Exhibit includes text and audio. Presentation includes audio — Exhibit includes audio. Fair-to-poor audio quality — Fair-to-poor audio quality. Edited (scoped) aircheck — Edited (scoped) aircheck.

* — Included in The Don Sherwood Collection. AK — Courtesy of Alan Kline. BD — Courtesy of Bill Dodd. BFT — Courtesy of Ben Fong-Torres. CBS — Courtesy of Carter Blakemore Smith. JS — Courtesy of John Schneider. MS — Courtesy of Mike Schweizer. ND — Courtesy of Norman Davis. NH — Courtesy of Norm Howard. RT — Courtesy of Ron Tamm. VI — Courtesy of Victor Ives.



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Steve Bettinger
Steve Bettinger
11 February 2020 1:30 PM

I have an record album “San Francisco 49ers: Highlight of 25 Exciting Years …”. I believe it was recorded in1971 by KSFO-560 Custom Recording. It contains interviews and so play-by-play recordings. Any interest?

Susan Thollaug
Susan Thollaug
11 January 2023 10:22 PM

Anybody remember a segment called “When the Water Came Up to Montgomery Street” in the 1960s? It was about SF in the 1800s I believe. I think it was a weekend feature? I was a child, but remember loving the stories.

Reply to  Susan Thollaug
16 February 2023 1:58 PM

I remember the stories of old San Francisco. The program aired on Saturday evening at 5:30 for 15 minutes. The sponsor was the Fisherman’s Grotto by the Geraldi family (mis spelled). I believe that the person that wrote the stories was Audrey Jaminson but I could be wrong.
I have gone to the SF historical society, Stanford University (the collection was given to them and the employee in charge told me to leave him alone and go fu– myself). I am still looking that’s why I am on here now.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x