The World’s Greatest Radio Station
KSFO: The Golden West Era
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.
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 In San Francisco
Legendary Station Award
Art Finley interviews Buster Keaton, September 20, 1960
Finley Keaton note
Don Sherwood on KSFO, November 22, 1960
Classic newsreel-style video of the “Great Race” between KSFO’s Jim Lange and Don Sherwood, narrated by Aaron Edwards.
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 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.
Sherwood, in the guise of “Frank Honest,” welcomes an unidentified Russian dancer into the studio…
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 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 Hodges, Bill 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.
Russ Hodges, Lon 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.
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 Skov, Aaron Edwards, Dave Henderson, Bill Heyward, Chet Casselman and Warren Boggess.
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.
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.
A segment from Gilliland’s epic twelve-hour “Pop Chronicles Presents The Forties,” broadcast over two weekends in the Fall of 1972.
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 Sherwood, Jack Carney, Aaron Edwards, Scott Beach, Terry 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’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.
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.
— Exhibit includes text and audio. — Exhibit includes audio. — Fair-to-poor audio quality. — 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.