The Sound of the City
560 KSFO Imaging Themes
Two of the questions most often asked of the Program Department here at KSFO are “Where can I get a copy of your Sound of the City music?” and “Are your Man on the Street promos for real?”
With this record we feel we answer both of those questions. One side has the best of the requested station music, and the other side is a backstage look at what went on at the KSFO recording session for the wild “Man on the Street” promos.
Whether relaxing to the Sound of the City or laughing with Sherwood and Company … we think you’ll find this record a good example of what makes KSFO “the World’s Greatest Radio Station.”
— Allan Newman
KSFO Program Director
from the liner notes
Yielding to continual demand from their listeners, KSFO management relinquished and made the station’s remarkable “Sound Of The City” musical themes available as a limited-edition phonograph record.
“The Sound Of The City” was not simply a “jingle” for KSFO, sung by a men’s chorus; it was also an ode that nearly attained the status of a civic anthem to the beautiful City By The Bay. Written by the famed choral director Johnny Mann, this theme music for a radio station managed to strike a chord with Bay Area listeners in unparalleled fashion. (The publishing credits Johnny Mann and Hugh Heller as the composers, although Mr. Mann adamantly claims that the composition was entirely his own.)
Recorded at United Recorders on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, the singers on “The Sound Of The City” included Thurl Ravenscroft — the voice of “Tony The Tiger” of cereal commercial fame — and Johnny Mann himself. The exact date of the recording is uncertain; it is figured that it was recorded between 1959 and 1961. Later, localized versions were also produced for San Diego, Reno, Seattle and Portland, as well as other cities across the country.
Manufactured as an extended-play record — the size of a seven-inch “single” 45 r.p.m. vinyl disc which played at 33-1/3 r.p.m. — on one side, the disc contained the original and three popular variations on the “Sound Of The City” theme, plus “Bye Bye Baby,” the opening music for San Francisco Giants baseball broadcasts on KSFO.
“Bye Bye Baby” and the three variations on the “Sound Of The City” theme — “The Beat Of San Francisco,” “Bolero” and “Madrigal” — were credited to Hugh Heller and Allyn Ferguson, who had created arrangements for Count Basie, Rosemary Clooney, Sarah Vaughn and Johnny Mathis over the years. For many years, Heller-Ferguson, Inc., of Hollywood was one of the leading production companies for radio stations and advertising agencies.
In addition, Hugh Heller served as a manager for many artists, including Don Sherwood and Johnny Mann. A graduate of San Jose State University, he was the leader of his own dance orchestra while still a student, and succeeded Bob Hansen as KSFO’s program director in July 1959. He later served as director of programs for co-owned Golden West station KMPC/710, Los Angeles.
But while the publishing credit for “Bye Bye Baby” shows Ferguson-Heller, longtime Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges gave credit in his 1963 autobiography to a KSFO newsman for having penned the ditty:
“This melody, which was conceived one day in 1962 by Aaron Edwards, a popular KSFO announcer, is hardly a classic in the mold of ‘On Wisconsin’ or ‘The Washington Post March,’ but it doesn’t sound bad when it’s played loudly enough, and it’s easy to sing. People at the ball park get plenty of chances to sing it because whenever something good happens to the club, Lloyd Fox belts it out on the organ weekdays while Del Courtney and his band play it on Sundays.”
The flipside of the record, cleverly entitled “The Other Side,” was a collection of bloopers from failed attempts to record “Man On The Street” promos for the station. Starring Don Sherwood as a variety of characters and Jack Carney as his patient foil, the recording session collapses into a parade of honking horns, meant to hide all of the “shame-shame words,” as Sherwood discreetly calls them.
At the time of this recording, KSFO could boast a first-rate stable of talent that made it the highest-rated station in the Bay Area, if not truly “The World’s Greatest Radio Station,” as it proclaimed itself to be. As pictured on the inner gatefold of the record sleeve, the team assembled by KSFO general manager Bill Shaw and program director Al Newman included Don Sherwood, Jim Lange, Del Courtney, Herb Kennedy, Jack Carney and Al Collins.
The Sound Of The City
The sound of the City,
The sounds that are heard
In San Francisco
Are mixed with daylight’s glimmering rays
And moonbeam’s shimmering glow.
When darkness settles on the City,
Homeward people on their way,
Chimes ringing softly in the stillness
Fog creeping slowly ‘cross the Bay
Hear the sound of the City,
The sounds that are heard
In San Francisco —
The Sound of the City
KSFO: “The Sound Of The City” Theme Music Suite:
1. The Beat Of San Francisco (Ferguson-Heller)
Produced by Hugh Heller
KSFO: The Other Side (“Man On The Street” Bloopers):
Voice: Don Sherwood
Produced by Al Newman
Play “The Sound Of The City” main theme only:
Play the Giants “Bye Bye Baby” theme song only:
The Story Of “The Sound Of The City”:
From 2006, an exclusive Bay Area Radio Museum interview with Johnny Mann, the creator of “The Sound Of The City,” detailing the origins of the theme song and how it came into being. (Length: 5 minutes.)
KOLO Radio, Reno: “The Sound Of The Sierras”:
Among the various variations on “Sound Of The City” that were created over the years was this version, created for KOLO Radio (920 AM) in Reno, Nevada; courtesy of Jim Fairchild.
SOURCES: Bay Area Radio Museum Collection; Johnny Mann; “Don Sherwood: The World’s Greatest Disc Jockey,” by Laurie Harper (Prima Publishing, 1989); Hap Harper; Ben Fong-Torres; “My Giants” by Russ Hodges and Al Hirschberg (Doubleday & Co., 1963); and Richard de Give. Exhibit text was written by David Ferrell Jackson.
I remember this. My parents were big Sherwood fans, and had this record. I must’ve played it over a thousand times. Haven’t heard it in 50+ years. Very cool. Thank you so much!
In the early 1960’s KSFO legendary morning man Don Sherwood once played a 45 rpm record featuring my father Carl, playing piano, and his good friend Joe Colton, playing banjo I believe, under the name “Colton & Mignacco”. Mr. Sherwood added witty sarcasm at the end! I grew up listening to Al”Jazzbo” Collins, Jim Lange (The Dating Game), and The S.F. Giants, when indeed this was “The Greatest Radio Station in the World”.
I wish I could find a recording of the San Diego version. Any leads?
If you are looking for the 45 – KSFO The City Never Sleeps I have one to sell. it is a 45 size but is a 33 1/3 Has the original cover etc.
We’d love to have a pristine copy for the museum’s archive, Sylvia. Thank you for your generosity in offering to sell one to us.
Please get in touch with me via our contact page:
What is a copy of KSFO Sounds of the City worth?
Copies of “Sound of the City” show up on eBay quite regularly, usually for around $5 to $10 depending on the condition of the record itself and the cover/sleeve.
Bruce: Just came across this article – I’m with you! Remember this jingle very well from the early ‘60s listening to KOGO 600. Loved Ernie Myers, Rick Martell & Don Howard. Would love to hear this music again!
Thanks Randy. I loved those guys too and this chorus epitomized the best that San Diego once was. It would be great to hear it again and Ernie Myers voice.
Randy Sorenson and Bruce Kochsmeier, I was beginning to think that I was the only person left who remembers the San Diego theme song from KOGO. I am far from San Diego now, but I sing it every night as I watch the sunset from my back porch and remember my roots. Ernie Myers, Don Howard . . . I surely do wish that we could hear their voices and that beautiful song once again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Thank you for including “The Sound of the Sierra” version!!! I worked in Virginia City, NV during the 60’s and always loved it when KOLO would play this.
I was a member of the U.C. Berkeley Men’s Glee Club in 1962-64, and we loved singing this, and for awhile I believed it was our version that was used on the station. The summer of “63, sixty of us, along with our director Robert Commanday, toured Europe for two months. During a concert in Munich, attended by mostly Germans but including a few American college students (some actually U.C. students studying abroad), we sang this song as a novelty, resulting in a hearty laugh from those in the audience who recognized it as a radio station jingle. Over the years I have used the bass part in choir auditions, since it so wonderfully shows off the low range.
I grew up listening to these jingles. “The Sounds of the City” always makes me tear up. Thank you for preserving this music!
Sir/Madam, Although I was a resident of Martinez and Vacaville almost 40 years ago, I still remember listening to KSFO in the mornings on the way to work and in the evenings when I got home. And on the Internet, I still do these days.
Jeffrey C. Apparius
This incomparable piece, inseparable from its time and place, fills me with a longing to go back home to San Francisco, and melancholy that, as Thomas Wolfe said, you can’t go home again. Wouldn’t it be terrific, though, to take a stroll through your old neighborhood in the early 1960s for just an hour, or watch Willie Mays play?