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.