The Charlie Brown Show

KSOL 1450 Radio, San Francisco

Tuesday, July 12, 1966

Bert Bell (1963 Photo)
Herb Campbell a/k/a Bert Bell

Bert Bell (air name of Herb Campbell) brings his midday shift to an end, Jackson King delivers all the news, and then Charles W. Brown steps in to play the hits on 1,000-watt KSOL — “The Mighty Soul!” — from downtown San Francisco.

The original KSOL, not to be confused with the local FM stations that have used the same call letters more recently, was born in June 1925 as KGTT. In 1929, it became KGGC and, in 1938, it became the first local station to use the KSAN call letters — again, not to be confused with the local FM stations that have used the same call letters more recently. In 1958, KSAN switched to a rhythm and blues music format, targeting black listeners in the Bay Area, the first station on the local dial to broadcast R&B around the clock.

On July 3, 1964, KSAN was sold to John F. (Les) Malloy and Delmor A. (Del) Courtney, two well-known San Francisco entertainment personalities; Les Malloy, who made his broadcasting debut on KGTT in 1934, was for many years a star on local radio and had hosted a popular talk show on KGO-TV (Channel 7) in the 1950s, while Del Courtney found fame as a bandleader and personality on KWBR, KSFO and KPIX (Channel 5).

Jackson King

With Malloy as president and general manager, KSAN became KSOL on its first day under new ownership, hoping to better emphasize its “Soul Radio” format, which it continued until September 1970. The station is currently known as KEST.

Strangely enough, on a station that proudly called its air team “The Swingin’ Soul Brothers,” two of the voices featured on this KSOL broadcast belong, in fact, to white men.

Newscaster Jackson King (1924-1969), born John Colon — known as Jack to his friends — worked at several West Coast radio stations during the Fifties and Sixties, beginning his career in Portland, Ore., and working his way through several stations in California before becoming news and sports director at KHON/Honolulu. From 1958 to 1959, he worked the microphone as a disc jockey at KYA/San Francisco under the name Jolly Rogers.

In 1960, he moved to KFWB/Los Angeles as a newscaster before returning to the Bay Area to work at KSOL, then back to Los Angeles in 1968 to join the news staff at 93/KHJ. He died from complications of cirrhosis of the liver at age 45 in 1969.

KSOL’s morning clown, Charlie Brown, was actually a “really skinny white kid,” in the words of KFJC disc jockey Phil Dirt, who met him during a tour of the station around the time of this broadcast.

Charlie Brown (Photo)
Charlie Brown

“There was a very funny DJ named Charlie ‘Baby’ Brown, who was just a total kick to listen to,” Dirt related. “I once had an opportunity to tour the facility with a friend of mine. Most of the staff was black and very friendly. This really skinny white kid goes running past us, and the PD (sorry, but his name escapes me now) introduced him as Charlie Brown. The look on everyone’s faces told the story of the shocked look on our faces. They relished dropping that one on unsuspecting visitors, a priceless event.”

Charlie Brown’s stay in San Francisco was short-lived, however, as he quickly rose to greater success elsewhere under his real name, Larry O’Brien. Getting his start at WTOD/Toledo, Ohio, in 1962 and WALT/Tampa, Fla., in 1964, he spent 1965 and 1966 at KSOL, moving to WYSL/Buffalo, N.Y., later in 1966.

Larry O’Brien, post “Charlie Brown,” at WTAE in Pittsburgh

From Buffalo, it was on to WGRT/Chicago and WGH/Norfolk, Va., in 1967, then back to Chicago and WCFL in 1969. In 1972, he joined WTAE in Pittsburgh, where he became one of the Steel City’s most legendary morning men, teaming with John Garry. O’Brien and Garry moved to Pittsburgh’s WHTX (1984) and WMPX (1992), before returning to ‘TAE in 1994. O’Brien retired to Hilton Head Island, S.C., in 1997.

On The Air Sign (Image)

Bert Bell and Charlie Brown on KSOL/1450 (July 12, 1966)
The Bay Area Radio Museum gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Phil Dirt for his recollections of Charlie Brown, which also appeared at and are reprinted with the permission of the author.
Additional biographical material was provided by Tedd Webb.
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