A Brief History Of
Pittsburg’s 990 AM
The Pittsburg Broadcasting Company, Inc., received a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission to build and operate a new Pittsburg, Calif., AM station on 990 kilocycles with 1,000 watts of power (directional at nighttime only) in early 1949. The call letters KECC were assigned in late March of 1949, indicative of the station’s location inEastern Contra Costa County.
KECC went on the air in September of 1949 from studios located at 235 Railroad Avenue in Pittsburg, with transmitter and towers located at Collinsville, near Highway 16, in nearby Solano County. Mel D. Marshall was KECC’s first general manager, with Dean Mell as its program director. The FCC granted the station its first license in early December 1949. (The Railroad Avenue location, since demolished, is now the site of Marina townhomes).
In 1950, the station’s licensee name was changed to KECC, Inc. The FCC granted the station authorization in 1954 to raise power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts, and to change from directional nights to two-pattern directional operation (separate patterns, day and night). The station’s call letters were changed from KECC to KATT on March 1, 1957. In early 1957, John C. MacFarland was promoted to general manager succeeding the departing Mel Marshall.
KATT was sold for $225,000 in September 1958 to the Contra Costa Broadcasting Corporation (Ronald B. Woodyard, President; Louis G. Froelich, Executive Vice President, et al.). FCC approval took place in July 1958. In mid-September 1958, KATT changed call letters to KKIS and adopted a Top 40 popular music format. Jack Grant was named station manager in 1958. Also in 1958, KKIS raised power to 5,000 watts and began two-pattern directional operation.
The Kay Kis Corporation (Burrell Small, President) purchased the station for $350,000 on January 1, 1960. The new licensee was 80% owned by the Kankakee Daily Journal of Kankakee, Illinois. The FCC approved this transfer November 27, 1959. Jerry Bassett was named KKIS general manager in early 1960.
Studios were moved in April 1960 to a newly-constructed studio and office building at 230 East Fourth Street, Pittsburg. (This one-story storefront building was vacant and boarded up by 1981, and was razed about 1990 for the construction of new homes as part of the redevelopment of Old Town Pittsburg.
In the 1961-62 edition of Broadcasting Yearbook, in addition to station president Burrell Small and general manager Jerry Bassett, other key personnel at KKIS included Bill Simmons (commercial manager), Nat Stevens (program director and promotions manager), Ray Monday (news director) and James R. Bird (chief engineer).
In the early 1960s, the station opened offices and an auxiliary studio in the Casa de Vallejo Hotel at 1825 Sonoma Boulevard in Vallejo; the hotel, once the center of Vallejo’s social scene — with a ballroom that hosted numerous big bands through the early 1960s — later housed the local YMCA and is now an upscale senior retirement residence.
The station was sold again — on May 1, 1962 — to Pace-Shear Radio, Inc. (John H. Pace and Julie S. Shear, equal owners) in a $300,000 sale that gained FCC sanction on April 25, 1962. John Pace, formerly an ABC network vice president, became president and general manager of the independent Top 40 outlet, which at this time operated daily from 5:30 a.m. until midnight. Former general manager Jerry Bassett, who left the station effective with the arrival of the new ownership, went on to establish KCFT-TV (Channel 42) in Concord. He died at age 74 on October 18, 1991.
Pace-Shear Radio sold KKIS to the Major-Minor Corporation on May 1, 1964. W. Ernest Minor was president and sole owner, and became general manager after the sale. Named general manager in the summer of 1964 was Roy L. Cordell; Mr. Cordell, who passed away on January 10, 1994, at age 68, had originally joined KKIS in 1962. Ray Baker succeeded Mr. Cordell as general manager in 1965.
Among the notable radio personalities that worked at KKIS during the mid-1960s were Honest John Trotter, Larry Ickes (later of KMPX, KSFO and KOIT), Doug Pledger and Radio Ray Farrell (later known as Bobby Ocean).
On August 15, 1966, KKIS was acquired by the Coastal Communications Corporation (H. Duane Wadsworth, President; Mr. Wadsworth also owned KPTL/Carson City, Nev.). Coastal Communications was to own the Pittsburg AM station for only two years, selling it on August 1, 1968, to the Norcal Broadcasting Corporation for $350,000. Donald C. Johnston was president of Norcal Broadcasting, which obtained FCC approval on July 17, 1968, for this acquisition. William A. Exline was then named KKIS general manager. A year later — in 1969 — Tom Wallace became general manager of KKIS.
Former president and co-owner John H. Pace died at age 51 on October 19, 1970. He had owned the station from May 1962 until May 1964.
Donald C. Johnston became president and general manager of KKIS in 1971. KKIS, still airing a Popular Music format, was sold in August 1972 to the Schofield Broadcasting Company for $475,000. Buyers were Dick Schofield (president, with 45.9% ownership interest) and Wayne Hoffman (with 47.7% interest). FCC approval took place on August 15, 1972.
Dick Schofield then became president and general manager of KKIS, which switched to an Adult Easy Listening music format at this time. On September 13, 1974, the FCC authorized the station to operate its Collinsville transmitter by remote control from its studio site at 230 East Fourth Street in Pittsburg.
In its first network affiliation, KKIS joined the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1976. In addition to KKIS, Mutual was now represented in the San Francisco Bay Area by KNEW/Oakland and KXRX/San Jose. In late 1977, KKIS’ studios and offices were relocated to 36 Quail Court in Walnut Creek. (According to Don Douglas, who worked as a copywriter for Schofield during this period, the move to Quail Court actually took place in 1974.)
While continuing its Adult Easy Listening music format, by 1978 KKIS aired Spanish-language programming nightly at 8:00 p.m. and on Saturday evenings, Disco music was programmed. “K-Kiss 99” dropped its affiliation with the Mutual network in 1981, opting for independent operation. Studios of KKIS were relocated from Walnut Creek to new quarters at 1975 Diamond Boulevard in Concord in early 1981, although the station continued to be identified by its legal city of license, Pittsburg.
Philip Hoffman, co-owner of KKIS, became president of Schofield Broadcasting in 1983. The company sold the station on August 1, 1983, to brothers Harry and James Chabin (each with 50% interest) for $1.7-million, in a sale gaining FCC sanction on June 30, 1983. Their Chabin Communications Corporation acquired co-owned KDFM/Walnut Creek (92.1 FM) in the same transaction, and changed its call letters to KKIS-FM. Jim Chabin then became KKIS president and named Dale Tucker to the post of general manager. An Adult Contemporary music format was then instituted.
In January 1989, KKIS was sold by the Chabin Communications Corporation to Diamond Broadcasting of California, Inc., a newly-formed subsidiary of Crown Broadcasting, co-owned by Washington media broker Thomas P Gammon and Louisiana private investor Ronald H. Strother, for a purchase price of $4,477,000. The price included co-owned KKIS-FM, Walnut Creek. The FCC approved the deal on December 30, 1988.
Named general manager of KKIS AM & FM in 1989 was Dick Shepard. The FCC approved a change in call letters, from KKIS to KIXA, in early November 1989; however, the new call letters were not placed into use by the station.
Studios were moved from 1975 Diamond Boulevard to 1855 Gateway Boulevard, Suite 440, in Concord in 1992, and Vester Emerson succeeded Dick Shepard as general manager. In late 1992, KKIS was turned over to Randolph E. George, as court-appointed receiver for former licensee Diamond Broadcasting of California. In early 1993, Ken Boesen was promoted to general manager of KKIS. On September 2, 1993, KKIS was sold by its receiver to Peoples Radio, Inc. (Joe C. Rosa, President and Owner). The FCC approved this $600,000 ownership transfer on August 10, 1993.
In early October 1993, KKIS changed call letters to KATD — call letters Rosa had formerly used on his FM station at Los Gatos (it later became KRTY/95.3) from 1985 to 1989 — and switched from Adult Contemporary music to a fulltime block-brokered ethnic programming format. Also in 1993, Joseph Buerry joined the AM station as its new general manager and KKIS’ offices and studios were relocated to 1251 Monument Boulevard, Suite 260, in Concord.
In December 1995, KATD added programming from the Sports Byline network. The station added Adult Contemporary music, supplied by Jones Satellite Network, in March 1996. It continued to air some sports talk programming, as well as Black Gospel music on Sundays. Its air slogan was now “The Cat.” Brokered Black Gospel music was dropped in early June 1997. At this time, KATD switched to the Prime Sports network — which had merged with Sports Byline — with sports programming broadcast on the station from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. each day.
Jim Vossen succeeded Joe Buerry as general manager in early 2000. Also in early 2000, the station’s syndicated Adult Contemporary music format ended. Peoples Radio, Inc. (Joe C. Rosa, president) sold KATD on August 28, 2000, to Radio Unica of Sacramento for $4.5-million; Mr. Rosa went on to own KYAA (1200 AM) in Soquel, an Oldies-format successor to San Francisco’s 1260/KYA. Also in 2000, KATD’s studios were relocated from 1251 Monument Boulevard, Concord, to 2601 Mission Street, San Francisco.
In December 2000, its Sports Talk format and affiliations with the Sports Byline and Prime Sports networks gave way to a full-time Spanish-language talk format, dubbed “Radio Unica.” Michael Sher became general manager of KATD in 2001. In 2002, the station moved into new studios and offices at 730 Harrison Street, Suite 300, San Francisco.
On October 31, 2003, Radio Unica — which operated Hispanic-formatted stations in thirteen markets across the United States, including KATD — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as a prelude to selling its financially ailing stations to Arthur Liu’s MultiCultural Broadcasting, based in New York City. The Radio Unica network feed was shut down on Thursday, February 5, 2004; programming from Radio Formula, a Spanish-language talk network, was added temporarily on KATD to replace the discontinued Radio Unica.
On February 9, 2004, KATD and the co-owned Radio Unica AM stations were sold to MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting, under a newly-formed licensee subsidiary, Way Broadcasting, for a reported $150-million in cash. KATD moved to new studios on the fourth floor at 145 Natoma Street, San Francisco, in 2004, with Judy Re succeeding Mike Sher as general manager. Although primarily known for programming in Asian languages — in particular, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese — KATD retained its Spanish-language talk format following its acquisition by MultiCultural.
KATD, California’s 112th oldest continuously licensed AM station, currently operates on 990 kHz. with 5,000 watts (separate directional patterns, day and night) from San Francisco studios at 145 Natoma Street. KATD remains licensed to nearby Pittsburg, Calif., while its transmitter and towers are located on Highway 16, Collinsville (Solano County). Arthur S. Liu is president of Way Broadcasting, and Judy Re is general manager of the 24-hour-a-day Spanish Talk station.
SOURCES: Broadcast Pro-File, William Plummer, Tom Richard, Don Douglas, Broadcasting Yearbook, Bay Area Radio Museum Archives.