KMPX: The Big Band Era
107 FM (1972-1978)
99 FM (1978-1982)
San Francisco, California
For a decade, KMPX — once the premier progressive rock station in the nation — was the primary purveyor of nostalgic music that later became known in radio parlance as “Adult Standards.” Playing Big Band music and vocals from the 1920s through the 1940s, KMPX also sponsored “tea dances” at various venues and attracted listeners both young and old with artists such as Bing Crosby, The Ink Spots, Ted Fio Rito, Turk Murphy and Ray Noble.
KMPX began its run in December 1959 as KPUP, owned by Franklin Mieuli, with a jazz music format. In July 1960, Mieuli changed the station’s call letters to the much hipper-sounding KHIP. On July 1, 1962, Mieuli sold KHIP for $146,000 to Leon (Lee) Crosby, who had previously owned Hayward’s KHYD (104.9 FM, later relocated to Fremont as KFMR). Crosby became President and General Manager of the station, which changed call letters to KMPX (for “MultiPleX“) in mid-August 1962, concurrent with the beginning of multiplex stereo operation by the station. Mieuli used the funds from the sale of KHIP to help finance his purchase of the Philadelphia Warriors of the National Basketball Association, which he relocated to San Francisco in 1962.
By mid-1964, KMPX aired a “middle-of-the-road” music format 24 hours a day. In 1965, studios were moved to the basement of a warehouse located at 50 Green Street, San Francisco. Ronald C. Hunt was named Station Manager of KMPX in 1966; at this time, the station was broadcasting blocks of brokered programming, generally in foreign languages.
In March 1967, former KYA disc jockey Tom Donahue approached Crosby and Hunt with a proposal to take over KMPX’s programming, replacing the brokered foreign-language shows with free-form rock music, emphasizing San Francisco-based bands, and announcers who took a more laid-back, less frenetic approach to their jobs.
In March 1968, the on-air staff of KMPX went on strike to protest the dismissal of Donahue. With no resolution in sight, Donahue moved over to KSFR (94.9 FM), which was rebranded as KSAN, “The Jive 95.”
National Science Network, Inc., purchased KMPX for $1,084,000 in November 1969. The purchase price included KPPC AM and FM in Pasadena, also formerly owned by Leon Crosby (and also formerly programmed by Donahue). Unable to topple KSAN from the pinnacle of local progressive rock radio, KMPX switched to the Big Band/Swing music format in March 1972, featuring well-known local announcers Walt Jamond, Rick Wagstaff, Bill Chase and John Jensen.
In September 1978, KMPX was part of a three-station swap that moved KCBS-FM to 97.3 (from 98.9), KEAR to 106.9 (from 97.3) and KMPX to 98.9 (from 106.9), with new owners, Golden Gate Radio, taking control of the transplanted KMPX for $1-million. Minority-owned Golden Gate Radio was required to keep KMPX’s Big Band format in place, at least temporarily, as part of the deal.
(Text excerpted from A Brief History Of 106.9 FM In San Francisco)
— Exhibit includes text and audio. — Exhibit includes audio.
The Big Band format moves from 106.9 to 98.9 FM following the big three-station swap. Includes news reports, plus a movie review by Davey Marlin Jones.
On the final day of KMPX as a nostalgia station, Alex Bennett and his sidekick, Joe Regelski, “put the old girl to bed,” playing the Big Band music that had been its hallmark for the previous decade. A few days later, Bennett leads the station into its next era as it makes its debut as The Quake FM 99 (KQAK).
— Edited/scoped aircheck.
— Fair-to-poor audio quality.
JS — Courtesy of John Sweeney.
LW — Courtesy of Lorna Wallace.
MS — Courtesy of Mike Schweizer.
ND — Courtesy of Norman Davis.