KWUN Radio, Concord
1981 Composite Aircheck
Concord’s tiny KWUN served as a training ground for numerous Bay Area radio personalities, and was a local favorite for listeners in the Contra Costa communities that it served. The composite broadcast recording accompanying this exhibit features one young disc jockey, Tom Richard, as he sounded on the station during 1981.
The FCC license for KWUN was first granted early in 1961 to the Service Broadcasting Co., owned by Frank M. Helm, Frank M. Helm, Jr., and Donnelly C. Reeves. By late 1963, despite ongoing construction, KWUN had yet to go on the air. It was sold by Service Broadcasting on October 24, 1963, to a group headed by Dr. Robert A. King and Nancy S. King, who had incorporated as KWUN, Inc.
The station went on the air for the first time on November 17, 1963, from studios at 2086 Willow Pass Road in downtown Concord, with its 500-watt transmitter located near the present-day site of the Chronicle Pavilion (formerly the Concord Pavilion), adjacent to the Naval Weapons Station. Vic Ives, who held a minority ownership stake in KWUN, served as its first general manager.
KWUN was relocated from its original studios in downtown Concord to its transmitter site at 300 Holly Drive (near Myrtle Drive) by 1978, calling itself “K-15 AM Radio.” On December 21, 1977, the FCC approved the sale of KWUN to Arthur C. Youngblood for $475,000.
Mr. Youngblood, as sole owner, took over the station on January 1, 1978, installing himself as president and general manager. Shortly thereafter, K-15 dropped its Oldies and adopted an Adult Contemporary music format. In May 1978, Mr. Youngblood changed the station’s corporate name to Contra Costa Radio, Inc.
In September 1978, the FCC approved KWUN’s application to add nighttime operation; three months later, in December, it began broadcasting with a separate 500-watt directional signal at night, while also modifying its format back to the middle-of-the-road sound that had sustained it through its earlier years.
That format lasted until 1980, when KWUN signed on with the ABC Contemporary Network, playing a mix of Oldies and Adult Contemporary hits. Wolfgang W. Klamp became the station’s general manager the same year. (For a complete timeline of KWUN’s history, please click here.)
Tom Richard, who graduated from the City College of San Francisco in 1977 with a degree in broadcasting, interned at 1260/KYA that year for college credit “until new ownership took over and changed it all,” he said.
“I took some time to work at KFRC in 1978 when they were running their ‘Winning Ticket’ contest,” Richard said. “Les Garland was PD at the time and wanted me to work there permanently (good idea) and even shook my hand and said ‘welcome to the staff’ (great idea), but the GM wanted interviews with other people first (bad idea) and the best part (working there) didn’t happen.
“I had the same duties at both stations: screening the request lines and helping with the contests and music research. It was $3.00 an hour and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything except an airshift.”
“I studied on my own for my First Class FCC license in 1980 while my other radio friends were spending $500 for a class to study for it. I figured if the $20 I spent on two books didn’t work out, they’d be mad at me for it … Nowadays, a person just has to fill out a form and pay a fee. It’s still a big accomplishment nonetheless.”
Richard began his on-air career at Stockton’s KSTN/1420 in 1980 before moving to KWUN in 1981. Following several months at the Concord station, he went back to KSTN in 1982, moved to KKIS in 1985, returned to KWUN in 1987, and then went back to KKIS from 1990 to 1991. From 1984 to 1997, he also served as a volunteer at Walnut Creek’s combination cable FM station and broadcasting school, KCRK.
Tom Richard details his experiences at KWUN:
In 1981 at KWUN, Wolf Klamp was the program director who just called right after I sent a tape there and hired me for weekends.
I really liked doing shows there. I worked alongside Dave Petta and John Michaels (John Kirby) who trained me. Full-timers included Jacque Skarr and Les Williams. I did 6 p.m. to midnight and hourly newscasts. All told, I did 36 shows from May to September. I was doing a temporary job in San Francisco at the time, so my day was full to say the least. However, I don’t consider radio “work.”
The station looked like a bomb shelter with architecture done in “Cinder Block Modern,” but it was clean and in a nice area nearby the Concord Pavilion. The “newsroom” consisted of a table, an AP wire (the old loud kind) and a bathroom within earshot of the newsroom’s microphone.
They had five towers and 500 watts but the signal wasn’t very strong. I even parked between two of the towers and KFRC came in stronger.
The facilities were old but they worked well. The transmitter’s sound had good quality but there wasn’t very much processing. The station had a burglar alarm system and one night it malfunctioned and I had to keep going out there and shutting it off because it would set itself off. That didn’t do my show any favors.
When new ownership took over, they brought in their own people and everyone else was out the door. I went back to KSTN in Stockton to do a weekend shift there in 1982. That only lasted two months after I hung-up on an unidentified crank caller who turned out to be the owner. I could detail that, but discretion is the better part of valor.
Not too long after that, I started volunteering at KCRK in Walnut Creek on and off from 1984 until 1997 when new ownership closed it down and moved their broadcasting school to Fremont.
This 1981 composite includes Tom behind the microphone in June on the 10 AM shift (first 5:45); playing music and more during the 7 PM hour on September 6 (next 5:16); reporting the news headlines at 6 PM on September 7 (next 2:07); and spinning records that same day until it’s time to switch off the KWUN transmitter (final 3:42).
SOURCE: Photographs and airchecks courtesy of Tom Richard.