KFRC/Don Lee Network
The Breakfast Gang

Undated Promotional Photo

KFRC Breakfast Gang (Photo)

“The Breakfast Gang” was a staple of KFRC’s morning schedule for many years. This undated promotional photograph sheet, issued by the station (which was the key station of the Don Lee Broadcasting System, operated by the San Francisco automobile dealer Don Lee, who also owned KFRC from 1926 until 1951), probably dates from the mid-1940s.

Mel Venter (top center photograph) was among the most popular figures in Bay Area broadcasting, serving variously as a program host, sportscaster, newsman and — in the early days of local television — a game show host on KTVU (Channel 2).

Orchestra leader Lyle Bardo (top right photograph) also had a varied career as a musician on Bay Area radio; he is perhaps best known as the first bandleader to place a radio microphone in front of a San Mateo-born boy singer named Merv Griffin, on the nationally-broadcast program “San Francisco Sketchbook” in 1945, which also originated at KFRC.

SOURCE: Bay Area Radio Museum Collection.


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Alan Brown
Alan Brown
30 May 2021 5:56 PM

Your brief sketch on The Breakfast Gang radio show that aired live on KFRC and the (Mutual) Don Lee radio network and the related promotional photo sheet brought back memories when my mom, my two sisters and I visited the broadcast back in about 1951. Our family were regular listeners of The Breakfast Gang which aired every weekday at 7:15 — 7:45 a.m. on our local station in Redding, Don Lee affiliated KVCV, at that time the only radio station in Redding. (It has long since gone off the air, and no station has taken over its 600 Khz frequency to date, to the best of my knowledge.) The Breakfast Gang was preceded by a newscast at 7 a.m. with newscaster Frank Hemingway (“All the news that’s news today, broadcast for you by Hemingway.”)
As Breakfast Gang host Mel Venter often invited listeners to join the live audience for the show, my mom made arrangements to visit the program while we were in San Francisco to take care of final arrangements for my grandmother, who had died a couple of days earllier. I recall being escorted through the darkened auto dealership to the radio studio where the program had just begun. While the show’s producer watched the clock, the ebullient Venter led the gang through a daily ritual of banter, solos by Pretty Polly, interaction with his female co-host (Aimee?) and music from Lyle Bardo and his band. Although I forget the opening theme, I still remember the music the band played at the end of the first 14-minute block, the opening theme to the second half of the show, and the closing theme. The second half opening had Bardo, the band and the vocalist sing the lyrics “Get up, stop yawning, let’s open your eyes, we’ll get you started, with our exercise; the bacon’s sizzling, the coffee is done, 15 more minutes, to join in the fun.” About 20 chairs were reserved for the studio audience, which on the day we visited amounted to only about eight or 10 persons. As he often did with guests, Venter conducted a brief interview of my mom during the second half of the show.
As a boy of 10 and a daily listener to KVCV and the Breakfast Gang before heading off to school, I was fascinated by the detailed execution of the show. Little did I know that 11 or 12 years later, I would begin working as a part-time announcer at an FM station in Los Angeles while in college, which extended into about a dozen years behind the mike at a number of small stations in a variety of towns up and down the state.
Thanks for letting me reminisce about my first experience with live radio –The Breakfast Gang with Mel Venter.

Robert Swart
Robert Swart
Reply to  Alan Brown
17 February 2024 11:26 AM

Yes as a kid growing up in San Francisco in the 1940’s-50 I listened to Mel Venter along with all the radio stations that had cowboys adventure comedy’s. Where did the time go. So sad , gone are the glory days. So many Moons ago.
BOBBY ~!~~

23 January 2022 11:52 AM

Hello * thanks for your comments. And mentioning my Grandfather Lyle Bardo. My grandpa was an extraordinary man. My most heartfelt memory is showing how much he LOVED me! Regards, Mimi Mallory

Bob Burns
Bob Burns
29 January 2024 5:20 PM

Geez, what memories! I used to listen to the Breakfast Club every day as a kid living in Daly City. If I Recall Don Lee was a Cadillac dealer—or rather was located in the Cadillac building on Van Ness Ave.

I loved that show.

Jim Price
Jim Price
3 February 2024 11:09 AM

I remember looking at the antennas on the top of the Cadillac building on Van Ness. I believe their theme song was “The Jumping Jack.” I can still remember hearing it on the radio while delivering the morning SF Examiner and Chronicle at San Quentin.

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