1310 KDIA Studios
“Lucky 13” KDIA, broadcasting from Oakland at 1310 kHz., was a popular Rhythm & Blues and Soul Music radio station in the 1960s through the 1970s. The station, which dated back to 1920 when its original owners, brothers Stafford and Eugene Warner, put experimental station 6XAM on the air from Oakland, was first licensed commercially as KLS in 1922.
In 1945, KLS became KWBR, its new call letters signifying “Warner Brothers Radio” (no relation to the movie studio). In 1959, the Warner family sold KWBR to Sonderling Broadcasting, which operated a popular station in Memphis, WDIA, which targeted its programming toward the large black population in the Mid-South region. Correspondingly, KWBR became KDIA and the station began its new programming format on December 12, 1959.
KDIA raised its power from 1,000 watts to 5,000 watts in June 1965 from its new studio and transmitter location near the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza in Oakland. The building, erected on landfill north of the Toll Plaza, was of simple extruded steel construction.
In 1980, Viacom International acquired KDIA from Sonderling as part of a $32-million merger. Later that year, KDIA switched to a broader-appeal Urban Contemporary format. In December 1983, Viacom sold the station to Ragan Henry, who also acquired WDIA; then, in December 1984, the station was sold once again, this time to Adam Clayton Powell III, who turned the station into KFYI, with an all-news format backed by a 32-member news team. On December 10 at 9 p.m., KFYI made its debut from new studios at 100 Swan Way in Oakland, vacating the Bay Bridge facility, which continued to house its transmitter.
After Powell failed to make payroll for KFYI — having lost a reported $4-million in funding invested by Aetna Insurance in less than six months on the air — the station went silent on April 9, 1985. It returned to air in July, however, having reclaimed its legacy KDIA call letters, while resuming its Urban Music format. In October of the same year, Ragan Henry took up ownership of the station once again, keeping it until he defaulted on payments to Aetna in November 1992, at which time State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (later mayor of San Francisco) and Oakland mayor Elihu Harris purchased the station.
Jim Gabbert, the noted Bay Area broadcasting entrepreneur (among his stations were K-101 AM and FM, KOFY AM and FM and KKCY, as well as KOFY TV20), purchased KDIA from Brown and Harris for $3-million in June 1995; in turn, Gabbert entered into an agreement with ABC in December 1997 to begin airing the network’s Radio Disney children’s format. On January 20, 1998, the KDIA call letters disappeared once again from the 1310 spot on the dial, replaced by KMKY. ABC purchased the station from Gabbert for $6.25-million in May 1998.
SOURCE: Photographs by David Ferrell Jackson from the Bay Area Radio Digest Collection.