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Growing Up with Sacramento AM/FM Radio Stations
by Alex Cosper

see also Sacramento Radio History




The first stations I ever heard, growing up in Sacramento, must have included KFBK, KCRA, KGMS, KCTC and whatever else my parents listened to in the car. It certainly was never rock and roll or top 40 stations in my early grade school years in the sixties. The band that stood out as the first musical group in my life was Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. I really never paid any attention to radio as important in my life until 1974.

I began writing a newspaper for my parents called "The Daily Planet" after touring the Sacramento Bee in February 1974. I got my news off the radio from stations KCRA and KFBK. Watergate and the Patty Hearst case drove a lot of the stories. I began listening to KCRA more regularly because they mixed music with news. I particularly liked the weekend countdown of Casey Kasem's American Top 40.

Shortly after starting the "newspaper," my very uptight sixth grade teacher had a mental breakdown and was replaced by a swingin' guitar-playing teacher named Mr. Ritche. We began spending more time learning popular songs and singing them than all the stuff we were supposed to be studying (which could be why Mr. Ritchie only lasted one semester at the school). The songs we learned included "Take Me Home, Country Roads" (John Denver) and "One Tin Soldier" (Coven). I then began writing songs myself and listening a lot to pop radio stations such as KROY, KNDE and KFRC.

Starting in early 1975 I mostly listened to FM radio for the first time. The biggest reason for this was that American Top 40 was moved to K108 FM, which played "mellow rock" the rest of the week. I guess that had a lot to do with me becoming more of a Fleetwood Mac and Eagles fan growing up in the seventies, whereas a lot of my peers were more metal or disco-oriented. I learned how to play guitar in eighth grade in the spring of 1977 at the age of 14. I did not understand at the time why the songs we were taught (more of a folk style) did not sound like the records on the radio.

I became a total Beatles fan because of one station, which was KSFM, known at the time as "Earth Radio." In August 1978 they ran a Beatles A-Z weekend, in which they played every Beatle song in alphabetical order. I was blown away from the fact that I liked almost every song I heard. I liked the fact that they made great albums, which drove me more into the realm of album rock radio. So I spent more time listening to K108, KSFM, KZAP and KROY-FM. The only AM radio I listened to anymore was KFRC only because of the Dr. Don Rose morning show. Even though I stopped listening to top 40 radio regularly by that point, I continued to keep track of the charts.

As FM became more popular in the early eighties, it became more formatted like AM stations with high rotations. I began listening more to oldies on KHYL, which was educational in the sense that it taught me a lot of the fifties and sixties hits I had never heard before, plus it was about the only station left besides K108 that didn't sound like a machine programmed by a machine. I like radio to be full of surprises. When it's too predictable I don't waste my time with it. I feel the same way about TV and movies.

After years of being a mobile DJ and majoring in Communications at Sac State, I got a radio internship in my senior year. I had the choice of news at KFBK, country at KRAK or top 40 at KWOD. I chose KWOD, starting in January 1984, because it was the closest to my interests at that time, plus I had become an encyclopedia of pop chart information by that point. So I became Mr. Ed's assistant (he was Music Director). I eventually rose to the position of Music Director in 1988 and then Program Director in 1991. Read the rest of the story in The Rise of Alternative Radio.

From my radio experience, I learned there are three ways to program a radio station: the independent way (my way), the industry way and ways yet to be discovered.

Upper left picture: Elks Building, home of the KZAP studios in the 70s.