THE RISE OF ALTERNATIVE RADIO
table of contents
STEVE MASTERS Biography
by Alex Cosper
Steve Masters has been one of the most influential people in the history of alternative radio. His musical selections and on-air personality at San Francisco's LIVE 105 throughout the 80s and 90s set him apart from the nation as an outspoken industry voice who spearheaded countless hit records in the format.
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Steve Masters grew up on the East Coast and in Germany. He attended Emerson College in Boston in the early 80s as a journalism major. From 1980-1983 he did an on-air job at r&b station WILD in Boston. From there he was asked by a listener one day to help build a U.K. pirate radio station called "Lazer 550." Masters took the job and moved to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and then sailed across the Atlantic to Ireland. The short-lived station debuted on New Year's Day 1984.
By June he was longing for the States so he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. He quickly found on-air work doing a series of weekend shows at Bay Area stations KKIS and KWUN and then KSTN in nearby Stockton. In August 1984 he landed a weekend show on then mainstream station KITS. Masters, being a fan of modern music, convinced the new Program Director Richard Sands to devote an hour of his weekend show to the underground sound. The response was huge, which led to the show's expansion to five nights a week.
Then in October 1986 KITS made the official switch from "hot hits" to the birth of LIVE 105. Masters was then named Music Director of the new modern rock station. During this period Masters also developed as a Club DJ, spinning for large crowds on weekends. He also formed a band with his brother called Neighborhood Dilemma and by the end of the decade he had formed his own record label, Tripindicular Records. One of his releases was his own solo effort called "Turntable Aktion," an acid house track that gained a lot of clubplay in Northern California. He had learned piano at the age of 6 and guitar later on.
Things began to kick into high gear in 1991 as Masters started the year taking on a bigger title, Director of Music Operations. Then a talent scout from MTV discovered the wacky night jock and invited him to audition for a video show. Masters already had video experience hosting a local cable show called Modern Rock With Steve Masters on the California Music Channel. In April 1991 he made his national television debut as an MTV VJ. He flew to Los Angeles twice a week to tape shows for the week, which were broadcast Monday through Friday from 12noon to 4pm. In September of that year Masters completed the 35 week stint, passing on a chance to move to New York as a full-time MTV VJ.
Throughout the 90s Steve received several industry awards from Billboard and Gavin for his on-air work as well as success in music programming. In September 1995 Masters made a decision to leave his treasured post at LIVE 105 to take a job in the record industry at then MCA label WayCool. In September 2000 Masters returned to Bay Area radio as host of Three Martini Lunch on KCNL ("Channel 104.9"). Masters was allowed to bring in his CD collection each weekday at noon. He also brought to the station a Friday night dance show called Steve Masters' Modern Mix. Within a few months Masters moved to nights and then afternoon drive at sister San Francisco station KIOI ("Star 101").
Masters surprised San Francisco again in July 2002 when he returned to LIVE 105 to host a lunchtime retro show called "11 O'Clock Rewind." The response was explosive as Masters brought back the sound that made the station legendary. He continued to do the show through late 2003 and then moved on to a national radio promotion project at GottGame.com.