TANGENT SUNSET





EARTH RADIO (1974-1979)
When KSFM rocked Sacramento
by Alex Cosper

see also The Rise of Alternative Radio


A new progressive rock station sprung up on the Sacramento radio dial at 102.5 FM in April 1974. It came to be known for the rest of the decade as Earth Radio. Many creative people would come and go during this magical time when Sacramento had at least a few adventurous choices on the FM dial. The station proved that jocks choosing their own music from a huge album library could generate incredible ratings. But by the end of the decade, along with a national wave in rock radio, the station shifted its concern to commercial considerations and flipped from rock to disco.

The Woodland, CA frequency originally went on the air in 1961 as KATT-FM and was called "The Tiger Tail." The format was Middle of the Road mixed with block programming. Then after an unsuccessful run the station went dark in the late sixties and returned in the spring of 1970 as top 40 station KRBT, which was owned by a 1950's KXOA jock named "Wild" Bill Elliot. The Program Director was Johnny Hyde, who had taken KROY to number one in the market. Hyde also did an airshift, as did Tom Cale. But the budget quickly dried up, so Elliot switched to an automated top 40 format using announcements by "Robot 10-25." It became one of the first automated stations in Sacramento, which they promoted.

In 1973 KULA Broadcasting Company purchased for practically nothing the low power station that barely reached the outskirts of Sacramento. KULA Broadcasting also owned KULA in Honolulu, KFAX in San Francisco and KGMS (1380 AM) in Sacramento. The primary owner was A.J. Crissek. The station acquired the KSFM call letters after Sacramento's original KSFM (96.9 FM, circa 1971) dropped the call letters in an ownership change. The FCC then granted Ted Wolf, the KGMS GM who oversaw the KSFM project, permission to increase power to 50,000 watts. The station had remained automated playing "dentist office music" during construction of a new 540 foot tower at the transmitter site between Davis and Woodland. When the improvements were near completion, Wolf hired Steve Rosetta to oversee the new station.

KZAP had paved the way and now had to deal with competition. While KZAP began moving from freeform to a more commercial direction, KSFM debuted as a more streamlined progressive rock station, calling itself Earth Radio. The first Program Director was former KZAP salesman and KNDE jock Don Wright. Together with former KZAP jock Michael Sheehy, the two combined their record collections to create the first Earth Radio music library. What's kind of funny is that Don had just passed on KZAP's offer to do mornings for $650 per month.

Don says, "In April of 1974, KZAP's morning DJ, Zacharria (Zack Boles) left for more money and a 4-day work week at KCTC-FM. I had just left KNDE when they went Boss Radio. The GM of KZAP (Ed Beimfohr) had offered me the morning shift. As I was literally on my way out my front door to meet with Ed and make it official with KZAP, my phone rang. It was Steve Rosetta, former GM of KXOA-FM and KNDE. He was calling from KGMS, where they had decided to try and do something with their little FM station in Woodland, KSFM. They had just put in a new 50kw transmitter and a new tower with an experimental circular polarized antenna. He asked if I would come down to and talk to them. I was there in minutes.

read more about Earth Radio at Playlist Research.