KCPR's first broadcast occurred with a small 2-watt transmitter in the Fall of 1968; according to station lore, the first words spoken on-air were, "Is this the damn switch?" not "Christ, are we on the air?" as it is sometimes reported.Weird Al Yankovic was a volunteer DJ there when he was an undergraduate architecture student at the university. Yankovic recorded his iconic parody song "My Bologna" in the bathroom that stands across the hall from the station's original location on the second floor of the Journalism Building on the Cal Poly campus. He would later return to the station for an interview during the 1990s, where he recorded a station ID that can still be heard playing today. After 39 years of continuous operation, KCPR moved to a new studio in the Summer of 2008.
Long-time KCPR DJ and Cal Poly professor Jim Cushing describes the station's musical philosophy thusly: “to provide people with a blend of music that they will not find on any other station. To remind people that the musical culture belongs to them, that the musical transaction is not some glamorous MTV production.”
KCPR is affectionately known as "Burnt Dog Radio," an axiom that is reflected in one of the station's early logo designs that featured the RCA Victor dog.
Notable programs that have anchored the KCPR program schedule for years include "The Red Spot," "Rasta Revolution," "Club 91," and "Blues and Soul Review." The station organizes a special weekly event called "KCPR Night" at the Palm Theatre, San Luis Obispo, an independent movie theater in San Luis Obispo owned by ex-KCPR disc jockey Jim Dee.