KKHI (defunct)

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For the current station at 95.7 FM in San Francisco, see KGMZ.

KKHI was a classical music station in San Francisco, California operating on both AM at 1550 kHz and FM at 95.7 MHz.

Profile[edit]

KKHI relied heavily on local announcers playing recordings, especially by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The station played primarily orchestral recordings and was known for avoiding chamber music. Unlike its sister station in Los Angeles, KFAC, KKHI tended to play longer selections and never excerpts from symphonies or concertos. The various daily programs each had a specific musical introduction; one of the evening programs, for example, was introduced by the opening bars of the third movement of the second symphony of Sergei Rachmaninov. One notable fact was KKHI's monthly playing of the Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky by Anton Arensky.[1]

History[edit]

The AM signal of KKHI began on March 17, 1947, as KSMO in San Mateo, California. It was owned and operated by the Amphlett Printing Company, the owner and publisher of the daily San Mateo Times. The station's three directional transmitter towers were built in Belmont, California, next to the brand-new Bayshore Freeway (U.S. Highway 101). KSMO's programming was primarily classical recordings with some coverage of San Mateo High School athletic games.

In 1952, Amphlett sold the station and it became known as KEAR. The station's call letters were changed again in the mid-1950s to KOBY, and the station became a popular early outlet for Top 40 rock music. Gordon McLendon bought the station in 1960 and changed its call letters to KQBY. The station had been owned by Sherwood R. Gordon. He sold the station when a contract dispute with the union representing station engineers could not be resolved. McLendon also owned KABL in Oakland.

Finally, in 1963, the station became KKHI and was joined with its FM counterpart; within a year it switched back to classical music.

KKHI-FM, which also began broadcasting in 1947, was first known as KGSF. The Warner Brothers of Oakland, owners of KWBR launched the station in San Francisco. There were several ownership changes and call letter changes: KXKX and KEAR-FM. Fred Krock joined KXKX as an announcer in 1953; he would later become a major contributor at KKHI.[2]

KKHI quickly arranged to broadcast many of the Friday evening concerts of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, usually when it was conducted by music director Josef Krips (1902-1974), in stereo from the War Memorial Opera House. Since Krips refused to make recordings with the San Francisco orchestra, the KKHI broadcasts were the only mass media outlet for the concerts. The broadcasts continued in 1970 when Seiji Ozawa (1935-) became the orchestra's music director. In the summer of 1973, when the orchestra toured Europe, KKHI made history by broadcasting a Paris concert in stereo via satellite. San Francisco Symphony broadcasts moved to KQED-FM in the early 1980s and were eventually nationally syndicated.[3]

Krock became chief engineer at KKHI in 1966. He was also the host for the afternoon commute programming and had major responsibilities for the San Francisco Symphony broadcasts. His resonant voice became a fixture at the station. Krock would eventually leave KKHI and become engineering supervisor at KQED-FM in 1980.[2]

By the late 1960s, longtime KNBR disc jockey Doug Pledger had moved to KKHI, hosting a long-running Saturday afternoon program devoted to light classics. Pledger was particularly fond of recordings by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, as well as selections from operettas. For that matter, KKHI's popular announcer Bill Agee hosted another long-running weekend program called Gilbert & Sullivan & Me, which showcased one of the operettas by the famous British duo, complete with a running commentary on the storyline; the program began with the opening strains of the overture to HMS Pinafore.

Beginning in 1971, KKHI also broadcast Friday evening performances of the San Francisco Opera. For a number of years actor/writer Scott Beach hosted these broadcasts, which were offered in stereo with special encoding for those able to receive matrix quadraphonic signals. Like the famed Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, also carried on KKHI, there were regular intermission features, including interviews with the conductors and singers in each opera. These broadcasts continued until 1979.

A regular feature on KKHI was a daily musical quiz program, "Telemusic Quiz," hosted by Bill Agee. Listeners would call in answers to the questions and, if they had the right answer, they would win tickets to various concerts. Agee hosted the San Francisco Symphony broadcasts and made regular appearances at the summer concerts held in San Francisco's Stern Grove.

The station operated 24 hours a day and its AM signal, transmitted from Belmont, California with 10,000 watts of power, could be received over much of the western United States and Canada at night. The FM transmitter was located on San Bruno Mountain.[4]

The KKHI call letters were later used by a Smooth Jazz Station in Denver, Colorado, from June, 9 2008 to August 31, 2010.

Demise[edit]

Labor disputes, along with declining advertising support, eventually brought an end to the classical music programming. The station was sold in 1994 to Westinghouse and its format was dramatically changed. Now it was known as KPIX-FM and AM. The AM/FM simulcasts ended in 1997, when Westinghouse sold KPIX-FM to Bonneville International, which changed the call letters to KZQZ. The AM station is now known as KZDG. The FM station is now known as KGMZ.

The KKHI call letters were revived in 1994 on what had been KTIM-FM and AM in San Rafael, California. The attempt to revive KKHI's classical music programming ultimately proved unsuccessful.[2]

The Bay Area's main classical music outlet today is KDFC in San Francisco, California, a station which broadcasts on FM only. For many years there were daytime simulcasts on KIBE, a 5,000-watt station on 1220 AM in Palo Alto, California. [5]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund
  2. ^ a b c Bay Area Radio Museum | History | Audio | Archives
  3. ^ Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund
  4. ^ Eyewitness account by Robert E. Nylund
  5. ^ Bay Area radio website