|City||San Francisco, California|
|Broadcast area||San Francisco Bay Area|
|Owner||Cumulus Media |
(Radio License Holdings LLC)
|KNBR, KNBR-FM, KSAN, KSFO, KTCT|
First air date
Call sign meaning
|General Electric-Oakland (KGO radio's former owner)|
|Class||A (Clear channel)|
|Power||50,000 watts unlimited|
KGO (810 AM) is a commercial radio station licensed to San Francisco, California. It is one of two Talk radio stations in the San Francisco Bay Area owned by Cumulus Media. The other is 560 KSFO. While KSFO airs mostly nationally syndicated talk hosts, KGO runs mostly local hosts on weekdays. KGO operates with 50,000 watts, the highest power permitted AM radio stations by the Federal Communications Commission. But it uses a directional antenna to protect the other Class A station on 810 kHz, WGY in Schenectady, New York. Most nights, using a good radio, KGO can be heard throughout the Western United States east to the Rocky Mountains, and in Northern Mexico, Western Canada and Alaska.
KGO has its studios and offices on Battery Street in the SoMa portion of San Francisco's Financial District. Its transmitter site is based in Fremont near the Dumbarton Bridge. Its towers are noticeable enough that pilots use them as a waypoint in communications with local airports. Two of KGO's three towers partially collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989. All three were replaced.
1920s and 30s
After several late-night test broadcasts, using the experimental call sign 6XG, radio station KGO signed on the air on January 8, 1924, from General Electric's Oakland transformer manufacturing plant. The original two-story brick building, constructed specifically for the station on East 14th Street, was demolished sometime in the 1980s.) KGO was part of a planned three-station network comprising WGY in Schenectady, New York, and KOA in Denver, Colorado. KGO was first known as the "Sunset Station" since it was General Electric's West Coast outlet. At that time it operated with a then-impressive 1000 watts.
As was the custom with early radio stations, the programming consisted of performances by local talent, including the KGO Orchestra which provided some of the music, and a dramatic group known as the KGO Players, which performed weekly plays and short skits, often under the direction of Bay-area drama instructor Wilda Wilson Church. The station's music, which was also performed by other local orchestras and vocalists, included classical selections as well as popular dance music the next night. Due to GE's involvement in RCA and RCA's launch of the NBC Red Network, KGO was soon operated by NBC management out of studio facilities in San Francisco. See the KNBR entry for a fuller discussion of NBC's San Francisco radio operations.
In order to make its Schenectady outlet a clear channel station, GE effected a breakdown of 790 kHz. WGY would assume the maximum permissible power, and KGO would be lowered in power to 7,500 watts. That was then lower than the minimum permissible power for a clear channel station (10 kW), and also was then higher than the then maximum permissible power for a regional channel station (5 kW). Both stations retained omnidirectional antennas. Therefore, GE effectively removed from the West one of its eight clear channels and added another clear channel to the East, thereby giving the East nine cleared channels and the West only seven. The other "regions" in the Band Plan all retained their allotted eight cleared channels.
1940s and 50s
In 1941, stations on 790, including WGY and KGO, were moved to 810 to comply with the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement (NARBA). On December 1, 1947, KGO switched to a directional antenna and its power was increased to 50,000 watts, the new minimum standard power for a U.S. clear channel station. An article in Broadcasting magazine noted that the increase "retired the nation's oldest regularly operating transmitter-a 7,500-watter ... in use since Jan. 8, 1924."
When the Federal Communications Commission forced NBC to sell one of its two networks (and that network's owned-and-operated stations), KGO's license switched from Radio Corporation of America to the Blue Network, Inc., effective January 23, 1942. The NBC Blue Network simply dropped "NBC" from its name to become the "Blue Network," then in June 1945 re-branded itself the American Broadcasting Company. KGO became one of the founding stations of the ABC Radio Network as a result.
In the postwar period, KGO produced many live music programs, including that of Western Swing bandleader Bob Wills, whose music was a staple of the time. KGO was instrumental in bringing the first exercise show to broadcasting, hosted by Jack LaLanne, a fitness instructor and gym operator in nearby Oakland. LaLanne conducted his radio fitness show for many years on KGO, moving in the late 1950s to KGO-TV and a successful TV syndication career.
By the late 1950s, KGO had suffered poor ratings. In 1962, ABC management brought in new management including program director Jim Dunbar, who revamped the station into one of the country's first news/talk stations. While the new format was initially unsuccessful, Dunbar stressed the "live and local" aspect of the programming by running the talk shows every day from locations such as Johnny Kan's Chinese restaurant, Señor Pico's Restaurant, and the legendary hungry i nightclub. This higher profile caused KGO's ratings to begin a steady climb. Among KGO's personalities during this period was future Radio Hall of Fame member J.P. McCarthy, the station's morning host in the early 1960s.
After trying various formats, KGO eventually shifted to news and talk programming, relying heavily on the ABC radio network for its news programs. KGO started carrying Paul Harvey's twice-daily programs but also began to develop a strong local news staff that produced extended morning and afternoon newscasts. The local talk show hosts included Les Crane, Owen Spann and Jim Eason, who often interviewed visiting celebrities in the KGO studios. Owen Spann also originated special broadcasts from Europe and Africa, interviewing government officials from those countries. Local director-actor Jack Brooks hosted a Saturday-morning entertainment program until his sudden death in June 1984, after directing a production of Kismet for the Capuchino Community Theatre that featured Jim Eason as the poet Omar Khayyám. Dr. Dean Edell began his regular medical programs at KGO, leading to nationally syndicated broadcasts.
Ratings and signal strength
For more than 27 years (as rated quarterly by Arbitron), KGO was the number-one station in the Bay Area. According to the 2010 Arbitron ratings, however, KGO had lost its lead to KCBS, with KOIT-FM as a close second, and KGO listing at third. When KGO switched to all-news in December 2011, it fell further behind in the local ratings. As of Spring 2013, KGO placed 16th in the market, with approximately half of their listenership when they were number one.
The KGO signal also registers with Arbitron as a station listened to in surrounding metropolitan areas. Due to the nature of its signal and antenna placement, KGO broadcasts on a north-to-south axis, keeping itself from interfering with WGY (Schenectady, New York) during the night-time and overnight hours when the station broadcasts at 50,000 watts. KGO's signal is received essentially free of static at night in locations such as Vancouver, Washington, Seattle, Washington and San Diego, but is difficult to receive in Reno, Nevada, and other points east of the Sierra Nevada mountains due to its signal directionality. That said, its overall reach is greater than any FM signal in the Bay Area (according to radio-locator.com map referenced below).
Until December 5, 2011, KGO created nearly all of its own local programming, with very limited syndicated content. The majority of its programs were hosted by San Francisco Bay Area broadcasters. The daily schedule included many issues-oriented talk shows, with weekday hosts that included Gene Burns, Gil Gross, Ronn Owens, John Rothmann and lawyer Len Tillem. The station also carried a variety of specialty programs, particularly on weekends, with John Hamilton discussing travel and leisure, Gene Burns covering fine food and dining (on a show separate from his weekday program), Joanie Greggains hosting a health-and-fitness program, and Brent Walters, who teaches "Comparative Religions" at San Jose State University, hosting the early Sunday morning show, God Talk. In 2014, KGO brought in John Batchelor at midnight. News/talk weekend hosts now include Brian Copeland, "Karel" Charles Karel Bouley, and Pat Thurston.
The weekday morning news (from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.) is currently co-anchored by Jon Bristow and Jennifer Jones-Lee. The afternoon news (from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.) currently features veteran reporter Chris Brecher and award-winning reporter/anchor Bret Burkhart.
On Friday, December 2, 2011, new owner Cumulus Media announced that KGO was rebranding itself as "news and information," moving to an all-news format from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. (in addition to the existing morning-drive, noon-hour and afternoon-drive news blocks) on December 5. This had resulted in the abrupt termination, on December 1, of most of the talk hosts (including Gene Burns, Gil Gross, John Rothmann, Ray Taliaferro, Len Tillem, and Dr. Bill Wattenburg). Ronn Owens's morning show, as well as weekend talk programming remained, although some of the weekend hosts (including Joanie Greggains, and Len Tillem) were also terminated on December 1, 2011. Bob Brinker's syndicated "Moneytalk" has been moved to KSFO, a politically conservative talk radio sister station which arguably better reflects Brinker's conservative politico-economic views ("Moneytalk" is a brand which is owned by ABC and its successor, not by Brinker; Brinker's own brand is "Marketimer", although Brinker has not and does not espouse market timing, as commonly understood, per se in any of his broadcasts or newsletters). Leo Laporte's weekend syndicated tech talk program was also a casualty of the format change and is no longer being broadcast on KGO. Gil Gross, Len Tillem and Leo Laporte are being broadcast by KKSF.
The format change and termination of many popular talk show hosts sparked outrage among long-time listeners, many of whom called for sponsors to drop their advertising on the station. Ratings declined substantially following the change, with competitors KCBS and KQED-FM continuing to lead the market, and in December 2014, KGO reintroduced talk programming on weekdays. In December 2014, KGO added Chip Franklin to the noon to 3 pm lineup. In January 2015, KGO announced they had hired Chicago/San Antonio radio personality Kevin "DreX" Buchar, best known for his successful morning show on Chicago's WKSC-FM, which ran for more than a decade, from 7PM to 10PM. John Batchelor's syndicated show air overnights, returning KGO to the same level of news programming as before 2011.
On March 31, 2016, at Noon, KGO dropped its previous programming and began stunting with recordings of speeches from influential figures and people talking about San Francisco, as well as songs about the city, while promoting "The Next Generation of KGO" to launch on April 5 (though with a break during the weekend for paid programming). At least 20 people, including the entire news staff, as well as some staffers from sister station KFOG, were laid off with the change. Originally, long-time KGO host Ronn Owens announced that he would be moving to sister station KSFO in the afternoon slot beginning April 4. However, due to what was advertised as a 'listener reaction' against the move (in reality, Owens contested the move of his show off KGO as against the terms of his contract), Owens left with the station. KGO will also keep its News/Talk format, but will launch with a new live and local lineup, which includes Owens and Armstrong & Getty in mornings.
KGO was the radio broadcast home for the San Francisco 49ers football team from 1987 to 2005. It has broadcast the college football games of the University of California, Berkeley, Golden Bears since 1974. Since 2013, it also broadcasts men's basketball games that start after 7 pm or are on weekends. Games that start before 7 pm on weekdays air on KSFO.
San Francisco 49ers on KGO–AM 810
|Season||Flagship station||Play-by-play||Color commentator||Sideline reporter||Studio host|
|1988||KGO–AM 810||Lon Simmons (Pre Season, Regular Season Weeks 1–5 and 8–16, Playoffs and Super Bowl XXIII)
Joe Starkey (Regular Season Weeks 6–7)
|Wayne Walker (Pre Season Weeks 1–2, Regular Season, Playoffs and Super Bowl XXIII)
Joe Starkey (Pre Season Weeks 3–5)
|Joe Starkey (Pre Season Weeks 1–2, Regular Season Weeks 1–5 and 8–16, Playoffs and Super Bowl XXIII)||Joe Starkey|
Until the sudden format change in December 2011, KGO hosted an annual fundraiser called the KGO Cure-a-Thon to help raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society with all of the station's regular programming pre-empted for an entire day during the event. Listeners were encouraged to call in and donate money to help in the fight against these kinds of cancer. An auction was also held to help raise money. Notable items up for auction have included a trip with Gene Burns on a private jet to various destinations, such as Las Vegas and Italy, for a gourmet dinner. Cumulus Media has announced that it will not be continuing the KGO Cure-a-Thon charity event despite the fact it has raised millions of dollars for charity in the past.
In March 2008, solar panels were installed at KGO's transmitter site in Fremont, California, to offset some of its power consumption during daytime hours. The effort is a testbed for Pacific Gas and Electric Company and is located near the Dumbarton Bridge. The solar system uses both CPV (SolFocus) and PV (Premier Power) arrays and provides about 17 Kilowatts, or 33% (one third), of the radio frequency (RF) power output from the 50KW transmitter (or about 1/10th of the total power consumption of their transmitter site over a 24-hour period). United States Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi turned the system on during an on-air ceremony.
KGO's weekday lineup is predominantly local in origin. Nikki Medoro hosts the morning drive time program, while Mark Thompson hosts late mornings. Pat Thurston, Chip Franklin and John Rothmann host early afternoons, afternoon drive and early evenings, respectively. John Batchelor (syndicated via Westwood One) airs in late night, while Coast to Coast AM (syndicated via Premiere Networks) runs in overnights. America in The Morning, from Westwood One, is heard just before dawn.
Weekends feature shows on money, health, technology and home repairs, some of which are paid brokered programming. Syndicated weekend shows include The Tech Guy with Leo Laporte and The Truth About Money with Ric Edelman. KGO is the flagship radio station for the San Francisco 49ers football team and also carries University of California Golden Bears Football. Most hours begin with world and national news from ABC Radio News.
- Gene Burns (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011); died May 25, 2013
- Gil Gross (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- Ray Taliaferro (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011); died December 2018
- Len Tillem (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011; now podcasting)
- Bernie Ward (program terminated due to federal investigation 12/31/2007)
- Monty Stickles (sports announcer, writer, and sports-talk host from 1973 to 1985)
- Jack Webb (announcer, producer, director, writer, and performer in the 1940s)
Former weekend personalities
- Gene Burns — Dining Around, with Gene Burns (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- Michael Finney — Consumer Talk ' (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 3/31/2016)
- Joanie Greggains — Health Talk (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 12/1/2011)
- John Hamilton — John Hamilton On-The-Go (Hamilton retired March 8, 2020 after 49 years with KGO Radio)
- Maureen Langann — Entertainment/News Talk, Hangin' with Langan (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 3/31/2016)
- David Lazarus — News Talk (left in 2007).
- Pat Thurston — News Talk (program hired by owner, Citadel 3/31/2006)
- Brent Walters — God Talk' (program terminated by owner, Cumulus Media 3/31/2016)
- Bill Wattenburg — Open Line to the West Coast (program terminated 12/1/2011)
Former notable and guest hosts
- Ken Bastida
- Ira Blue
- Barbara Boxer
- Joy Browne
- Chris Clarke
- Peter B. Collins
- Russ Coughlan
- Les Crane — evening host (moved to New York)
- Jim Dunbar (served as program director, newscaster, talk show host)
- Jim Eason
- Art Finley
- Christine Craft
- James Gabbert
- Duane Garrett – died July 26, 1995; suicide; jumped from Golden Gate Bridge
- Greg Jarrett
- Michael Krasny
- J. P. McCarthy
- Larry Mendte
- Lee Rodgers-went to KSFO-AM; died January 25, 2012, due to complications from heart surgery
- Michael Savage
- Barbara Simpson
- Joe Starkey (sports)
- Bernie Ward
- Jim Wieder – fill-in talk show host
- Pete Wilson; died at age 62 after suffering heart attack while having hip-replacement surgery
Former syndicated hosts
- Bob Brinker (Moneytalk; moved to KSFO after 12/5/11)
- Leo Laporte ("Tech Guy")
- Dr. Dean Edell, MD, hosted syndicated radio medical talk show; aired live 1979-December 10, 2010
- Paul Harvey, national news and commentary; died 2009
- Jon Bristow – morning anchor
- Bret Burkhart – anchor/reporter
- Nikki Medoro – anchor
- Mark Curtis – political and presidential campaign analyst
- Michael Finney
- Peter Finch – anchor/reporter
- Lynn Jimenez – business reporter (on extended leave)
- Kristin Haynes – reporter
- Beth Houston – reporter
- Jennifer Jones-Lee – morning anchor
- Katy Leaver – reporter
- Scott Leteri -reporter
- Kevin "DreX" Buchar – evening reporter
- Kim McCallister – morning reporter/fill in anchor 
- Mark Nieto – morning traffic anchor
- Kevin "The Rat" Radich (sports)
- Dennis Willis
- Rich Walcoff – sports reporter
- James Abbe – newscaster and host of James Abbe Observes (1946–47)
- Robert J. Ackerly – newscaster (1938–39)
- Rosie Allen – former afternoon anchor
- Ed Baxter – former morning and afternoon anchor
- Ken Beck – former reporter and news director
- Jan Black – former news anchor
- Stan Burford – former traffic anchor, reporter
- Leo Ciolino – former weatherman
- Jim Dunbar – former morning anchor
- Lin Durling – former airborne traffic reporter
- Greg Edmonds – East Bay Bureau Chief, reporter
- Mary Ellen Geist – former reporter, anchor
- Ken Hunt – former reporter, anchor
- Lou Hurley – former airborne traffic reporter
- Dick Leonard – news director/reporter
- Michaelyn Meyers – former airborne traffic reporter
- Melanie Morgan – former anchor/reporter
- R.J. Peruman – former reporter
- Bob Trebor – reporter
- Lloyd Lindsay Young – weather, terminated 12/1/2011
- Joe Vincent – former traffic anchor
- Jon Wailin: Super Commuter
- Gretchen Wells – former reporter
- Ted Wygant – former morning anchor
- Bob Thorne – former traffic reporter
- Jay Peterson - former traffic reporter
- Schneider, John. "KGO Radio Tower Collapse 1989". The Bay Area Radio Museum. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
- Hedin, Mark (April 22, 2017). "Historic but toxic Oakland brick buildings defy attempts to level them". East Bay Times. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- "Open Station KGO at Oakland." Decatur IL Review, February 9, 1924, p. 23; also, "New KGO Will Open Tomorrow." Oakland Tribune, January 8, 1924, p. 15.
- "KGO Increases Power to 50 kw Today With Governor Warren Giving Signal" (PDF). Broadcasting. December 1, 1947. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
- "FCC Okays Transfer of WJZ, KGO, WENR". Billboard. January 31, 1942. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
- "KGO Radio reshuffles as ratings decline". sfgate.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 13, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 23, 2010. Retrieved September 2, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Major Shakeup At KGO San Francisco - RadioInsight". radioinsight.com. December 5, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "KGO radio going to news format — veterans leaving". San Francisco Chronicle. December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
- "KGO Radio Format Change Sparks Outrage Among Loyal Listeners". Huffington Post. December 5, 2011. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
- "Cal, KGO Extend Broadcast Partnership". www.calbears.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "Media Confidential: SF Radio: Talk Host Chip Franklin Joining KGO 810 AM". mediaconfidential.blogspot.com. November 19, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "KGO/SF Goes Talk 7-10 PM". Radio Ink. Archived from the original on February 4, 2015.
- "After going mostly news, KGO is talking again". sfchronicle.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- KGO San Francisco Stunting; Ronn Owens To KSFO - RadioInsight (published March 31, 2016)
- "End of an era: KGO Radio lays off news staff". sfexaminer.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- KGO 810 News, Talk & Traffic uploaded a photo (published March 31, 2016)
- KGO 810 announces next generation live and local line-up Archived April 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine - KGO 810 official site (accessed April 4, 2016)
- "Radio station goes solar". March 7, 2008. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- Vernon, Tom (December 17, 2008). "KGO Flips Solar Switch". Radio World. p. 1. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
- "KGO flips the Solar Switch". December 18, 2008. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
- Gene Burns
- "Longtime Bay Area radio host Ray Taliaferro found dead in Kentucky". The Mercury News. December 3, 2018. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
- Gustafson, Craig (Spring 2009). "Pat Novak ... for Hire". Nostalgia Digest. 35 (2): 4–9.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 6, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 30, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Club, San Francisco Peninsula Press (July 26, 2007). "San Francisco Press Club: David Lazarus will also quit KGO-AM gig". sfppc.blogspot.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Taylor, Michael (December 26, 1995). "A Master of All Worlds But His Own / Duane Garrett -- popular radio talk show host, political power broker, sports memorabilia aficionado -- seemed to have everything going for him. That's why so many friends were shocked when he took his own life instead of asking for help they gladly would have given". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved December 20, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Sies, Luther F. (2014). Encyclopedia of American Radio, 1920-1960, 2nd Edition, Volume 1. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-5149-4.
- John Schneider's History of KGO Radio
- A Technical Description of the KGO Facility in 1924
- The History of KGO
- KGO 810 AM
- The Complete KGO Collection (Archival Recordings) in The Bay Area Radio Museum
- KGO in the FCC AM station database
- KGO on Radio-Locator
- KGO in Nielsen Audio's AM station database