Pasadena Presbyterian Church (1924–67)|
Crosby-Avery Broadcasting (1968)
National Science Network (1969–73)
KPPC-FM was a Pasadena, California FM radio station best known during the period 1967–1971, when it was one of the leading "underground" radio stations in the United States, presenting a freeform mixture of experimental and historical music with countercultural ideas. In contrast to the dominant Top 40 format, each KPPC disc jockey selected his own music, which would veer between genres, including rock and roll, folk music, blues and comedy.
Hosts included B. Mitchel Reed, Steven Segal (a.k.a. "The Obscene Steven Clean;" not related to the similarly named actor), Susan Carter (a.k.a. "Outrageous Nevada"), Barbara Birdfeather, Jeff Gonzer (a.k.a. "Bonzo" Gonzer), Tom Donahue, Program Director (2014 Rock Radio Hall of Fame inductee) and DJ Les Carter, novelty music historian Dr. Demento, Charles Laquidara, Ted Alvy (a.k.a. "Cosmos Topper"), Elliot Mintz (whose late-night Sunday show played everything from Baba Ram Dass lectures to listener-created recordings), blues archivist Johnny Otis, comedy troupes The Credibility Gap (featuring Harry Shearer, Richard Beebe, David L. Lander, Michael McKean), and The Firesign Theatre. Station promos were sung by the a cappella singing group The Persuasions. Other staff members included: Don Hall, Larry Woodside, DJ and production wizard Zachary Zenor, Joe Rogers (a.k.a. Mississippi Fats), Sam Kopper, Steve Fasching (a.k.a. "Stereo Steve"), the Pierce Family, and Ron Johnson (a.k.a. "Dr. Sound").
KPPC was founded by the Pasadena Presbyterian Church in 1924 (hence the PPC). Starting as an AM station, it was authorized to be on the air for 22 hours a week (6 a.m.–midnight Sundays and 7–11 p.m. Wednesdays). This was to carry the Sunday services and the Wednesday night prayer meeting. The station had 100 watts of power, and barely covered Pasadena. In 1941 the station acquired its frequency of 1240 kHz, where it shared time with a station in San Bernardino. In 1962, the church wanted to expand the hours and coverage, but other stations had filled in the remaining AM time allotments, so the church started KPPC-FM, on 106.7 MHz. The studios and transmitters were located in the basement of the church (which later became part of the station's claim to being "underground"), with the antenna on the roof of the Pasadena Star-News building (a newspaper) next door at 525 East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. The FM station had poor broadcast coverage from that location. The station distributed plans for a "Super Signal Sucker" antenna made of a broomstick and coathangers for listeners to build and get better reception. The antenna was designed by the station's chief engineer, Michael Callaghan.
In 1968, the church sold the stations to Crosby-Avery Broadcasting, and in 1969, they were sold to the National Science Network; the church retained the right to broadcast its services over both stations. In April 1970, the studios were moved out of the basement to an office building at 99 South Chester in Pasadena. In September, the transmitter was moved to Flint Peak, a mountaintop adjacent to Pasadena, and the power increased to 25,500 watts.
KPPC-FM was the first station in Los Angeles to broadcast a stereo simulcast with a television station (a one-hour program with 'Leon Russell and Friends' in collaboration with PBS station KCET), and the first to broadcast with Sansui quadraphonic sound. It was also the first FM station in Los Angeles to use two transmitters simultaneously to produce sufficient power.
The golden era of KPPC ended October 24, 1971, when the entire airstaff was fired, replaced overnight with a new line-up that reflected little of the previous freewheeling spirit. In 1973, the stations were sold to Burbank Broadcasting. Because the purchaser already had an AM station (KROQ, 1500 kHz, Burbank), KPPC AM was sold to Universal Broadcasting, a religious broadcaster. The AM station continued to carry the services of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church until its last broadcast in September 1996. The FM station eventually became the well known KROQ-FM, which is still on the air.
KPPC was inducted into the Rock Radio Hall of Fame in 2014 in the "Legends of Rock Radio-Stations" category.
- KPCC — Pasadena NPR station.
- "DJ Barbara Birdfeather dies at 69". Variety. April 30, 2009.
- Pierce, Dave (2008). Riding on the Ether Express: a memoir of 1960s Los Angeles, the rise of Freeform Underground Radio, and the legendary KPPC-FM. Lafayette, Louisiana: Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette. ISBN 978-1-887366-77-9. OCLC 144548083.