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KROY was initiated in 1937 by station owner Royal Miller (for whom the station's call letters were named) and originally operated at 1210 kHz with 100 watts of power. The original studios were located on the mezzanine of the since-demolished Hotel Sacramento. One of the station's early members was a salesman named Elton Rule, who would later become the President of the American Broadcasting Company. In its early years, KROY programmed live news reports and entertainment while carrying network programming and playing the popular hits of the time.
On March 29, 1941, KROY was reassigned to 1240 kHz where it stayed for the remainder of the station's history. During the years of World War II, KROY was one of only two radio stations broadcasting in the Sacramento market (the other being KFBK). KROY would continue to play current hits of the day; the "Big Bands," Frank Sinatra, and other legendary crooners. The station would move its facilities to the Senator Hotel, allowing the broadcast of live music from the hotel ballroom.
Following the war, KROY increased its power to 250 watts and carried network programming from the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) In 1950, KROY attempted to expand its services with a 12,500 watt FM station located at 94.5 MHz. But with new ownership taking over by 1954, the FM station was abandoned in favor of putting all efforts into KROY. By the end of the decade, KROY had increased its daytime power to 1000 watts. It continued to broadcast at 250 watts during the night.
KROY goes Top 40
In 1960, KROY flipped to a Top 40 format competing against the stronger-signaled KXOA which had made the switch earlier. This competition would continue through the 1960s with KROY usually winning the ratings. Competition was fierce. Employees switched back-and-forth between the two stations, records were stolen from each other with claims "You heard it first on...", even local favorites The Beach Boys recorded promos claiming "When we're in Sacramento we listen to number one radio..." KROY had also moved its studios to 11th and J Streets (1010 11th Street), occupying the second floor above the Country Maid Restaurant. The KROY transmitter, which had been located in the southeastern part of the city (on KROY Way), was moved to the Sacramento City Dump at 24th and A Streets where the organic materials supposedly increased broadcast output.
KROY would play the top hits of the days by artists including Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, The Shirelles, The Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, The Beatles and the music of the British Invasion, Bob Dylan, the sounds of Motown, plus all the various dance sounds of the time; the Twist, The Watusi, and the Mashed Potato. The station became a homing ground for many disc jockeys who would find fame nationwide. Morning drive personalities in these early years included Gary Owens, Don MacKinnon, and Robert W. Morgan. Other notable personalities included Mark Ford, Dick “Buffalo” Burch, Mike Cleary, Buck Herring, Ron Lyons, and Tony Bigg. More important to the station's success was the highly honored leadership of General Manager Dwight Case. He would run the station well into the 1970s before joining RKO Radio.
The Music Power years
By the mid-1960s, KXOA began winning the ratings war. In response, KROY hired Johnny Hyde away from KXOA to be the station's program director. Following the continued evolution of Top 40 radio at the time, Hyde would institute a style of programming called "music power", featuring personalities who would use their unique, energetic talents, and sometimes off-the-wall talents. This form of programming would continue for the next two decades. Supplemented by occasional (and sometimes outlandish) promotions for concerts, clothing, movies, and Cal Expo July 4 fireworks shows, KROY would become the number one radio station in the Sacramento area for years.
The KROY staff during this era included Hyde and his morning-drive "Uncle John's Fun Club," midday personalities Bob Sherwood and Martin ”Wonder Rabbit Ashley, Chuck Roy ("the deejay from KROY) handled afternoon drive with humor and a horn off a Model T Ford. Other personalities included Jack Hammer, Captain Rick Carroll, Dr. Tom Becker, Dave Williams, Steve Moore, Gene Lane, Hal Murray, Terry Knight, and Donovan Blue.
For a brief time in the late 1960s into the 1970s, KROY carried programming from American Contemporary Radio, a division of ABC Radio. The studios had also moved again, to 977 Arden Way. The broadcast studio included a window onto the sidewalk of Arden Way with an old drive-in movie speaker serving as an intercom so passersby could speak directly to the DJ on the other side of the glass.
DJ Martin "Wonder Rabbit" Ashley had a memorable jingle set to Woody Woodpecker's theme for his show. It went "Eat a banana, eat a banana- It's the Wonder Wonder Rabbit Show."
In 1975, KROY had moved to facilities in Old Sacramento. The earlier idea of an FM companion station came to fruition at 96.9 MHz on the dial. KROI, signed on the air to complement KROY's programming at first using an automated Top 40 format from syndicator Concept Productions. KROY continued to have high ratings and held its status as Sacramento's number one contemporary station with deejays like Uncle Byron Paul and T.N. Tanaka, Jeff “Mother” Robbins, Cleveland Wheeler, Tony Cox, Dancing Danny Wright, Tom Chase, Russ Martin, Barry Fyffe, Bobby Box and many others.
By 1980 new ownership had changed the FM's call letters to match the AM, becoming KROY as well. Unfortunately the new owners weren't that successful at running the operation and found their audience shrinking with increased competition from stations like KZAP and K-108 (KXOA-FM). In 1981 KROY finally changed its popular Top 40 format and went to album rock. The switch didn't work as ratings declined further. So one year later, in 1982, the call letters were dropped, albeit temporarily.
In 1985, KROY returned as a Top 40/CHR FM station at 96.9 on the FM dial. By the fall of 1986, the station became known as 97-KROY, breaking artists like The Beastie Boys, Run DMC and others. In the spring of 1987, KROY beat KSFM in the Arbitron ratings for the first time, thanks in part to adopting the same Rhythmic direction as KSFM, who had somehow scaled back on the product a bit. The General Manager was former KHJ/Los Angeles Program Director Ted Atkins (Capt. Showbiz), the PD was Bob West, Harley Davidson did afternoons and was Music Director, and "Good Time" Eric Scott (now Cadillac Jack in Philadelphia) ruled nights.
KROY was purchased by a large corporation in 1989 and they decided to try and run the station like the station they owned in Portland, Oregon. The Sacramento audience didn't respond well to the format changes and it caused the ratings to crash. Due to taking the station from number the number 1 CHR to the bottom of the market, the corporation chose to change the format and abandon the KROY call letters on November 12, 1990. The 96.9 frequency became KSEG ("The Eagle"), a classic rock station.
On April 1, 1996, in an April Fools' Day stunt, KROY returned to the airwaves one last time (on what was now KSEG) as many of KROY's DJs – including Dave Williams, Johnny Hyde, and Martin "Wonder Rabbit" Ashley – reunited for an historic twelve-hour broadcast recreating a typical KROY broadcast day. The station has also been recalled by 1240KROY Online, a website featuring soundbites, jingles, pictures of staff members and their recollections, plus the recollections of long-time listeners.
The original AM station is now home to KCVV, featuring Spanish programming.