KKSF (910 kHz) is a commercial AM radio station licensed to Oakland, California. The station is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. and serves the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose media market. The station airs mostly progressive talk programs, both local and nationally syndicated. Some of the national shows include Stephanie Miller, Alan Colmes and Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. Even though KKSF is owned by iHeartMedia, it doesn't air Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, hosts syndicated by iHeart subsidiary Premiere Networks. Those programs are heard on rival talk station KSFO, which is owned by Cumulus Media.
The transmitter and twin towers are located on Point Isabel in Richmond, California, on San Francisco Bay. 1640 KDIA utilizes one of KKSF's two towers during the day. The station operates at 20,000 watts during the day and 5,000 watts at night. KKSF has studios in San Francisco's SoMa district.
The Oakland station debuted as KLX on May 3, 1922 (or July 25, 1922, some say), with 5 watts of power, increased over the years. KLX was owned for three decades by Joseph R. Knowland, owner and publisher of the Oakland Tribune. From 1923 the KLX studios were in the Oakland Tribune Tower at Thirteenth and Franklin streets, and the transmitter was on the roof. In 1952 the transmitter was moved to the San Francisco Bay shoreline and increased to 5,000 watts. In late 1956, KLX moved to the Bermuda Building on Franklin Street.
In 1959 (in part to pay off campaign debts related to U.S. Senator William Knowland's unsuccessful 1958 campaign for California governor), the Knowland family sold KLX to the former publisher of Collier's magazine (which had ceased publication in December 1956).
KLX became KEWB on June 7, 1959. KEWB was owned by Crowell Collier Broadcasting (former publisher of Collier's Weekly magazine) from 1959 to 1966.
KEWB 910AM debuted as a pop music station, pitting it against existing San Francisco Top 40 stations KYA 1260AM and KOBY 1550AM. KYA outlasted KEWB. KOBY couldn't keep up and eventually changed to KKHI "The HIGH spot on your radio dial" playing MOR music; it later thrived by playing classical music.
Guided by programmer Chuck Blore, KEWB "Color Radio - Channel 91" adopted the same on-air approach Blore implemented at Los Angeles sister station KFWB: current pop/rock hits, amusing format elements, and energetic, funny air personalities. Chris Borden's weekend show was a "pool party" complete with sound effects. Casey Kasem dropped in wild tracks. Gary Owens was a stream of one-liners. Bobby Dale was frantic. Ron Lyons was acerbic. Everyone was funny.
During the early 1960s, KEWB was famous for its on-air slogan "Boss Radio", using the then-current slang for "cool".
Gary Owens did a humorous morning show at KEWB. He eventually moved it to KFWB Los Angeles, and in the 1960s was featured as the "announcer" on TV's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh In".
Casey Kasem did the evening show using the moniker "Casey at the Mike," after the famous baseball poem Casey at the Bat. He had been using wild tracks between records, but the General Manager told him to stop. Left without a schtick, he looked around the station for inspiration. Finding the 1962 edition of 'Who's Who in Popular Music' in a waste basket, he conceived of relating music trivia to the audience between the songs, which led eight years later to the development of the successful "American Top 40" show format upon which he built his later career. A decade later, KNEW was the show's Bay Area affiliate, so Casey was again heard on "Channel 91".
Morgan went by his last name while working the morning drive at KEWB. Steele worked afternoon drive. Both had short stays, being swayed a few months later to join Bill Drake's new "Boss Radio" at KHJ, Los Angeles. Drake's conversion of San Francisco's KFRC to the same format would bring an end to KEWB's Top 40 era and call letters.
Other notable KEWB personalities included Don McKinnon, Buck Herring, "Honest" John Trotter, Art Nelson, Bobby Dale, Perry Roberts, Chris Borden, Jim Wayne, Michael Jackson, and Ken Knox. KEWB DJs Ron Lyons and Ron Reynolds returned during the KNEW years.
In 1966, the station was purchased by Metromedia Broadcasting, which changed the call letters to KNEW (purchased from a Spokane station for $75,000) to match its New York station WNEW. Starting with an all-night talk show hosted by Joe Dolan, Metromedia dumped the Top 40 music format and switched to controversy-focused talk radio, based in elaborate new waterfront studios at 66 Jack London Square in the Port of Oakland building. The studio featured extensive space for and tours of some of Metromedia owner John Kluge's art collection (also displayed at KTTV Channel 11 in Los Angeles). However, KNEW found it couldn't compete against ABC's long-established news-talk station KGO, and in 1969 switched to chatty DJs playing music "standards". But this change put it up against market powerhouse KSFO so the station continued to struggle.
In 1971 general manager Ken Gaines transferred to KNEW from Metromedia station WHK in Cleveland. Gaines and new program director quickly evolved KNEW to a fast-paced format of adult contemporary + classic hits ("oldies") music hosted by humorous DJs. Hawkins restored the nickname "Channel 91" and on-air elements echoing its earlier days as Top 40 rocker KEWB. KNEW recorded new station jingles using the original KEWB melody (also used by KFWB, KDWB, and as a hit instrumental, "Image" by Hank Levine).
The KNEW staff featured several KEWB veterans including air personalities Ron Lyons and Ron Reynolds, board operator Carl "The Caterpillar" Dahlstrom (a nickname given him by Gary Owens), and Casey Kasem's former operator Jim Tharp. Newcomers to the air team included Bill Collins from WHK, and "Tall" Tom Campbell from KYA and KLOK. Program director John Hawkins did shows on weekends. (Other KNEW air personalities during this period include Hal Pickens, Bob Raleigh, Harry Stephens (Osibin), and Eddie Alexander.)
In 1972, KNEW general manager Ken Gaines and program director John Hawkins devised a "relationships" talk show that candidly focused on issues important to, and only accepted calls from, women. Hawkins named the show "California Girls" and created a special edit of the Beach Boys song as the theme. They launched the idea as a variation on a Sunday morning public affairs show already hosted by Don Chamberlain, a part-time/weekend KNEW newscaster. Word spread rapidly that KNEW had "sex talk" on the radio, and the show was soon moved to weekdays 9AM - Noon where it became a phenomenon. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen wrote that he walked the entire length of Market Street listening to California Girls, and he didn't miss a word -— yet he didn't have a radio. Later KNEW added evening show "California Guys" just for men, hosted by Dee Merritt. Hawkins extended the branding to the "greatest hits" music format, calling it "California Gold".
During the years 1966-1977, KNEW was considered the Bay Area's top news station, known for its aggressive field reporting. Led by News Director Gil Haar (Eugene Gelhaar), the veteran news team included Knowles Robertson, Ron Baker, Barney Lee (continuing from the KEWB days), and award-winning Mike Forrest (who left in 1977 for a TV job in Philadelphia).
The unique mix of California Gold music format, personalities, news and talk made KNEW Channel 91 very popular. But the early 1970s recession and oil crisis made it difficult to get sufficient advertising to support the large operation. Eventually Metromedia decided it could make more money by adopting the simpler, less-competitive country music niche that was working for sister station KLAC in Los Angeles.
In July 1974, KNEW's format changed to "California Country" music, led by new general manager Bill Ward, who was also GM of KLAC Los Angeles. Gaines, Hawkins, Lyons, Reynolds, Campbell, and others left the station. Bill Collins remained with KNEW and learned how to be a country music DJ. In the 1990s, the format became classic country. In September 1997, the station changed from local DJ's to the satellite-fed "Real Country" network. The station dropped country for simulcast with KIOI, an adult contemporary station in August 1998.
KNEW became the flagship over-the-air affiliate of CNET Radio on January 14, 2000, offering business and technology news 24 hours a day. Under that format, the station simulcasted nationally on XM Satellite Radio channel 130. In 2003, the station dropped CNET and became a general news/talk station.
Switch to KKSF
As part of a far reaching programming realignment, KNEW obtained the rights to The Rush Limbaugh Show and rebranded itself to KKSF "NewsTalk 910", effective January 3, 2012. The Sacramento-based Armstrong & Getty program remained in the morning commute period, while Len Tillem and Gil Gross replaced John Gibson in the afternoon. Gene Burns' Dining Around program got a spot on Saturday. Bill Wattenburg's syndicated show got a spot on Sunday nights. Tillem, Gross, Burns, and Wattenburg became available when KGO terminated many talk show hosts as part of a shift to a news and information format. The station also picked up the Tom Sullivan show during middays. Tillem and Burns were the only local hosts on the station. The station also added Rush Limbaugh, previously on Cumulus Media-owned KSFO. Len Tillem left the station at the end of March 2013 and Gene Burns died at the end of May 2013. As of January 2, 2014, Limbaugh's daily syndicated program has moved from KKSF to KNEW.