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“Limelight”, 960 KABL Oakland | September 6, 1960

Suppose you wanted to know what radio sounded like in 1960. You probably thought most stations were playing some sort of popular music. If you judge by this aircheck, you’d be wrong.

KABL is licensed to Oakland, but serves the greater San Francisco area. Or, it was in 1960. Back then, the station aired a Beautiful Music format before the format name existed. Listen for an announcement saying, “KABL… Offering Quarter Hour segments of Beautiful Music every hour“. Another slogan heard on this scope is, “KABL… in the air, EVERYWHERE over San Francisco!“. The name of this late afternoon program is… you guessed it, “Limelight”. Listen, as the unnamed announcer paints a beautiful picture as he introduces another segment of Limelight.

A few noteworthy points of interest:

1. Within the first minute or so, listen for a dry commercial for L&M Cigarettes. Cigarette ads were very common up until the ban on advertising after the Surgeon General’s report on Smoking in 1964.

2. At 3:45, a business report called, “This is Wall Street”. The reporter is Guthrie Jenson.

3. About midway through this, listen for a promo for a Sunday Evening program called, “Know The Law”, supposedly featuring a 3 person panel of Bay-Area lawyers.

Today, the stations call letters are KNEW. Its official website is here. Radioinsight.com’s format change report is here.

In researching for this presentation, we discovered that KABL was a “Hallmark of Bay Area Radio”, according to BayAreaRadio.org. There is even a tribute online radio station and accompanying website, complete with live DJ’s – some of the people who were actually there during the station’s more than 30 year run playing Standards, Classical and Beautiful Music with it’s lush string arrangements. You can hear THAT station at kabl960.com!

And now, enjoy this ORIGINAL KABL broadcast from 9/6/1960.

960 Oakland San Francisco KABL KQKE KNEW KKGN


Aircheck Courtesy of Contributor Robyn Watts

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6 Comments


  1. Just to clarify, the Surgeon General’s report of 1964 started the process, but the actual ban on cigarette ads on TV and radio came later. In April 1970, Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio starting on 2 January 1971. The Virginia Slims brand was the last commercial shown, with “a 60-second revue from flapper to Female Lib”, shown at 11:59 p.m. on 1 January during a break on The Tonight Show. Great stuff – thanks for posting this one!

    Reply

    • Thanks for the clarification. I had forgotten the exact date and thought it was earlier. Come to think of it, I remember as a small child seeing cigarette ads on daytime television, as my mom kept the soaps on all day back then.

      Reply

  2. back in the day this format actually did alright now not……

    Reply

    • I never heard this format on an AM station until my former ‘1st station’, WCAT (Then WPNS, calls he promptly changed for obvious reasons haha) did a beautiful music/big band/classic country hybrid format in 1983. I thought the owner was crazy. Up until then, it was FM stations like Boston’s WHUE (forerunner to WZLX), WSSH Lowell, and WSRS Worcester. WHYN Springfield was Beautiful music, too, until about 1981 or 82. In fact, I think they all dropped BM like hotcakes between 1980 and 82 for soft AC. Aaaah well, those were the days. Interesting you remember the format. I kinda wish there was one of those stations out there right now.

      Reply

      • I read that Gordon McClendon owned the station and everyone assumed that he would change the overall sound to a top 40 presentation. Obviously that didn’t happen.

        Beautiful music began to disappear in New York in 1979 when WTFM, one of the few stations doing the format, went soft rock with some instrumentals thrown in.

        WVNJ-FM was sold and became Z100 in 1983.
        WRFM became New York’s Soft Rock or WNSR in 1986 and WPAT-FM was sold to Spanish Broadcasting or Univision in 1996 but by then, they had virtually stopped playing this music.

        Thanks for an early samgple of KABL.

        Reply

  3. I just finished listening to the aircheck of KABL in 1960.

    Did I hear a tad of reverb on the announcers and the spots? I don’t think anyone other than McClendon put that on a beautiful music station.

    The end of beautiful music in New York occurred later than it did in other markets.

    Reply

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