Editor’s Note: This is the third article in a series about the history of broadcasting in the Sacramento area. This series was inspired by readers’ positive responses to previous articles about local television history in this publication and several requests to feature histories of local radio stations.Sacramento radio station KFBK, which was featured in the last article of this series, remained the city’s only commercial radio station until Monday, March 15, 1937. It was on that date that KROY, which would eventually operate in the Arden area, made its official debut at 1210 AM.
Efforts to establish KROY was described in an article in the Nov. 6, 1935 edition of The Sacramento Bee. In that article it was reported that San Francisco native Royal Miller (1884-1976), who then-resided at 1325 45th St., had applied to operate a new radio station in Sacramento.
Miller, according to the article, commented that KFBK was on the verge of doubling its advertising and enlarging its facilities, and therefore, he believed that Sacramento was in need of a second and smaller commercial radio station.
In addition to his eventual notoriety as the owner of KROY, Miller was well-known as the president of the Miller Automobile Co. at 1520 K St. That company then had an estimated net worth of $136,000.
At various times during his life, Miller had a variety of other roles, including serving as a member of the Sacramento City Council, second vice president of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce and president of the board of directors of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
As previously mentioned, KROY officially went on the air on March 15, 1937. That action occurred at 2 p.m., with a push of a button by Gov. Frank F. Merriam from his office in the state Capitol.
After starting the station’s transmitter, Merriam briefly spoke on air to the station’s first listeners.
KROY’s dedicatory program was broadcast from its studio on the mezzanine level of the Hotel Senator.
The program, which concluded at 6:15 p.m., included greetings by other guest participants, including city, county and state officials. Among those officials were Lt. Gov. George J. Hatfield, Mayor Arthur D. Ferguson, City Manager James S. Dean and Sacramento County executive and purchasing agent Charles W. Deterding, Jr.
During the same evening, at 7:30 p.m., the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce honored Miller with a formal dinner at the Sacramento Hotel at 1107 10th St.
The original KROY staff consisted of Robert Barringer, general manager; Al Wolfle, technical director; Robert S. Spence, program director; Bert F. Hews, news editor; George W. Collipp, sales manager; Lucille McCubbin, receptionist; George F. Strahl, radio operator; Alyse Sullivan, women’s programs; and Harry Oakes, announcer-salesman.
A unique, original offering by KROY was its on air interviews with job applicants, for the benefit of employers through the California State Employment Service.
In 1941, KROY’s frequency was changed to 1240 AM, and the station began transmitting from a 195-foot-tall tower at 3502 Kroy Way in today’s Tahoe Park area.
Two major events in KROY’s history occurred in 1943, as the station changed from its original 100-watt operation to 250 watts of power, and KROY’s license was modified to feature a partnership of owners doing business as Royal Miller Radio. That partnership featured Royal Miller and his wife, Marion Miller, and L.H. Penney and Gladys W. Penney.
The Billboard magazine announced in its May 18, 1946 edition that the Federal Communications Commission had approved the sale of KROY to Harmco, Inc. for $150,000.
In the same edition of that weekly publication, it was noted that the Gibson Broadcasting Co. had submitted the same offer, but was turned down by the FCC, because that company was already operating another radio station, as well as two newspapers.
In the fall of 1952, Harmco, Inc. sold KROY to KROY, Inc., a then-newly formed organization headed by Charles L. McCarthy, for $425,000.
KROY was sold once again, in 1954, to Robert W. Dumm, a former manager of Sacramento radio station KXOA. Dumm had also previously worked as the sales promotion manager of San Francisco radio station KSFO.
In 1956, KROY began broadcasting at 1011 11th St., above the Country Maid Creamery restaurant.
KROY was sold to John T. Carey, Inc. in 1959, and then to Sacramento Broadcasters, Inc., which was headed by Lincoln Dellar, a year later.
It was also about that time when Arden area resident A.J. Richards became KROY’s station manager.
As a station that was known for presenting popular music of respective eras, KROY entered the rock and roll era in the same decade.
For a period of time, KROY regularly played surf music.
During research for this chapter, a unique entry was discovered in the April 11, 1963 city council minutes. That entry reads: “In accordance with verbal recommendation of the city manager, (Bartley W. Cavanaugh), Councilman (Philip C.) Mering moved that the written request of radio station KROY for permission to land a helicopter in Edmonds Field baseball park (at Riverside Boulevard and Broadway) on Saturday, April 13th, for a children’s Easter egg hunt be granted with the stipulation that evidence of insurance be filed, saving the city harmless.”
In early 1966, KROY, which was then a Top 40 format station, relocated to 977 Arden Way.
KROY was then managed by Dwight Case and was advertising itself as an “all request” radio station.
The station relocated its transmitter to the city dump, off 28th Street, in 1966.
It was also around that time that KROY persuaded popular KXOA deejay Johnny Hyde to become a KROY deejay and present his unique, non-Top 40 music program, “The Gear Hour.”
A KROY listeners’ survey list from Oct. 8-14, 1966 shows the titles of 40 top songs and 12 “hit-bound” songs. The top five songs on the main list are “I’m Your Puppet” (James & Bobby Purify), “Poor Side of Town” (Johnny Rivers), “Fortune Teller” (The Rolling Stones), “If I were a Carpenter” (Bobby Darin) and “The Fife Piper” (The Dynatones).
Such survey lists were based on a survey of record sales, listeners’ requests, national sales information and KROY’s “judgment of the record’s appeal to the Sacramento audience.”
A KROY document for the week of April 26 to May 4, 1967 notes that the 12 most requested tunes at that time were: “Yellow Balloon” (Yellow Balloon), “A Day in the Life” (The Beatles), “She Hangs Out” (The Monkees), “Blues Theme” (Davie Allan & The Arrows), “Groovin’” (The Young Rascals), “Somethin’ Stupid” (Nancy and Frank Sinatra), “Dry Your Eyes” (Brenda and The Tabulations), “Creators of Rain” (Smokey and His Sister), “On a Carousel” (The Hollies), “The Sound of Music” (The New Breed), “When I Was Young” (Eric Burdon & The Animals) and “Close Your Eyes” (Peaches & Herb).
In 1968, KROY became recognized as Sacramento’s number one radio station – according to Arbitron ratings books – and it would hold that position for several years.
KROY moved to new studios in the basement of a building at 1017 2nd St. in 1975.
In 1976, KROY 1240 AM was joined by KROI 96.9 FM.
According to a July 25, 1978 article in The Bee, during the previous day, the FCC approved the sale of KROY and KROI to Jonsson Communications, Inc. for a combined $4.08 million.
During the following year, KROI became KROY-FM.
Both KROY stations replaced their Top 40 format with an adult contemporary music format in the early 1980s.
KROY 1240 AM remained in operation until 1982, when it became known as KENZ.
On July 26, 1984, The Bee reported that KROY-FM had ended its rock format.
The article’s lead paragraph reads: “Sacramento radio listeners who had their sets tuned to KROY-FM this morning got a surprise when they awakened to KSAC and the sounds of vocalists like Frank Sinatra instead of the rock music of Van Halen.”
In regard to the KSAC call letters, the article noted that Ken Jonsson, who was president of the firm that owned Sacramento magazine, Heavenly Recording Studios at 620 Bercut Drive and radio stations in Sacramento, Manteca and Reno, played an integral role in securing those letters from a college radio station in Kansas.
The KROY letters were revived in 1985 by the station’s then-new owners, Commonwealth Broadcasting of Northern California.
KROY-FM made news again on Nov. 8, 1988, when The Bee reported that the station had been sold to the Great American Radio and Television Company of Cincinnati, Ohio for $11.7 million.
The article noted: “The station is expected to retain its current format of adult contemporary music. Its assets will be transferred from current owner, Commonwealth Broadcasting, to Great American within the next 90 days, a spokeswoman said.”
KROY-FM, which would eventually be recognized as “Hot 97,” officially left the air permanently in 1990 when it was replaced by radio station KSEG “The Eagle” 96.9 FM.