B-100 45th Birthday
KFMB-FM (100.7) has been on the air in San Diego since 1950, though it didn’t get its official license and call letters until September of 1959. At that time and until 1975, like so many FM stations of the era, it played what is called Beautiful Music, a format consisting primarily of long sweeps of instrumental music with few announcements or DJ chatter. Beautiful Music was designed to appeal to the early listeners of FM radio who tended to be older, more affluent, and less interested in the teen formats heard so often on AM radio.
The format was highly popular, even on AM. KPOL simulcast it on 1540 AM (now KMPC) and 93.9 FM (now KLLI) here in Los Angeles; my father listened to 1540 constantly.
As the availability of FM radios increased, and as various stations tried different formats including the underground rock formats that launched in the 1960s and gained traction in the ‘70s, new listeners were discovering FM. Soon stations were trying AM radio’s mainstay — top-40 music — on FM. In Los Angeles, the first FM stations to try were K-100 (now KKLQ, 100.3 FM) and KKDJ (now KIIS-FM, 102.7 FM).
In San Diego, it was KFMB-FM. It was March of 1975, and newly hired programmer Bobby Rich was ready, along with general manager Paul Palmer, to take on market leader KCBQ (1170 AM) directly. A call-letter change was planned, but the owners resisted — the station was part of an AM-FM-TV combo, and they wanted to keep the identity as is.
So B-100 was invented. The original air staff included Rob Landree, Dave Conley, Jimi Fox, Willie B Goode, Gary Kelley, Kevin Anderson, Scott Wright, and Billy Martin, some of whom moved to Los Angeles with Fox when he became programmer of the program director of Ten-Q (KTNQ, 1020 AM) one year later.
The station was a high-energy screamer and went straight for the jugular. B-100 was the Boogie station for San Diego, with such slogans as “B-100 plays more boogie,” “B-100 boogies on,” “better boogie” and so forth. And while it was a ratings hit, it wasn’t enough to fully knock KCBQ out of the running.
Part of the problem was that FM was still harder to get — almost all cars came with an AM radio standard, FM was still optional — and AM was still programmed exceedingly well … programmers hadn’t given up yet.
Finally, management hired away two highly popular DJs from KCBQ — Shotgun Tom Kelly and Gene Knight (two of my favorite DJs of all time) — and the ratings soared to the top. By 1977, B-100 was the most popular station in San Diego, and the first major-market FM station in the United States to hit the number one spot among listeners 12 and over.
I remember the early days of B-100 because my sister Jackie had a brand-new Sansui receiver and I’d play with it in her room. From my home in San Pedro, the B-100 signal often came in like a local. I loved B-100, and I loved the way they said the call-letters: “KFM (pause) BFM, San Diego.”
B-100 no longer exists as a name, but the call letters still exist at least for now. The station is in the process of being sold and the call letters are not included, for reasons unknown. If I were the buyer I’d try to negotiate … classic call letters are worth preserving. If that didn’t work, I’d try for something similar, say KFMD.
Regardless, being that this is almost the 45th anniversary of the launch of B-100, it’s time to head over to airchexx.Com and search for the B-100 First Birthday Bash, which can be found at www.tinyurl.com/B100BashWags. This is from 1976 — one year after the launch — and is quite a listen. You can hear some of the originals plus later arrivals such as Beaver Cleaver (legendary DJ and scriptwriter Ken Levine), Billy Pearl, Doc Holiday, and Rich Brother Robbin.
By the way, they didn’t hit number one until after hiring talent from a competing station. Talent and presentation can make or break a station. Todays’s programmers should take note.
Anyone remember the days before KIIS (102.7 FM) was on FM? I do … my sister Jackie listened to it all the time, at 1150 AM. I remember driving with her in our family ’64 Impala wagon and hearing the station all the time.
The call letters originally were not meant to mean “Kiss.” Originally the IIS was meant to reflect 115, the dial position of the station on the AM band. The format was a light rock station of sorts, but was a little more than that. Hard to describe exactly, but different than what would be considered adult contemporary today. Perhaps there was some influence from mellow rock KNX-FM (now KCBS-FM, 93.1).
I bring this up because of another great find at airchexx.com, also available on YouTube, of the great Dave Diamond on “K-double i – S” form 1973. Diamond sounds great as he always did (KHJ, KBLA), and there is even a short news segment featuring Charlie Wright, before he became “the Coach” as a sportscaster, as heard for many years with Rick Dees in the Morning. Hear it at www.tinyurl.com/kiis73wags.