The Unofficial ALT.FAN.KROQ FAQ
History of KROQ

The below is a collection of Usenet compilations and verbatim reminiscing that appeared on the alt.fan.kroq group. If you have anything to add, please contact me.
Back to KROQ FAQ


Daniel Greer - A very complete history of KROQ, using many sources.

Rick Ermshar - A former employee of KROQ who has a bit to share on what it was like.

Todd Hawley - Wrote one of the first reminiscences to appear on the Usenet.


Daniel Greer - DanielDG@aol.com
posted on November 1997

"Feel free to add to it or have it corrected if mistakes are found. Just remember to include me among the contributors of this lore.:) Oh, one condition: this stuff is for free usage by cool geeks like us--not for sale, profit etc. As long as I have your attention, do you know the whereabouts of the 1983 Top 106.7 songlist-- it is the only one I don't have between 1980-Present. Also 1978-1979 playlists would be cool too. (Just though I'd ask!)"  - Daniel Greer, in e-mail March 1998. Thanks Daniel.

The following is a haphazardly assembled composite history of KROQ 106.7 FM from 1968 to 1978. I wasn't a listener at the time so this account comes from research. If you were there and have stories, corrections or memories to share PLEASE contact me. I would love to fill in gaps in the story. I must thank Dan Hirschi and Todd Hawley for their work in documenting KROQ history that I have used extensively. See the source list at the bottom of the message for more complete references.

A Prehistory of KROQ 106.7 FM 1968-1978
Researched and written by Daniel Greer (DanielDG@aol.com)

Depeche Mode's Concert for the Masses at the Rose Bowl in 1988 was billed the Tenth Anniversary of KROQ 106.7 FM. Wire, Thomas Dolby, and OMD also played that night, with Depeche Mode's set recorded and released for posterity as the 101 live album. Ten years earlier, KROQ began (relatively) uninterrupted, commercial broadcasts of the "Roq of the Eighties" format that they pioneered. As the years rolled on, this radio format that KROQ invented would change names to "New Music" and then to "Alternative". KROQ's daring and style is emulated everywhere and the station's existence is taken for granted by us listeners in its home town of LA. We may have celebrated 1978 as KROQ's birthday, but the story really begins in 1968.

In LA in 1968 there was no KROQ; just KPPC 106.7 FM and KBBQ 1500 AM. KPPC FM was broadcasting religious programming. The station was owned by a Presbyterian College. KBBQ AM was a country and western station. The two stations we're as yet not affiliated.

Tom and Rachel Donahue brought the free-form rock radio format that they helped start from the bay area to LA's 106.7 FM in 1968. In the late 60's, FM free-form rock was the new alternative to traditional Top-40 AM radio. As it turned out, the new non-format format was also the precursor to the ultra-conservative AOR (Album Oriented Rock) format of today (KLOS). At any rate, KPPC became a legend of early FM radio.

In 1969, the DJ's at KPPC walked out on the station in what was called "The Great Hippie Strike." They would later reemerge at LA's KMET. This mass walkout would set a precedent for many spontaneous outages at 106.7 FM. 

1972 was the year in which 1500 AM in Burbank took on the call letters KROQ and changed its format to Top-40 AM radio, playing The Beatles and Chicago, among others. The station also hired big time DJ's such as the now ancient (or dead?) Charlie Tuna. You can hear a 1972 aircheck of his program on KROQ 1500 AM at http://www.reelradio.com/gifts/. KROQ called itself the "ROQ of Los Angeles", and continued to until at least 1978.

In 1973 KROQ bought KPPC. During the process, KPPC fired the existing DJ's and ran the FM station automated. In Fall of that year, 106.7 FM became KROQ-FM. The two KROQ's simulcasted most of the time with a free-form rock format. Punk hadn't happened yet, so what KROQ played in these early days, well, your guess is as good as mine.

KROQ was a money losing venture. In the Summer of 1974 KROQ stopped paying their DJ's (another tradition on the early ROQ). They all split and the station hobbled on for a couple more months with not-so-professional DJ's (is this how they found the Poorman?) and were forced off of the air in a dramatic moment. From one hearsay account, a listener heard someone at the station say on the air, "Get the fuck off the air! Get the fuck off the air!" Followed by the DJ's declaration "KROQ will rise again!" and then silence.

During the next four years KROQ was an unpredictable presence on both the AM and FM dials. According to Greg Shaw, of Bomp records fame, one moment they would be playing an entire Standells album from start to finish, then the next moment they would be off the air for who-knows-how-long-this-time. Sometimes broadcasting from strange and unknown locations, legend says they spun records from a bomb shelter for a time.

Around 1976 KROQ had their own club, the Cabaret. It was one of the few places new, unsigned bands would get to play in a town full of cocaine-snorting, beautiful-music-making rock stars. After all, Rodney Binginheimer's English Disco had been out of business for a while by then, and there was nowhere else cool for kids to go. The Caberet's existence, however was short- lived. By this time, Rodney had landed his famous (and still running) Sunday night program "Rodney on the ROQ". Rodney's show featured, among other things, LA's first radio exposure to Blondie, the Ramones, and the Runaways. The first punk and new wave on KROQ probably was played on Rodney's show.

In fact, in March of 1977, Rodney conducted his first ever transatlantic interview, not with London Calling's Beverly, but with none other than Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. You can hear a clip of Rodney's interview with Sid on the Sex Pistols video cassette, "Buried Alive" aka "Sex Pistols #1". The interview took place before Sid was officially in the group. Sid probably wasn't on junk quite yet but he still acts like an idiot. Just another adventure on Rodney on the Roq! The show was like a war correspondent's transmissions from the front lines as LA was having a punk rock riot of its own. Local bands like the Germs, the Weirdoes, the Zeros, the Nuns, the Dils, and of course X were among the bands that Rodney played on his show. You can see Rodney playing MC at a punk show featuring locals like the Dils and Berlin Brats at the Roxy in LA, in the Cheech and Chong film "Up in Smoke".

In one final crazy, irresponsible finale, KROQ once again found that it couldn't make payroll and the DJ's went apeshit and bailed, taking all of the station's records with them. Except for Rodney-he stayed. In 1978 Jed Gould had just graduated from USC with his eye on becoming a serious TV news reporter (can anyone image that?) In a twist of fate, he was hired on as KROQ scrambled to get new jocks, eventually to champion the causes of such essential acts of KROQery as Devo and Oingo Boingo.

Some time the same year, KROQ got rid of its AM station and Rick Carroll became the new program manager who would change the face of LA radio forever by paddling KROQ directly into the New Wave. Programming was by this time evenly split between classic rock, such as T. Rex, Bo Diddley, the Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, and Lynard Synard and the New Wave of the Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, the Cars, Ian Dury, and Blondie. The new wave would continue to consume more of the ROQ's air time until 1982 when there was almost nothing but. In 1982 a widowed Rachel Donahue returned to 106.7 FM to spin records during morning drive time. And the beat goes on.

Some Sources:

* Todd Hawley (see the Unofficial KROQ FAQ, question 17 paraphrased, and hearsay taken)
* Greg Shaw (Interview in Flipside magazine early 90's paraphrased)
* Robbie Fields (linear notes to the Best of Rodney on the ROQ CD paraphrased)
* Jed "The Fish" Gould (on-air reminiscing, early 90's)
* Craig Lee (book Hardcore California paraphrased.)
* Pleasant Gehman (linear notes to DiY: We're Desperate! The LA Scene 1976-1979 paraphrased)
* Dan Hirschi's Unofficial KROQ/KPPC Archive (consulted for research) http://www.primenet.com/~hirschi/
* 1972 KROQ 1500AM Charlie Tuna aircheck at ReelRadio website. http://www.reelradio.com/gifts/
* 1978 KROQ 106.7 FM Larry Woodside aircheck transcript at the Museum of Television and Radio website. http://www.mtr.org/exhibit/rnr/modern1.htm
...and others I can't remember.

Places to go:

At the Unofficial KPPC/KROQ archive http://www.primenet.com/~hirschi/ you can:
* Look at really old KROQ stickers (back to 1976, at least)
* See photographs of the old Progressive Rock-looking KROQ mural, X, Devo with Jed the Fish (1978).
* Hear old KROQ station ID's. (perhaps going back as far as 1974)
* Read a KROQ DJ history that is in progress and a funny story or two. (1968-1982)

Get the Top 106.7 Song Lists for 1980-1997 (except for 1983) from the World Famous Unofficial KROQ website at http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/9293/kroq.html Notice the old wave songs on the 1980 and 1981 lists.


Rick Ermshar - ZZSU16A@prodigy.com (on alt.fan.kroq on November of 1997 in response to David Greer's History):

Aloha from Hawaii, Daniel

Very nice job of writing the pre-history of KROQ!!! Congratulations! Perhaps I can fill in a few holes, and then let me know if you have any questions. I worked for KPPC/KROQ from 1969 to 1978, mostly as their News Director but also as DJ.

Daniel Greer wrote:
In LA in 1968 there was no KROQ; just KPPC 106.7 FM and KBBQ 1500 AM. KPPC FM was broadcasting religious programming. The station was owned by a Presbyterian College. KBBQ AM was a country and western station. The two stations were as yet not affiliated.

Actually, KPPC was owned by a group called the National Science Network, which owned some dozen or so stations across the country. KPPC began its life on Colorado Avenue in the basement of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church -- hence the "PPC" in the KPPC call sign. In 1969 we moved to 99 S. Chester, which is about one block west of Pasadena City College. This was a small two-story office building built around a neat little garden courtyard. We had the west side of the building -- offices were upstairs, and the studio, production studio, newsroom and library were downstairs. At some point in 1969 we started simulcasting KPPC on both the FM and AM frequencies, but only on Sundays, and for breakaways we used the production studio as the AM studio. The main broadcast studio had huge glass windows looking into that garden courtyard, and was a great place -- wish I could tell you some of the stories of things that happened in that studio!!! Hehehehehehehe...

One that I remember all too well was doing a live interview with Jim Croce right as my 6-hour shift began. After 45 minutes, he left for the airport at LAX... and several hours later I was still on the air and had to announce that he had died in a plane crash. (sigh) Anyway. During this period we had Shadoe Stevens, Jeff Gonzer, Jimmy Rabbit, Bob Salas, and a bunch of others, plus the comedy group The Credibility Gap doing the news and a terrific engineer named Mike. What a fabulous time to be in radio!!!

One of our "interns" was a young boy we called The Kid -- he filed the albums and ran errands and was basically a "go-fer", but he desperately wanted to be a DJ and worked real hard at it, so we finally let him fill in on the graveyard shift a few times and he gradually worked his way up the ladder. Today he is the #1 DJ in Chicago: Steve Dahl. Also at this time, we were always getting tapes from folks who wanted to work with us. One guy named Barry Hansen sent in a VERY funny tape that was so good we gave him a couple of hours every Sunday night, though at first he worked for free until we decided if he was going to work out. After a few weeks, Barry decided to use a different name -- Dr. Demento. Guess he "worked out", eh? <g>

Daniel Greer wrote:
In 1969, the DJ's at KPPC walked out on the station in what was called "The Great Hippie Strike." They would later reemerge at LA's KMET. This mass walkout would set a precedent for many spontaneous outages at 106.7 FM.


It was this walkout that was the basis for the hit movie "FM" -- go rent it, watch it, and enjoy! As for the "spontaneous outages" that you mentioned, most of them happened when Jimmy Rabbit drank too much Jack Daniels and locked himself in the studio, and we had to 'pull the plug' on the electricity to get him to come out! Hehehehe...

And about that "bomb shelter" that you mentioned -- it really WAS a bomb shelter, and it was at the base of our broadcast antenna up on the mountain. If electric power went out at the main studio, we had the capability of going up there and least staying on the air with some very basic equipment up there. Didn't happen very often, thank God. Another cute story: DJ's are relatively normal people (HA!) and sometimes need to use the bathroom during a long shift. Remember the band called "Mountain"? Most of their tracks were very very long, and I'd put them on if I had to go down the hall. One time, I put on a track that was about 9 minutes long, so I kind of dawdled and wasted a little time in the bathroom reading a magazine, then after 8 minutes walked back into the studio to see the telephone lines ALL blinking and the needle at the very front of the record stuck on a scratch -- YIKES!!! Eight minutes of nothing but a scratch on the air!!! What else could I do? I announced that it was a new release by Yoko Ono, and segued right into the next song. <g>

I had a speaker installed in the bathroom the next day.

Daniel Greer wrote:
In 1973 KROQ bought KPPC. During the process, KPPC fired the existing DJ's and ran the FM station automated. In Fall of that year, 106.7 FM became KROQ-FM. The two KROQ's simulcasted most of the time with a free-form rock format. Punk hadn't happened yet, so what KROQ played in these early days, well, your guess is as good as mine.


Actually, my guess is probably *better* than yours! <g> Only because I'm not guessing -- I was there. The story we staff were told was that the FCC had found out some things about the National Science Network and ORDERED them to sell KPPC, along with the other stations they owned across the country. We were given absolutely no notice about this, and Bob Salas was the last DJ on the air at KPPC. Those of us who were there all gathered in the studio, and the very last song played on KPPC was the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want". After that song, the station went silent. We cried, we drank (and stuff), and we had a Farewell Party at my house that lasted for almost four days.The signal was off the air for about three weeks. The new management refused to answer the telephones, so NOBODY in the general public knew what was going on! Except some of us talked to the local press, like Bob Hilburn from the LA Times, so the story got out. A few of us were hired to help with the changeover, to show the new guys   where things were and how it all worked. The new Program Director had  been hired away from a *classical* station, of all things! And the very first format of KROQ was (are you sitting down?) BIG BAND MUSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I clearly remember the first day, and the very first hour of KROQ's existence. The new PD did the first show wearing a suit and tie, fer Chrissakes!!! This guy thought he knew it all, so when it came for him to start talking after the first couple of songs, I let him ramble on for a few minutes before I finally reached over and slid up the CORRECT knob for the microphone -- the fool had been talking to himself and NOT on the air! Hehehehehehe...

In any case, the Big Band format didn't last long, as you might expect, and the station went off the air again. At this time, the 13 people who formed the ownership of KROQ hired a guy named Gary Bookasta to act as General Manager. I could tell you a *lot* of stories about this jerk, but I'd probably get sued. Bottom line was, we all hated him. A lot. Except for one thing. He moved the studio from 99 S. Chester up to two penthouse suites in the Pasadena Hilton Hotel on El Molino Avenue!!! WOW!!! Did we ever love that!!! The studio itself was in one penthouse suite on the west side of the hotel, and the offices were across the hall in another penthouse suite. For God's sake, we could order ROOM SERVICE while we were on the air!!! We did that a lot. <g> And we even had a bathtub in the bathroom, where... well, I probably shouldn't tell you what used to happen in there. <g> By now, the format had returned to good old rock and roll. And yes, this is the same time we brought Rodney in to do his Sunday night show. For those of you who know Rodney, you can only imagine what the staff and patrons of the Hilton thought when they saw him walking through the lobby every Sunday with his Rod Stewart hair and the silk pants and purple velvet high-top tennies!

We were in the Hilton for about a year and a half (maybe two years?), then moved to a temporary studio right across the street while they were building a new studio one block up on El Molino Avenue from the Hilton. It was just after the move into the new studio that the paychecks began bouncing (thanks a LOT, Gary Bookasta!) and that's when I bailed out. One of my good friends, Jerry Kaye (he called himself Jerry The Junker on the air), stayed another month or two and never ever got paid. I used to drop by to visit, and the entire staff was VERY angry at what was going on with the management.This was in 1978, and I guess right after we left the owners finally fired Gary Bookasta or perhaps they sold the station... I'm not sure exactly what happened. It was after all this that the new Alternative format started.

Personally, I became an advertising copywriter for several years, then became the Editor In Chief of a boating and sailing magazine, and now I'm living in Hawaii and loving it -- still writing and doing photography for the boating magazines, playing bass for some of the Hawaiian slack key guitar players, doing a little voiceover work, etc. Hope all of this fills in some of the blanks in your story, Daniel!!!

Keep up the good work.

Rick


Reminiscing by Todd Hawley - thawley@netcom.com

Well, this isn't the gospel truth by any means, but here's what I remember. Back in 1972, there was an AM station in Burbank called KBBQ, played country music (it had been KBLA in the 60s). It changed format to top-40 & the call letters became KROQ. They went out & got all the superstar DJs of the time, equipped their news staff with brand new cars, etc. I believe now this station is a Spanish language station. On the FM side, at 106.7 FM was KPPC-FM; in 1973, they fired all their DJs & started sort of an automated format. I guess KROQ wanted to buy it & was waiting for FCC approval. Well, in the fall of '73, it became KROQ-FM..they were simulcasting most of the day. They were doing a progressive rock format..god it was great!

Unfortunately, while this was happening, KROQ-AM-FM was losing money big time. The AM signal was real weak; it got to the point in spring of '74 that DJs weren't getting paid & they finally all quit in the summer of '74. So the last couple of months they were on, they had some borderline quality DJs. During all this is when they originally recorded some of the jingles they still use today, I mean '73-'74. Apparently sometime over the summer, they went dark. A friend of mine was listening when it happened & told me later you could hear someone saying.."get the fuck off the air..get the fuck off the air!" The DJ's last words were "KROQ will rise again!"

Well, obviously they did! :) In the summer of '76, I was living in the San Fernando Valley & discovered KROQ-AM was back on the air.. broadcasting I think from a bomb shelter! I'm not sure if the DJs were getting paid or not; they were playing all kinds of weird stuff & not a lot of it. Apparently, they at that point were operating non-profit; near the end of the summer, they brought the FM back on the air & became the ROQs of Los Angeles again. Apparently, they tried a progressive rock forma t for awhile, but the DJs apparently weren't getting paid again; couple of friends of mine were DJs there in the late 70s & they told me that happened.

I don't know when they made the switch to new wave. I know Rick Carroll was consulting a Bay Area station (KQAK-FM) in the mid80s. That station went off the air (course now we have Live 105 up here). I do remember hearing the ROQ in '78, when they had Mike Raphone as one of the DJs. This was close to the time they were experimenting with the new wave format. Anyway, I'm real fuzzy as to what happened after that!


Go back to Scott's Home Page
Go back to the Unofficial KROQ web page.


Scott Hagie, hagie@netcom.com
March 24, 1998
1