KFOX AM 1280:

By David Fiorella
Gone In 60 Seconds info: Doug Hodges; Corrections: Jerry Trowbridge, Jerry Martz; Update and Photos: J. Martz

When Country fans in the Southland think of a legendary station, the one that usually comes to mind is 570 KLAC. But before this, another station held the title -- a little station in Long Beach, KFOX.

KFOX-AM was called The Country King. It was the original country music heavy weight in the Southern California area. KFOX AM and FM broadcast from the International Tower in Long Beach. KFOX-AM was on 1280; KFOX-FM was on 100.3. Both stations were owned by the Sonderling Broadcasting Company, owned by Egmont Sonderling who bought the station in the 1960s, and moved here from Oak Park (Chicago) Illinois.

KFOX-FM was the late comer. After 6:00 PM it would be known as Downtown Country, automated for three country hits in a row. (I once had KFOX-FM on and the tape slowed down and they had to reset it four times that night. Each time they would return to the simulcast until the problem was fixed.)

The two stations simulcast from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday thru Saturday. On Sunday the programming was separate throughout the day until Monday Morning at 6:00 AM.

The country music hosts consisted of Dick Haynes (Haynes at the Reins), 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Biff Colley 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Charlie Williams 2:00 PM to 6:00 (sometimes to 7:00 PM); Clifford "Cliffy" Stone from 7:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight. I believe [Brad] Melton did the overnight show. Former AM 690 XTRA newscaster (1960-62) Russ Porterfield gave us the KFOX news. Biff Colley would do the tape announcing for KFOX-FM (Downtown Country) at night.

KFOX-AM was weak broadcasting in the San Fernando Valley, so that is the reason for the stronger KFOX-FM. When the simulcasting would begin at 6:00 AM each morning (and at the top of every hour during the simulcast) you would hear no matter what was playing on KFOX-FM a sudden interruption and the words would blare out "Broadcasting from the International Tower, this is KFOX, Long Beach and KFOX-FM, Los Angeles!!! When the music stops; It's time for KFOX news." There would be a snappy little instrumental country (called a "bridge" in radio terminology) that would be used leading into the news. (Numerous times it was the song Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.) Then, Russ Porterfield would come on with the morning news and Haynes at the Reins awaiting to play the country hits on AM and FM. Newscaster Stan Evans would succeed Porterfield after 12:00 noon each day.

At night KFOX-FM would fade away from the AM. Each would have their own identity after the 6:00 PM hour not mentioning the cross frequency at all. KFOX-FM was known as "Downtown Country" when it broadcast at night on its own.

KFOX-AM would break from the country format (for a half hour at night) for a program called The World Tomorrow, hosted by Herbert W. Armstrong and sponsored by Ambassador College. It was a religious oriented program about the world and future events and the end of the world, and was aired from 9:00 to 9:30 on a 7 inch reel. . I believe KFOX-AM occasionally broadcast The Grand Ole Opry on some nights in place of The World Tomorrow.

On Sunday, KFOX-FM would abandon its country music altogether and have public service shows. One was a reverend from a Baptist church by the name of Reverend Ross. It sounded like it was from South Central Los Angeles. KFOX-FM would go off the air "for test and maintenance" Sunday at Midnight until Monday morning.

At night Biff Colley would identify KFOX-FM as such: "This is KFOX-FM Los Angeles. The sound of the city is KFOX Downtown Country", all taped and automated until the 6 AM hour when the simulcast would come back. He would occasionally mention "100.3" at night in the non-simulcast hours.

In 1974, the original Gone In 60 Seconds movie was made. The movie takes place in the L.A. area and covers several cities (Long Beach and Carson for example) during its chase scenes. A country station called KFOX, that is broadcasting from International Tower, is shown a lot. Not only do they show the station doing reports on the police chase, it is the DJ's car that is stolen and is involved in the chase.

At any rate, the KFOX AM and FM demise started in 1972 thanks to the new country station in Los Angeles, KLAC. KFOX-AM was sold to a group and became a religous station called KFRN which still operated today. KFOX-FM became KIQQ (K-100) which was a rock music station. KFOX Radio (along with KBBQ) tried in desperation to hold country music concerts on a joint basis, but did no apparent good, as KLAC attained the services of Dick Haynes (KFOX radio was finished). They pleaded to the listening audience not to forsake them, but the die was cast in 1972 or 1973. This is one critique of a famous radio station that truly was a "country king" in its time!!

Additional information from Wayne Hilton:

KFOX had a much earlier history. Might have been on 1250 Kc.

Both studio and transmitter was at 220 E. Anaheim in Long Beach, and was owned by Nichols and Warriner in the 1920s and '30s, likely with 1 Kw power. Transmitter was on the second floor, and in the 1933 quake the building was partly destroyed. They were on and off air as the quakes would arrive. A blanket had to cover the hi voltage generator to protect from night dampness. Vacuum tube rectifiers were not common, so most stations used motor generators to obtain hi voltage for final amplifiers. This was a carry over from ship board transmitters. Jack Strock was announcing at that time.

Hal Nichols did some of the announcing. There was a Hawaiian program for Lipton Credit Jewelers. The US fleet was based in San Pedro then, so most programming was to the sailors. I remember the phone number 67281.

There was a lot of live programming in those years (most stations had live orchestras as well) and the main program was School Kids, sponsored by Suydam butter cream bread. Clarence Crary was the main announcer and part of the school kids.

One of the antenna towers still stands, but is now supporting an FM antenna bay. Originally two towers supported a T wire antenna.

UPDATE: As of 3/8/07, the building at 220 East Anaheim Street is history. The one remaining tower is lying on the ground. I can't actually believe the building lasted so long -- it was a terrible fire trap. The attic was full of wood shavings that had been poured in between the ceiling joists to soundproof the studio.

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