KROQ AM 1500

By Michael Hagerty, Ted Shireman, Jim Hilliker and Dave Andrews
Additional source material: K.M. Richards, David Fiorella, Kelli "Sands" Rosenfeld.

Before punk rock, there was indeed a significant underground music scene. Alternative in the seventies was called Progressive. Groups with names like Atomic Rooster; String Driven Thing; Curved Air; Paris; Strawbs; Van Der Graaf Generator; Triumvirat; Barclay James Harvest and many others had a cult following -- and even a home on L.A. radio in the 1970s. That home was on AM 1500 -- KROQ, a station with quite an eventful history.

The station was originally on 1490 khz, a local channel limited to 1 kw day, 250 w nite. It used a self-supporting tower (no guy wires) located in a public park in Burbank. Then it applied for 1500 khz and an elaborate directional antenna array was constructed on a hilltop. Evidently this antenna design didn't work out.

The shift from 1490 to 1500 kHz. on the AM dial took place in 1964.

In the mid-sixties, the station was known as KBLA, a low-rated Top 40 that nonetheless attracted some fairly big jock talent. It just didn't stand a chance, signalwise, against KHJ, KFWB and KRLA.

The call letter change from KBLA to KBBQ (K-Bar-B-Q) was approved by the FCC on June 17, 1967 and the station changed format, going up against KLAC 570 for the Country & Western audience. KLAC, with its superior signal, had had a faithful audience for many years (and would have them for 27 more), so KBBQ languished in the ratings.

The resurrection came in 1972, when a GM named Gary Bookasta announced he was about to put the next big thing on the air.....the call change to KROQ was approved Sept. 2, 1972, and big-name jocks were hired.... with the idealistic (not realistic) practice of paying them all, regardless of airshift, the same salary...$100,000 a year. Charlie Tuna (just back from burning off his KHJ non-compete with six months at KCBQ, San Diego), Sam Riddle, Shadoe Stevens, Jimmy Rabbitt and Lee "Baby" Simms were the jocks. Steve Sands, fresh from KEZY in Anaheim, held down the Midnight-to-Dawn air shift.

Tuna played the Top 40 hits in the morning..."Tie A Yellow Ribbon", "Delta Dawn"....but at 9:00, with no separator save a live crossover between jocks, Sam Riddle would arrive with Deep Purple, the Who and other hard rock.

Didn't work. Certainly not well enough to pay half a million in salaries alone. Checks began bouncing within the first year....Tuna bolted to KKDJ, Riddle retired to television production...and then, the innovative format took hold at KROQ-AM.

Established mainstream artists of today were played on this station when they were virtually unknown. KROQ AM spun Bruce Springsteen's Spirit Of The Night when it was new. They were playing Genesis two years before anyone else. Journey was big on the station before they went mainstream with their fourth album, Infinity. Robert Palmer's earliest works got exposure as well. Sparks and Frank Zappa were playlist staples.

The punk rock/new wave movement, which helped establish a solid musical base for KROQ's new FM outlet at 106.7, may have had the unfortunate side effect of killing their AM culture. Progressive stayed around for awhile, but gradually became Alternative. By then, KROQ AM was long gone.

KROQ-AM Playlist Sample:
Frank Zappa Disco Boy
Nektar A Tab In The Ocean
Steve Hillage It's All Too Much
Sparks Everybody's Stupid
Lou Reed Rock 'N' Roll Heart
Lou Reed Sweet Jane
Supertramp Hide In Your Shell
Robert Palmer One Last Look
Robert Palmer Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley
Henry Gross Show Me To The Stage
Mott The Hoople All The Way From Memphis
Mott The Hoople Roll Away The Stone
Eddie & The Hot Rods Do Anything You Wanna Do
Phil Ochs Outside A Small Circle Of Friends
Automatic Man I.T.D. (Interstellar Tracking Devices)
Automatic Man Automatic Man
Journey (pre-Perry) On A Saturday Night
Be-Bop Deluxe Modern Music
David Bowie Speed Of Life
Les Dudek City Magic
City Boy Blue Monday

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: KROQ-AM 1500 had a Spanish language format in the early-'80s, but the power seemed to be quite low (maybe 1,000 watts). The station was still on the air until October of 1984. It went dark for reasons which are still unclear.

The new license, a construction permit for 1500 licensed to Burbank was filed in 1986. In 1992, the applicant tried to get a tower site built in the Tujunga Wash area, but that plan was voted down by the Los Angeles City Council.

KROQ-AM, according to the FCC, still has an outstanding CP with the call letters KRCK, with the transmitter site near the Wentworth St. exit of the 210 freeway in Sunland. Possibly, the 1500 project remains alive, and whether it gets back on, we'll have to wait and see...


Back To Radio Main Page