Legendary Top 40 KYA Radio Celebrated with DJs Norman Davis,Tommy Saunders, Rare Kennedy-Era Aircheck
Legends in Broadcasting is a wonderful organization that celebrates its own radio personalities in the San Francisco Bay Area. It meets each quarter for a luncheon to honor a personality or radio station . June 23, 2016 was KYA Day, featuring DJs NORMAN DAVIS (known as Lucky Logan when he first came aboard in 1959), TOMMY SAUNDERS from 1962-1965 and GARY MORA from the late 60s and 1970s with noted DJ and media mogul BEN FONG-TORREZ as moderator. MORA continues to keep KYA alive with an internet version of the station with lots of memorabilia, concentrating on his era of the late 60s
From 1958 to 1963, KYA was the biggest radio thing in San Francisco with popular DJs including those pictured above including ‘all night’ JOHNNY HAYES, PETER TRIPP, BOB MITCHELL, LUCKY LOGAN (Norman Davis) and TONY TREMAIN. GENE NELSON. TOMMY SAUNDERS and RUSS (The Moose) SYRACUSE joined the staff in 1962 coming from noted broadcasting school in Syracuse. KYA was so popular several albums were produced with songs from the era and DJs pictured (partial) on cover (as at left)
VIDEO:Tommy Saunders and Norman Davis talk about the ‘happy days’ at KYA, circa 1959-1965.
They describe how the station’s popularity was driven by the new ‘TOP 40’ format, which was sweeping the nation, thanks to Bill Drake and Bartell family. Top 40 was the rock and roll of the day but would hardly be considered rock and roll by today’s standards , what with the wide variety of music as shown on the survey below…everything from Frank Sinatra to instrumentals with backing vocals by Anita Kerr Singers and novelty songs. Everything was fast-paced so as to cram as much as possible around a fast-talking DJ…jingles, weather, newscast along with the great (in our opinion) music (even if Saunders and Davis weren’t big fans of it at the time). Sorry, time restraints don’t allow us to include the entire lunch presentation. In another segment the guys talk about one of the real ‘characters,’ one DJ named Harry Stevens (1959–1963) and his stories including one about a playmate bunny.
We’ll try to put up some radio airchecks, too, if possible… the great Russ ‘the Moose’ and others
Top 40 (or Top 60 for awhile) was the rage in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to Bill Drake, Bartels family and others who introduced the format that combined a wide variety of the music of the day still called ‘rock and roll’ though it was a stretch (Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett were played along side Elvis, Bobby Darin and the like. DJs generally talked fast so as to squeeze in as much ‘patter’ along with the ‘platters,’ jingles, weather reports and news as possible. DJs of the time included Tony Tremayne and Jolly Rogers. See if you can’t make out some of those memorable songs from the day, above, by enlarging this official ‘Hit Parade’ survey from July 10, 1959.
Visable from left are NORMAN DAVIS (Lucky Logan), TOMMY SAUNDERS and Ben Fong-Torres (back)
Held at the Basque Cultural Center in So. San Francisco, the event featured a nice display of KYA memorabilia (see more on accompanying videos and photos . A few hundred radio contemporaries joined the KYA folks to honor them and the legendary station 6-23-16
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I’ve long been a follower and active participant of BAY AREA BACKROADS. Following would entail watching, first, JERRY GRAHAM’s original presentation of Bay Area Backroads, going back to the ’70s or ’80s and the more recent Doug McConnell. Just like it’s name, the local broadcast on KPIX, channel 5 , explored the unusual and out of the way places in the nine county San Francisco Bay Area. When McConnell took over the show he branched out sometimes beyond the Bay Area. The program went off the air, surprisingly, some years ago. I’ve always enjoyed road trips and we live in one of the best places in the world for them, with Bay Area’s diverse topography and history. I’ve been told, for example, that our East Bay area has more parklands than anywhere it’s size in the U.S.
After ‘Backroads’ went off the air , there were limited programs like ‘Eye on the Bay,’ but nothing to compare. I would soon discover HUELL HOWSER and his CALIFORNIA’S GOLD, shown on KQED, locally and PBS stations throughout California. I liked Howser as much for his most unique, friendly and ‘down home’ personality as the places he would explore and talk about on the show. Sadly, Howser passed away in the prime of his life, late last year and I greatly miss him; Graham, 79, also passed away, recently.
I have already followed some of Howser’s trips-which I call the ‘Huell Hoswer Memorial Backroads Trips- most recently to California’s Delta, just one of many places I had no idea existed in such depth.
So, I have found much joy in the Bay Area (and California) Backroads, thanks especially to Howser. I miss all Backroads shows but especially Howsers’ originals; fortunately , old episodes continue to air (probably due to Howser’s popularity), though I find it a bit disconcerting to watch knowing Howser is no longer with us, though, I must remember he’s here in spirit and the show preserves his legacy with thousands of people still viewing it.
So, we will plan on sharing some of our favorite Backroads Trips in these pages – both as a chronicle or diary, of sorts, for memories (and reminders to take the trips again). Once we get going, we, too, will try to include some interviews with people we meet along the paths less travelled here the Bay Area
We hope you enjoy them, too, and please send along your