L.A. was ripe for an FM revolution.

‘We Play Phonograph Records’ – KMET – June 27, 1968 – Free-Form Radio In Los Angeles – Past Daily Pop Chronicles

L.A. was ripe for an FM revolution.

L.A. was ripe for an FM revolution. (The Cheetah Club in Venice next to Pacific Ocean Park on the pier)

 

KMET-FM – Los Angeles – June 27, 1968 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

When the 60s got started AM Radio was the predominate form of Pop Culture in the country. Los Angeles was no different. FM radio, though sounding a million times better, was largely the domain of those with high-priced audio equipment who weren’t exactly fans of Rock n’ Roll.

But there were signs that would be changing. Detroit hadn’t gotten around to installing FM radios in their cars as standard equipment, but those pesky imports like the Volkswagen, volvo and Renault did. And as we all know, VW Bugs and Buses were cheap, reliable transportation which became popular with the coming-of-age Youth Market in the mid-1960s.

But Commercial FM Radio in America, when it wasn’t playing dollops of Jazz and Classical, was pretty much a floundering medium, ripe for the pickings of the forward-thinking. So when a few enterprising folks approached some of the beleaguered owners of local FM stations and hit them with an idea for turning the fortunes of FM radio around, it was met with open arms.

Case in point – KMET, a local FM station in Los Angeles originally began life as an FM simulcast to KLAC, an independent AM station in the 1940s. It was eventually spun off to become its own entity, KRHM – one of those stations playing an eclectic mix of Jazz, Classical and Folk. In the early 1960s it was sold to a larger media company called Metromedia, where it adopted the call letters KMET, and played an insipid mixture of automated elevator music with unidentified Female announcers under the banner “Metro-Music West”.

Eventually, in 1968 caution was tossed to the wind and KMET dropped the automation and hooked up with San Francisco disc-jockey Tom Donahue.

In June of 1968, the new format and sound were born.

The rest, as they say is history.

Here is a 79 minute slice of KMET as it was broadcast on the evening of June 27th, 1968. It was the first week on the air. Things were a little creaky and free-form was really free-form. Tom Donahue was still  up in San Francisco and so pre-recorded tapes were sent down to augment the live portion done by former KFWB disc-jockey B. Mitchel Reed. The whole thing had the feel of a building under construction, but the juxtaposition of musical tastes and the wild swings from Jazz to R&B to Psychedelia were one of the elements that made Free-form radio as exciting as it was. You could listen to the radio and, maybe not like all of it, but you were getting a musical education which proved priceless.

So to give you an idea of just what was going on and what it all sounded like, hit the Play button and dive into free-form radio a-la 1968.

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14 Responses

  1. openmyndcollectibles says:

    THIS IS PURE GOLD!!!!!! YOU’RE KILLIN’ US, GORDON!!!! Thank YOU so much!!!

    Gary Schneider

    • gordonskene says:

      As always, my pleasure Gary. I keep putting this stuff up so it doesn’t get lost and doesn’t become forgotten about. Thanks for all the support to keep this thing going.
      G.

  2. Steven says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I cannot thank you enough. I have been searching for more BMR airchecks from those days to listen to (both KPPC & KMET). I was probably listening that very day and maybe dancing at the Cheetah that night! Thanks again. Steven

  3. Steve Dakota says:

    Wow, what a walk down memory lane. Dwight Lynn Wagle was one of my best friends and a fellow musician. We met in concert band at Hoover Junior High School in the early ’60s. He played trumpet and switched to drums. I played trombone and switched to guitar. Why? The Beatles on Ed Sullivan blew us away. We grew up in Lakewood, near the border between L.A. and Orange Counties, where we attended public schools including Lakewood High School (Class of ’69). Lynn, now deceased, was the drummer in our first garage band The Flipside. We attended the concert at the Shrine Expo. Hall, June 28-29, 1968, featuring The Who (one of our faves), Fleetwood Mac, and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, promoted by B. Mitchell Reed at the beginning of this recording. We drove Lynn’s mother’s white Chevrolet station wagon to the concert. We were 17 and it was a very good year. Thanks for the memory.

  4. Ace Young says:

    Awesome Gordon. I worked with the Beemer for years but not until ’72. KMET here does have that “look what we’re building” sound. It was certainly a reason to buy an FM tuner which people soon began to do — in droves!

    • gordonskene says:

      Hi Ace! Good to see you here! It certainly was an extra added music education. I only wish it was happening again with just as wide a variety of music. Everybody benefitted from it. More to come.

      Gordon

  5. Joe Collins says:

    Great post, when KMET kicked off in 1968, I was working in San Francisco, and would spend a lot of my vacation time in Southern California, switching off between “Jazz” KBCA, and listen to Mitch on KMET. I remember it had an automated sound, and was filled mostly with spots for Henry’s Camera Stores. Then, in 1969, I remember them adding Al “Jazzbo” Collins, a former Bay Area icon from KSFO. The treat was, in 1973, I got the privilege of joining KMET, hired by Mikel Hunter, and would become great close friends with Mitch over the next 2 years. It was a magic time, and I’m grateful that I got the rare opportunity to get to be a part of it’s history..

    • gordonskene says:

      That’s great – btw – I do have KMET with Jazzbo, and I will add that as soon as I digitize it – Thanks again and keep listening!
      Gordon

      • Joe Collins says:

        Gordon, I used to listen to “Jazzbo” when he did 8p-12midnite on KSFO….Al Collins “From The Purple Grotto”. it was the coolest show in the Bay Area, right up there with Bobby Dale and when Rosco was on KDIA in Oakland. I remember when Jazzbo was working at KFI in 1968, with a signal that the farmers in Iowa would listen to for all their pertinent information. and then Jazzbo would come on, and, according to my friend and Al’s co-worker at KFI, Frank Terry, the people in Iowa thought that “Jazzbo’ was from Mars, because they didn’t understand his hipness.

  6. Mark Rabago says:

    Wow. Fantastic.Thanks for letting us ride your time machine. I grew up with KMET from about 1973 on. Great to hear historic FM Radio. Looking forward to all future transmissions!

  7. Kent Duryee says:

    More please. 🙂 Thank you, thank you. What a treat to hear this primary source of history, not to mention it being the inception of my favorite radio station of all time. I love listening to the unedited old shows, commercials and all. Admittedly this recording predates my listening to KMET, but as others have said: “Wow”. And to have Ace Young comment here – I’m smiling and shaking my head. Thanks again.

    • gordonskene says:

      My pleasure! I hope you had a chance to listen to the other (early) KMET I posted a couple months ago from 1970-71. I’ll be posting more as I digitize them. Thanks again! Gordon.