When a phenomenon goes from being a wishful fad to a hardcore lifestyle, little things begin to happen. And if you’re at that coming-of-age place – that phenomenon becomes part of your DNA; not instantly, not overnight – but over time.
Hard to imagine now, but San Francisco, casually referred to as “The City” or “Baghdad By The Bay” was pretty straight-laced in the 1950s – unless of course you spent any time in North Beach or knew anything about San Francisco’s somewhat checkered past.
You’d be surprised to know that San Francisco as of 1956, had no top-40 strictly Rock n’ Roll radio station on the air. By the end of the year that all changed when station KOBY went on the air. Like the rest of the country, Rock n’ Roll was taking hold on the nations youth. Kids in droves flocked to the station for their weekly playlists and Top-40 charts – it was great for the record business and it was great for business at the fledgling radio station, which had gone from being off the air to being the most listened to radio station in the city. All of a sudden Rock n’Roll was mainstream – it was sweeping the country and advertisers were lining up to cash in on it. Youth Culture was now a real thing.
In comparison to how music and radio evolved in under a decade, this half-hour snippet of a KOBY broadcast featuring disc-jockey Jim Wayne features the somewhat stumbling beginnings of what would be one of the most successful formats in Radio. The announcers aren’t slick – they’re Old School, not hyper-tense but laid back. The ads aren’t flashy, rapid-fire or urgent. Everything seems in contrast to the music itself, and even that bears little resemblance to how things would evolve in just a few years.
But as a kid in 1957, you’d be right in the middle of it – all of a sudden, you became the most important person on earth – and it was going to stay that way for decades to come.
So as a reminder that change often comes slowly and that the fifties were far more adventuresome than we give it credit for, here is “Sunny” Jim Wayne as he was in August 1957, laying it all out for San Francisco to hear.