Ben and Gary Owens
In 1960, while in high school, I did some weekend work at KEWB, where I met the morning man, Gary Owens.

Ben Fong-Torres with Art Garfunkel
With Art Garfunkel at KSAN. One good LP cover photo deserves another. [Photo by Dianne Fong-Torres]

Ben and Steve Allen
Fog City Radio, KQED-FM
One of my favorite guests was one of my childhood idols, Steve Allen. [Photo by Dianne Fong-Torres]

The Ben Fong-Torres Collection
By Ben Fong-Torres, December 2001

The Hits Just Keep On Coming My love story with radio is pretty much told in my history of Top 40 radio, The Hits Just Keep On Coming, which was published in 1998. It's out again, in paperback, this time with a lower price and a free CD of excerpts of airchecks from 16 legendary deejays. What a country!

And what deejays — from Alan Freed and Murray the K to Scott Shannon and Rick Dees, and including Gary Owens, Casey Kasem, Dick Biondi, The Real Don Steele, and many others.

But the CD allowed room for only a few minutes per jock. It doesn't come close to what you find here at REELRADIO every day. That's why I've decided to put up a collection — of things I gathered while researching the book, and from years before, as a fan of Top 40 radio. I've scoped most of the airchecks, so they're pretty fast and frantic — the way God intended Top 40 radio to be.

Besides some great deejays who, for one reason or another, have not had their airchecks on this site, I've finally allowed myself to be heard. You'll soon comprehend why my career was in writing about music and radio (at Rolling Stone, GQ, The San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere), rather than in performing.

Although my childhood love was for Top 40, I wound up doing free-form, underground, progressive FM rock on the pioneering KSAN in San Francisco. But in the clip I've included, you'll hear me crossing over to AM by way of a phone call to Russ "the Moose" Syracuse. Even in our phone conversation, you'll be able to sense my fondness for the Moose.

You may know that when Russ died in April 2000, Bobby Ocean, John Catchings and I produced a memorial composite of Russ' work (it's here on REELRADIO).

Actually, now that I think of it, I have done quite a few things in and on radio—especially considering that it's basically been a sideline in my life. They include:

  • DJ on SF State University's KRTG, a closed-circuit AM station with a Top 40 format;
  • All-night announcer and continuity writer on KFOG in the mid-60s, when it was playing "beautiful music";
  • Weekend and fill-in DJ on KSAN from 1970-1980 while at Rolling Stone;
  • Writer-producer-voice for Rolling Stone News Service's music features, syndicated to radio stations nationally, mid-70s;
  • Writer-voice for the nationally syndicated San Francisco: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been, produced by Norman Davis and Bryn Bridenthal and winner of Billboard's Award for Excellence in 1976;
  • Writer-producer-voice for KFOG Archives and KFOG Rarities in the early 80s, when the station had gone Triple A (adult album alternative, or something like that);
  • Radio columnist, San Francisco Chronicle, 1983-1992;
  • Guest DJ on KTIM-San Rafael, Calif., KPOI-Honolulu, KMET-Los Angeles, KVYN-Napa, Calif., KFRC-San Francisco, K101-San Francisco, KRQR-San Francisco, Magic 61-San Francisco.
  • Co-producer and one of numerous guest DJs on Jive Radio, KUSF, San Francisco, 1992-'94;
  • Host, Fog City Radio, KQED, San Francisco, 1994-'95;
  • Writer, Radio Hall of Fame induction dinner broadcasts from the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, 1998, 1999, 2000.
  • Author, The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio (Backbeat Books, 1998 and 2001).

As I wrote in my book, I had one big moment in the Top 40 spotlight, in a guest appearance on Turi Ryder's show on KFRC, the Big 6-10. Excerpts from this rather humbling experience will also be included for your amusement, if not mine.

Ben Fong-Torres today
Ben Fong-Torres
Finally, prompted by Michael Hagerty and Liz Salazar, who have their own collections here on REELRADIO, I've tossed in The Making of a Classic, a special produced for the 20th anniversary of KFRC in 1986. It's like a thousand airchecks, and a chunk of radio history, all in one tight, bright, (Top) 40-minute package.

I promise to add more from my stash in due time. Meantime, enjoy. And for all of us, may the hits just keep on coming.

The Repository thanks Ben Fong-Torres for sharing!

[Descriptions by Ben Fong-Torres unless otherwise credited]

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32Kbps (8Khz)
Casey Kasem, WBNY Buffalo, NY 1960 and KEWB Oakland CA 1962 (05:11)

. . . Casey at the mike . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

This short, 'scoped composite is introduced by contributor Ben Fong-Torres and includes Casey Kasem "before the countdowns".

Picture of
Casey Kasem at WJBK in Detroit

It begins with a very rare 35 seconds of WBNY in Buffalo, New York, from 1960. The remainder of the exhibit features Casey on KEWB (Channel 91) in Oakland, California, circa 1962.

In The Hits Just Keep On Coming, contributor Ben Fong Torres wrote that when he first heard Casey, he wasn't doing any countdowns and he wasn't telling any little stories about the musicians he was playing. He was talking fast, spinning the hits, reading dedications and playing around with wild tracks. The GM at KEWB didn't like wild tracks, and told Casey he wanted him to change. Casey thought his nights at KEWB were numbered, but as he walked into the studio that evening, he saw a magazine, Who's Who In Pop Music 1962, on the top of the trash barrel. The magazine had a lot of rudimentary facts about various artists and it was enough to get him through his show that night. His idea caught on, and he took it to KRLA in Los Angeles.

Casey Kasem died Jun 15, 2014 from Lewy body dementia. He was 82.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 16.2Kbps (8Khz)
Tom Donahue, KYA, San Francisco, December 1961 (12:11)

. . . and this is the way it all began, with Hank Ballard and the original "Twist!" . . .

Tom Donahue, Noon to 4PM
After one too many live appearances at a Teen Fair, Tom Donahue left KYA and Top 40. Next stop: underground radio.
"Big Daddy" Tom Donahue is best remembered as the godfather of FM free-form rock radio. But, before he went underground with KMPX and KSAN in the late Sixties, he had a stellar career as a Top 40 personality, in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and San Francisco, where he and Bobby Mitchell took KYA to the top of the ratings. His airchecks are rare, and although his FM style is represented in the CD, Golden Age of Underground Radio (DCC Records), this tape, from Steve Rood, I believe, is one of only a couple that capture the style of the self-described "300 pounds of solid sounds."

Tom and Bobby (who also worked as Bobby Tripp in Los Angeles) loved to play the horses, and that's obvious from the on-air contest going on here, with a big payoff of $15. And check out the contest itself, conducted before callers could be put on the air. Ah, the good old days...

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16Khz)
Scott Shannon from WMAK to Z-100 and WPLJ (07:06)

Scott Shannon"I already knew what I was doing," Scott Shannon told me about his days at WMAK in Nashville. "I studied KHJ constantly."
. . . Seven-thirty in the nitty-gritty capitol city . . .

Scott Shannon, one of the pioneers of the Morning Zoo concept, began as a kid pretending to be on the radio, playing cut-rate 45 rpm records in a faux "studio" in the basement of his home.

From shrieking good ol' boy in Music City to wakeup powerhouse in the Big Apple, Michael Moore, whose air name is a tribute to DJs Tom Shannon and Scott Muni, has come a long way.

In this clip, he pokes fun at rival Don Imus, who is portrayed making music, uh, on the fly.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 44.1Kbps (20Khz)
Ben Fong-Torres on KSAN San Francisco, 1978 (11:07)

. . . The only thing that's cheap in France is French toast, french fries, and omelettes du fromage . . .

Ben at KSAN
On the air at KSAN
[Photo by Fred Morales]
I'm on my Sunday shift on KSAN, where I was when I wasn't on the road with rock stars or at Rolling Stone magazine. I'd just done a piece on one of my favorite DJs, Russ "the Moose" Syracuse, who was at KSFO at the time, and decided to give him an on-air call.

But first, a bunch of French pop and rock music, mixed in with the contagious laughter of KSAN staffer Linda Feder and my amazing impression of Bob Dylan doing an outro for the Sex Pistols. Crazy.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 44.1Kbps (20Khz)
The Making of a Classic: 20 Years of KFRC, 1966-1986 (41:34)

. . . an AM Radio Legend . . .

Younger than its sister station, KHJ/Boss Angeles, by a year, KFRC ("The Big 6-10") shook up San Francisco Top 40 radio with its Bill Drake-driven "more music" format in 1966. Over the years, it seemed to get only stronger, winning a string of Billboard awards and showcasing a parade of DJs who managed to work in their unique personalities while pumping out the hits.

The Big 6-10 men and women included Mike Phillips (most recently at KRTH/Los Angeles), Steve O'Shea, Howard Clark, Bobby Dale, Dale Dorman, Dave Diamond, Chuck Browning, John Mack Flanagan, Marvelous Mark, Beau Weaver, Eric Chase, Rick Shaw, Big Tom Parker, Shana, Dave Sholin, Don Sainte John, Harry Nelson, Jack Armstrong, Sue Hall, Bobby Ocean (who voices this special), Jack Friday, Sandy Louie, Bill Lee, and, of course, Dr. Don Rose.

Produced by longtime KFRC staffer Albert Lord, this is an amazing look and listen at a most influential station, including news, contests, promos, and even a spot for Corn Huskers lotion, one of the station's first advertisers. Rub some on, sit back and enjoy.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (10Khz)
Jerry Blavat, Geator Gold Demo (08:26)

Jerry Blavat
. . . Greetings and salutations to the entire population of said fantastic nation! . . .

He began as a rabid fan of American Bandstand in Philadelphia, and wound up as a Philly radio legend in his own right.

Jerry Blavat, better known as "the Geator with the Heater, the Boss with the Hot Sauce," is still on the air, and, if this demo tape is any indication, still gathering testimonials every day, from stars ranging from Liza Minnelli and Tony Bennett to Boz Scaggs and Chuck Berry.

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More to Come from the Ben Fong-Torres Collection!
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