KFJC 89.7FM

Cynthia Lombard

KFJC’s 60th Anniversary Whirlwind

Cynthia Lombard   11/1/2019   KFJC History

Wow. What a fun few weeks at KFJC! We celebrated the 60th anniversary on October 20th and were the cover story in the Metro! The massive piece, Rebel Radio, digs into the station’s 60 year history, while covering current goings-on as well. If you didn’t get your hands on a copy, the entire print edition can be viewed as a PDF as well.

It was a blast seeing so many DJs, alumni, and listeners at the KFJC Open House on October 20. Quite a few returned to the airwaves as well and it was amazing to hear DJs from the past sharing stories and music. Thanks to so many folks, the station was looking spiffy. Sluggo crafted a lovely display of old KFJC fliers and clippings that he’d unearthed during his work making digital scans of historic materials.

KFJC during the 60th Anniversary Open House

Some of my favorite Open House moments were KFJC alumni bearing gifts, including a 1970s-era T-shirt designed by Jona Denz-Hamilton, a CD full of audio, and a sticker-covered briefcase. When J.C. Clone walked in the door with the hard-sided case, it felt like the beginning of an adventure. Like a time capsule, it contained all sorts of ephemera from 1990s-era KFJC.

J.C. Clone with his KFJC Time Capsule

The following week, the celebrating continued at 60 and Surfin’, an epic surf music show at Foothill College in honor of KFJC’s 60th anniversary. Bands recounted the role that the station has played in their lives and former KFJC DJ Phil Dirt was also on the scene with host Cousin Mary. We’re stoked to have gotten coverage in a Mountain View Voice article, “Reveling in Reverb: Concert Celebrates Rich History of Bay Area Surf Music,” a wonderfully in-depth piece about the event and KFJC’s role in the surf music scene.

Noisy Pipes & Relaxing Music: KFJC’s 1960 “Adolescent” Phase

Cynthia Lombard   10/19/2019   1960s, KFJC History

Having launched in October 1959, KFJC was still a young station in January, 1960, when a Foothill Sentinel headline proclaimed, “FM station reaches adolescent stage.” The piece lists off a litany of challenges at KFJC, including noisy steam pipes in the studio. “KFJC has suffered every type of growing pain conceivable from delayed equipment to floods and who-knows-what-else in the first months of its life,” according to the article.

KFJC studio in 1960. Photo: Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

Bob Ballou stepped down as KFJC’s Station Manager in the spring, 1960 semester, replaced by new “basement boss” Bruce Wentler. Ballou was still very active at Foothill College, even meeting Vice-President Richard Nixon and Governor Edmund Brown as part of his work as city editor of the Foothill Sentinel.

Foothill Sentinel, Feb. 26, 1960 from Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

Broadcasting over 88.5 FM on Mondays through Thursdays for two hours a night (from 5 to 7pm) in March 1960, KFJC’s schedule included the programs “Symphonia,” “Washington Reports,” “Musicomania,” “Traditional Jazz,” “Foothill in Review,” “Evening Opera” and more. By April, 1960, KFJC expanded programming to Friday nights, for a total of 10 hours of weekly programming. New shows included “Music for Dining,” “Songs of our Land,” and “A World of Music.” By, September, 1960, “Music for Relaxation” kicked off each night’s schedule at 5pm and KFJC was up to 11 hours of weekly programming.

Christmas-themed programming included holiday greetings in 22 languages as well as a Los Altos Youth Symphony concert and a broadcast of Handel’s Messiah in December, 1960.

KFJC’s 2nd annual Open House was held in December, 1960, with the station hosting 100 guests. “A microphone placed outside of the main broadcast booth was set up to catch the sound of the visitors chatting, strolling about and munching their cake and cookies provided by the station staff,” wrote the Foothill Sentinel.

Foothill Sentinel, December 16, 1960 in Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

KFJC’s Move to New Foothill College Campus in 1961

Cynthia Lombard   10/18/2019   1960s, KFJC History

KFJC was conceptualized and launched in the early days of Foothill College, when the school operated from a temporary location on El Camino Real in Mountain View, California. Broadcasting at 88.5 FM, KFJC was asked to change frequencies by the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, which wanted to use the channel for “a series of graduate level courses in medicine, fine arts, current affairs, religion and social work planned by the seminary,” according to a May, 1961 Palo Alto Times article.

May, 1961 Palo Alto Times press clipping from Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

By the time of its fall launch, KFJC had switched to 89.7 FM. Interestingly the 88.5 FM San Francisco Theological Seminary station (KXKX 88.5 FM in San Francisco)’s license was sold to KQED later in the 1960s and the public radio station continues to broadcast on that frequency today.

In 1961, the brand new, grand Foothill College campus opened for classes in Los Altos Hills and KFJC made the move to its home in the Mass Communications building.

In October 1961, as the station readied for the move, an article in the Foothill Sentinel reported on its progress. “Programming for this semester is flexible, providing for additions to the planning process. So far, eleven ‘package’ programs are scheduled as well as 14 student-sponsored shows…Among student-produced programs will be ‘The Latin Quarter,’ ‘The World of Music,’ ‘Short Story Theatre,’ and ‘Sports a la Carte,’ all returnees from last semester.”

Foothill Sentinel, October 6, 1961 from Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

Test broadcasts from the new Los Altos Hills campus were underway by November, 1961 and the station’s facilities were heralded as “one of the better junior college stations in the state.” Station Manager Vic Biondi told the Foothill Sentinel that KFJC planned to air “middle-of-the-road” music. From the 6,000 items in the library, the station was focusing on “Broadway show tunes, contemporary jazz, and folk music.” Biondi proclaimed, “Western and rock and roll music will not be heard on KFJC.”

Foothill Sentinel, November 10, 1961 from Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

By November 28, 1961 KFJC was officially broadcasting from the Los Altos Hills campus at 89.7 FM. Intriguing programming aired from the get-go, including a talk by socialist Norman Thomas. The Sunnyvale Standard wrote, “The program…will feature the recent campus speech by six-time Socialist Party Presidential candidate Norman Thomas, ‘America’s Need for a New Radicalism.'”

November 24, 1961 San Jose Mercury clipping in Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

Storms, Floods, and a Crutch Antenna: KFJC’s 1962 Technical Difficulties

Cynthia Lombard   10/17/2019   1960s, KFJC History

1962 was quite a year at KFJC. While it joined the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB), providing the station with up to 10 hours of programming from other colleges; the station was also beset by technical challenges.

In May, corrosion on the station’s antenna necessitated an emergency fix and the crafty station engineer, Douglas Gardner, came up with a creative solution. As a “stop gap measure,” he grabbed an old crutch and attached it to the antenna mast as part of a makeshift antenna. The San Jose Mercury reported that broadcasts had been spotty following the Christmas break and KFJC “…was virtually shut down until Gardner devised the crutch antenna.”

1962 San Jose Mercury clipping in Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

Back in the early 1960s, KFJC had a very short broadcasting year, going off the air for the summer after Memorial Day in May. Although the faulty antenna was rebuilt and installed by students in early October, disaster struck again when a big storm hit the transmitter site. KFJC’s planned debut the following week (an airing of a faculty discussion of “The Iceman Cometh”) was not meant to be.

Foothill Sentinel 1962 reports on storm aftermath at KFJC. From Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

Not only was the antenna atop Black Mountain destroyed, but the campus studio was also flooded. While awaiting a new antenna, KFJCers plodded along, recording programming for future broadcasts. Based on reports the following year, it does not appear that KFJC was able to resume broadcasts for the remainder of the 1962-1963 academic year.

KFJC in 1964: Experimentation and Guests Galore

Cynthia Lombard   10/15/2019   1960s, KFJC History

In June 1964, KFJC General Manager Ken Clark wrote a report to George Willey about the college radio station’s activities during spring semester. In addition to growing the staff from 5 to 40 participants, KFJC had a breadth of programming, including at least 113 on-air guests.

Those appearing on KFJC in spring 1964 included Buddy Epsen, Wallace Stegner, Melvin Belli, Mel Torme, Barry Goldwater, Jr., The Kingston Trio, Kenneth Kesey, and more.

Partial list of guests appearing on KFJC in spring semester 1964

In his report, Clark writes, “In an effort to make a dramatic and rapid break with the station’s past history, I encouraged the students to try the untried, to experiment with new programming concepts, to dare to search creative avenues that were either foreign or obscure to them.”

June, 1964 report on spring semester activities of KFJC.

One innovative program from 1964 was “Frontiers in Music,” which debuted in May of that year. The show featured “examples of experimental and electronic music,” according to a Foothill Sentinel article that month. Host Yves Troendle told the paper, “Nobody likes the music…because nobody hears it.” KFJC hoped to change that by exposing listeners to new genres.

May 1, 1964 issue of Foothill Sentinel from Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives

1970s KFJC Memories with Jona Denz-Hamilton

Cynthia Lombard   10/14/2019   1970s, KFJC History

Jona Denz-Hamilton participated in KFJC from 1972 to 1975, serving as Station Manager from 1973 to 1975. During that time, she started the Dead Air Club and ushered in KFJC’s FM stereo broadcasts. Following her stint in college radio, she moved on to a long career in commercial radio and has been at KBAY for the past 23 years. As part of KFJC’s 60th anniversary festivities, Denz-Hamilton will be joining Sir Cumference on the air during his program on Sunday, October 20th from 2pm to 3pm. In advance of her visit, we chatted with her about her time at KFJC.

Thanks to Jona Denz-Hamilton for sharing some KFJC memories and artifacts with us!

KFJC: What prompted you to join KFJC?

Jona: My intense interest in music and loving the changing radio scene of the early ’70s.

KFJC: Tell us about KFJC during your time there in the 1970s.

Jona: I loved to record local bands and to play them on the air. I also began the Dead Air Club in 1974 in order to raise funds to go stereo. We hired popular recording artists to perform and had immediate success. We followed up the initial concert with two other performances that included bands matched to a music-oriented movie. This gave us enough money to equip the other studios with stereo control boards, etc.

1970s KFJC logo courtesy Jona Denz-Hamilton

KFJC: What are some of your favorite KFJC memories?

Jona: Besides those awesome benefit concerts, I have a really exciting memory of when we had begun to get great, regular record company album service. in 1975, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti album was shipped to all the local rock stations for a certain release date. Most records shipped from San Francisco; ours shipped from New York…and arrived a day EARLY! What a surprise to open that box. We immediately made a big deal of it on the air and promoted playing the entire album that evening. It was huge. Only one station complained–LOL–the one in San Francisco. KOME and KSJO just rolled with it.

A SECOND memory was when I started interning at KOME while still at KFJC and was in charge of collecting and tabulating their record store radio preference surveys. The stores were from San Jose to San Mateo. KFJC consistently showed up as the #2 or #3 favorite station. I was so proud!

KFJC staff 1975. Photo credit Phil Hildenbrand.

KFJC: What was KFJC’s air sound like when you were there?

Jona: We gave the station more structure in that it had been kind of a mish mash of top 40, multicultural, rock, and dead air slots. No-shows were no longer tolerated, the format became basically Progressive rock, the multicultural and other specialty shows were slotted where they made the best sense. And we picked certain KFJC-centric new music to differentiate ourselves from the commercial stations.

KFJC: Is there a record/band that you discovered at KFJC or that defined your time at KFJC?

Jona: We had a relationship with Timbercreek, friends of the Grateful Dead. We also were friends with England’s the Man Band and the North Bay’s Sons of Champlin. We played the very first albums from bands like Blondie and the Ramones and had a lot of fun with that emerging punk genre while enjoying other forms of rock of the ’70s like glam, spacey, art, folk, jazz fusion, and country rock.

KFJC: What were some of your favorite shows, on-air personalities at KFJC during your time there?

Jona: I loved the Karl Jay-Sistah Kate Aloha Nookie Nookie News–hahaha! Kate went on to become Sully on KFAT, one of the many of that time to go on to radio success. We have a number of radio personalities, station owners, managers, program directors, engineers, newspeople, record company reps, TV folks and professional musicians who shared KFJC with me between ’72 and ’75.

KFJC T-shirt designed by Jona Denz-Hamilton.

KFJC: Do you have any dramatic tales to share?

Jona: FranK Milatzo’s Marijuanathon in 1974 or ’75 go us in some hot water!!

KFJC: How did KFJC change during your time there?

Jona: It went from being a rather run-down mono station with sporadic single (45s) record service to a super-popular, stereo, respected station that was able to compete with the big guys with its choice of music and fun/cool/unusual/hilarious personalities. We still had the 2-year rule, which I begged to stretch to 2.5 years so that I could have airchecks and move up to on-air on KOME.

KFJC: How has KFJC changed your life?

Jona: It springboarded me into my professional career. I went directly to KOME and after 9 years became a program director in Monterey then Sacramento. My latest show has been on KBAY since 1996. Listeners still remember me from KFJC!!

KFJC: What are you up to today?

Jona: Well, during my time as Station Manager of KFJC in 1974, I joined KOME then went to Monterey to program AOR, KLRB then to Sacramento to be Program Director of KROY-FM. I came back to San Jose and did afternoons at KLOK and eventually joined KBAY in 1996. I’ve been at KBAY, now known as 945 Bay FM The Greatest Hits of the ’70s and ’80s, for over 23 years–mainly doing middays. I love that I’m playing many of the tunes that we premiered on KFJC, like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Aerosmith’s Dream On, Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and “new” artists like Blondie, Journey, Buckingham-Nicks, Billy Joel and Springsteen.

Jona Denz-Hamilton

Super8 Film of KFJC Studio in 1981

Cynthia Lombard   10/8/2019   1980s, KFJC History

It’s such a gift to have this Super8 film crafted by DJ Boris Darling back in 1981. Travel back in time to see what the KFJC studio looked like in the early 1980s. Boris writes, “This is a super8 film I made as a homework [assignment] that I never turned in at Foothill College, Los Altos Hills in the summer of 1978. (Correction: Jeff C. and Jeff McC reminded me that it was in 1981.) Boris, Kenny, Rip King, Jeanie and Theresa appear in it. It was filmed in the KFJC studio.”

Look closely at around the :05 mark and you may spot a circa 1981 poster for the free Romeo Void/U2 show at San Jose State that KFJC co-presented along with commercial radio station KSJO and San Jose State University’s Associated Students Program Board. We’ve heard epic tales from this event…

1981 U2 flyer courtesy Alex Pantages

New Leader at KFJC in 1971 and Joan Baez

Cynthia Lombard   10/8/2019   1970s, KFJC History

KFJC Station Supervisor Doc Pelzel and I took a fun field trip to the Foothill-DeAnza Historic Archives in order to take a closer look at KFJC’s early history. While combing through vintage copies of the Foothill College student newspaper, The Sentinel, we found some gems, including an article from 1971, “New Radio Leader.” Accompanying the piece is a photo of Joan Baez speaking with Michael Moran “on a recent visit to the KFJC studios.”

Foothill Sentinel, 1971.

We’ve yet to learn more about the Joan Baez visit (if you were there, drop us a note!), as the article focuses on the new leadership and programming changes at KFJC. Under station manager Stu Campbell, KFJC was implementing “campus and community interest” programming in the mornings and plans were underway to air Los Altos and Palo Alto Council meetings as well as campus events.

KFJC ad in 1971 Foothill College Sentinel

It was hoped that some of this new programming, including airing works of literature, would help the station raise needed funds in order to move into stereo broadcasting. Spoiler alert: KFJC’s stereo dreams would soon become a reality.

Digging into 1980 Program Guide

Cynthia Lombard   10/7/2019   1980s, KFJC History

In 1980, KFJC increased its power from 10 to 250 watts and was mentioned in the pages of Billboard Magazine as a “new wave, new jazz outlet with clout.”

KFJC’s Winter 1980 Program Guide courtesy Alex Pantages

A 1980 KFJC program guide lists programs ranging from live sports broadcasts of Foothill College Owls basketball games, a call-in show with a doctor, and Greek and Portuguese music programs. The bulk of the schedule was made up of rock music in addition to jazz, bluegrass, punk, and more.

Back of Winter 1980 KFJC program guide courtesy Alex Pantages

Thanks to Alex Pantages for sharing the winter 1980 program guide!

KFJC Founder Bob Ballou on the Early Days of KFJC

Cynthia Lombard   10/7/2019   KFJC History

KFJC has Bob Ballou to thank for our very existence. Due to his efforts in 1959, Foothill College built a radio station on its first campus in Mountain View. We caught up with Ballou to learn more about those early days of KFJC.

Ballou writes, “The idea that other JCs in the area had radio stations and there wasn’t one at Foothill moved me and a couple other guys to convince Dr. Flint and others to allow us to start the station at the Mt. View campus if the equipment could be moved to Los Altos Hills when that campus was built.”

At KFJC for its inception, Ballou was involved for a short, but influential period from 1959 to 1960 as the founder, Station Manager and DJ. He recalls that his program was called “Music in the Night or some such silly name,” adding that, “Programing was extremely different in those early years. We had educational and campus news as well as music programs. Very little talk.” Compared with what KFJC sounds like in 2019, Ballou characterizes that first year as “mellow and boring compared to today’s air sound.”

One memorable event during that era was a damaging flood at KFJC. According to Ballou, “The station was located in the basement and one night a pipe that ran overhead broke and flooded the place. We were drying out record albums for days.”

Foothill College Sentinel, October 9, 1959

Celebrating 60 Years of KFJC History

Cynthia Lombard   10/5/2019   KFJC History

Foothill College radio station KFJC first hit the airwaves on October 20, 1959. In honor of the station’s 60th anniversary, we are looking back at its incredible history. With the launch of this new KFJC History Blog, we’ll be sharing tidbits from our past, as well as reflections from KFJC participants past and present. We hope you enjoy the blog and we also invite you to join us at KFJC’s 60th Anniversary Open House on Sunday, October 20, 2019 at Foothill College.

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