The Color Radio Years:
From the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, KROY was located at 1010 11th Street in downtown Sacramento. The station occupied the second floor, directly over the Country Maid Restaurant, and was just four blocks from the state Capitol building. Throughout its early years KROY had been host to a number of formats, dating back to the “swing era” in which it broadcast big bands live from an earlier studio location, the Senator Hotel across from the Capitol. By 1960, the trend-setting station had switched to “top 40” music programming, playing the top youth-oriented hits of the day.
During the early heyday of rock ’n roll, KROY’s transmitter and tower were located in the southeast area of Sacramento, on a street appropriately named KROY Way. The transmitter was relocated in the mid-1960s to a site located literally at the Sacramento dump at 24th and A Streets, where it remains today. The organic material in the dump helped strengthen the potency of KROY’s transmitter signal, which by then had been increased to 1,000 watts daytime and 250 watts at night. Because of its fast-paced format, KROY was chosen as the prototype station for tape cartridge machines--which subsequently become the industry standard for radio station jingles, commercials and other recorded matter.
During the early '60s KROY identified itself as "color radio," interspersed records with jazzy jingles and called its weather reports "climatological forecasts." The weekly KROY "Tune-dex," the station's music survey of the top 40 hits, was a barometer of Sacramento song popularity. Throughout the ’60s KROY was home to many disc jockeys who would later move on to larger markets, where they would emerge as broadcast industry icons.
During those days in which Pat Brown was in the Governor’s Mansion and John F. Kennedy was in the White House, KROY provided the doo-wop and surf beat as kids cruised along J and K Streets past Mel's Drive-In, the glass-pack mufflers of their customized cars throbbing as girls in pedal-pushers and beehive hair-dos pretended they didn't notice. KROY was there through all of the dance crazes--the twist, the mashed potato, the pony, the hully gully, the fly, the limbo--through the folk music “hootenanny” era, and remained there to provide companionship and a sense of stability during the dark days of November 1963 when the president was felled. And KROY was prominent in the welcoming party embracing the joyful phenomenon that swept the world in 1964: Beatlemania and the British invasion.
The Music Power Years:
The motivating, energetic "Music Power" format was the platform upon which 1240 KROY endeared itself to a fiercely loyal audience. From the fall of 1968 through the fall of 1973, KROY was No. 1 in every Arbitron rating book. KROY, known as "the 1240 Rock," dominated stations with 50 times its transmitter power. KROY's secret was chemistry--a potent combination of disc jockeys with winning personalities who were attuned to the pulse of the city and who played an infectious blend of "top 40" hits, many of which were "hitbound" on KROY before they were heard on more timid radio stations in other cities.
But KROY was far more than just a pop music radio station that helped set musical trends and awarded thousands of dollars in prizes to listeners. It was a vital part of the community. KROY had consistently high visibility throughout the city, staging fun events, sponsoring concerts, and organizing goodwill public-service activities that showed the station's concern for the city and its residents. Arriving in the red, then trademark purple KROY fire truck, the station's disc jockeys played host year after year to thousands of Sacramentans at Gibson Ranch picnics, Bridal Faire presentations, teen fairs, and other events.
Similarly, KROY's innumerable contests involved the listeners on a personal level, often with sensational results. When Don McLean's "American Pie" soared to popularity, Sacramentans remained riveted to their radios as KROY dispensed clues leading to a secretive prize location. As the final clues were revealed, the station's listeners converged upon a levee where the KROY disc jockeys were parked in a Chevy--a reference to a lyric line in the song--and they were handing out pies stuffed with $10 bills. The station's haunted mansion, presented in cooperation with a local youth organization each Halloween, became a perennial favorite, as did its Fourth of July spectaculars at Cal Expo.
1240 KROY embodied the spirit of Sacramento.
The Final Years:
For most of a decade, 1240 KROY remained a fixture at 977 Arden Way. Located above a restaurant in downtown Sacramento during an earlier era, KROY was relocated in late 1975 to 1021 Second Street, below ground and out of view in the basement of the building adjoining Fanny Ann's Saloon in Old Sacramento. By then, KROY's familiar "Music Power" theme had run its course, and the station was simply called "1240 KROY."
In 1977, KROY was joined by an FM affiliate, KROI (96.9 mHz), the former KEZS-FM. On Sept. 1, 1978, Jonsson Communications acquired 1240 KROY and KROI-FM from Atlantic States Industries (ASI). Early the following year, KROI became KROY-FM.
In July 1981, KROY AM and FM abandoned the "top 40" singles format and switched to an adult album rock format. A cherished strand in Sacramento's history unraveled on Nov. 1, 1982, when after 45 years under the venerable KROY call letters, the AM station quietly became KENZ in reference to Kenneth A. Jonsson, president of Jonsson Communications. KENZ broadcast a bland diet of automated adult contemporary music. The historic call letters were retained for a time on KROY-FM, but on July 26, 1984, after Kansas State Agricultural College agreed to relinquish the call letters of its radio station, KROY-FM became KSAC Sacramento.
The KROY call letters were resurrected on Sept. 19, 1985, when Commonwealth Broadcasting acquired KSAC-FM. Operating once again as KROY-FM, the station adopted a hit music format and called itself "Hot 97." KENZ (the former KROY-AM) switched to the KSAC call letters, soon adopted an ill-fated classical music format, then changed to all sports in early 1992. Purchased by Dwight Case--who had been KROY's station manager during its heyday in the late 1960s and early '70s--the AM station signed off and "went dark" in early November 1994, returning to the air a few weeks later as Spanish-formatted KSQR. Meanwhile, the public did not warm to "Hot 97" and on Nov. 12, 1990, the FM outlet switched to classic rock. Dubbed "The Eagle," the station switched call letters to KSEG, and KROY finally disappeared from the Sacramento airwaves.
The History of KROY
In The Beginning:
KROY first signed on the air in 1937, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt was beginning his second term as president of the United States. In those dark days of the Great Depression, KROY broadcast a welcome schedule of news and entertainment programming for Sacramento's 93,000 residents. Assigned to 1210 on the AM dial, KROY operated with only 100 watts, from studios on the mezzanine of the old Hotel Sacramento at 10th and K streets. The station's personnel included a young salesman named Elton Rule, who would later become president of the American Broadcasting Co.
Chosen to honor original station owner Royal Miller, the KROY call letters were synonymous with Sacramento for more than 40 years. The station broadcast the popular programs of the day, including "Your Hit Parade." On March 29, 1941, about 90 percent of the radio stations in the United States changed frequencies in accordance with the North American Radio Broadcast Agreement - among them was KROY, which shifted up the dial to 1240. When America went to war, 1240 KROY was of enormous importance on the home front as one of only two radio stations in Sacramento; the other was KFBK.
KROY became a part of broadcast history on May 13, 1946, when in a precedent-setting legal decision--the first in which the Federal Communications Commission had to select among bidders competing for a radio station--it granted the application of Harmco Inc. to acquire KROY from the Royal Miller estate for the purchase price of $150,000.
By the late 1940s, KROY was the CBS network affiliate for Sacramento and had increased power to 250 watts. In 1950, the FCC issued a construction permit for KROY-FM, a 12,600-watt station on 94.5 mHz. But KROY's owner subsequently withdrew its application for the FM station and concentrated its broadcast activities on 1240 KROY. In 1954, Sacramentan Robert Walker Dumm purchased KROY, which he owned until Dec. 1, 1959. On that date, KROY was acquired by Lincoln Dellar Stations, a respected broadcasting company headquartered in Santa Barbara with the vision and resources to make KROY one of the most influential and best-loved radio stations in America.