BRIEF Intro to AM Rock Radio during the 1960’s in Salt Lake City
Excluding network television, AM Radio was the dominant electronic mass entertainment medium until the early 1970’s. In the early 60’s “Pop” usually meant music from Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, and their peers, which was generally popular among adult audiences. “Rock N’ Roll” made a huge impact in the 50’s but despite its undeniable popularity, most local stations abandoned Rock after a few years except for KNAK 1280, on the West Side of Salt Lake City, and KMUR 1230 from Murray.
Many AM stations, especially those that played Rock, distributed weekly lists
(A.K.A. “charts”) of their most popular records. The following examples represent less than a fraction of one percent of what they published and gave away free in music stores throughout the area. (See credits, and an appeal for more contributions below.)
What ignited the Rock Revolution of the Sixties?
The Beatles appeared for three consecutive Sundays on the Ed Sullivan Show
over the CBS TV Network starting February 9, 1964. It was the beginning of the so-called British Invasion and drew an estimated 73 million viewers.
First week of Beatlemania — KNAK distributed this chart on February 10, 1964, one day after The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Scan of KNAK Cover and Chart from February 10, 1964:
Beatlemania intensified as Ed Sullivan featured them for two more Sundays:
The Beatles held the top two slots — on two different record labels, then the Beatles held the top three slots — on THREE record labels! (The Dave Clark Five first got into KNAK’s Top Ten during Week 3 of the British Invasion.)
Scan of KNAK Cover and Chart from February 17, 1964:
Scan of KNAK Cover and Chart from February 24, 1964:
Two weeks later, the Beatles still held onto the top three slots,
with some shuffling around — KNAK’s Top Twelve was really the Top Thirteen in these days, because From Me To You and Please Please Me were two different songs. The Dave Clark Five were still climbing upward, and Ed Sullivan introduced more British Invasion groups on his show.
Scan of KNAK Cover and Chart from March 6, 1964:
During the last week of March 1964, the Beatles had seven songs at the top.
The Dave Clark Five were sliding down a bit. Louis Armstrong’s Hello Dolly and Al Hirt’s Java were examples of what was called Pop then. ( Java was written by brilliant R&B composer Allan Toussaint from New Orleans, home city of Mr. Hirt and Mr. Armstrong.)
Scan of KNAK Cover and Chart from March 30, 1964:
The British Invasion continued as April 1964 began.
The Beatles still had seven songs at the top of KNAK’s chart, but the Dave Clark Five were right behind them with resurgent Glad All Over and newly released Bits and Pieces.
The Beatles’ version of Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry was in the Top Forty, along with two other non-Beatles records exploiting Beatlemania. Mr. Berry himself had a hit with Nadine. The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein also managed the Searchers, who were just beginning to climb the American charts that week, but would score some smash hits during the upcoming year.
Scan of KNAK Cover and Chart from April 6, 1964:
The Beatles only had two songs in KNAK’s Top Twelve on September 21, 1964, but British bands Manfred Mann and the Animals kept them company — further down the chart were Gerry and the Pacemakers, also managed by Epstein, and the Rolling Stones were on their way UP.
Both songs on the Beatles’ double-sided hit were originally done by American Rock N’ Rollers — Carl Perkins of Memphis adapted Match Box Blues (Lead vocal by Ringo), and Larry Williams wrote Slow Down in New Orleans (Screamingly great lead vocal by John Lennon). The Blendells from Los Angeles and Trini Lopez from Texas represented Hispanic musicians from the USA. Detroit’s Supremes began their famous string of Number One records. There were also hits from both East and West Coasts, plus the American South.
Scan of KNAK’s complete chart from September 21. 1964:
High-powered KCPX 1320 would successfully compete with both stations …
… starting in the summer of 1965. Manager Bill Terry hired Will Wright and big voiced Joe Lee away from KNAK, promoted televised Battles of the Bands on KCPX TV, and repaid the favor to his ABC Network partners by conducting popular and humorous Batman campaigns over the radio in 1966, plus other marketing ideas like the ravenous Want Bird, who “ate up” selected targets of satire.
KCPX also distributed a single page Top Forty chart to the record stores, with a photo-logo on the back that only changed with the color of the ink.
Twenty percent of the KCPX Top Forty for April/May 1966 was comprised of British singers and groups, if one also includes Van Morrison’s song Gloria, which had been an enormous and influential “Invasion” hit. The Yardbirds continued to influence Rock Music for fifty years because of their parade of innovative lead guitarists — Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page are all in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the Yardbirds as a group, plus 25 percent of the acts on this chart.
By the summer of 1966, Michael G. Kavanagh was Disc Jockey from Midnight to Morning on weekdays at KCPX, bringing an informed and discerning approach to the music which made him one of the most influential voices on the air.
Alternative Music — Jazz had once been considered Pop, especially before World War Two, but the genre re-created its own identity. Wes Bowen hosted a Jazz program over KSL 1160 AM.”Iron Mike” (Kavanagh) played some Jazz and also Folk, among other musical styles, during his well-chosen Midnight show on KALL 910 AM.
Michael G. Kavanagh says in 2016:
On kall I was Mid/6 playing MOR format, same format as day/aft/eve.. I did introduce the music of Bob Dylan to SLC on my show.
All “The KALL Men of Music” had their “Pick album of the Week and mine was Bob Dylan’s first, thanks to our music programmer Fred Rienhart (sp).
KSXX 630 played an eclectic mix of Jazz, Pop, and occasional Rock in the mid-60’s, with engineer and DJ Michael G. Kavanagh on staff, using his real name (before moving to KCPX.) He also spent a short time helping out his friends at KMUR in early 1965, under the pseudonym “Clark Kent,” while working his regular shifts for KSXX.
KSXX, although small, was notable for introducing Herb Alpert’s immensely successful Whipped Cream and Other Delights to the Salt Lake area, as well as pioneering Talk Radio, for both good and bad, plus managing the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting.
Young Rock fans listened to AM Radio in their homes, in their automobiles, and through their portable Transistor Radios. 45 RPM singles were engineered with lots of volume, and AM Radio delivered the sound of these grooves. The technical quality of the broadcast wasn’t exactly High Fidelity, but AM Radio was free, readily available, and sounded good when turned up LOUD!
Randy Stinson used to call the request line on KNAK in early 1966 and invite listeners to his house near the West High Bakery where he and his brother had a collection of hundreds of 45 RPM records.
Stinson turned his hobby into Randy’s Record Room, where he played “Oldies” on KNAK in 1966 for both Gary Waldron and Lynn Lehman via a telephone feed from his home.
SPECIAL: Randy’s hand-written logs from April 1966 to December 1966 (PDF files)
On-air logs from June 1966 (PDF file)
On-air logs from July 1966 (PDF file)
On-air logs from August through September 1966 (PDF)
On-air logs from October 1966 to the last show with Wooly Waldron (PDF)
On-air logs through December 1966 with Lynn Lehman (PDF)
“Randy’s Record Room” briefly moved to KCPX, and was a big success for years at the Bongo Lounge on Highland Drive during the Cosmic Era. In addition, the former bastion of Classical Music on AM Radio, KWHO 860, changed its format and hired Randy for a while during the mid-70’s. Stinson opened his store Randy’s Records in 1978, and it continues to thrive in 2016 — specializing in vinyl recordings from all decades.
KNAK’s Top Twelve contained no British groups on October 3, 1966.
However, hit makers like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, Dusty Springfield, the Yardbirds, Them (featuring Van Morrison,) the Dave Clark Five, the Kinks, Peter & Gordon, the Hollies, Chris Farlowe, and the Troggs (“Wild Thing”) charted very successful records during the spring, summer, and fall of 1966, moving up and down the Top Forty all year long.
Long Playing albums (LPs) and harbingers of the future:
LPs were claiming a larger share of the market, and would continue to do so in the future. Six of KNAK’s Top Ten Albums were by British groups.
Scan of KNAK’s full four page circular from October 3. 1966:
As 1967 began, Top 40 AM Radio was still a major force.
The Seekers were originally from Australia, but they were British enough for American audiences. English musicians like Peter & Gordon delved into old Music Hall traditions. Further down the chart, Herman’s Hermits continued to be Top Forty fixtures, and Gimmee Some Lovin’ introduced young Englishman Steve Winwood to the world.
Northwest-Band-Made-Good Paul Revere and the Raiders would lurk about on TV and Radio for another half-decade. The Golden Age of so-called Garage Bands was coming to an end in America, but Seattle’s Sonics and the Night Crawlers hit the top of the charts before it was over. The saga of the Monkees was just beginning. The Lovin’ Spoonful would soon implode. Gary Lewis went into military service that year. Psychedelic Music, as exemplified by the Electric Prunes, was already sneaking into the national charts, and soulful Aaron Neville of New Orleans had a major hit.
Scan of KNAK’s complete chart from January 16. 1966
Many things changed before, during, and after the Summer of Love in mid-1967.
Michael G. Kavanagh made a well-publicized trip to San Francisco during the late Spring of 1967 (“ … with flowers in my hair,“ he said.) One glance at a contemporary KCPX Top Forty explains his reference. Scott McKenzie’s single had an incredibly huge impact in the USA and even the world.
Fifteen percent of this KCPX chart are by British groups or singers. The Pieces of Eight were veterans of the Swinging Medallions, and both were “Southern Beach Music” bands. The Doors wrote their own chapter in history, and are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the Everly Brothers, Young Rascals, and England’s Dave Clark Five — featuring lead singer and organist Michael Smith, who was called “Boomer” by musical mates because of his big booming voice.
KCPX further competed with KNAK by distributing their own Top Forty as a promotional booklet — much like KNAK did during the decade, only it was called KCPX News and included some items about KCPX TV — retiring the drab one-sided chart that KCPX AM had passed out at the start of their metamorphosis to Rock broadcasting in 1965.
“Michael G” came back from San Francisco with great stories to tell over the radio, and some incredibly fine music that his audience gleefully absorbed as we tuned into his show from midnight to morning.
KCPX featured live on-the-air phone conversations with their fans during evenings and nights. Michael G. Kavanagh, plus his Night People fans, regularly mentioned a newly-opened shop called the Cosmic Aeroplane when they conversed about San Francisco music, posters, and various other items which characterized the flowering Psychedelic Era. A new Alternative Movement began to evolve and spread around the globe.
KCPX took a little heat for teasing its listeners with unauthorized previews of the upcoming Beatles album in various ways. Notice those “mug shots” of KCPX’s local DJs pasted over images of international celebrities on the now-historical Sgt. Pepper cover, including our “bearded buddy” Michael G — near the lower right-hand corner.
Michael G. Kavanagh says in 2016:
The photos on the Sgt. Pepper album, My idea. I told Geo. Smith (kcpx) to do it.
Scan of complete KCPX News including Top 40 chart — June 26, 1967
Twenty percent of the KCPX Top Forty were British acts on June 26, 1967.
The Bee Gees, the Who, and the Kinks are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale is an acknowledged classic, and heralded an oncoming second wave of British invaders and guitar heroes, like their bandmate Robin Trower.
Petula Clark and Herman’s Hermits would alter their careers soon afterward. The Hollies continued to craft superb hit records over the next ten years, even after Graham Nash left for the USA. Speaking of America, “White Rabbit” made Jefferson Airplane one of the most popular bands on Planet Earth, and “Light My Fire” called the whole world’s attention to The Doors.
The Beatles would release several Number One singes later that summer, but in 1967 Sgt. Pepper was definitely the biggest thing to hit the World of Music since, well — the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show!
The Cosmic Aeroplane opened for business as the Summer of Love began.
Coda — FM Radio, AM Radio, and Michael G. in the Early Cosmic Era
Michael G. Kavanagh was Master of Ceremonies for many of the now-uncountable Rock Concerts which punctuated the Alternative Movement. The Cosmic Aeroplane sold tickets for almost every single concert. (See Charley Hafen’s Site for examples of posters plus information about promoters and artists.)
Brian C. Record currently has photo-books available in print:
Compositions in Color
Famous Musicians Who Rocked 1960’s Utah
(Suggestion: Click on the link to “Utah Circa 1968” from this page.)
See examples from Famous Musicians Who Rocked 1960’s Utah HERE:
As high-quality FM Radio was taking over AM Radio as the first choice of music fans, Michael G. Kavanagh went to work as a DJ for KNAK (AM and FM) in the late evenings, maintaining his enormous following in the Salt Lake Area as young aficionados installed 4 and 8 Track tape players in their cars, with Stereo speakers and FM receivers.
Gene Davis kept doing his own long-time gig on KNAK as Post-Midnight DJ. Joe Hightower, another prominent wee wee hour DJ on KNAK, had been the first pro to encourage Kavanagh to pursue Radio as a career, according to Michael G.
The photo above is from a “Listener’s Choice” ballot distributed by KNAK in 1969.
See the entire publication below, along with “mugs” of Michael’s co-workers:
Mark your choices now — maybe it’s not too late!
AM stations adapted to Sports and Talk Radio during the 1970’s, plus the era of “Star” DJs slowly faded away.
Michael G. Kavanagh just stayed in Radio, doing commercials and various other work on many stations until he retired in the Twenty-first Century. Among his achievements was helping establish Community Radio KRCL 90.9 FM, which continues to broadcast Alternative Music throughout Northern Utah.
We are seeking more AM Radio Charts for the Cosmic Aeroplane Archive.
Rock and Roll stations KMUR/KMOR 1230, KNAK 1280, and KCPX 1320 distributed literally hundreds of charts during the Sixties alone. Blogmeister Michael is soliciting those lucky few who have collected and kept AM Radio charts for permission to scan and publish them on the Internet. If you know of a website where there is an archive already, please let us know so we can link to them. You may send us a message directly through the Comment Box, or to Michael via email — see below.
Infinite thanks to Mickie Steiner Benich for her generous contributions of the earliest Beatlemania to our site — which made this page possible. Grateful acknowledgements to Michael G. Kavanagh for his historic scans and contemporary quotes. Further thanks to Randy Stinson and the West High Class of 1968. From October 1964 onward, quite a few of our “signpost” charts were gleaned from infrequent posts on various Facebook pages. Digital processing by M.E.
We actively request contributions of pictures, memorabilia, and oral histories about the Cosmic Aeroplane and related cultural phenomena — please contact us: