A long time ago, there were three unique radio stations in the Southern California area. What set these three stations apart from the multitude of other stations in a major market area was the fact that none of the three were licensed broadcasters. How these three finally merged to become KD RADIO is our history.
In 1958, KDNF AM 840 was constructed by a 12 year old boy living in North Hollywood. That boy, Steve Ricketts, had a love for electronics, mechanics and "broadcast radio." Steve had dreams of someday owning and operating his own commercial radio station. At the age of 12, the options available to him were very limited. The only licensed options available to him were "ham" or "CB" radio. Although these were interesting hobbies, they were never intended as a means of presenting commercial radio programming to the general public. Thus, the "pirate" 5 Watt AM home-built station would be his outlet.
In time, the station grew in both power and popularity. Steve, along with a staff of 6, would broadcast every evening for several hours and, on some occasions, 2 to 3 days uninterrupted. Most staff members "played" radio for about 6 months before losing interest and moving on to other things. Steves interest never faded. He kept the station on the air through both high school and college. As a broadcasting major, Steves knowledge of the radio business continued to grow. Steve also met other broadcasting students whose love of radio was as great as his. Most of those students did daily shows on KDNF.
In 1961, through a "friend of a friend," record service was established with Capitol and Epic Records. By 1963, full record service from all the major labels was established. From 1964 until Steve was drafted into military service in October, 1966, KDNF AM had personalities and programming equal to any major market radio station. In 1965, Steve purchased a new Ford station wagon to use as KDNFs mobile unit. That mobile unit, with its professional lettering on each side showing "KDNF NEWS LOS ANGELES," transported the KDNF crew through the Watts riots, the KDNF "raid" on "Emperor Hudson" at KRLA(a major L A radio station), fire and police situations, and backstage at a host of concerts. These concerts included The Rolling Stones, Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, Jerry and The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Leslie Gore, The Supremes, The Standells, and perhaps one of the most memorable backstage moments, The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl.
October 1966 was thought to be the final broadcast of KDNF, at least until Steve returned from military service in 1969. However, you cant keep a good station down! During his tour of duty in Vietnam, Steve was lucky enough to be stationed with the 1st Signal Brigade, Regional Comm Group, Long Lines Detachment, Tan Son Nhut Airbase, Saigon. Steve was working at the biggest military communications site in Vietnam. Since most of the GIs in Vietnam missed their favorite music, Steve saw an opportunity to utilize some spare channels at this communications site to broadcast old KDNF shows to different military bases around Vietnam. Shortly after Steve settled into a regular schedule of tape rotation, other military sites receiving his signal would relay it to additional sites that were not directly linked to Tan Son Nhut. Soon, KDNF shows were being heard at military bases around the world!!
In 1969, Steve turned over the "worldwide" operation of KDNF to incoming personnel and headed home as a civilian. Eventually, KDNF AM was re-established in North Hollywood, but at a lower profile than it had enjoyed in 1966.
In 1972, KDNF moved to Ventura County, and also up the radio dial. KDNF 1210 AM was growing fast. Although it operated most of the time on weekends, KDNFs fast-paced, New Wave/Talk programming became very popular. By late 1979, KDNF had a full staff of professional announcers, plus 2 interns whose only jobs were to answer the over 200 phone calls an hour that KDNF was receiving.
In 1981, Don McDonald established one of the first, if not the very first, "cable" radio station in Ventura County. KDSK made its debut in Thousand Oaks on Conejo Community Cable TVs FM service at 89.1, and was later added as the audio portion of community information Channel 8. It didnt take very long for Don and Steve to discover each other. Although their programming differed greatly(KDNF was New Wave and KDSK was popular music from the 50s to present), a friendship based on the common love of radio developed. Cross-programming between the two stations became commonplace.
Realizing that presenting KDNFs and KDSKs programming over cable TV systems didnt require a license, and that the selling of advertising was legal on cable, Don and Steve started marketing their common "oldies" format to other cable systems, eventually accessing both a TV channel and an FM channel on one of the biggest systems in Ventura County.
Although KDNF and KDSK simulcast some programming, both stations retained their own identities. KDNF continued to program New Wave music while KDSK programmed oldies. Another name had to be created to identify the two stations when they were simulcasting the same programming. Since the first two letters of each station were "KD" the name KD RADIO was created.
In 1983, Don McDonald turned the operation of KDSK over to Steve, choosing instead to concentrate his efforts on his daily shows.
In 1984, KD RADIO expanded onto multiple cable systems in both the Los Angeles County and Ventura County areas. "Pirate" operations were dropped and efforts were concentrated on cable system expansion and satellite distribution.
In 1985, Steve first became aware of the existence of KDLU FM, owned and operated by Derek Lloyd. As a boy, Derek had toured a local radio station in Southern California which inspired him to build his first radio transmitter. KDLU Canoga Park began regular programming in 1978 on 1610 AM. The radio signal only covered a few blocks, but as time went by, Dereks knowledge of electronics grew, and so did the station. KDLU moved to FM in 1985 using an old Hewlett Package Signal Generator and became West Valley Community Radio at 87.9. Programming included old time radio shows, oldies music and other DJs doing New Wave and Dance music. A weekly talk show was produced featuring local business owners, community leaders and local celebrities. While working on his Radio, Television & Film Degree at Cal State University Northridge, he met other people interested in radio. The college radio station played country music, but did not have a strong signal. As a result, some students migrated to KDLU. By this time, the 30 Watt stereo KDLU signal covered a good part of the west San Fernando Valley.
In 1991, Derek bought a house in Simi Valley, California, moving the station to 89.7 FM. Many of the DJs from Canoga Park did not want to drive 15 miles to do their shows, so the amount of programming fell to a few hours a week. Derek had heard KD RADIO on cable TV in Canoga Park, so he called Steve and found that they had a lot in common. Eventually they got together and Derek recorded a few shows for KD RADIOs automation system.
In 1993, Derek moved KDLU to Thousand Oaks, just 3 miles from the KD RADIO studios. Realizing that KDLU as a "pirate" station could advance no further than Steves "pirate" KDNF, Derek contacted Steve about linking the 2 stations together via leased, audio lines. KD RADIO as you hear today, was created!
In 1998, Derek became a major force for the continuance of KD RADIO by assuming most of the monthly operating expenses. Dereks first act was to add KD RADIOs programming to the Internet. Steve and Derek continued to operate KD Radio together until November, 2000
In October, 2000, Derek purchased an AM/FM combination in Grants, New Mexico. In November, Derek moved to Grants to operate the two stations. The FM call letters were changed to KDSK. Steves California operation remained KD Radio. On occasion, both KD Radio New Mexico (KDSK) and KD Radio California simulcast programming. Steve remains in California and continues to operate KD Radio on the cable FM service and on the Internet. Dereks New Mexico programming can be heard on the Internet at KDSK.com. Steves California programming can be heard on the Internet at OldiesMusicRadio.com.
2011 thru 2012, KMIN 980am was upgraded to 5000 watts and is heard in Gallup and Albuquerque. In July 2012, KD Radio purchased KALY 1240 in Albuquerque and started simulcasting KDSK 92.7 programming on August 20, 2012. The new license was issued as KDSK 1240am. Staff from KD Radio California will continue to travel to New Mexico several times each year to work various projects and some programming will continue to originate from California.