Congratulations to radio station KDIA for its recent induction into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame as the 2018 Legendary Station. KDIA has been a staple of the bay area African American music scene for over 50 years. However, there was a time when African American music was not played on Bay Area airways.
Prior to World War II, there were not radio stations featuring only African American music, and as late as 1947, and well into the early fifties, it continued with musical formats that reinforced racist stereotypes mocking Black culture. Formats began to change as a direct result of the unanticipated impact of a growing Black listening audience coupled with its significantly increased political and economic clout. Jazz, rhythm and blues and gospel music were now being played.
KDIA Lucky 13 debuted in 1959 when Egmont Sonderling, owner of Memphis-based WDIA, purchased KWBR from Warner Brothers Radio. For more than thirty years, KDIA measured and maintained the pulse of the Bay Area’s Black community through its programming, community involvement and its disc jockey. George Oxford, Bob White, John Hardy, Ronnie Dark and Sly Stone expressed the pride, hopes and dreams of the community through the shows they hosted on local radio.
As a child I can remember Sunday nights my grandparents would be tuned in to KDIA radio listening to the live feeds of different Bay Area preachers including my own pastor, the late Bishop Marshall “QC” Simmons of the Agnes Memorial Church of God in Christ in Oakland. KDIA was the station that also played R&B and soul hits of Motown legends such as the late Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and many more.
According to former DJ Johnnie Morris, KDIA was also one of the first radio stations to play Edwin Hawkins Singers song “Oh Happy Day” in the 1960s.
In 1992 Mayor Elihu Harris and San Francisco’s Mayor Willie Brown purchased the historic African American radio station until it was purchased by Baybridge Communications in 1996. KDIA remains in existence, though no longer on its original station KDIA 1310 and no longer featuring the R&B hits of the past. It now serves as KDIA 1640 The Light for San Francisco.
The Elihu Harris and can be viewed on the Online Archive of California at https://bit.ly/2PnsjYe.
Congratulations to KDIA on your induction to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame!!!