Bob Keller's Blog

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The Big Daddy of FM Radio

The guy who made radio hip and cool and relevant has a birthday this Saturday, Big Daddy Tom Donahue was born May 21st, 1928 and died on April 28, 1975..he was 47. Tom brought the first alternative programming to the Bay Area and it was on the FM band which brought new life to the music, the sound quality was so good. It was in 1967 that Tom started playing album cuts, reintroducing live radio broadcasts and utilizing the airwaves as a true public service to it's listeners, Donahue founded "underground radio". The first station Tom worked at that allowed him this kind of freedom was KMPX. It soon became the first full time album station in the country. How great it was to hear the Doors, Frank Zappa and The Rolling Stones on one station! It was an inspiration to me, a young hipster growing up within the signal of this new sound. Donahue and his staff moved to KSAN-/fm on May 21st 1968. It was wildley popular and Tom became General Manager in 1972. Tom Donahue was a big man, clocking in at around 400 pounds. His large form could be seen all over San Francisco in the early days of the Revolution. In 1965 he opened one of the first psychedelic clubs in San Francisco, he called it Mother's at 430 Broadway in North Beach. He formed Autumn records, hired Sly Stone as a producer, recorded one of the first Bay Area band to challenge the Beatles, they were the Beau Brummels. He also produced Grace Slick's first band the Great Society, he produced rock concerts in the park years before Bill Graham would, he helped produce and promote the Beatles last public performance on August 29, 1966. It's hard to believe one guy could be that busy and productive. Alas his life was cut short by his enormous weight and bad lifestyle. Tom was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1996. Without Tom would Sacramento have had it's KZAP? Would Boston have it's WBCN? Philadelphia it's WMMS?..FM underground radio is part of the Revoluton's DNA. Thanks Tom, for giving us so much and for showing me a way to make a living that didn't involve pulling a muscle. Peace Out

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05/16/2011 10:47AM
The Big Daddy of FM Radio
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10/10/2011 3:27PM
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10/10/2011 3:47PM
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