JOHNNY HYDE (1939-2017)

Left is Johnny Hyde in his programming office at KCRA AM in 1974, after he served as KROY's programmer in its heyday. The picture was taken by writer Jeff March, who is the co-author with Marti Smiley Childs of a music history book series called Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone? Find out whatever happened to dozens of hit recording artists of the 1960s and 1970s.

The KROY Story Video Interview Series

KROY was where a lot of incredible national radio history was written when you consider its top talent. A few people who went through 1240 KROY ended up influencing the sound of American radio. Dwight Case, for example, went from General Manager at KROY to President of RKO Radio. Johnny Hyde, who programmed KROY in its late sixties/early seventies heyday, was friends with radio programming innovators Chuck Blore, Tom Donahue and Rick Carroll. KROY didn't hit #1 in Sacramento until after Dwight hired Johnny, who brought his huge audience to the station from crosstown 1470 KXOA.

See more KROY History and Interviews with Tony Cox

Alex Cosper interviews Johnny Hyde (KROY PD/mornings) on June 6, 2012. Read more about Sacramento Radio History

KROY Story #1 with Johnny Hyde: Early Rock and Roll
Johnny Hyde is a Sacramento radio legend who programmed the capital city's most highest rated radio station during radio's golden age. His influence helped shape the soundtrack of people's lives in that era, as he was responsible for hiring the talent and selecting most of the music, while still allowing jocks the freedom to say and play what they wanted within the music library. At 1240 on the AM dial, KROY was the number one station in Sacramento from 1968 to 1974. Hyde worked as Program Director and Morning Host in the late 60s thru early seventies. In this segment he talks about what inspired him to get into radio as a kid: rhythm & blues, rock & roll and growing up with St. Louis radio.
KROY Story #2 with Johnny Hyde: Golden State Radio
Johnny Hyde talks about moving from Tucson to Southern California in the early 1960s as his radio career began to take shape. He was a fan of KFWB, a legendary top 40 station in Los Angeles radio history, programmed by Chuck Blore. Johnny wound up working at KWAC in Bakersfield and KYNO in Fresno prior to moving to Sacramento. At KYNO he was Music Director under Bill Drake, who went on to become an influential consultant in the radio industry, spreading the "boss radio" sound. But Johnny was too much of a music fan to deal with Drake's tight playlist that kept getting tighter.
KROY Story #3 with Johnny Hyde: Integrity vs Hype
After leaving KYNO, Johnny Hyde found himself at KJOY in Stockton during the time of the JFK assassination. As Program Director he made the decision, as many stations did, to abandon regular programming and play classical music. One of the radio industry publications he respected at the time was The Gavin Report, which helped radio programmers track the music picks of gut-level programmers of the era who were known for finding hit songs. After KJOY he moved to Sacramento and worked at KXOA and KROY. The problem with KROY was that it had a 250 watt weak signal that didn't cover the market, but he was able to inspire the engineer to improve coverage.
KROY Story #4 with Johnny Hyde: KROY vs KXOA
At 1470 KXOA Johnny started a new music show called "The Gear Hour" that featured emerging artists of the British Invasion while his rival and future destination station 1240 KROY hung with the surf trend and safe pop hits. KROY even refused to play new music that wasn't yet available at Tower Records. Yes, Johnny is who introduced The Beatles to the Sacramento radio audience, prior to their first hit in America. The Gear Hour was so successful KROY's General Manager Dwight Case offered Johnny a programming job he couldn't refuse, so he made the big switch across town.
KROY Story #5 with Johnny Hyde: Music Power
"Music Power" was KROY's slogan during its heyday in the late sixties. Johnny Hyde guided his staff at KROY using a valuable resource we all know as imagination. He attributes luck and talent as two important reasons the station was able to dominate the market. During a power outtage in the middle of a ratings period, the station's on-air studio went down but the transmitter was still on. So Hyde turned to jock Chuck Roy, who came up with a cheap turntable and a microphone that they took to the transmitter, which was located on the city garbage dump Downtown. He and Chuck invited listeners to bring them coffee and an incredibly large crowd showed up to show support, which also attracted local newspapers and TV stations.
KROY Story #6 with Johnny Hyde: Jocks and Music
The music on KROY went through Johnny Hyde, who allowed a degree of jock freedom. Part of the station's success was due to Johnny's ability to pick hits before they became big, although he still included songs with heavy requests regardless of what he thought. He was a fan of meaningful artistic music, not so much trite bubble gum records that he made fun of on the air. It was a balance between art and commerce, which is something later research-intensive radio execs of the 21st century seemed to not understand. Johnny purposely gave KROY its own musical and jock identity to counter the growing trend of stations imitating consultant-driven generic radio.
KROY Story #7 with Johnny Hyde: Testing the Limits
Johnny liked to break up the mold of regular top 40 radio, which was why no other station in town or the country sounded like KROY. Musically, he sprinkled in records he believed in that weren't popular but were good enough that he thought were worth taking chances on. He was open to local music, although he himself produced local artists and he didn't want to take advantage of his position to play whatever he wanted. He allowed jocks to explore creativity. He was friends with Tom Donahue, who pioneered freeform radio at KMPX and KSAN in San Francisco. His love for "theater of the mind" presentation helped KROY develop its own unique brand.
KROY Story #8 with Johnny Hyde: 21st Century Radio
In this final segment of the June 6, 2012 interview session at his home, Johnny gives his views on 21st century radio and new media. Now that radio has become more corporate and automated it is more homogenized with less creativity than last century's golden age of radio. The expansion of media choices to hear talk and music has also been a factor in diluting the impact of what the airwaves once commanded. He believes that pop culture is in a transition period and that radio voices and programming styles of the past will be heard again through customized mobile internet radio.

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