THE BEAST OF THE BAY! KMEL 106, SAN FRANCISCO!
By: Kenny Wardell Sr.
KMEL 106 is a heritage Bay Area FM radio station that had it’s beginning in 1946 in San Francisco and has had multiple owners, along with multiple call letter and format switches throughout its legendary history.
On July 2, 1977, Century Broadcasting from St. Louis MO, (brothers Howard and Shelly Grafman) came into the city by the Bay and threw the switch on their new station, KFRC 106.1 FM San Francisco. The Grafman’s changed the call letters to be KMEL 106- delivering an album-oriented rock format, (AOR). The station used the KMEL call letters to name itself “Camel 106”.
Their master plan was very successful in ratings and radio business for close to ten years.
From right out of gate, KMEL 106 was one of the top-rated Northern California radio stations delivering big numbers of 18-34 and 25-54 adults! For both men and women! It was the beginning of the 1980’s and they had a gold mine of great music to go through! Bruce Springsteen, U2, Van Halen, AC/DC, and Metallica! Then, here comes a new San Francisco radio station that has attracted an incredible lineup of talented radio personalities, DJs, and news people to entertain and inform the audience. GRAND SLAM!
The General Manager of KMEL 106 at the beginning was Rick Lee who Century Broadcasting sent to California from St. Louis to run the show and put their new station on the map. The first morning team Lee hired at KMEL 106 was a duo known as Proctor and Ward who held down the early morning shift for a couple of years. Then in 1980, KMEL signed a popular New York radio personality and San Francisco native, Alex Bennett who teamed with news reporter/sidekick Joe Regelski who helped build an even larger audience than before. Bennett and Regelski were followed by well-liked veteran Tony Kilbert covering mid-day, music director Paul Vincent covering the afternoon, then Mary Holloway and Michael St. John in the evening. Some of the other popular media personalities that got their careers started at KMEL 106 were Howard Hoffman, Rick Chase, Renel Brooks-Moon, and J. Paul Emerson.