In 1957, a pair of 21-year-old Stanford University students purchased KLX-FM, a small FM radio station licensed to Atherton, CA. The call letters were changed to KPEN and it went on to become one of the most important radio stations of the 1960s. One of the station's original student owners, Gary Gielow, has written a book about his experiences running this iconic radio station. The recently released, self-published book is entitled "The Story of KPEN - Atherton/San Francisco 1957-1968 - A Concept In Great Radio!"
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Ben Fong-Torres, Gielow said he and his business partner wished to work for themselves so they sought out to purchase a radio station. AM licenses were hard to come by, but at that time, FM licenses were plentiful, although within a year, all the FM licenses were also gone.
After creative differences about the station's future direction erupted, Gielow sold his share of KPEN in 1968 to his partner, James Gabbert. Soon after Gabbert changed the call letters of the station to KIOI, bringing an end to KPEN's historic run.
During the station's 11 years, it was the first west of the Mississippi to broadcast in stereo (starting in 1961) and the highest wattage station in the west (blasting out at 125,000 watts, starting in 1964). KPEN also was among the first to not use the FM signal as just a way to simulcast an AM signal, but rather Gielow and Gabbert programmed the station specifically to take advantage of the FM fidelity.
In his book, Gielow gives his memories of operating the station, as well as providing photographs and copies of newspaper articles about KPEN. The book is exclusively available through California Historical Radio Society website. Gielow is donating 100% of the proceeds to the Society. He said he was doing so to help give back for all that radio gave to him.
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