The Story of Classical KDFC - Classical KDFC

Culture / The Story of Classical KDFC

The Story of
Classical KDFC

After 6 decades and multiple owners,
KDFC was reborn in 2011 as a listener-supported
non-profit radio station, securing a future
for classical music in the Bay Area
for generations to come!

KDFC: Where Love of Classical Music is Born.

  • Established In 1948

  • KDFC tower

    KDFC first hit the airwaves on Sept 1, 1948 broadcasting from the transmitter building on historic Mt. Beacon in Sausalito on 102.1FM. The station’s current signal at 90.3FM transmits from this same building.

  • image-3-staff

    Bill Crocker founded the station and was its first general manager. Sales was handled by Ed Davis who later became the station’s long-running GM. Engineering was handled by Herbert Florance. The names of these three gentlemen, Davis, Florance, Crocker, created the acronym for the call letters KDFC.

  • image-4-records

    The hosts would make the announcements about the music, and the engineering staff would spin the 78 rpm records. With the evolution of technology, the station eventually was able to broadcast for more hours in the day, and the programming became mostly automated with a small group of recorded announcers.

  • image-2-ships

    In the early days, the broadcast originated from the transmitter site, and visitors could enjoy the view of the endless procession of ships through the Golden Gate. Very few people had FM radios in those days, and the station only broadcast from 3:30pm-10:30pm, but it was a start for the Bay Area’s first classical music station.

  • Palo Alto, CA, USA - June 28, 2015: Stanford University Hoover Tower. Completed in 1941, the 50th year of Stanford University's 50th anniversary, the tower was inspired by the cathedral tower in Salamanca, Spain.

    KDFC acquired KIBE 1220AM in Paso Alto and simulcast the FM signal on that station until the 1990s

  • image-5-new-staff

    In 1997 the station was purchased by Bonneville International. They created an accessible classical format with live announcers. Bill Lueth was the Program Director and morning host, joined by Dianne Nicolini in middays, and Rik Malone in the afternoons. Hoyt Smith joined a couple of years later. In the fall of 1999 and the Fall of 2000 KDFC reached the unprecedented high mark for classical radio as the highest-rated music station in the Bay Area.

  • kdfc-air-studio

    A decade later, after the financial collapse, and the continued consolidation of commercial radio, the 102.1 signal was flipped to a rock format, and the core staff of KDFC was hired by the University of Southern California to create a new non-profit, listener-supported classical service for Northern California.

  • image-7-napa

    In an effort to keep KDFC on the air in the Bay Area, USC invested over $10 million in start-up costs to buy available signals at 90.3FM in San Francisco, 89.9FM in Napa, and 92.5 in Ukiah. The new KDFC was launched on January 18, 2011.

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    The following January the 90.3 signal was upgraded and moved to Sausalito - the same site of the original KDFC.

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    In May of 2012, with the help of a $7.5 million loan from USC, 104.9FM in San Jose was added to the network.

  • Sea

    KDFC was able to add coverage to Monterey and Carmel.

  • Lara Downes by Max Barrett_2021 9x6

    Lara Downes joins KDFC as the new evening host, weekdays 8PM-Midnight, and as the station’s first-ever Resident Artist, curating and creating new digital content to engage communities across California and give KDFC listeners a more in-depth look at the creativity and history that has shaped our musical lives.

  • KDFC Building Window to the Music 9x6

    KDFC moves to its new home in the heart of San Francisco's Arts District! With the help of many in this community, we have been able to create a wonderful space to create more ways to nurture the love of classical music for all.

  • 75-final

    KDFC celebrates 75 years of broadcasting classical radio to the Bay Area!

  • KDFCDay2023__025

    San Francisco Mayor London breed declares September 1, 2023 as KDFC Day in San Francisco.

Our Mission Today

KDFC nurtures a love of classical music, inspiring people to make it an enduring part of their lives. The station curates beautiful music, creates compelling experiences, and welcomes all on the journey. Based in San Francisco, the station’s 350,000 weekly listeners can hear the music on 89.9 in Napa and the wine country, 90.3 in San Francisco and Oakland, and 104.9 in San Jose and Silicon Valley. The smartphone app and live stream at attract local listeners and others from around the globe.


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54 years ago