Pioneer L. A. Christian Station Stops Broadcasting After 79 Years
by Jim Hilliker
In August 2002, I wrote a history of KFSG radio that appeared on LARadio.com. That story was mostly a technical timeline of the station’s changing frequencies and transmitter powers over the years, and the station’s relationship with KRKD, today’s 1150-AM license, since KFSG divided time with that station for more than 32 years. This time, I hope to cover KFSG from a different standpoint, mainly focusing on its earliest years on the air. I feel it was a legendary radio station in Los Angeles history, in its own way. I also believe it has left behind a strong foundation for Christian broadcasting stations to build on over the years, which will enable other such stations to continue in its path.
After 79 years of broadcasting in Los Angeles, Christian radio station KFSG sent its final words over the radio on the night of February 28/March 1, 2003, just before the clock struck midnight.
Never mind that their 93.5 FM signal was licensed to Redondo Beach, with a twin transmitter on 93.5 licensed to Ontario. KFSG had three previous radio station licenses, on 96.3 FM in Los Angeles from 1970 to 2001, and two licenses to broadcast on the AM band, from 1924 to 1970. So, why did KFSG go off the air after 79 years? The company that owned the licenses for these stations, Spanish Broadcasting System, cancelled KFSG’s lease to use 93.5, so KFSG had to vacate the frequencies and leave the air. The two 93.5 stations became KZAB and KZBA, broadcasting in Spanish. The pioneer religious station of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is gone from the Southern California airwaves, and the organization so far has no idea about future plans to get a station in the L.A. area again. With the silencing of KFSG, their historic call letters are gone from Los Angeles, for now. A foreign-language/religious station on 1690-AM in Roseville, CA picked up the KFSG call letters on March 13th.
Sadly, for longtime listeners and radio historians, there was no extensive “goodbye” broadcast with a retrospective or history of the station, listener calls, memories from former KFSG workers, old airchecks, or an explanation of why KFSG was leaving the air, during its final hour. This is not too surprising. In late 1988, when I found out that KFAC on 1330-AM was leaving the air because it was being sold to the owners of KWKW-1300, I wrote a short history of KFAC and KWKW. I ended the piece with a comment, wondering if the station would make any special announcement before the final KFAC-AM ID was to be heard, and then gone forever.
My story ended up in the hands of KFAC’s owners. After they read it, they decided they would make some special announcement. When the final moments came on the night of January 17, 1989, they did make a special effort to explain that it was the last broadcast of KFAC-1330 AM after nearly 58 years and why the station was changing over to Spanish as KWKW. But it was only a brief 3½ minutes, far too short to do justice to KFAC’s history. I hope what I have written below about the early years of KFSG, will fill in the gaps for those listeners who were disappointed, that the station didn’t make any effort to pay a tribute to those broadcasters who started KFSG in its infancy and kept it going. For the others who may read this, I hope you’ll enjoy this slice of Los Angeles radio history.
With so many radio stations to choose from in Los Angeles, I suppose a station like KFSG could have been lost in the shuffle by today’s radio listeners, given its format. After all, it did not show up in the Arbitron ratings of Los Angeles radio stations. Most L.A. radio listeners probably never have heard of KFSG.
That’s understandable, since this station was enormously popular 75 to 80 years ago when radio was the newest “fad”, and there were only anywhere from 6 to 14 radio stations in L.A. and surrounding cities. The population of Los Angeles was still under 1 million at the time. But one thing is certain. There never would have been a KFSG without Aimee Semple McPherson, the woman evangelist who got the station on the air in 1924. Today, if some people know her name, it’s only because of an infamous kidnapping scandal in 1926, in which the press accused her of running off for a while with her former KFSG engineer, who was married. Others may have known or heard that actress Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Baker) was baptized by Aimee in 1926 at Angelus Temple and actor Anthony Quinn played in the Temple band as a teenager in the early-1930s. He also translated Aimee’s sermons into Spanish for the Mexicans attending the services. She was even immortalized in the 1937 song “Hooray for Hollywood”, in which songwriter Johnny Mercer included these lyrics, “Where anyone at all, from Shirley Temple to Aimee Semple, is equally understood.”
Jim Hilliker is a radio historian and former broadcaster. He has written a number of articles on the history of broadcasting in Los Angeles. He currently lives in Monterey, California.
This article is © 2003 – Jim Hilliker
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