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KNAC is an internet based heavy metal music radio station. It was previously a Los Angeles, California area FM radio station.



KNAC on 105.5 FM

The original KNAC was an American radio station based in Long Beach, California which served the Los Angeles, California area broadcasting on the FM dial at 105.5 MHz. KNAC-FM had a variety of different formats. With a relatively weak signal and smaller coverage area (the station was initially signed on as KLFM to serve the Long Beach area and not all of the Los Angeles radio market) KNAC never appeared in the Arbitron Ratings. Outside the Los Angeles area, the station gained a huge following from Heavy Metal fans across the United States (via marketing and selling of t-shirts, stickers, CDs etc. via advertisements in Heavy Metal fan magazines).

Freeform era

In the late 1960s through the late 1970s, the Rock format KNAC ran was referred to as freeform. A Freeform radio format gives the on-air talent almost total control over what music to play, regardless of commercial interests.

Popular performers of the time such as Avant-garde Experimental music artist Frank Zappa and comical theatre troupe The Firesign Theatre would stop by the stations studios to perform live or act as guest DJs.

During the early part of this era, the station's on-air personalities would often perform their shifts while smoking marijuana or after having consumed other illicit drugs and alcohol beverages.[1]

As a Freeform radio station, KNAC featured typical rock artists of the day such as The Beatles, The Who, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, among others. With its liberal on-air format, however, KNAC also played album tracks or songs by the more popular rock music artists that other radio stations would tend not to play. In addition, KNAC played music artists that received less airplay on more commercial rock stations. These artists could include anyone from San Francisco Bay Area psychedelic music act It's a Beautiful Day, blues rock group Electric Flag, to Italian progressive rock act Premiata Forneria Marconi and Tangerine Dream. Some rhythm and blues, soul and funk artist including Billy Preston, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Funkadelic were also heard on KNAC. KNAC's Program Director was Ron McCoy and the station's owners were Jim and Claudia Harden. McCoy was a musician himself.

By the middle of 1970s the underground and counterculture movements of the 1960s and culture surrounding them began to be replaced by newer subcultures. As a result, KNAC started to play more punk rock and new wave music. By the late 1970s, KNAC had begun to evolve into an eclectic alternative music station.

Alternative music era

During the first half of the 1980s, KNAC had an alternative music format. KNAC was known in the early 80's as Rock N Rhythm 105.5 KNAC, developed by program director and afternoon drive DJ Jimmy 'The Saint' Christopher. KNAC had a reputation as a cutting edge station that played music that would later be added to the playlist of the Los Angeles areas more popular and powerful alternative station KROQ. Bands like The Jam, Elvis Costello and Dave Edmunds visited the station's Long Beach studio. The station was considered influential in bringing about a thriving alternative music scene in Orange County and Long Beach. Members of Sublime and No Doubt would listen religiously every Sunday night to Roberto Angotti's Reggae Revolution from 1982 to 1986. Angotti was responsible for launching the careers of UB40, Steel Pulse, Pato Banton, Tippa Irie, Macka B, Mad Professor and many other UK-based artists. He would venture to Jamaica to document the roots of reggae and recorded Peter Tosh's final interview before his untimely death. 'Reggae Revolution' was the only radio show that survived the 'Pure Rock' format change as Roberto took the #1 Arbitron rated program to 'Rock of the 80's KROQ' in Pasadena/Burbank where he would remain until his move to 91X in San Diego in the early 90's. Announcers Norm McBride, Sylvia Amerito, Mary Hogins, Soup Sulllivan, Roland West, Doug Adams and Manny Pacheco were a few of the popular DJ's of this time.

Heavy metal era

In 1984, Fred Sands purchased the radio station at a bankruptcy auction.

Fred Sands advertised in trade publications indicating he was desirous of hiring a general manager with major market experience. Gary Price, an industry veteran, took the job and worked with Fred Sands, who was intimately involved for the first year.

The antenna was moved from Signal Hill, California to Dominguez Hills, increasing the coverage area. In addition, they ordered and installed state of the art equipment for the new studio location and hired a new engineer.

With all the new improvements, Sands and Price recognized that KNAC needed a new sound as well. They selected a heavy metal format, targeting younger demographics. For the first time KNAC FM 105.5 appeared in the Arbitron ratings and, once established, the station cash flowed a seven figure sum each year.

Sands and Price worked together for about ten years. Sands sold the radio station in 1994 for five times what he paid for it in 1984.

Decline in popularity

By early 1992 Heavy Metal was losing ground to the growing popularity of various "Alternative Subcultures". In trying to keep up with the times, KNAC began adding more music acts popular in the alternative music genre to its playlist rotation. The majority of these were the more guitar based grunge acts like Pearl Jam and Nirvana. While fans of the more adventurous and alternative earlier KNAC incarnation heralded a possible return to the previous format, many metal fans disliked KNAC's new sound, and the already ratings-challenged station saw further declines in audience shares. In 1994, management announced that KNAC was being sold and was switching to a Spanish-language music format. Heavy Metal fans began tuning in again to find that KNAC had returned to its metal format for the few last months. Once again, headbangers could hear the classic metal they had not heard in a while, like Megadeth or Saxon."

Finally, the last day February 15, 1995 arrived. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of Metallica guest DJed to show their support. The last song to be played on KNAC was Metallica's "Fade To Black." At 1:59 p.m., KNAC went off the air with a short good-bye from General Manager, Gary Price.

Return via World Wide Web

In 1998, under the guidance of record company promoter Rob Jones Jr.,[2] a group of former KNAC staffers revived the station via Internet at, utilizing the relatively new technology of streaming audio. The music resembles that of the "halcyon days" of the 1980s, complete with the white-on-black KNAC logo and other on-air features.

In June 2007, it was announced that KNAC D.J. Tawn Mastrey had to leave her job as host of Hair Nation on Sirius Satellite Radio as a result of complications caused by Hepatitis C. (She died on October 2, 2007.)[3] To build awareness to Tawn's situation a KNAC-FM On Air Reunion was held on July 28, 2007 at on the campus of Cerritos College in Norwalk, CA, which included many of the original KNAC-FM air personalities and former General Manager Gary Price. (Click here for a podcast of this reunion.)


  1. ^ Free Form Radio: Kmet Fm History
  2. ^ "Tuning in to radio's wired wave" USA Today December 23, 1998
  3. ^ KNAC.COM - News - Remembering Tawn

External links

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