Elected to the National Television Academy Silver Circle,
Elected to the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, 2006
What can you say about Jim Gabbert. He is not
only a legend, but a true pioneer
and innovator the man with the Midas touch! Almost every radio or television
property he's touched seems to turn to gold!
James Jeffrey Gabbert was born in Chico, Calif., in 1936. The son of a diplomat, Jim grew up
in El Salvador, Paraguay, Argentina, and finally Costa Rica where he finished high school. At
17, Jim was ready to return to the U.S. and begin college. During his interviews at West Point
and Annapolis, a radio station moved in next door to him in Central America. That was the end
of his thoughts of military service or a Foreign Service career.
Jim began his illustrious career in radio by buying an hour of airtime on local radio, selling
advertising and broadcasting in English. He played the latest stateside pop music of 1953 sent
to him by his brother, then a West Point cadet.
They say you only love once; Jim's love in radio was and still is engineering. He broke into
radio by climbing radio transmitter towers. At age 62, you could still find him climbing the
television station's tower on Mount Sutro on any given day.
Jim came back to California to attend Stanford University, where he pursued his degree in
Electrical Engineering. He worked part-time as a Spanish-speaking disc jockey. In 1957, in the
home stretch of his college career, Jim made a $2000 investment, along with two other partners,
and built KPEN-FM.
It started as an uphill push, as KPEN was founded in a mere adobe hut in Atherton, and
perceptions of FM radio's future were meek at best. Jim's timing could not have been better,
though. Jim's was the first new FM station in the market in eight years, and within a few years,
the 1,000 watt station evolved into the 125,000-watt K101.
He owned the first radio station to integrate its call letters with it's dial position, a
technique that led K101 to become one of San Francisco's most well known stations. Jim moved
K101 up to San Francisco and also purchased KSAY-AM (1010 AM), switched its call letters to
K101-AM (KIQI) making that AM/FM combination the Adult Contemporary radio leader in the market.
Under the Pacific FM group, Jim acquired two Honolulu stations in 1979, KIKI-AM and
KPIG-FM. With a desire to get into television broadcasting, Jim sold all four stations and
bought KEMO-TV (Channel 20) in San Francisco. The call letters were changed to KTZO in October
of 1980 when Jim's first television signals were broadcast. Later in 1986, KTZO gave way to a
new format, and new call letters. KOFY was born and its success was built upon its balance
of syndicated shows and popular local programming including the '50s Dance
1994 marked another milestone in Jim's career when he was approached by Warner Brothers and
asked to be the San Francisco Bay Area affiliate for the new Warner Brothers television network,
the WB. KOFY's identification evolved again becoming WB20 KOFY.
Jim is a true pioneer and has a long list of "firsts" to attest to that fact. With his background
in FM radio and engineering experience, he was the first station in the world to put out a
single-station quadraphonic broadcast.
Jim has been honored by The Gavin Report, Billboard Magazine and by
President Kennedy at the National Press Club in 1962. In 1994, the California
Broadcasters Association named Jim their Broadcaster of the Year. He sold his two radio stations,
KOFY 1050 AM and KDIA 1310 AM, and the sale of WB20 Television closed on July 19, 1998.
The sales of his broadcasting companies ushers in a new era for Jim Gabbert,
one he will certainly approach with the same energy and flair that have made him
a success in his five-decade career as
a broadcaster. His current plans include touring the world and enjoying his 50-meter Italian
yacht. An avid flyer, Jim pilots his own Boeing 727, Citation jet and DC3. A bachelor, Jim
lives in his Sausalito home with his Alaskan Malamute, Jake.
Check out Dave Billeci's collection of
rare and unique recordings featuring James Gabbert at
KPEN and K-101!