SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — On Dec. 22, KPIX officially turns 70 so it’s time to get up and dance and sing out loud, as we look back across 70 years of Bay Area music history.
At Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman performed the love theme from “Cinema Paradiso.” Each stroke a testament to the power of music.
The event was the San Francisco Symphony season-opening gala — captured by KPIX cameras.
Viewers should take note: from glamorous galas to funky little clubs, from big celebrities to rising stars for the past 70 years, KPIX has brought the music into your home.
We know all the moves: the twist, the hippie freestyle, disco, hip-hop and the tango to name just a few steps that we’ve taken with you over the decades.
Early on, we broadcast famed jazz guitarist Nick Esposito as he performed on the Del Courtney variety show which was televised live from our studios from 1949 through the mid-50s.
On March 21, 1972, the legendary Ella Fitzgerald belted out Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” entertaining patients, staff, and troops alike at a new theater at the Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco’s Presidio. Ms. Fitzgerald was the first major entertainer to appear in the theater and she drew a standing ovation.
Then, in 1968, KPIX News sent reporter Ed Arnow to cover the Berkeley Folk Music Festival. He quickly discovered that music is in the ear of the beholder. “Different people sure approach folk music differently,” quipped Arnow.
On October 3, 1969, then KPIX reporter Evan White reported from a rock concert in an unlikely location.
“This is Country Joe and the Fish along with Sons of Champlin,” White intoned. “They’re giving a rock concert today from the back of a flatbed truck. A rock concert on a sunny afternoon not hard to find in the Bay Area but this is unique because this flatbed truck is sitting inside the walls of San Quentin Prison.”
From a concert held in front of a captive audience to 2016, where Justin Herman Plaza was packed with partygoers on hand to listen to the wonderful Chris Isaak who crooned in honor of Super Bowl 50, over the years KPIX has enjoyed an “all access pass.”
A few great examples took place in 1989. One of the world’s greatest guitarists, Carlos Santana, invited our crew into a rehearsal studio located in an old warehouse in the Mission District. As he practiced, the cameras rolled.
Rock’s “Renaissance Man” Todd Rundgren welcomed Channel 5 into his home in Sausalito and showed off a new composition he had penned for a Broadway show called “Up Against It.” It was to be directed by Joseph Papp.
“It’s been invigorating, it’s been enlightening to be involved in this particular project and as a writer it affords me a new audience,” explained Rundgren.
Then, there was the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. He agreed to do an interview with KPIX anchor Kate Kelly and asked us to meet him at the band’s San Rafael studios.
“I asked him how he wanted to be remembered,” Kelly recalled. Garcia laughed out loud.
“Geez I don’t know. I never thought about it in those terms. I’d like to be known as a guy who had a pretty good time when he was here. You never know you can go at any moment so you might as well try to crowd as much as you can possibly get into your life,” said the musician.
KPIX found lots of raw tape in the vault. In the old days, big acts allowed news crews to videotape the first song at concerts. We found footage of Madonna performing at the Civic Center during her “Virgin” tour on April 23, 1985.
KPIX was allowed to capture Train rehearsing at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco for a special show in 2011. The band had just earned their 3rd Grammy nomination for “Hey Soul Sister.”
Channel 5 cameras also recorded a backstage interview with Green Day in 2005. The punk rock band had just received two Grammy nominations for their masterpiece “American Idiot.”
“I think people would say music and politics aren’t supposed to collide but I think they’re wrong. I think rock ‘n’ roll has always been some social political statement,” proclaimed singer and musician Billie Joe Armstrong.
Acclaimed conductor Kent Nagano also invited us into his home in San Francisco. At the time, he was living in Lyon, France, as the music director for the Opera National de Lyon. He traveled around the world.
“You can say that one place feels more like home again so, when I come to San Francisco, no matter if it’s just for a few weeks or a few times out of the year — it’s that one moment for me that I can just breathe,” he said.
On March 31, 1972, then KPIX reporter Belva Davis was on hand with her crew, as the high priestess of soul, Nina Simone, held court in Berkeley.
Simone, a civil rights activist, was surprised when then-mayor Warren Widener issued a proclamation in her honor.
The location: The black cultural center known as The Rainbow Sign.
“Thank you! Thank you very much,” she responded, overwhelmed in a barely-audible voice.
In 1987, in two sold-out shows in the Bay Area, U2 hit the stage at the Cow Palace. The Irish supergroup had just released their fifth studio album.
It was called “The Joshua Tree.” The recording became one of the world’s best-selling albums. That night on Channel 5, we aired a clip of the footage that our crew shot and had a technical difficulty. On our news set: the late Doug Murphy and Barbara Rodgers; Because of a technical snafu, you got a glimpse of a “behind-the-scenes” floor manager.
Another mishap occurred on October 20, 1981 when the Rolling Stones were in town to promote their album “Tattoo You.” They played two shows at Candlestick Park.
Lead singer Mick Jagger swung through San Francisco to meet with then-mayor Dianne Feinstein. Jagger had promised to help her promote her “Save the Cable Cars” campaign.
He walked with the mayor from City Hall and, in the footage, you can see KPIX anchor and reporter Colleen Williams.
Jagger was generally jovial in an interview with the press before heading off to lunch at famed local French brasserie Le Central.
Current KPIX anchor Ken Bastida was working for KFRC at the time and he spotted the famous singer and told his colleague Mike Sugerman. Sugerman grabbed his recorder and headed into the restaurant. Jagger was not happy and grabbed Sugerman’s glasses off his face. Sugerman recorded the entire interaction. Bottom line: the reporter left with broken glasses.
“I went up to the table where he was eating and I had my microphone out — it says KFRC on it — and I said ‘Mister Jagger’ and he said ‘oh no, get out of here, get out of here! Turn that thing off,’ and, at that point, he took my glasses off,” Sugerman recalled.
The Beatles were also big news. On August 18, 1964, our news team reported that the Fab Four were just minutes away from landing at SFO. Reporter Rod Sherry was live via remote at the airport, where it was packed with teenagers welcoming them with huge homemade signs.
“Which one of the Beatles is your favorite?,” Rod Sherry asked one young woman with a blond beehive hairdo.
“George!” she exclaimed.
In 1970, the band split and in June, 1976, KPIX correspondent Richard Hart interviewed Paul McCartney at the Cow Palace, on tour with his band “Wings.”
“I am wondering what your sense is what’s left over from Beatlemania?,” Hart asked.
“I don’t really think about it myself,” McCartney said, adding, “You get the odd person who says ‘Where’s John?'”
In May of 1973 KPIX’s Belva Davis interviewed The Supremes on a rooftop garden in San Francisco.
Mary Wilson, Jean Terrell, and Lynda Laurence showed off their gowns.
“Mary, clothes seem to play an important part in what the Supremes do, is that really true? ” asked Davis.
“Well, of course, we have always been known to wear very high-fashion gowns,” replied Wilson, who went on to explain how, when the group wore pantsuits, fans complained.
The KPIX 70 Years playlist seems endless: we interviewed Johnny Mathis, Charlie Musselwhite, the Del Rubios, Johnny Otis and Metallica. KPIX News also covered the music of New Orleans when the 49ers played Super Bowl XXIV in 1990.
As for rising new stars, KPIX captured K. Flay at the Fillmore, Kehlani at the Fox Theatre in Oakland and Fantastic Negrito at The New Parish.
Channel 5 also made our own music, when then-reporter Mike Hegedus dived into the music business.
Hegedus and his producer Rita Davidson produced a four-part series on how to make a record as well as a music video.
The song was called “Man on the Street,” and it made it to MTV, as well as on a report on “Entertainment Tonight.”
And, on July 21, 1967, KPIX captured the late Vince Guaraldi and his trio rehearsing with the San Francisco Boys Chorus as they prepared to record an album together.
“This group here is fabulous, they’re well-trained professionals,” remarked Guaraldi. The Boys Chorus was also founded 70 years ago and are now holding auditions.
Now a special gift from KPIX to you: A holiday song in honor of our shared 70th anniversaries. You can download it for free:
MORE WEB LINKS:
Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso
Letterman Army Hospital
Begin the Beguine
Berkeley Folk Music Festival
Sons of Champlin
Up Against It
San Francisco Boys Chorus