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KGFJ — 24-Hour Pioneer

How a small station in Los Angeles pioneered modern entertainment practice

Credit: The Committee To Preserve Radio Verifications The call letters are fading back into the ether from which they came and the names on the playbill are long forgotten — such is the lot of early radio history.

Jim Hilliker has put together a monograph on a station of some consequence, he thinks, “KGFJ — Los Angeles, The Original 24-Hour Radio Station.”

He makes the case that the station was the first station to broadcast 24 hours-a-day for any significant period of time; and by significant period of time he means months (which eventually evolved into years).

Before KGFJ began broadcasting 24 hours-a-day sometime in November of 1927, a few stations had experimented with the schedule but for various reasons abandoned it. Though all-night audiences are common now, at that time, most people and businesses still operated on a daylight-dominated schedule so the number of overnight listeners was expected to be small. It should also be remembered that back then many stations simply stopped broadcasting at times during the day, while most sought out the important nighttime audience listening between sunset and bedtime.

Why station owner Ben S. McGlashan pursued the all-night concept is unknown but it must have been worth his time and effort since he continued it for decades. Eventually most stations took up the practice and the rest is history.

The overnight programming was simply recorded music usually under the “Nite Owl” or “Saturday Nite Frolic” name. At times it was sponsored and had an announcer.

Looking at some old program listings Hilliker provides, the daily menu of KGFJ is heavy on small ensemble music, with a surprising variety of formats, including Mexican and Hawaiian with “blues” also regularly played. A live band also appeared. My favorite — the Silver Fizz Trio.

Hilliker provides a lot of fun information on Los Angeles area radio those many years ago along with dabbling in the growth of the 24-hour station phenomena and old DXing. A good read.