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SF radio pioneer Bill Drake dies

Numerous news outlets are reporting tonight that Bill Drake, the music-radio consultant who created the Top 40 format in the 60s and 70s, died Saturday of lung cancer in a Los Angeles hospital at age 71.

In 1960, after taking a station in Atlanta to the top, Drake arrived at KYA Radio 1260 in San Francisco where he did the same as the station’s morning man and program director.

The format: Playing a list of popular songs all day long. Throw in a lot of jingles, short news reports and traffic updates. It was called the Drake format or Boss radio.

“‘The Drake Sound’ became an instant success at KYA, and soon spread to other stations. Before long, Bill Drake had redefined rock ‘n’ roll radio nationwide, which became ‘Top 40’ radio. Drake became a multi-millionaire, programming nearly a hundred AM and FM stations from his home in Bel Air in the 1970s,” John Schneider wrote in this entry about the history of KYA for the Bay Area Radio History Museum.

In 1963 KFRC, which had a more powerful signal, decided to copy KYA’s format. By 1966, KFRC over took KYA in the ratings. Drake later would be a consultant to KFRC. (Photo from the Bay Area Radio History Museum)

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