Music News & Reviews

Former DJs bringing back KZAP to Sacramento airwaves

New K-ZAP logo
New K-ZAP logo K-ZAP

The legendary Sacramento rock station once known as KZAP is about to make a comeback, orange cat and all.

Twenty-three years after the eclectic station left the local airways, a group of its former DJs and others are set to launch “Sacramento’s KZAP,” a low-power community station that will broadcast on 93.3 FM and stream online.

The idea is to create “a new station in the spirit of the old KZAP that plays old and new music and mixes it all together,” Dennis Newhall, a former KZAP disc jockey and one of the organizers of the new venture, said Thursday.

“That’s an animal that doesn’t exist in Sacramento,” Newhall said.

The station begins airing on July 4, using a tower on Richards Boulevard with enough juice to reach 1.2 million people in the greater Sacramento area, Newhall said.

The original KZAP, which debuted in 1968, gained an immediate following as a “free form” station that played whatever music suited the mood of that day’s DJ. It gravitated to a more consistent format but still played a mix of classic blues and rock along with new music, focusing on “deeper” album cuts that didn’t get mainstream airplay.

It reached its peak of popularity in the early 1980s, attracting a 15 percent audience share, and was known widely by its call letters and its ubiquitous logo featuring a cartoon image of a smiling orange cat. The new KZAP has obtained the rights to use that logo, Newhall said.

As with the original station, music played in the new 24-hour-a-day operation will be “curated” by DJs, including former KZAP regulars like Newhall, Jon Russell, Robert Williams, Ace Young, Bob “The Godfather” Galli, Tom Cale and Diane Michaels.

They will offer commentary on songs and provide news about concerts and community news.

“We want to give people the information they need to have a good time,” Newhall said. “It’s not going to be ‘The Morning Zoo.’ We’re not going to try to be funny. But it will be entertaining.”

The idea for the new KZAP took shape 21/2 years ago after the UC Davis radio station, KDVS FM, sponsored a KZAP appreciation event that involved numerous DJs from the old station,

Shortly after that, Newhall and some of the other KZAP veterans learned that the Federal Communications Commission was offering low-power FM licenses to community nonprofits.

The KZAP jocks teamed up with Process Theatre Inc., a local group that provides training for careers in performing arts and digital media, and received one of the licenses in March.

Funding for the new venture will come from sponsors and listeners, similar to the way public radio is supported.

The new station will operate without a studio – at least for now, Newhall said.

“We are virtual. I can do this from an iPhone in the middle of Capitol Mall if I want to,” he said.