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—Courtesy Bill Gardner

Denver: Rock City

Fifty years ago, Denver made radio history.

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In 1965, Denver’s AM-950 and its rock ‘n’ roll ruled the ratings, with AM-560 a few points behind. So 560 hatched an unthinkable but brilliant plan: Put rock ‘n’ roll on FM. Back then, no one believed you needed the quality of FM for anything other than classical. But 560 figured if its new, better-sounding FM station, 106.7, could steal a few listeners from 950, its AM station might claim the top position. At first, none of the record companies would send us their promotional 45s, so we bought the top 25 or so hits. My record collection made up most of the rest of our library. At 4 p.m. on August 4, 1965, with the Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” 106.7 became the country’s first FM station to play rock ‘n’ roll exclusively. 560’s plan worked, and, more important, stations in Kansas City and New York followed suit. Now pop music dominates FM. Classical, meanwhile, plays mostly on AM.

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