"I'm here to clear up your face and mess up your mind."
Tom Donahue arrived in San Francisco in 1961. His life had already taken some interesting turns as a military policeman in the Philippines and a top-rated disc jockey in Wilmington and Philadelphia.He was encouraged to move west by his friend Bobby Mitchell who had worked with him at WIBG in Philadelphia. Mitchell had fled the east for San Francisco a year or so earlier after payola investigations in 1959 and 1960 made many east coast radio personalities nervous.
Tom's success at KYA was immediate. His friendship with Mitchell deepened and the two soon formed a business partnership. They joined forces initially to produce record hops--a profitable sideline they brought with them from their years in Philadelphia. It was a source of income that far exceeded their salaries as disc jockeys.
From their base of operations, KYA, Tom and Bob formed an empire of interlocking businesses which brought them into association with such show business legends as Phil Spector, Joe Smith of Warner Brothers Records and their own record producer, Sly Stone, who was also a disc jockey at San Francisco R&B station, KSOL.
Tom and Bob formed Tempo Productions in 1962 and it grew to include Tempo Stables, Autumn North Beach Records and Mother's, the first psychedelic night club, located down the street from Enrico's at Broadway and Montgomery Streets. Tom moved to North Beach in 1962 and lived first with his friend and associate Abe "Voco" Kesh on Edgardo Place, off the top of Grant Avenue, and later on Alta, off upper Montgomery Street with his friend, lover and soon-to-be second wife, Raechel Hamilton.
His relatively brief presence in North Beach made a long lasting impact on its cultural life. Tom befriended and was befriended by poets, artists, musicians and writers. Tom often held court at Enrico's and down the street at New Joe's, supping enthusiastically while he discussed business or cultural affairs with hundreds of friends from all walks of life.
Tom had many interests; a racing stable, a record company and music publishing firm with a string of hits, night clubs and a concert promoting company that produced many legendary shows in the 1960's including the Rolling Stones and the final concert of The Beatles at Candlestick Park in August, 1966.
His business interests never interfered with his active involvement in cultural and literary affairs. Tom Donahue was, in a very profound way, the very best of men; he was always a student and he was always a teacher. His mind was always open to new ideas and he was constantly opening other minds to new ideas as well.
Despite his imposing demeanor, Tom was modest about his career achievements while simultaneously proud of his ability to anticipate a trend. At KMPX, a listener wisiting the station asked "Tom, would you think I was on an ego trip if I told you I was God?" Tom said "No, man, I'd believe you!" When asked if he was the creator of FM rock radio, Tom would invariably reply, "Let everybody else be first, I'll be happy to be second."
But those who were fortunate to share
some time and experiences with this man agree that he was, and is Number One!
Bob McClay 1995