Like many FM stations at the time, KMET featured an automated format in June 1968 (with female voices and middle of the road music) as KRHM-FM. The origin of KMET’s freeform rock music format came about due to events at a rival radio station. In 1967, popular Top 40 disc jockey Tom Donahue and his wife Raechel brought the FM underground rock sound to KMPX in San Francisco, and soon, along with legendary L.A. Top 40 personality B. Mitchel Reed, to its co-owned station, KPPC-FM, in Pasadena. Both stations quickly became popular with their innovative formats, and brought the owners more success than they ever encountered before. But it was to be short lived. After conflicts with the stations’ owners, the Donahues, Reed and the rest of the KPPC and KMPX staff left both stations and went on strike. As prospects for resolving the strike looked hopeless (with the owners hiring scab employees to continue the rock programming), Tom Donahue looked elsewhere, and eventually convinced Metromedia to install KPPC’s format at KMET. They did likewise at KMET’s sister station, KSAN-FM in San Francisco. Many of the personalities at both stations eventually wound up at Metromedia.
KMET's jingle was "A Little Bit of Heaven, Ninety-Four Point Seven - KMET - Tweedle-Dee" was written by Shadoe Stevens, one of the founding program directors, and was performed live on his show by The Pointer Sisters. That live recording became the station logo for the next decade. It was also Stevens who created the stations' tongue-in-cheek attitude, and upside down billboards. Artist Neon Park did ads for KMET as well the famous billboards.
At the time, the studios of KMET and its local AM counterpart, country-western KLAC, were located across the street from the famous La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Blvd. In Summer 1976, both stations moved to the then-Metromedia complex where KTTV Channel 11 was located).
KMET stood in direct contrast to other music stations of the era. Rather than the tight, high-energy Top 40 sound of popular AM stations such as KHJ, KMET and other progressive rock stations played more eclectic artists with much longer songs and more socially-conscious lyrics. The disc jockeys talked much less, and in a more personal, relaxed manner. They were also not afraid to voice their opinions on controversial topics, such as politics, the Vietnam War and civil rights, and most importantly, they chose the music that they played on the air. There was no playlist. Evident of this approach is longtime KMET late night host Jim Ladd (currently at onetime rival KLOS-FM), whose laid-back philosophical ruminations usually led into a song, from artists such as Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, The Doors or Led Zeppelin - that underscored his point.
KMET often mixed counterculture comedy skits by Firesign Theatre and The Credibility Gap with the music. The The Credibility Gap broadcast satirical skits during the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade in the 1970's. Another KMET staple at the time was Dr. Demento, whose show began on KPPC-FM. The "Dr. Demento Show" moved to KMET-FM in 1972 and soon became the most listened-to Sunday evening radio program in Los Angeles. Following Dr. Demento on Sunday nights, Mike Harrison hosted a phone-in talk show called Harrison's Mike.
The adventurous KMET was a member of a fraternity of widely respected progressive rock stations that emerged across the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, along with KSAN, WNEW in New York, WBCN in Boston, WMMS in Cleveland, KQRS-FM in Minneapolis, and others.
The 1978 movie “FM” was reportedly loosely based on KMET.
The progressive format thrived on KMET throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s, at one time becoming one of the most successful FM stations in the country. But changing trends in music, culture and society, and the advent of strict formatting in radio eventually turned KMET into a relic of the past. The staff and management of KMET were unsure how to continue in the wake of these occurrences. Soon, the station was besieged by staff turnover, radio consultants, corporate meddling, tight playlists and an increasingly impersonal approach typical of the more mainstream album oriented rock format.
The station’s owners finally gave up, and KMET signed off on February 14, 1987 with The Beatles singing "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make" from "The End". KMET was immediately replaced with new age KTWV "The Wave," much to the consternation of its fans, many of whom called it "the Valentine's Day Massacre". Today, like many other new age music stations, "The Wave" has evolved into a smooth jazz format and is presently owned by CBS Radio. The KMET call letters have been since reassigned to an AM smooth jazz station in Banning, California.