The Classics

Grossmont english professor makes five part documentary on local classic rock radio station KGB 101.5


Joseph Salcido, Editor in Chief

Raul Sandelin is no stranger to San Diego. He is a local who went to elementary, middle and high school in El Cajon, graduating from Grossmont High in 1981. Sandelin also attended Grossmont College before attending the University of California San Diego. 

While he is known as an English professor here on campus, he has much more going on in his life than teaching us Griffins. With a passion for filmmaking and our local San Diego rock radio station KGB-FM, Sandelin has created a five-part documentary series available to watch at the Central Library in downtown San Diego.

Sandelin and his partner Tony Butler have been invested in this project for the past four years. It was a passion project for Sandelin, as he grew up listening to KGB, and it was the only way he could get his rock ‘n’ roll fix.

“Without the Internet — and without much rock ‘n’ roll on TV because MTV didn’t exist yet — the radio is where you went for your music news and your concert updates,” Sandelin said to The Union-Tribune.

“If you were a kid who was trying to be counterculture and not watch your parents’ news station, KBG was that,” he continued “It was the cool older sibling who had the newest albums and the concert tickets and latest scoop on everything. KGB was the source for almost everything we cared about. That is what a radio station like KGB was back then.”

Sandelin and Butler began their journey in 2018 when they were invited to former KGB DJ Gabriel Wisdoms’s Rancho Santa Fe home for the annual KGB reunion brunch. The two filmmakers went straight to work and showed up with a camera. With three previous rock documentaries already on their resumes, they started filming their fourth documentary without any hesitation.

While Sandelin and Butler were going around interviewing the KGB veterans, they realized that they were piling up some great content and what was initially supposed to be a 90-minute documentary became a two-hour film. However, after COVID shut down the theaters, they both decided it would be best to turn it into a five-part documentary.

Jumping four years into the future, Sandelin and Butler have finished their fourth rock documentary with KGB and its history as the subject. Both hope to enter this project into some film festivals and hopefully can entice some streaming services to pick it up.

The series takes a deep dive into KGB’s top shows and news teams and shows us how difficult it can be to run a top-notch radio station. With today’s streaming being so popular and podcasts all the rave, it may be a bit of a challenge to truly show how great a local radio station could be.

“The impact of KGB was immense. They were playing the biggest bands in the world. They were breaking bands like Tesla and the Black Crowes, who became huge. When KGB added a song by an artist, the rest of the country would follow,” Interviewee Coe Lewis, whose 33-year stint at a KGB DJ started in 1986, said to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“When you said you worked at KGB, that really meant something,” Lewis added.