David Tonelli

David Tonelli

David Tonelli, 65, died on January 14, 2014 after a brief illness. Born in Oakland on January 28, 1948 to Jerre and Alfred Tonelli, David graduated from Skyline High School in 1966 and then attended the Chris Borden School of Broadcasting in San Francisco. From an early age, David was fascinated with radio, and in high school he and friends formed the Bay Area Radio Network (BARN), which broadcast popular music and school announcements. In 1969, David built his first FM multiplex stereo transmitter totally from scratch. Happily, it worked, and David continued to broadcast on his home-built equipment. The FCC was impressed but not amused, and shut down his FM station in 1971.


David worked as an instructor and recording engineer at the College for Recording Arts in San Francisco for nearly 20 years. In 1971, David met his life partner, David Leinbach, and "the Davids" formed a realty partnership with holdings in Oakland and San Diego. David's other love was jazz. He had an incredible ear, a fabulous memory, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject that he was delighted to share. David assembled a vast collection of jazz recordings, purchasing them both locally and on his world travels. In the mid-1980's, David established KRKD-FM Jazz Radio, which broadcast jazz on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons from his home studio, with devoted listeners throughout the Bay Area.


In addition to his partner of 42 years, David is survived by his brothers Steve of Fresno, Dan of Oakland, and Jeff of Santa Cruz. Memorial contributions can be made to the San Francisco Jazz Center (sfjazz.org) or the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy (savewright.org).


Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 9, 2014