On page 1 of the Chronicle on Monday, March 24, 1930, a story announced KTRH would begin broadcasting from 6th floor studios of the Rice Hotel on Tuesday evening at 8pm, with 1000 watts daytime and 500 watts nighttime from the transmitter at Deepwater on the La Porte highway. The frequency was 1120 kilocycles, ‘just below KMOX on your dial.’ Test broadcasts had been going on for a few days and listeners were already aware of the new station which would bring the programs of the Columbia Broadcasting System to Houston for the first time. Besides new studios at the Rice, direct wire circuits were also maintained with the Lamar and Texas State Hotels, the Elks Club and several churches and theaters for ‘pickup’ programs.
The La Porte highway basically followed the route of today’s Texas 225; Deepwater was a small farming community between Pasadena and La Porte and is now a part of the northeastern corner of Pasadena. The land for the transmitter had been part of a farm owned by Tilford Jones, nephew to Jesse Jones, who would be the head of Harris Co. Broadcast Co. which purchased KTUE later that year and flipped it to KXYZ. The site of the KTRH transmitter was used later for a joint transmitter plant for KTRH and KPRC and has also been used by KRCT/KIKK and is the location now of KXYZ.
The inaugural program on the new station was to feature a countdown of sorts which sounded very familar, recounting ‘The Romance of Texas, beginning with the Robert Cavalier Sieur De La Salle Expedition’ down to the present time, then Jesse Jones was to speak. Milton G. Hall was the Program Director and Chief Announcer; staff announcers included Earl Melby and Harold Pyle. Jerry Belcher served as advertising manager. T. Frank Smith was Chief Engineer and B.F. Orr was the General Manager. Orr was also General Manager of KTUE at the Texas State Hotel and both Smith and Orr were to be with KTRH for years.
The station operated from the Rice Hotel for years until around 1970 when it moved out to Lovett Boulevard in the Montrose area. The call letters have not changed since the station moved to Houston. It moved to its present frequency of 740 in late 1942.
There was a 20 page section published in the Chronicle about the new station, mostly consisting of ads but with pictures of talent and equipment and giving details of some of the new programs on tap and how the equipment worked. Among the congratulatory ads was one from KTUE, ‘the Happiness Station.’ and one from the B.J. Still Electric Co. at 1116 Main (‘It’s Easy to Pay the B.J. Still Way’) and the Hurlburt-Still Electric Co. of 1207 McKinney. Apparently the company responsible for Houston's first broadcasting station had split.
Broadcasting Yearbook gives March 29, 1930, as the date of origin for the new station. KTRH was first mentioned in the monthly bulletin issued by the Commerce Department on March 31, 1930 as a change of city of license and call letters, not a new station. Up in Austin, KUT was also on the list, still on the air, licensed to the Rice Hotel, operating now at 1500 kc.
On the Commerce Department list as of June 30, 1930, stations on the air in the Houston-Galveston area included, in addition to KTRH:
KPRC, now licensed to Sugarland with studios in Houston, operating at 920 kc and licensed to the Houston Printing Co
KFUL Galveston, licensed to Will H. Ford and broadcasting at 1290 kc
KTLC, licensed to the Houston Broadcasting Co. at 1310 kc
KFLX, Galveston, licensed to George Roy Clough at 1370 kc
KTUE Houston, licensed to William John Uhalt of Uhalt Electric at 1420 kc
In August of 1930 KTUE changed its call letters to KXYZ; the new owners were the Harris County Broadcast Co. and their address was listed as Main and Rusk, Jesse Jones newly completed 36 story skyscraper which was to be known for years as the Gulf Building, the tallest building in Houston until 1963, and now known as the JP Morgan Chase Building. Studios continued to be in the Texas State Hotel for a few years but then moved to the Gulf Building. In the late 1940s, oilman Glenn McCarthy’s Shamrock Broadcasting bought KXYZ-AM and FM with plans to move most of the operations to his new Shamrock Hotel at Main and Holcombe, though keeping some of the operations in the Gulf Building downtown. McCarthy also applied for a license for KXYZ-TV to operate from the Shamrock. It is not known if any of the operation in fact ever did move to the Shamrock. In 1968, ABC bought KXYZ-AM and FM and they did move across Main St. from the Shamrock Hilton to the 16th Floor of the Fannin Bank Building.
The images above are taken from the archives of the Houston Chronicle at the Houston Public Library; both are from the special section of the Chronicle about the launch of KTRH. The top illustration is a portion of the cover page of that special section showing the transmitter plant at Deepwater on the La Porte Highway. One side of the transmitter building housed the transmitting equipment while the other served as a residence for Chief Engineer T. Frank Smith and his family.
The second illustration is of some of the performers scheduled to be heard on KTRH.