Saturday, November 3, 2007

November Anniversaries

November 6 marks the 57th anniversary of KUHF-FM, the University of Houston station. UH students had been producing programs for KATL for several years but now they would be responsible for a whole station. Studios were in the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building which had just been dedicated a week earlier. KUHF-FM is the 3rd oldest surviving Houston FM and oldest one with the original calls.

KRBE-FM signed on at 6pm on November 8, 1959, operating on 104.1 mc from studios in the 1400 Hermann building, a high rise residence across from the Rose Garden in Hermann Park. It was originally a full time classical station and the calls stood for 'The Key to Radio Broadcast Excellence.'

Broadcasting Yearbook gives November 15, 1948, for the launch of KFRD, 980 kc, Rosenberg but whether that's the date of the license or first broadcast is not known. KRTX, a Tejano station, operates on that frequency now, licensed to Rosenberg/Richmond.

November 28, 1923, was the date the license for KFLX, Galveston, was issued, the oldest station continuously in operation in the Houston-Galveston market or anywhere on the Texas Gulf Coast. The station is now KHCB and is licensed to League City operating on 1400 kHz.

Broadcasting Yearbook gives November, 1947, for the launch of KTLW, Texas City, 920 kc. That is now KYST.

7 comments:

Jeff Riggenbach said...

"KRBE-FM signed on at 6pm on November 8, 1959, operating on 104.1 mc from studios in the 1400 Hermann building, a high rise residence across from the Rose Garden in Hermann Park. It was originally a full time classical station and the calls stood for 'The Key to Radio Broadcast Excellence.'"

I worked at KRBE for a few months in 1966, while it was still owned by the original owners, was still located in 1400 Hermann, and was still a full time classical station. The owner was Roland Baker, a developer who had created the station as a sort of expensive toy for his wife, Edith, who knew and loved classical music. She was Music Director at the station when I arrived in June of 1966. I was told the RBE in the call letters stood for "Roland Baker Enterprises." It is true, however, that we used the slogan "Your Key to Radio Broadcasting Excellence" liberally on the air.

Since KRBE didn't really need to earn any money, the Bakers traded out extensively. The air was full of spots for cruise lines, luxury apartment buildings, fine restaurants, etc. The station management and sales staff lived high on the hog in the apartment buildings, took the cruises, dined in the restaurants, etc. Even the lowly announcers got some perks. My girlfriend and I ate frequently at the Ming Palace restaurant next to the River Oaks Theatre on the station's endless tab.

When KRBE was purchased in 1966 by Wagenvoord Broadcasting, an ambitious but undercapitalized outfit from New Orleans, this tradeout policy created severe problems. Wagenvoord was counting on revenue from the station to help him meet payroll and expenses. But there was little or no revenue. In November of '66, KRBE couldn't afford to cut paychecks for the air staff and other employees. We were offered free Thanksgiving turkeys (through a station tradeout, of course) as compensation for the inconvenience.

JR

HRH Blogger said...

Thanks very much for your input Jeff. Sorry to be so long in responding but I just got around to digging into my notes on this. Stories in the paper in 1959 that I have seen mentioned Ellis W. Gilbert as President and General Manager. He also had an air shift and had been on KXYZ-FM in the early 50s and more recently been Program Director of KTRH-FM, all doing classical. He had been dubbed Mr. FM in the early 50s on 96.5 and his program was ‘House of Music.’ Others mentioned on the staff included included Roy Landers, Eamon Grant and Eddie Bates. Were any of these still around when you came on board?

Ads from the very first referred to the slogan The Key to Radio Broadcast Excellence. I do not have the name of Mr. Baker in my notes from any of the stories I saw so thanks for that. Interesting that there was a double meaning of the calls.

Do you know when the station dropped classical or moved out of 1400 Hermann? Also, do you have any pics or promotional material from the station in that era that I could use on the blog?

Thanks again for your input.

Jeff Riggenbach said...

"Stories in the paper in 1959 that I have seen mentioned Ellis W. Gilbert as President and General Manager. He also had an air shift and had been on KXYZ-FM in the early 50s and more recently been Program Director of KTRH-FM, all doing classical. He had been dubbed Mr. FM in the early 50s on 96.5 and his program was ‘House of Music.’ Others mentioned on the staff included included Roy Landers, Eamon Grant and Eddie Bates. Were any of these still around when you came on board?"

Not a one of them. Their names mean nothing to me. When I signed on in June of 1966, the morning man was "Marc Warrington," a student at the University of St. Thomas whose real name was Dennis Kear. The mid-day guy was Benjamin Stewart. I'm afraid I can't recall the evening guy's name at all. He left within a month, and I, who had been hired to do three shifts a week, filling in on the other guys' days off, took his place.

KRBE was not a 24-hour station then. We signed off every night at midnight and signed back on every morning at 6:00. So I've now described the entire airstaff at the time of my arrival.

When I became the new evening man late in July, I was replaced in the part-time slot by a fellow whose air name was "Max Johnson." He worked under that name at two other local stations, at least - KXYZ and KFMK. I think his actual birth name was Randy Sealye.

Wagenvoord Broadcasting had already bought the station when I first walked in the door, but they didn't take over operations until September (or thereabouts). At that point, a new GM and Sales Manager were installed. The GM was Henry Brennan. The Sales Manager was Silvio J. Fernandez. The new PD was a guy named Jack Woods, who also did a late night show (midnight to 2:00 AM, as I recall) on the air. Jack didn't play classical music on his show, however. It was called "Music for Night People Only" and it featured standards, big band stuff, a little jazz, all of it unified by a pervasive mood of wistfulness and melancholy. This was KRBE's first venture into after-midnight broadcasting.

I'll answer the rest of your questions in my next post.

Best,

JR

Jeff Riggenbach said...

"Ads from the very first referred to the slogan The Key to Radio Broadcast Excellence. I do not have the name of Mr. Baker in my notes from any of the stories I saw so thanks for that. Interesting that there was a double meaning of the calls."

I caution you that the story I told in my original post is merely hearsay. I don't even remember for sure from whom I originally heard it.

"Do you know when the station dropped classical or moved out of 1400 Hermann?"

The station moved out of 1400 Hermann in September or October of 1966. The new station was on Kirby Drive just off the Southwest Freeway. I'll see if I can come up with the exact address. The transmitter was on the roof. Our studios ("showcase studios") were on the ground floor, with big windows through which the public could look directly into the control room.

"Also, do you have any pics or promotional material from the station in that era that I could use on the blog?"

Alas, I don't.

Best,

JR

Jeff Riggenbach said...

One final point. I neglected above to address your question about when KRBE abandoned its classical format. I'm not sure exactly when it was, but the station was still classical in 1968, when I called Michael O'Reilly, then the PD over there, and told him he ought to grab the mid-day gig I knew was about to open up at KQUE, where I was doing evenings. I had worked with Michael in my last days at KRBE, and I thought I was doing him a favor. But things didn't work out very well at all for him at KQUE, so perhaps I should never have made that phone call. Anyway, I think it was shortly after Michael left KRBE (probably in the summer or fall of 1968) that the station dumped the classical format.

Another older guy I worked with at KRBE (or so it seemed to me at the time - I was nineteen, and I expect the fellow I'm writing about was maybe thrity-five) was Earl Carson. Earl had also worked at KODA and elsewhere around town. He was extremely smooth on the air, had a very nice voice, and was a highly competent board operator. He became something of a friend and mentor to me during the months just before I left KRBE for KXYZ. He was very bitter about radio as a career and probably got out of the business not long thereafter. I've often wondered what ever became of him.

JR

HRH Blogger said...

I can't remember when I first heard the 'radio broadcast excellence' phrase or if I heard it on the air but I always thought it was 'you're keyed to radio broadcast excellence.' It wasn't until I saw it in print that I knew I had heard it wrong.

I remember the place on Kirby and the antenna on top - yes, the building is still there - but I wasn't aware the station was still classical when it moved over there -- I didn't live here at the time, just came through occasionally. Some people didn't know of the earlier location and thought the KRBE calls were because of the location on Kirby.

Thanks again for all this great info. I'm afraid I don't recognize any of the names you've mentioned although Earl Carson does ring a faint bell.

Did you work for KXYZ when ABC bought it?

Jeff Riggenbach said...

"Did you work for KXYZ when ABC bought it?"

No. Talks were going on when I left in the summer of 1967 to go to KNUZ-KQUE, but the sale didn't go through until after I was gone.

JR