Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A KTRH Gallery

Updated 6/6/11

Barry Sheft, a newsman and part-time DJ at KTRH; courtesy of Texas Radio Hall of Famer Bud Buschardt.

Chad Lassiter, first all-night talk host on KTRH, courtesy of Sam Lester.

The following photos are courtesy of Charlie Pena. Because of the size of the post and because I may add to it over time, I've experimented in this post with including smaller images in the post; it is still possible to see larger images by clicking on them.

A fascinating document, believed to be in Jesse Jones' own hand. It's dated a month before the sale of KUT to Jones was okayed by the FRC and on Texas State Hotel stationery rather than Rice Hotel stationery. Because of the mention of the Columbia Chain this must've been a projected budget for KTRH. And are the figures monthly or yearly? $175 a month for an announcer sounds like a princely sum.

Shots of the KTRH facility on the La Porte Highway, today's 225, probably taken in early 1930 after the move had been approved by the Federal Radio Commission but before operations began in Houston. I have always assumed the building faced the present day highway as later buildings on the site have done (KXYZ occupies the site today), but is the roadway pictured in front of the building the highway or just a driveway? Just a few years earlier, in the mid-1920s, there was no paved highway to Austin and no bridges over some streams that had to be crossed but this would have been a heavily traveled route on weekends as Houstonians made their way down to La Porte to Sylvan Beach Park and Bayshore Park. Perhaps the buildings faced in an easterly or westerly direction.

In the twenties and thirties and beyond, communities and broadcasters were proud of their broadcasting facilities and picture postcards were produced showing off buildings, often with the antenna in the background. I've searched for such postcards for the Houston stations and this is the closest I've seen. It at least identifies the Rice as the home of KTRH.

An unknown technician and what appears to be an electrical transcription machine and a portable one at that. Before the advent or wire recorders and, thankfully, tape recorders, this is how recordings were made by radio stations for rebroadcast or time-delayed broadcast. A large, long playing disc was produced which could be played back immediately.

KTRH owner Jesse Jones.

The group includes station owner Jesse Jones and comedian Jack Benny. I'm guessing the man on the left is a station announcer and the woman is a listener. It was a lot easier for network radio programs to go on the road than it is for TV shows and many shows, if not most, traveled, especially quiz shows and comedy shows. Benny may have been in town originating his show from KTRH or may have been in town for some other occasion. The show probably would have been performed live on the stage of the Music Hall or one of the big downtown movie houses rather than the KTRH studios so a large live audience could be accommodated.

A country music band, probably referred to as a hillbilly band at the time. Correspondent Andrew Brown has identified the fiddler as Dickie Jones and the group as Dickie Jones and his Rhythm Riders. Jones had several bands and performed in the Houston area a lot; this group was active ca. 1948-1950. The female may be Helen Smith. In the 1940s and early 1950s all the stations in town except KCOH aired at least some hillbilly music.

Unknown group although the person second from the right appears to be W. Albert Lee, owner of KLEE and KLEE-TV. He was associated with the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo for years and because of the cowboy hats this may have something to do with that event. It's been suggested that's film star Tom Mix beside the microphone but it doesn't look like him to me and that's not his trademark style of hat, plus IMDB says Mix was 6 feet tall which would make 3 other men in that photo around 6'4". The gentleman on the right looks familiar and may have been a Harris County Sheriff.

Pictures like this make it evident how 'mic flags' got their name.

An unknown keyboard performer, possibly a station employee or a visiting artist.

This appears to be a man-in-the-street program, possibly on the sidewalk along Texas Avenue outside the Rice Hotel. Judging by the vehicles visible in the background and in the reflection and by the military uniforms, I'm guessing this was in the 1940s and after the end of World War II. This was long after Vox Pop had gone to the network but there would have been may occasions for a man-in-the-street program.

Dr. Ben Oldag, on the left, and Bill Zak (corrected). This is the most recent photo in the collection and probably dates from the 1970s.

Dan Rather during his stint at KTRH.

Thanks again to Charlie Pena for sharing these photos and if anyone can help with identifying any of the individuals pictured, please contact me by email or post a comment.


Anonymous said...

Great photos, but that was Ben Oldag seated next to Bill Zak and not Dewey Compton.

Carl Guderian said...


I have a number of old photos by Bob Bailey. The man standing by the mic in the group shot is definitely Tom Mix. I have a cropped and enlarged print of this photo taken the same day, in 1938. He was 5'8" according to the Tom Mix Museum, not 6' as the movie studio claimed.

Lester Mullan, Jr. said...

My Dad (still living) was Chief Engineer until retirement some time ago. We have some good photos of station shots, etc. He was with the station through the Rice Hotel location & to Lovett Blvd for several years after that.

I looked (on here) for some reference to Babe Fritz (Hillbilly Bandwagon Time) but couldn't find anything. I listened to him while growing up. Also, that's where Dan Rather got his start & doing play-by-play at Buff Stadium baseball.

Bruce said...

Babe Fritsch is mentioned in the comments section following the post on Biff Collie, Texas Bill Strength and other DJs. The search box unfortunately doesn't seem to search comments unless they're open. Follow the link to the commenter's blog, Wired for Sound, for more.

Any chance you'd be willing to share some of your Dad's pics? I probably have more on KTRH than any other station on the blog but would always love to have more. If so, contact me. It's not necessary these days, of course, to get actual prints of the pictures.


Jim Hilty said...

I used to work at sister station KLOL at the Rice Hotel and on Lovett and later moved to the KTRH sales staff. Walter Cronkite was a KTRH employee in the early days way before my time. When we moved to Lovett, there were many old recordings of him and other old timers that were throwm in the trash bin. What a loss. I did grab the final front desk bell from the Rice as it closed.

Old timer, Tom Jacobs, was the business manager there when I came on board in 1972. He was the board op when War of the Worlds aired. Tom obviously knew that it was just a radio play and continually broke in with that fact when he saw that people were beginning to panic.

Bruce said...

Thanks for the stories.

What a tragic loss that those old recordings were tossed. Sadly, it probably happens regularly when radio stations move. I'm sure it did at a couple of places I worked at.

David Lubeski said...

old memories flooding back... I worked at KTRH starting in 1969 at the Rice Hotel until the end of 1974 on Lovett Blvd. I left to join the start-up Associated Press Radio Network in Washington, DC and spent the next 35 years there, retiring as sports director.

I remember all those people. chief engineer Les Mullan and engineer Bob West. I loved working with Bill Zak and Ken Krinsky in the mornings. Newsmen included Russ Harlow and Lou Hanlon, Dave Godwin, Hal Kemp, Howard Phillips, Jack Ford, Bruce Dadd and Charlie Miller.
Tom Jacobs and Babe Fritsch were the old timers then, working in the office after on-air careers.
I produced the Morning Show hosted by Alvin Van Black and Larry Oldham and handed that job over to Tom Haymond when I started doing sports on the station.
Lee Allen was a PD and Ben Baldwin joined us from a station in Atlanta.
There there was Howard Finch. We called him Uncle Howdy. He retired as GM of Channel 13 and did a poetry show for us. Off the air he constantly had us all in stitches.
I still got sports press releases addressed to Dan Rather. He and Bill Zak were good friends even after Rather became famous. Clarence Chaline was a PD for awhile and went by the name of Bob Elton. Of course there was Dewey Compton and then his son Ronnie. they died in a plane crash with their wives. Ronnie was the pilot.
Bill Showers also worked in sports. Max Cohen ran the sales staff.
And then there were the boys and girls at KLOL. The station simulcasted with FM, then broke it off and started KLOL as Mother's Family. Pat Fant was the PD and Jerry Lee the GM. They were one floor above us in the Rice and I'd go up the fire stairs in the morning to take overnight scores and the weather forecast to the DJs. I'd get a kick out of walking into the studio to the sweet smell of you-know-what. Jefferson was one of the DJs and so was a guy named Beachamp. Jim Pruett (as Tony Raven) and I were neighbors and would car pool to our morning shifts. Jim Hilty I remember. I adopted a stray cat and when I moved to DC and Jim took the cat.
Okay, now I'm just rambling. Loved working there doing sports. Bob Allen of Channel 13 was on KPRC Radio doing sports at the same time. We became, and have remained to this day, good friends

David Lubeski said...

This is my 2nd attempt to post. the first disappeared when I hit the send button, so if it shows up in addition to this... nevermind.

I worked at KTRH for nearly six years from January of 1969 until September of 1974. I left the station to become sports director of the start-up Associated Press Radio Network in Washington, DC where I worked for 35 years.

Had some great times at KTRH beginning downtown at the Rice Hotel and ending at the location on Lovett Blvd in the Montrose area.

I produced the very wacky Morning show starring Larry Oldham and Alvin Van Black in addition to being the sports voice on the station. I eventually inherited the morning show from them and co-hosted with Becky Bailey while Tom Haymond took over my role as producer. Tom lives in NYC now. He has had a colorful career in sales and was GM at several stations when he "grew up."

Alvin later hosted an afternoon talk show before going to Channel 13. One day the subject was streaking so I decided to streak through the studio while he was on the air. It wasn't until I was through the door in full stride did I find out he had some U of H students in the studio to observe the inner workings of a radio show.

I worked the morning news block with Bill Zak and Ken Krinsky.
Zak had developed a friendship with Dan Rather when Rather worked at the station and they remained lifelong friends until Zak passed away.

Howard Finch retired as GM of Channel 13 and came to work at KTRH and did poetry readings. Off the air he had us in constant stitches. A truly funny man.

From the news staff I remember names like Charles Miller (who now works for the Justice Department here in DC), Bruce Dadd, Jerry Kamin, Howard Phillips, Jack Ford, Hal Kemp and weekenders Russ Harlow and Lou Hanlon.

Before them there was Dave Godwin (who helped me launch my radio career several years earlier) and Carl Brazell. Those two ended up in Los Angeles radio. Dave passed away in about 1983.

Lee Allen and Ben Baldwin were talk show hosts and Dan Sessions was a producer. So was Rusty Stonefeld.

Old time air personalities Babe Fritsch and Tom Jacobs worked in the office back then.

I also remember the KLOL gang when KTRH, which simulcasted with KTRH-FM, broke off to form a separate radio station. They were one floor up in the Rice with the sweet smell of you-know-what wafting in the stairwell. Jerry Lee was the GM and Pat Fant the PD. Jefferson, Jim Hilty (Hilty adopted my cat when I moved to DC)and a guy named Beauchamp were DJs. Jim Pruett was later a PD there(then known as tony Raven). He was my neighbor and we carpooled to work. Sometimes after work we'd go flying. He was a pilot and was trying to log hours to get a twin-engine license.

I mentioned a lot more names in the first attempt, but this is enough for now.

Great times. Great memories

Bruce said...

I posted both David since they were not duplicates. Every little bit of info is fascinating.

Patricia said...

You mention Dan Rather. I am his sister, compiling examples of his lifetime work. I have an extensive collection, but the collection of his early years in Houston is close to nil.I have located the KHOU TV films. Do you have or can you direct me to where I might find audios and/or pictures of his days at KTRH radio (1954-1959)? Thank you for any help/direction you may give.

Bruce said...

Let me check with some contacts and reply here in a couple of days. If you want to contact me directly, go to my profile page for my email.

Patricia said...

Thank you, Bruce.

Bruce said...

I have been able to come up with just one picture, no audio.

Frank Haley said...

Enjoyed the comments from Dave Lubeski. I worked with him at KTRH, I was there after being News Dir at KILT from '68 -'73, then at KTRH from '73 to '77, came to Albuquerque in '77 and did morning news there for 20 years. Still doing news on a Christian AM station here KKIM. 55 years on the radio. I did news and a talk show on KTRH. Those were great times in the Rice hotel and the Jones family were the best bosses you could ever have. A lot of history went through that radio station. Those really were the "good old days", we just didn't know it. If you can find one of the KTH/KLOL promo brochures it has a lot of history and pictures. I may have one some where. If I find it, I'll send it to you. Thanks for this site. Frank Haley

Bruce said...

Congratulations on 55 years! Wow. I remember hearing you on the radio. Thanks for the comment.

breendix said...

The woman in the picture is Mrs. Jones (who may have also been a listener).

Bruce said...

Aha! One of the perks of being the owner's wife! Thanks.

Bruce said...

It occurs to me the other man in the picture is Phil Harris, band leader and vocalist on Jack Benny's program who also played himself as a character in Benny's skits. He definitely would have been touring with Benny. I've never seen a picture of Harris that young but there is a good resemblance to photos of him in the 1940s.

sharon Luchene said...

Hello: I am a caregiver for a man who's aunt (according to his memory) headed up the advertising department in the 30's: Margaret Krebs. Does anyone remember her, or have information of the station back that far? He remembers another woman who did something for the children, but I can't remember her name. We would be very interested in hearing any other memories of those women. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the intro theme song to The Howard Finch radio program that aired in late 70's?

Glenn Pitts said...

Others of us are also wondering what Howard Finch's theme music was on his poetry reading program?

Jim Bell said...

I was at KTRH in the late 70s and I'm just one of many who enjoyed Howard Finch's poetry program, and his theme song. It was an lush string instrumental treatment of the song "Once Upon a Time", on an LP of Broadway hits by Percy Faith. My first radio job was at an easy listening station and I wore that LP out listening to that song, and the others.

Bruce said...

Finally got an answer! Thanks, Jim.

Glenn Pitts said...

Thank you Jim Bell.

David Lubeski said...

Just reminiscing and went back to see everyone's posts and saw two of mine from five years ago. I'm still in touch with former KTRH colleagues Ken Krinsky and Frank Haley through Facebook. I wonder what happened to a few others, like Carl Cramer (newsman) and Bo Brody (salesman) and Bruce Dadd (newsman) who later worked in a non-radio job in Washington, DC I believe. Krinsky was the morning newsman when I was there. He was also a fanatical Beatles fan and decided his goal was to meet every one of the fab four and he did it. It took quite a few years. he met Lennon when he and Yoko came to Houston when Yoko was trying to track down her ex-husband who had their daughter. Kenny met them at the airport, befriended them and visited them in NYC a few years later. He toured with McCartney who was then with Wings to do a radio doc on him in the early 70s. He met Ringo on an airplane and Harrison at the radio station (KLOL) when he came up to be a live guest one night. Krinsky got the call that George was there and drove in to meet him. We had a station softball team for a few years. We were called the Jones Boys because John T. Jones was the station owner. I know channel 11 and KPRC had teams in the league along with an ad agency or two. one year we had former Oiler head coach Lou Rymkus coach our team. He had coached players George Blanda, Billy Cannon and Charlie Hennigan in the early 60s. Lou's sons worked in sale at the station. News Director Hal Kemp was on the team along with Dan Sessions (producer), Lee Allen, Brody, Cramer, Krinsky and I think, Jerry Kamin. Anyway, just checking in. Still remember my KTRH years as good times.

Bruce said...

Thanks again, Dave. Fascinating details. Hope you hear from some of these other folks.

Frank Haley said...

I've wondered about Carl Cramer too for a short time he was ND at WBAP in Ft. Worth, and then ended up some where in Colorado. I hear from Hal Kemp once in a while. Good to see your post Dave.