Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Making of TV News, 1965

I found this on a discussion board today; it's a documentary on YouTube about KPRC-TV in 1965, with a young Steve Smith and Ray Miller.

The link takes you to the discussion board where you can access the videos and follow the discussion if you wish.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The 1940s - Part 7 - KLEE

If KATL had been a something of a stealth entry onto the Houston radio scene the next new AM station in town was to make quite a splash. In early 1946, Houston businessman W. Albert Lee had decided to make a foray into broadcasting. He received a permit in May 1947 and got his station on the air Saturday, January 31, 1948, timed to coincide with the opening of the Fat Stock show that year. Studios were to be in the San Jacinto Hotel, which was being remodeled, but work went faster on a similar project at the Milby at Travis and Texas and the studios wound up there. Lee put a 62 foot Translux animated sign on the exterior of the hotel, the first of its kind in Houston, a smaller version of the famous one in Times Square in Manhattan. As he had done with 2 of his hotels and was to do with his television station less than a year later, Lee used his name for the call letters. KLEE operated at 610 kc with 5000 watts from a 4 tower array. Hilton Waldo Hearn, Jr.'s 1971 Masters Thesis on Lee placed the transmitter on Airline Drive but a Chronicle story placed it on the Dallas Highway. John B. Hill, an engineer at KILT from 1960-1964 who started as an engineer at the transmitter says it was on West Rd., just west of I-45, across 45 from Aldine High, which sits near the intersection of Airline at West. Lee still owned the station at the time of his death in late November, 1951.

As part of the build-up to the launch of the station, Lee turned on the Translux sign two weeks before broadcasting began, staging a big ceremony. The sign was on the Texas Avenue side of the Hotel, facing Jesse Jones’ Rice Hotel but was to be turned off at 10:30 every night. There were big stories in the newspapers almost every day in the week leading up to the launch.

KLEE received front page coverage in the Saturday morning Houston Post on the day the station signed on and the station placed a full page ad concerning the opening ceremonies scheduled for 5pm. The ad included pictures of station personnel and facilities, but has been difficult to reproduce from the microfilms or I would post it here. Gene Autry and his entire troupe were to be on hand, as well as actor Michael O’Shea, Virginia Mayo, Wild Bill Elliot, Albino Torres and his Orchestra and others. There was to be a special live, remote broadcast from the Fat Stock show, and, in the midst of all that, coverage of that day’s election returns on a vote on the subject of zoning for the city of Houston (the zoning proposal lost - duh).

Lee had purchased an 8000 disc library and subscribed to a music transcription service but the first song aired on the new station was performed live: Gene Autry's Cass County Boys played 'The Eyes of Texas,' punctuated by pistol shots and cries of 'Yippee,' to open the ceremony and Autry later sang his signature song ‘I’m Back in the Saddle Again,’ the first song sung on 610. All the show business people stuck around for more appearances on the station for a couple of days, with live broadcasts in one of the big studios starting at 6:10pm, open to the public.

Lee received congratulatory messages from many of his famous and rich friends plus his radio competitors, including Jesse Jones, the Hobbys, Glenn McCarthy and Coke Stephenson. Fred Nahas, who was to become a Houston radio legend in his own right, wrote that he was most impressed that Lee had four ministers pray at the dedication ceremony, a Rabbi, a Catholic priest, a Greek Orthodox priest, and a Methodist minister. Nahas had just launched Houston’s first Muzak-like piped-in music service.

The Chronicle ran a full length column in the Sunday paper on the launch under the headline 'Crowds view KLEE official opening here.' Ray Bright, Commercial Manager of KTRH across the street, had been hired as General Manager. WInthrop 'Bud' Sherman of WOC, Washington, DC, and the Mutual Radio Network had been hired as Program Director. He had also worked at KNOW, WBAP, WACO and KMOX. Paul Huhndorff was picked as the chief engineer; he would go on to put KLEE-TV on the air for Lee in less than a year and stay with the TV station when it was sold to KPRC. The chief announcer was Charles Rashall whom the Chronicle article said 'formerly was heard on coast-to-coast shows originating in the film capital.' Lee's biographer credits Lee with hiring a young Dick Gottlieb out of Texas A&M to do play-by-play of high school football games on Thursday and Friday nights for $25 per game, thus giving Gottlieb and entry into Houston radio. He was to go on to serve as an off-camera announcer on KLEE-TV and stay with the television station when it was sold, becoming known as 'Mr. Television' in Houston for the first decade and a half of Houston TV. However, the claim has also been made that Gottlieb first worked in Houston for Roy Hofheinz' KTHT.

Lee was apparently pretty difficult to work for. He went through 3 program directors in 3 years with Sherman leaving just 3 weeks after the station signed on. Ted Hills, who had been program director of early Houston radio station KFVI in the 1920s and KTHT in the mid 40s was one of the PDs. Without a network affiliation the station had to rely on local advertising sales completely for revenue. According to his biographer Lee attempted to motivate his sales staff but instead drove them away. He was known to fire announcers on the spot for an on-air comment he didn’t like.

Even before KLEE was on the air, Lee had traveled to the East coast, negotiating for talent to appear at the Rodeo, and been exposed to television. He came back to Houston determined to put a television station on the air and filed for a permit on October 8, 1947. The announcement of his intentions appeared in Television Magazine in November, 1947, and that same month in Houston Magazine. Approval by the FCC was to take only 3 months with approval on January 30, 1948, the day before his radio station signed on, although Lee apparently didn’t get the news for a couple of days. Studios were to be in the Milby Hotel with the radio station and the transmitter on South Post Oak near the Pin Oak Horse stables. KLEE-TV was to sign on New Year’s Day, 1949, Houston’s first television station, on Channel 2. There's more on KLEE-TV in the TV section on the sidebar.

The year following Lee’s death, KLEE-AM was sold to Gordon and B.R. McLendon’s Trinity Broadcasting of Dallas who changed the call letters to KLBS and made it a part of his Liberty Broadcasting System. McLendon announced plans to move the headquarters of the network to Houston and use KLBS as the flagship station, according to McLendon’s biographer, but they fell apart when McLendon had to give up the baseball game recreations which formed the backbone of the network programming. According to the History of KLIF website, McLendon owned the station from 1952 to 1954 and repurchased it to flip it to KILT in May, 1957. The studios were still located in the Milby Hotel when the call letters changed, but later moved to 500 Lovett Blvd. in the Montrose area where they stayed for almost 40 years. KILT has been the call on 610 ever since 1957. The station was a Top 40 station for many years and flipped to Country in 1981, then to Sports around 1995.

When I first read of the supposed intentions of moving the headquarters of Liberty to Houston I was skeptical. I have always thought of McLendon as a Dallas broadcaster and it was difficult to even imagine him abandoning Dallas and given his penchant for promotional hype, I thought he was probably just blowing smoke. However it becomes more believable when considering that, according to McLendon's biographer, Ronald Garay, Houstonian Hugh Roy Cullen had invested $1,000,000 in Liberty in August, 1951, to help prop it up. Cullen was considered by some the richest man in Texas at the time and had been expanding his influence politically. He had asked an aid to look into investing in Liberty but canceled the due diligence after just one meeting with Gordon. The two men had similar political ideologies and found they admired each other very much. Cullen extended another loan of $175,000 the next year as the network was collapsing and was one of the major creditors suing for a share of the assets after the collapse (the other was B. R. McLendon).

The Houston Post typically found a way to put it's own radio station on the front page during all the build up to the launch of KLEE. On Thursday, January 29, a front page story pointed out KPRC would be celebrating 20 years of being an NBC affiliate the next Thursday with a special concert at the Music Hall and on Friday, January 30, another front page story advised riders of the Houston Transit Company buses that they would soon be among the first in the nation to hear music as they rode the buses. In an experimental program sponsored by KPRC-FM, special receivers would be installed in buses to allow reception of KPRC-FM’s signal (and presumably no others). The receivers were eventually installed in 250 buses and the ‘experiment’ lasted until 1950.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The 1940s - Part 6 - More Suburban Stations

The 1979 Broadcasting Yearbook gave August 1, 1947, for the launch of KIOX, Bay City, but that appears to be far off.  A CP was granted in March, 1946, and the station was apparently on the air by the end of July of that year as a 1000 watt daytimer on 1110 kilocycles.  It then moved to 1270 kc and became a full time station in November, 1947.  The station is no longer in existence.  For more on the launch and history of this station, go here.

KTLW, Texas City, was first licensed on November 1, 1947.  A construction permit had been issued just weeks after the Texas City explosion.  The original owner was John Long, doing business as Texas City Broadcasting Service.  Long also had an interest in KIOX, Bay City.  KTLW operated on 920 kc with 1000 watts, daytime only.  The transmitter and studios were located north of 146 and west of Logan Ave. originally but FCC records show the address changed several times in the early years.  After the Showboat Theater was rebuilt in 1949 (it had been destroyed in the explosion in April, 1947), KTLW established studios there.  The theater was also owned by Long. In 1949, the station filed for a permit to increase hours of operation to unlimited and reduce power to 250w but withdrew the application days later before the FCC could act.  Long sold the station to Roy Henderson of Henderson Broadcasting as of June 24, 1980.  Robert Miller, VP and GM of the station announced a change of call letters to KYST and a change of format to adult contemporary and oldies with the intention of offering a service to the metropolitan Houston area while continuing to serve the bay area.  Henderson requested and received permission from the Zoning Commission to build a new facility in the 5700-5800 blocks of FM 1764.  In April, 1981, Henderson was granted a permit by the FCC to increase hours of operation to unlimited, using 5000 watts daytime and 1000 watts nighttime.  The station subsequently was sold to Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. and still operates as KYST. Information about KTLW has been very difficult to discover; it received only scattered mentions in the Galveston Daily News over the years, mostly program notes about individual programs.

Tri-Cities Broadcasting announced on October 31, 1947, that it planned to put the Tri-Cities area’s second station on the air by the 10th of November but it was just over a month before it hit the airwaves. The original calls were KREL and it was licensed to Pelly as a full-time station on 1360 kilocycles with 1000 watts. The owners had explained the call letters referred to Robert E. Lee High School. Virgil G. Evans was the GM, having worked before at WMTC, Ocala, Florida. Harold Rench was to be the Chief Engineer; he was from Battle Creek, MI, and had worked at WSAM, Saginaw. Other staff members included Byard Sooy of Troy, AL (WTBF) who would cover sports, a strong point for the station; Bob Postner of Chicago (WBAU); Robert T. Nolan of E. Liverpool, OH, who had worked at KXLA, Pasadena, CA, and who would become station manager in a couple of years; George Vance of Detroit who had worked at KPRC; Bill Bates of Oklahoma City who had worked at WBBZ, Ponca City; and Harold Orton, a Lee College Student who wanted to get in to radio. The station would operate from 6a to 11pm from new studios on Decker Drive ‘at the InterUrban Crossing,’ near the Humble Refinery.

According to a post on, KREL played Rhythm and Blues but like most stations in that era that were not network affiliated, it was block programmed. Houston radio legend Dickie Rosenfeld got his first job in radio at KREL, doing sales and disc jockeying a country music show as Cowboy Dickie, before moving on to work at KPRC and then KILT. Another well known personality was Marvin Daugharty of Highlands, the morning show host, known as ‘The Deacon.’ He had studied at the National Radio Institute at Rice and also at the University of Kentucky, was also on the engineering staff at KREL and helped to put KLEE-TV on the air plus stints at KTHT and KRCT.

The station had a Fire Fighters Club for kids and also reminded teens not to forget the Three Rs: Rhythm, Records and Requests, daily at 6pm.

The station signed on with a special 2 hour program at 7pm on December 2nd. Regular broadcasting started on the 3rd. When Pelly and Goose Creek were consolidated in the newly incorporated Baytown in 1948, the city of license changed to Baytown. The station at 1360 has seen a number of call letter changes over the years including KWBA and KBUK; currently it is KWWJ, a Black gospel station.

The Houston papers did not include listings for suburban stations until the 50s.

ETA:  Google Street View image of the KWWJ facilities, still operating out of the original KREL building.  The garage structure, which possibly houses a remote unit, has been added.  Decker Drive/Loop 330 has been widened considerably; it is now a multi-lane, elevated expressway with frontage roads so the building sits much closer to the road than it used to. 

NOTE: The Robert T. Nolan of E. Liverpool, OH, one of the original staffers at KREL, Baytown, became much better known in Houston radio circles and to listeners as Tim Nolan, one half of the long-running Tim and Bob morning show on KPRC.


W. Albert Lee - Houston Television Pioneer

The owner of Houston's first television station was born on a farm near Hallettsville in February, 1892. By the time he turned 13, boll weevils had devasted his father's cotton farm and the family moved to Houston where Albert worked hawking newspapers on a street corner and then for a railroad. As a young man he formed a produce company with his two brothers, one of whom owned a grocery store on McGowen, and went to the Rio Grande Valley to be the produce buyer. He also was a watermelon farmer near Sealy before settling back in Houston as a commercial real estate broker downtown, and, beginning in 1925, a hotelman. That year a hotel owner in failing health had listed his hotel with Lee's brokerage and when it didn't sell, implored him to take it off his hands. Lee purchased the hotel and refurbished and opened it as the Lee Hotel, at Polk and San Jacinto.

By 1950, Lee controlled nine hotel properties, including the Walee, Woodrow, Bell, Stratford, Milby and San Jacinto in downtown Houston and the Fort Mason Inn, a resort in the Hill Country. Lee had taken out a long term lease on the Milby in 1937 and in that property and the San Jacinto, Lee controlled two of the largest and most well known hotels in downtown Houston besides the Rice and the Lamar.

He was friends with Jesse Jones and Herbert Hoover and most of the big businessmen of Houston of the era. He was appointed to serve on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles by Governor Coke Stevenson and was active in politics on the state and local level and even considered running for office himself.

He was one of the founders of the Houston Fat Stock Show in the 1930s and had been instrumental in convincing the organization to start presenting star performers in conjunction with the livestock exhibits in the early 1940s and had been personally involved in the negotiations with many of the performers; he counted show business personalities amongst his friends, too.

He decided to get into radio in early 1946. His partner was a friend and attorney Julian Weslow. He filed an application for a station to operate full-time on 610 kilocycles with 5000 watts, the second application for a permit on that frequency in Houston. Lee considered asking for the calls KWAL but opted instead to go with KLEE. His competition for the application was Robert T. Bartley, newphew of the powerful Speaker of the US House of Representatives Sam Rayburn, who had served as Director of the FM Department of the National Association of Broadcasters. Many assumed that Bartley's connections made him the favorite to win the permit but the FCC was not impressed with Bartley's investors nor his preparation for ownership. Bartley had never resided in Houston, indeed had only visited it twice, and all of his other investors lived in New England and none had ever been to Texas. The group did minimal research into the needs of the market. The permit was awarded to Lee in May, 1947.

Even while KLEE was being built, Lee visited New York to negotiate with talent to appear at the rodeo and was exposed to television for the first time. He came back to Houston determined to put a TV station on the air and filed an application for a station on channel 2 in the autumn of 1947, winning approval just 3 months later. It is believed the FCC expedited the approval process to be sure Houston had at least one TV permit before the freeze on new applications was put into effect. The FCC was favoring diversity of ownership in the awarding of TV permits and Lee got the nod also possibly because of his lack of other broadcasting or newspaper holdings.

Lee died the last week of November, 1951. He had sold his TV station a year and a half earlier. After his death, KLEE, 610, was sold to Gordon and B.R. McLendon's Trinity Broadcasting of Dallas who flipped the call letters to KLBS and affiliated it with their Liberty Broadcasting System, even announcing plans to move the headquarters of the network to Houston and use KLBS as the flagship.

So far as I know, all of Lee's hotel properties in Houston have been demolished but the Fort Mason Inn is still in operation the last time I checked.

The top picture shows W.A. Lee in 1938. The bottom picture, undated, shows Lee astride his horse at a surprise testimonial at the Rice Hotel attended by hundreds when he was presented with a silver-trimmed saddle by radio, recording and motion picture star Gene Autry.

The pictures and much of this information comes from Hilton Waldo Hearn, Jr.'s 1971 Masters Thesis at the University of Texas at Austin, W. Albert Lee, Pioneer of Houston Television. A copy of the thesis is available at the Metropolitan Research Center at the Houston Public Library.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Early FMs Update

Chris Huff of the DFW Radio Archives has continued his work on compiling a catalog of early Texas FM stations from Broadcasting Magazine, White's Radio Logs and the Texas Almanac and other sources.

According to his findings, KLUF-FM Galveston was in operation from the Winter of 1949 to the Winter of 1954, operating with 8 kw on 98.7 mc.

Now that I have some better dates I may be able to find something about it in the Galveston newspaper archives.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More KILT Memorabilia

Blog reader Charles Fairchild sent me this link to a flyer promoting KILT's Go Texan Hootenanny in 1966 (PDF file) along with an explanation:

"I attended that show when I was 12 because our family was friends with Terri Sharp's family. I looked her up recently living in Kerrville
and we had lunch and she is still writing and has a gold record for a
song Hank WIlliams Jr recorded called Cant Blame the Train. She also
wrote some songs that Don McLean recorded. Anyway while I was looking her up I found that program somebody had put on the internet under a google search of "Terri Sharp, a love that will last" which was her hit in 1966 and I sent her a copy. I think back then, KILT started using the rodeo for musical acts which has become a big event now. But in 1966 all those acts performed two shows in one day I think, each singing two or three songs depending on their ratings.

I got interested in looking up the old deejays listed on the program
which led me to your site. We had a dog named weird beard, all white with a black tuft on his chin (Russ Knight, I think he used to
broadcast from his house if I remember correctly). And I remember
staying awake with a transistor radio under my pillow listening to
Alex Bennett, who is on Sirius radio now according to the link on your
site to his. I guess I was hooked early on to talk radio, and later
was an avid listener of Alvin Van Black, Howard Finch and now there
are lots of them. I pod cast Dennis Miller but don't have time to
listen to all of them. Also a news caster from the 80s at KTRH named
Howard Phillips is in a Barbershop chorus I sing with these days.

Thought you would like it, and glad to help your interesting website,
I sure wish I could go back to Houston in the 50s and 60s for a day.


Thanks Charles, I'm sure other blog readers will get a big charge out of this.

UPDATES: James Bond 008 used a fake British accent and became Alex Bennett, talk show host before leaving KILT. Alex Bennett at Wikipedia. Alex Bennett's website.

Bill Young became the long time and very successful program director of KILT-AM/FM and since leaving has run Bill Young Productions.

UPDATE 2: The Coastliners have been identified in a discussion on another forum:...'a group from Baytown/Lynchburg that came very close to hitting the big time and had several regional hits. They opened for many of the top rock acts that visited Houston in the mid-to-late 1960s. They were about the only white group that Don Robey signed for his label.'

The 1940s - Part 4 - 1946

Note: The article previously published as The 1940s - Part 4 - KATL has been retitled Part 5 to keep the articles in chronological order.

The only new stations to come on the air in Houston in 1946 were to be FM outlets but there was a lot of activity behind the broadcasting scene as the country and the industry continued the transition back to peacetime activities.

It had been reported in December, 1945, that a group calling itself Veterans Broadcasting had been formed to put Houston’s 5th radio station on the air on the 1230 frequency that was to be vacated by Texas Star’s KTHT; the application was contingent on approval of KTHT’s move. This was a group of Hofheinz associates that had been privately informed of his intentions so they could move quickly on the opening. Apparently the name Veterans had been chosen because all the principals were veteran broadcasters; the call letters KNUZ were to be used but the station was not going to be a news outlet, the calls referred to the fact that a couple of the principals had been newsmen.

One month later, on January 18, 1946, the Press reported not only on Veterans’ application but also the application of Hofheinz to move KTHT to 790 and an application for a station to operate on 610 kilocycles with the call letters KHTN.

The March roundup of FCC actions and filings reported in the Press on the 16th included news that hotelman W. Albert Lee had filed a competing application for a station on 610 kc, veteran Houston broadcaster and advertising man Lee Segall had filed an application for 1230, H. C. Coeblain and San Jacinto Broadcasting had filed for a station on 1470, Fred Weber, E.A. Stephens and William H. Talbot had filed for a station on 1590 and Radio Broadcast Associates, a group mainly based in San Antonio consisting of Eugene J. Roth, Jack. L. Pink and James M. Brown, had filed for a permit for a 250 watt station on 1180. Roth had put a station on the air in San Antonio in 1927 in the back of his auto repair shop on Main and taken the call letters KGRC, meaning Kome to the Gene Roth Company. Two years later someone had pointed out to him that he needed a government license to do what he was doing so he wrote to the Commerce Department and reported himself. According to Richard Schroeder in Texas Signs On, Herbert Hoover wrote back informing him that he was now authorized to operate a station in San Antonio with the call letters KGRC. That station had become KONO.

The Press reported on April 26 that Lee Segall had been granted an FM license; no other details were given. It is believed this license was transferred to the company that bought out Segall when he decided to relocate to Dallas and would have been a proposed KCOH-FM but never made it on the air. However, this was apparently the first license issued for an FM station in Houston in the upper (88-108mc) band.

The paper also noted W. Albert Lee’s and Roy Hofheinz’s applications and identified the head of the company seeking station KHTN on 610 kc as Robert T. Bartley, a nephew of powerful House Speaker Sam Rayburn. It was often speculated in coverage of this story that Bartley’s Washington connections made him a favorite to win the permit.

On May 4th, the Post reported its parent company, Houston Printing Co., had received a permit for an FM station to operate on 99.7 megacycles with 19.6 kilowatts. For more on this, see the FM Chronology. The paper also reported the FCC announced its intentions to hold competitive hearings on the applications of W. Albert Lee and KHTN, Inc. for a station on 610.

During May hearings resumed on Roy Hofheinz’s application to move KTHT to 790 kc and Lee Segall dropped a competing application for the frequency. It took almost 4 years for Hofheinz to win approval for his proposed move and brought him into conflict with one of the largest broadcasting outfits in the country; that story will be reported in a separate post.

On July 20 the Press reported the FCC had issued a permit the previous day for a new Houston AM station, the first since 1944. The operation was to be headed by Fred Weber of New Orleans, a former General Manager of the Mutual Broadcasting System who announced that no studio site had yet been selected. The station would take 10 months to get on the air and take the calls KATL. That is the subject of the next segment of this AM chronology.

Within 2 weeks Houston got a fifth radio station, Texas Star’s KTHT-FM. This is reported on in the FM Chronology. Later that month, the Chronicle reported that Metropolitan Houston Broadcasting Co. had filed for a permit for a full time station on 1060 kc to operate with 5 kW days and 1 kW nights. R.H. Rowley, Glen H. McLain, L.M Rice of Dallas and James A. Clements of Angleton were identified as the principals of the company. Clements was also a partner in Bay City Broadcasting which already held a permit for a station in Bay City, presumably KIOX.

In October a hearing on Radio Broadcast Associates of Houston’s application for a station was postponed. In its article the Press referred to Eugene L Levy, an error I believe, and gave the frequency sought as 1170 and the power as 1000 watts. The paper also noted that Roy Hofheinz and his partner, W.N. Hooper had amended their application for a station in New Orleans to request 50 kw rather than 5 and move the frequency from 1580 to 1540. This project of Hofheinz and Hooper was later scrapped due to cash flow problems.

Rounding out the action on the radio scene in Houston for 1946, the Press reported on November 2 an application had been filed for a Spanish language station in Houston to operate on 850 kc with 1000 watts daytime. Felix Morales had been trying since 1942 to get an AM station on the air in Houston; he would not succeed until May, 1950, with KLVL, 1480.

Just after the first of the year, both the Post and the Chronicle reported that Hofheinz and Hooper had filed for a station in San Antonio on 860. I believe this project did finally make it on the air.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

KGUL-TV, Channel 11, Galveston

“Local Television comes of age” the Houston Chronicle proclaimed Sunday, March 22, 1953, on the cover of its special TV section devoted to the launch of the area’s second TV station, KGUL-TV, Channel 11, Galveston. The station was set to go on the air that evening at 6pm with a 30 minute introductory show from the studios at 2002 45th Street, also referred to as 11 Video Lane. The studio was so small that only those who would appear on camera would be present; other dignitaries including stockholders in Gulf Television Co., would be at the Galveston Club across the street.

Paul Taft of Houston was President and chief stockholder of Gulf Television. He was the son-in-law of the founder of Houston’s Duncan Coffee Co. and had previously formed Sabine Televison to put a station on the air in Beaumont. That project foundered due to the FCC freeze on TV applications and while waiting, Taft had realized the potential for a station in Galveston serving a much larger target audience. There were two applicants for the allocation; Taft had forged a merger with Mirador Television-Radio Corporation owned by R. Lee Kempner and Associates and the other company withdrew its application. The permit was granted January 28 and the station was given 2 months by the FCC to start construction; instead, the station was starting operations 6 days before that deadline.

Stockholders in Gulf Television included mostly Galveston and Houston businessmen including James Bradner, the head of Galveston radio station KGBC. Actor James Stewart was also a stockholder and Stewart was in town on that day to host the opening ceremony which would introduce the station principals and programming.

The antenna was located at Arcadia, a town on State Highway 6 now within the boundaries of Santa Fe; the Chronicle described the location as ‘about half way between Houston and Galveston.’ In fact, the 500 foot tower topped by a 50 foot antenna was much closer to Galveston. The Chronicle also said the coverage area basically included the ‘tri-city’ area of Houston, Galveston and Freeport. With 235,000 watts, KGUL-TV was the most powerful TV station in Texas at that time. A coverage map printed in the Chronicle’s special section indicated the Grade-A coverage area would probably barely have reached past Loop 610 North in Houston while the Grade-B coverage area probably would not have reached Intercontinental Airport (neither of these landmarks was in existence at that time). It was estimated there were 237,000 TV sets in use in the coverage area with potentially 1 million viewers.

The station’s primary affiliation would be with CBS-TV with back-up arrangements with ABC and DuMont. Originally all programming would be either live and local or on film but a microwave link from Houston to Arcadia would bring the availability of live network feeds; that was expected to be completed in about 3 weeks. Network and telephone company officials in New York would work out which station, KPRC-TV or KGUL-TV, got to use the sole cable link from Dallas to Houston at any given time. A second coaxial link was expected to be completed by the end of the year. At that time, the new station planned to air a full-day schedule.

The station had 2 cameras, 2 film chains and 2 slide projectors. Initially it would be on the air starting at 4pm daily but that would expand once the cable connection was completed.

Some shows would be moving from Channel 2 to Channel 11 including Studio One, Godfrey and Friends, I’ve Got a Secret, Racket Squad, Mr. And Mrs. North, Private Secretary, Toast of the Town, Ken Murray and Alan Young. Jack Harris of KPRC-TV said most of those had been airing on Channel 2 late at night and would be replaced by feature movies. New shows on KGUL-TV never before seen in Houston included Captain Video, Plainclothesman, Jane Froman, City Hospital, Crime Syndicated, Danger, The Ruggles, Quick as a Flash, Four Star Playhouse, Video Theater, Big Town, Life Begins at 80, My Friend Irma, Beat the Clock, Jackie Gleason, Chance of a Lifetime and Gene Autry. Shows that had aired previously in Houston but weren’t currently on the KPRC-TV schedule included Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Perry Como, Burns and Allen, You Asked for It, Man Against Crime, Blue Ribbon Bouts, Big Town, Playhouse of Stars and Quiz Kids.

The station planned 3 local shows plus 2 daily newscasts. A homemaking hour would consist of a 30 minute cooking show presided over by George Young, chef of Galveston’s Jean Lafitte Hotel, followed by Wilma Rutherford, formerly of KRLD-TV, Dallas, who would discuss homemaking tips, fashion and decorating, etc. A musical show would be offered in the near future, alternating between the Al Pliner Trio of Galveston and Margie, Wink and Everest, a trio from Houston. Margie was identified as Margie Crumbaker, perhaps the same person who was later a columnist for the Houston Post.

Some accounts have claimed the first evening’s programming was to be a festival of James Stewart movies but that is not what was reported in the Houston Chronicle or Galveston Daily News. A line-up of CBS network shows was due after the brief opening show, followed by the feature presentation of the night, "Oil Town USA," a film which had been shot by the Billy Graham Evangelical Crusade at Rice Stadium in Houston.

What actually happened however was a breakdown in the equipment which left actor Stewart ad libbing in the lobby of the small building, holding a lavalier microphone, trying to fill. I was watching at this point - for some reason, I had some control over the TV though I was the youngest family member. I don’t remember that we had tuned in and caught the opening formalities but I was watching at this point and got bored. Stewart was not very good at ad libbing; I hardly knew who he was, anyway, as he had not been featured in many of the movies I saw at the Lake Theater in Lake Jackson at the weekly Saturday afternoon double-feature. Besides, there were now 2 stations to choose from and I switched the set over to watch Channel 2, thus becoming one of the earliest and youngest channel surfers in Houston.

Meanwhile on Channel 11, desperate measures were undertaken to save the evening. A local country western artist, Utah Carl, was summoned and he and his band showed up within minutes and performed an impromptu concert in the station’s lobby. The story of Utah Carl is recounted in this article by Galvestonian Bill Cherry for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Station officials were so grateful for his efforts and so impressed with his showmanship that he was given a regular slot on the station, adding to the local programming. Live country music programming was actually quite common in early TV; long running Grand Ol’ Opry stars Curly Fox and Miss Texas Ruby had a program on KPRC-TV that lasted for 7 years and they had earlier had a show on WNBC-TV, New York.

The 16 page Chronicle special section included numerous articles about the pending launch of KUHT-TV, Channel 8, plus KNUZ-TV and plans at KPRC-TV to boost power when it moved into new studios on Post Oak Road in Houston.

The image above comes from the archives of the Galveston Daily News on microfilm at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston.

A Day in the Life -

...of a Houston TV viewer.

Friday June 25, 1954, the last day for KNUZ-TV, Channel 39.

Friday, November 21, 2008

KILT Historical Photos

One of the biggest stories in Houston radio in the 1950s was the Top 40 war between KILT and KNUZ. Actually, the war was over pretty fast. Gordon McLendon took over KLBS in May of 1957 and flipped the call letters to KILT on May 14th, launching a whole new air staff and his highly successful Top 40 format from KLIF, Dallas, and KTSA, San Antonio. According to Ronald Garay’s Gordon McLendon, The Maverick of Radio, within one month, by June, 15, 1957, all three rating services - Hooper, Trendex and Pulse - showed KILT had moved from last to first place in the Houston market. Garay says the Top 40 format worked better on KILT than it had on KLIF and Don Keyes once wrote that McLendon basically made no mistakes in his second foray into Houston.

As was typical of McLendon stations there were constant, attention getting promotions. There was the Treasure Hunt which, as it had in Dallas, led to people digging on private property. Houston listeners also heard the ‘Oops, sorry’ apology for some obscenities supposedly aired accidentally on the station during live coverage of a news event.

But apparently the most attention getting promotion, even garnering national news notice, was the flagpole sitter, who was none other than program director and afternoon drive DJ Don Keyes. Keyes was to work for McLendon for years, serving as National Program Director of the McLendon group after graduating from KILT. Soon after taking over KILT, McLendon had ordered Keyes up on a flagpole positioned in the parking lot of the new Gulfgate Mall which also happened to be situated next to the first freeway in Houston, the Gulf Freeway, now I-45 South. Keyes was to stay there until KILT beat KNUZ.

Google is in the process of uploading the photographic archives of Life Magazine, about 10 million photos, and I have discovered a couple of photos of KILT in June, 1957, one of Keyes, clad in a kilt, scaling the tower.

Somewhere I have read Keyes retelling of the story of this promotion but I cannot find it now. Keyes died in 2006 but shortly before he had posted some memoirs on line and I thought that was where I read it but apparently not.

Nevertheless Keyes' memoir is a great read.

Another photo from the Life collection shows new KILT morning DJ Elliot Field in the studio, flanked by a horse. According to the caption, Field had offered a pair of shoe laces in trade for anything of value and the winning offer was that 4 year old mare.

Note the plaid tie and plaid sport coat. I believe those are electrical transcription devices in the background. This photo will be of special interest to KILT alumnae. Unless I’m mistaken, that board was was still in use at the KILT studio at 500 Lovett Blvd, which McLendon built, up until the station moved to Greenway Plaza in 1995. It was in the News Production studio which may have been the original air studio. I wouldn’t be surprised if that Ampex in the background was still in use, too. I don’t know what McLendon’s policies were regarding equipment but LIN Broadcasting, which owned KILT when I went to work for it in 1983, did not believe in spending money for new equipment (or salaries); the KILT engineering staff did an amazing job of keeping ancient equipment working.

The Google Life Magazine Photo Archives

Edited 5/3/2014 to add:  Galvestonian Bill Cherry's feature story that brings up the flagpole sitting incident.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

R.I.P. - TV News Pioneer Ray Miller

The Edward R. Murrow of Houston TV News. Born in Fort Worth and moved to Houston in 1939. He was not the city's first anchor, that was his boss at KPRC-AM, Pat Flaherty, but the KHOU video includes a brief kinescope clip of him anchoring an early newscast on 2.

He is perhaps best remembered for building the shop at KPRC that was one of the best local TV news shops anywhere and for creating and narrating The Eyes of Texas beginning in 1967.

Watching KPRC-TV news day after day, years on end, made me proud to be a broadcaster, a Houstonian and a Texan. The Eyes of Texas was simply one of the most fascinating TV programs ever owing in large measure to the writing (but also the subject matter!)

It would be interesting to compile a list of the broadcast journalists who came through that shop and went on to other things - Steve Smith, later long-time anchor of KHOU, Conservative commentator Cal Thomas, Thom Jarriel of ABC and many others. But I think also it should be noted the number of local TV journalists who migrated to KPRC - it was the place to be if you wanted to work for the best - among them Larry Rascoe, Ron Stone and Bob Nicholas, all of whom came over from 11. Ironic that Miller wound up working with 11 after he left 2.

I have been looking through a couple of his Eyes of Texas Travel Guides that I have and his Ray Miller's Houston - there's lots of good stuff in there I had forgotten about including great old photos and facts.

I have not been able to get the KPRC video to load so I haven't seen it.

KHOU Ray Miller video

KPRC story with video

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dizzy Lizzy - KYOK

I am grateful to Michael for sending me this picture showing Novella Smith who used the name Dizzy Lizzy on KYOK. I'm not sure of the date; KATL flipped to KYOK in late 1954 and the name Dizzy Lizzy may have been used by more than one person over the years.

Other names used by KYOK jocks included Groovy George, Razzle Dazzle and Hotsy Totsy. I probably listened to Novella as a kid but not much. I listened to KYOK a lot in the late 1950s but because of their highly directional signal and my location, I could only pick them up at night and I'm pretty sure she was on during the day.

Novella also was a disc jockey on KPRC, 950, in the 60s, doing a jazz show in the evening.  Her resume details even more of her accomplishments.

From the Friends of Novella blog, a picture of 'Bugaloo' George Frazier on KYOK, ca. 1970, and a story on how Dizzy Lizzy and Skipper Lee Frazier broke Roy Head's 'Treat Her Right' on KYOK in 1965.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Ratings are in

For the Fall of 1945

I thought maybe the big numbers for KTRH and KXYZ in the mornings reflected, respectively, Arthur Godfrey, who had just gone national in April of 1945, and Don McNeill's Breakfast Club, which had been national (although maybe not in Houston all the time) since 1933. However, when I looked at the radio listings in my files closest to this date, in the Spring of 1947, I found the Breakfast Club on KXYZ at 9 am but Arthur Godfrey was on KTRH at 2 pm (30 minutes, with House Party - Art Linkletter? - at 3pm).

I have no idea what was responsible for the big numbers on KPRC in the afternoon.

I'm grateful to Chris Huff of the DFW Radio Archives for sharing this graphic.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ron Stone passes

Long time Houston TV anchor Ron Stone, who spent 30 years on Channels 2 and 11 as anchor, has passed at the age of 72 from cancer.

Here's an obituary from KPRC-TV. I have missed him on the news since he retired in 1992.

Goodnight, neighbor.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

April Anniversaries

Broadcasting Yearbook, 1979, gave April, 1963, for the launch of KLJT-FM, Lake Jackson on 107.3. It was co-owned with KBRZ, Freeport, and had studio and tower on Willow Drive in Lake Jackson, just 2 blocks from my home. The station is now on 107.5; other calls have included KGOL-FM, KLDE-FM and KHTS-FM.

April 12 marks the anniversary of the first operation of a licensed broadcasting station in Houston in 1922, WEV. See the Chronology of the 1920s and WEV under Stations on the sidebar for more.

April 15, 1947, marked either the issuance of the permit or launch of operations for KWHI, Brenham, 1280, now operating once again with the original calls.

The Yearbook gives April 16, 1951, for the launch of KMCO, Conroe, a 500 watt daytime station on 900 kilocycles.

Easter Sunday, April 17, 1949, brought KREL-FM, Baytown, 92.1 megacycles, co-owned with KREL-AM, 1360.

On April 26, 1946, The Houston Press reported in passing that Lee Segall of Houston had been granted FM license. This is believed to be the first license for an FM station in the upper band in Houston but the exact date of issuance is not known. The permit was never activated.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The 1940s - Part 5 - KATL

The next AM station to come on the air in Houston was KATL, licensed to Texas Broadcasters and operating at 1590 kc with 1000 watts. The owners were William Harry Talbot of Houston and Fred Weber and E.A. Stephens of New Orleans, the latter two both associated with WDSU. Stephens was also an auto dealer in New Orleans and Weber had been General Manager of the Mutual Broadcasting System. King Robinson, Chief Engineer at KTRH, came over to serve as General Manager; William S. Newkirk ‘well-known announcer’ was program director. The station had been applied for in March and approved on July 20, 1946. It was scheduled to launch April 1, 1947, but was delayed, ironically, by engineering problems.

On the day KATL was supposed to launch the Chronicle carried a story about the city’s 6th radio station receiving approval - Veterans Broadcasting had received a permit to move onto the 1230 frequency when it was vacated by KTHT but that was not to be possible for months to come. The story also mentioned KATL expected to be on the air within 15 days. On the 13th of April the Chronicle ran yet another story about KATL, saying it would be on the air ‘this week’ and detailed the staff and programming. There was still a lot of concern about jobs for returning veterans and PD Newkirk had taken pains to make sure his entire staff was made up of veterans. Newkirk had served in the Army in the Pacific for three years. Johnny Edwards had been a navigator on a B-17. Larry Blieden served in the Marine Corps while John Wagner was with the First Armored Division and Sid Gervais was a radio technician in the Navy. Houston native Blieden (pronounced blee-din) later became known as actor Larry Blyden. Edwards, who used the nickname ‘the Old Redhead’ even very early in his career, was to spend many years in Houston radio including stints at KXYZ, KTHT and KPRC. This webmaster remembers Johnny Edwards on KPRC as having one of the most beautiful voices I ever heard in Houston radio.

The program staff was said to be taking a survey of Houstonians to determine what they wanted to hear on the radio and the programming would be guided by that survey. The station would operate 24 hours a day.

KATL finally hit the airwaves at 6pm, Monday, May 12, 1947, somewhat surreptitiously after all the stories weeks earlier. It went on the air by special authority, awaiting final FCC approval. The first evening’s programming included play-by-play of the Houston Buffs game that night with Fort Worth - a shutout by pitcher Al Papai - and the station quickly affiliated with Gordon McLendon’s Liberty Broadcasting System which offered mainly sports programming. In addition to sports, the station featured mostly Country music.

Studios were originally located on the mezzanine level of the State National Bank building at 412 Main. The transmitter and towers were on Post Oak Road near the Hempstead Highway.

The first mention of the new station in the Post occurred the next morning in a story in the Sports section which advised Buffs fans that their team had returned to the airwaves for the first time since 1938 the previous evening. Peerless Beer also ran an ad telling fans to tune in to the broadcasts, which were to be sponsored by Peerless, a brew from Jax.

The Chronicle gave the station more space in a news story in its Tuesday, May 13 edition and both papers added KATL to their daily printed radio schedules on Wednesday, May 14, 1947.

In the mid 1950s KATL became Houston’s second station programmed for Black listeners and changed call letters to KYOK. Presently the station on 1590 khz is KMIC, owned by Disney.

In less than 12 months, three more AM stations would sign on in Houston, plus several more in suburban communities, and the first four FMs would all be on the air. The competition for listeners and advertising dollars was going to get intense.

Note: Much of this article was previously published on this blog as an anniversary notice, "60 Years on 1590."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

March Anniversaries

KPFT-FM, 90.1 MHz, signed on at 10:30pm, March 1, 1970, with the airing of ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by the Beatles. It was bombed off the air twice in the first 12 months but has been on the air continuously ever since. The station has a brief history on its website celebrating 38 years.

Broadcasting Yearbook gives March 10, 1962, for the launch of KHCB-FM, at 105.7 mc. A religious station since its inception, the calls stood for ‘Keeping Him Close By.’ There was no story in the Chronicle, not even in the Church Chronicle, a weekly special section. Listings first appeared in the paper on March 16. The station operated originally only from 4pm to Midnight daily.

The Houston area’s second TV station, KGUL-TV, Galveston, Channel 11, came on the air at 6pm, Sunday, March 22, 1953, from studios at 2002 45th street which was dubbed 11 Video Lane. A 550 foot antenna was located 1.3 miles north of Arcadia. Actor Jimmy Stewart, a part owner of the station, was in town to handle the opening ceremonies.

March 23, 1922, brought the issuance of the first broadcasting license for Houston, for station WEV to operate on 360 and 485 meters. It was licensed to the Hurlburt-Still Electrical Company and was the 4th broadcasting station licensed in Texas and 108th nationwide. The first broadcast was on April 12.

March 24, 1930, KTRH signed on as a Houston station from studios in the Rice Hotel and transmitter at Deepwater on the La Porte Highway. It was previously licensed to Austin as KUT and before that as WCM.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

KTRH 50 kW Installation, Baytown, 1943-1981

Bob Stroupe, Houston Director of Engineering for Clear Channel Radio, says that KTRH’s move to 740 kHz in 1943 was prompted by the North American Radio Broadcast Agreement of 1941. The changes instigated by that agreement created a Canadian Clear Channel (Toronto) on 740 kHz. While that allowed only one Class I-A (now Class A) it allowed many Class II stations, all of which had to protect the Canadian I-A.

This allowed KTRH to apply for and be granted a license on 740 kHz. at 50 kW day and 50 kW night with the use of a directional antenna. Without the directional antenna, KTRH, could have been licensed with 10 kW day and 1 kW night.

The original KTRH 50 kW site was at Baytown, TX, using self supporting towers and was completed in 1943. According to information I have posted elsewhere on the blog from the FCC database, KTRH went to 50 kW in April, 1943.

Stroupe says the original proof of the directional antenna remains, accompanied by a note to the effect that a minimal proof was conducted due to wartime gas rationing. He adds that the 5 kW RCA, newly installed at the joint KTRH/KPRC plant at the original site at Deepwater on the La Porte Highway in January, 1936, might have been moved to Baytown as a backup but I have no information about whether than was in fact done.

Sam Lester was the resident transmitter engineer at the KTRH facility on FM 565, Cove Rd., northeast of Baytown from 1959 until 1981. Sam started work in March, 1959, and lived on the premises. In 1981 a fully remote controlled operation was installed at a new transmitter site at Dayton and Sam took early retirement. He has been living at Toledo Bend since 1986. These photos shows the transmitter building ca. 1961.

Sam says that in 1959, the transmitter was still receiving programming over open telephone lines on glass insulators from the Rice Hotel. Years later, a microwave link was installed. In 1959 KTRH was still running all the CBS network programs including soap operas and the Arthur Godfrey program. The station also carried regular Sunday concerts of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and was the flagship for the Houston Buffs. Later, the station went to all-talk and news.

This shot shows a panoramic view of the 30 acre site which included the 4 tower phased array. Sam’s apartment was on the second floor of the building. The pattern change took place at sunrise and sundown. In the morning, Dewey Compton would say ‘We now pause for 5 seconds while we fire our power into East Texas.’ That was the cue for Sam to activate the pattern change.

The transmitter was an RCA model 50E, air-cooled. This is a view of the control console and the transmitter enclosure. The center section is the Class C final stage.

This is another shot of the control console and about half of the front of the transmitter enclosure. That’s Sam Lester in the chair; Sam was a photography buff and used a variety of cameras in taking these pictures.

This is a view of the other end of the enclosure. The enclosure at the end is the antenna common point for the distribution networks.

This is the audio modulator stage with two 895R tubes. The copper fins are the plate for the tube.

A close-up of the 895R tube. Each weighed about 230 pounds. The Class C final stage used four of these tubes.

This is the number 4 tower. The wire on the poles is the 5 wire open air coax feed lines.

The two pole structure on the left is the ‘Rat Nest’ feeding the four tower array.

A close up of the Rat Nest with the number one tower in the rear.

The tuning network at the base of one of the antennas. This is inside the little building seen in the previous picture.

Another shot of the control console with Sam making entries in the log.

KTRH was knocked off the air for several hours in September, 1961, by Hurricane Carla. This shows the grounds shortly after the storm.

A shot of part of the antenna system after Carla. As a result of this event, a GM diesel generator and a Gates 10K auxiliary transmitter were installed.

This is the Gates 10K back-up. Sam is taking some readings during a test.

Then and Now: The antennas and transmitter were long since dismantled and sold but the building is still in existence on FM 565, about 1 mile west of Houston Raceway Park. According to an article in the Baytown Sun, it was converted to a private residence in 1984. It was difficult to tell on a recent visit if the place is currently occupied but the building itself appears to be in good shape for a 65 year old structure. I realized as soon as I turned on to FM 565 off Texas 146 that I had been there before for a station remote at the Raceway and I remembered when I saw it that I had noticed the building when I drove past it before and wondered what it was. I’ll bet many, many Houstonians have passed by that facility and had no idea what it was.

My thanks to Sam Lester and Bob Stroupe for their help in compiling information for this article and to Sam for generously sharing these photos.

See additional photos of this installation taken in 1948 here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

FM Chronology - Part 5 - 1947 - 1950

Less than a week after KTRH-FM took to the air, the Lee Segall Broadcasting Co., by that time owned by the William Smith Construction Co., received a permit for an FM in Houston. According to information supplied by Chris Huff of the DFW Radio Archives, the proposed call letters of the Houston station would have been KCOH-FM but the permit was never activated. It’s not known at this time if this permit was just a reassignment of the earlier permit issued to Segall or what calls he had requested. William B. Smith was President of Call of Houston, Inc., which put KCOH-AM on the air in May, 1948.

Later in the same week the permit was announced, The Post published congratulations to Segall on his new FM in Dallas, KIXL-FM.

On November 13, 1947, the University of Houston was granted a permit for an FM station to be known as KUHF-FM with a 3 kilowatt transmitter and 267 foot antenna. Permanent studios for the station were included in the plans for the Ezekiel W. Cullen building but temporary studios were to be in the recreation building on campus and the transmitter in the Engineering Lab building. Students in the Speech Arts Department were already producing programs that aired on KATL. The University had 6 months under FCC regulations to set a launch date but the station was not to get on the air until late 1950.

Later that same month, W. Albert Lee received an FM permit for KLEE-FM, a conditional grant subject to engineering approval. Lee announced construction would begin immediately and the Chronicle reported the station would be on the air in 90 days but the permit apparently was never activated. Lee and his engineers had their plates full, trying to get his AM on the air and planning for the possibility of being granted Houston’s first TV license, plus on-going renovations in both his Milby and San Jacinto Hotels.

Amidst all the hoopla over the launch of Lee’s KLEE-AM on January 31st, 1948, Houston’s fourth FM station, KXYZ-FM, slipped on the air the next day, a Sunday, at 9am. The schedule was to be 9am to 5pm Sundays and 7am to 3pm weekdays according to an ad. The station operated at 96.5 megacycles, FM channnel 243. Two days later, however, a story in the Chronicle reported the station was simulcasting KXYZ-AM from 6:45am to 11pm.

KXYZ-FM was to last 5 and a half years before shutting down for just a little over 8 years.

Tne next FM to make it on the air in the area was the first in the market outside of Houston. KREL-FM, 92.1 megacycles, signed on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1949, at 6:30am. The inaugural broadcast was a simulcast with KREL-AM, 1360 kc, of the sunrise services from Memorial Stadium in Baytown. The permit had been granted to Tri-Cities Broadcasting on April 4, 1947 and the 230' antenna had been put in place in 1947 on one of the towers erected for KREL-AM on Decker Drive. The range of the station was estimated to be 50 miles and it was on the air daily from 3pm to 11pm. The format included popular music plus some of the more popular serious music selections. Ads for the station in the Daily Sun said that FM stood for ‘Far More Listening Pleasure.’ Within a couple of years the broadcast day was expanded from 1pm to 12 Midnight, then further expanded to simulcast all day the programming of KREL-AM. This continued for 4 and a half years. The last day of KREL-FM apparently was November 30, 1953; up until that time, daily listings in the Baytown Sun continued to show the AM and FM simulcasting. But on December 1, the listings for KREL-AM appeared in an ad touting new management, new programming policies, and new personalities. I never found a story explaining what had happened but apparently there had been a change of ownership and the FM was shut down. Listings for the FM stopped appearing. (Note: information supplied by Chris Huff from another researcher indicates KREL-FM was not deleted from the FCC file until 1958).

The reports in the Houston papers of FCC actions concerning Houston radio stations seem to have been published on a space-available basis. Sometimes they were very brief, sometimes quite extensive including news of goings on in other cities such as Dallas, San Antonio and Austin. In addition to all of the above, Chris Huff has shared a record, found by another researcher in either the FCC database or Broadcasting Magazine, of yet another FM authorized for Houston, KHCO-FM, to operate on 106.1 megacycles, sometime in 1948-49, licensed to Earl C. Hankamer This permit was never activated and I have come across nothing about it in my research.

There was also an early FM in Galveston, KLUF-FM, which appeared in some White's logs.  In a story January 8, 1949, in the Galveston Daily News, owner George Roy Clough said the station should be on the air in 30 days.  A new tower was being built in the 6100 block of Broadway, north of the existing KLUF tower, with a height of 222'.  Both AM and FM would operate from the tower with the FM operating with 9600 watts which Clough said should give a range of 40-60 miles.  The earliest schedule I have found in the paper was on November 11, 1949, while the latest was December 20, 1950.  Both KLUF and KLUF-FM were sponsors of an ad in the August 19, 1949, issue of the paper congratulating the local head of Interstate Theaters on his 20 years of tenure.  All of the schedules I examined except 2 showed a simulcast of KLUF-AM from early or mid-afternoon until 10 or 11 pm.  One schedule showed a baseball game from LBS, an afternoon game, followed by a scoreboard program and then a simulcast with AM; the other appeared to show independent programming for about 5 hours one afternoon before picking up the AM.  Those two were certainly the exceptions of all the printed schedules I came across. 

According to the listings in White's, the station operrated from the Winter of 1949 to the Winter of 1954 on 98.7 mc with 8 kw.

Edited 2/11/2014 to add more details about KLUF-FM.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Search - The first FMs in Texas


Chris Huff of the DFW Radio Archives is compiling a list of the earliest FM stations in Texas. I have shared with him what I have on the Houston FMs and this is the list he has now:

1. KTHT-FM Houston 8/22/46
2. KERA-FM Dallas 10/5/46
3. KTRN Wichita Falls 12/23/46
4. KPRC-FM Houston 12/24/46
5. KISS-FM San Antonio Dec. 1946?
6. KYFM San Antonio Jan. 1947?
6. WOAI-FM San Antonio Jan. 1947?
6. KCMC-FM Texarkana Jan. 1947?
9. KIXL-FM Dallas 6/8/47
10. KTRH-FM Houston 6/30/47

Actually Chris has a more extensive list but these are the earliest ones. The question marks indicate stations that were reported on the air by January 20, 1947, but for which no specific dates have been determined.

So I'm sending out a request if anyone comes across this blog who has any information to share on any of these or other early FMs. Some information can be gleaned from Broadcasting Magazine and the FCC data base but that leave open the question of whether the station ever made it on the air.

If you have any information - permit dates, actual air dates, how long it lasted or what it is now - please post in the comments section, e-mail me, or e-mail Chris at the DFW Radio Archives listed in the Other Cities Histories under Radio History Links on the sidebar.


EDIT: Thanks to Chris Huff for putting his list up. Here's a direct link.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

KTRH Photo

Chad Lassiter, first all-night talk show host on KTRH when the station went all talk. Photo courtesy of Sam Lester, long-time transmitter engineer at KTRH at the facility on FM 565, northeast of Baytown. A full gallery of Sam's pictures of the facility, in use from the early 1940s to the early 1980s, will be posted soon.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

FM Chronology Part 3 - KPRC-FM

The Houston Post reported on October 1, 1946, that Harris County Broadcasters, owners of KXYZ, had been granted a conditional construction permit for a Class B FM station on the previous day, subject to final FCC approval of engineering conditions. On December 2nd, the same day KTHT-FM changed call letters and increased program hours and power, the Chronicle reported the FCC had issued a Construction Permit for KXYZ-FM. apparently the final permit. The story said the station would probably be on ‘early next year’ on the frequency of 96.3 mc but that was perhaps a typo; the station was to operate on 96.5 and didn’t get on the air for fourteen months.

On November 28, the Chronicle reported that Tri-Cities Broadcasting had applied for an FM for the Tri-Cities area; this was the group headed by Goose Creek Sun publisher Robert Matherne. It was also reported the FCC had as yet taken no action on the group’s application for an AM. It was to take two and a half years for this FM to get on the air.

Houston’s second FM, KPRC-FM, began broadcasting on December 24, 1946, Christmas Eve, at 3pm, with a formal dedication ceremony at 5:45. That ceremony echoed in several ways the launch of KPRC-AM 21 and a half years earlier. Alfred P. Daniel was again the first announcer on the air and master of ceremonies of the dedication. Governor William P. Hobby, who had been President of the Post-Dispatch in 1925 and was now owner of the newspaper, was also on hand, as was Houston mayor-elect Oscar F. Holcombe, who had been mayor in 1925 and had retired from public office but had come out of retirement and won another term as mayor that fall.

The plan was for all programming on KPRC-FM to be live, no transcriptions were to be used. However, repeat broadcasts of programs were to be a regular feature. The first evening’s broadcast included a performance of Charles Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ at 7pm which was to be aired again on Christmas Day. It is not clear if they were going to allow themselves to transcribe a performance like that for later re-broadcast or if it was to be performed live two times.

Originally the station operated at 99.7 megacycles, FM Channel 259, but it moved to 102.9 megacycles the last weekend of October, 1947. The permit was for 195,000 watts. Studios were located in the Lamar Hotel at Main and Walker where KPRC-AM had been situated since the early 1930s. The transmitter was on the City National Bank Building at 921 Main, on the northeast corner of Main and McKinney. Studios may have later been located on the 23rd floor of that building.

The Post started printing a daily schedule for KPRC-FM programming in a couple of days and on January 9, 1947, also started printing a daily schedule of KOPY-FM programming.

In the late 1940s and 1950, radio listings indicted KPRC-FM was the only Houston FM not simply simulcasting it’s AM sister station.

KPRC-FM was sold in 1958 and the call letters changed to KHGM-FM and then in 1959 it was moved to 99.1 mc and in 1961 the call letters changed to KODA-FM.

A list of FM stations on the air as of January 20, 1947, from Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine showed the following in Texas, all of which must have signed on in late 1946 or very early 1947:

KERA A. H. Belo Corp. (WFAA), Dallas 94.3
KOPY Texas Star B/c Co. (KTHT), Houston 98.5
KPRC-FM Houston Printing Corp. (KPRC), Houston 99.7
KISS Walmac Co. (KMAC), San Antonio 100.1
KYFM Express Pub. Co., San Antonio 101.5
WOAI-FM Southland Industries (WOAI), San Antonio 102.3
KCMC-FM KCMC Inc. (KCMC), Texarkana 92.5
KTRN Times Pub. Co. of Wichita Falls, Wichita Falls 97.7

The Wichita Falls station had received a CP as of June, 1946, but that sort of information for the others is not available on line.

In the 1940 Census, Houston had ranked as the 21st largest city in the nation. By 1946, it was estimated to have risen to #17 and by the 1950 Census it would be the 14th largest. At the start of 1947 there were just six radio stations on the air here, 4 AM and 2 FM. Over the next 2 years, however, 4 more AMs, 2 more FMs and the first TV station would come on the air, plus a host of stations in surburban towns and cities.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

February Anniversaries

Saturday, February 1, 1947, was the first day of broadcast for KGBC, Galveston, 1540 kc. Originally a daytime station it became a full time operation within a couple of years and still operates on the same frequency and with the same call letters, making it the second oldest station in the Houston/Galveston market with the original call letters.

In the midst of the hoopla over the launch of KLEE, the news that the city had been awarded its first TV license and the start of the Rodeo for that year, Houston’s 4th FM station slipped on the air on Sunday, February 1, 1948. KXYZ-FM operated at 96.5 megacycles for 5 years before going silent for 8. Other call letters on that frequency since 1961 have included KAUM, KSRR, KNRJ, KKHT, and since 1991 KHMX-FM.

A decade later Houston’s 4th oldest FM signed on, KFMK-FM took to the airwaves on Sunday, February 2, 1958, at 5pm on 97.9 megacycles with 10,000 watts from studios in the Medical Arts Building at 1709 Dryden, between Main and Fannin. The station now on that frequency is KBXX-FM.

Broadcasting Yearbook, 1979, gave February dates for 2 suburban FM stations, February 14, 1965, for a station in Conroe on 106.9 MHz. The call letters in 1979 were KMCV-FM but I think the original calls were KNRO-FM. The station now on that frequency is KHPT-FM. February 11, 1968 was given for KUFO-FM, Galveston, 106.5 MHz. The station on that frequency now is KOVE-FM.

February 18, 1948, was the date of the big flip on 1230 kc and the launch of KTHT on its new frequency of 790 kc. KTHT was allowed to simulcast on both frequencies for 24 hours before KNUZ took to the airwaves on 1230.

February 20, 1948, brought the launch of KULP, El Campo, 1390 kc. The station is still on the air with the original calls from what is probably the original studios in downtown El Campo and calls itself The Texas Original.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Biff Collie, Texas Bill Strength, and other DJs

Here’s a brief biography of Biff Collie on-line.

In addition to the labels mentioned, Collie recorded first on Macy’s records in Houston and also later for Specialty. His only charted hit was as Billy Bob Bowman in 1972 on United Artists. He also was a morning man on KLEE.

The bio makes the claim that Collie was the the first Country DJ in Houston but I’m not sure that’s valid. Texas Bill Strength was a 16 year old teen in 1944 when he won a talent contest in Houston and was offered a job by KTHT, which may have been sponsoring the contest. Strength worked for KTHT for a couple of years but I don’t know for sure that he was a DJ or that he played country music, but if so, he certainly predates Biff Collie. He went on to a 25 year career in radio and recording.

Biff Collie’s first wife was the former Mrs. Floyd Tillman and his second wife later married Willie Nelson.

The bio indicates he stayed at KFOX, Long Beach, until 1969 so he apparently never returned to Houston to work at KXYZ as was suggested in the query.

The Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame has listings for 6 DJs who worked in Houston radio and are in the Hall. On the link you’ll have to click on the Hall of Fame on the side bar - the site does not allow direct links to individual pages.

Houston DJs on the site include Biff Collie, 1978, Texas Bill Strength, 1990, Smokey Stover, 2000, Dr. Bruce Nelson, 2004, Arch Yancey, 2006, and Joe Ladd, 2007.

Note the CRB article on Texas Bill Strength gets the calls of both KTHT and KATL wrong. According to the article in the Encyclopedia of Country Music compiled by the staff of the Country Music Hall of Fame he started recording for Houston’s Cireco label and by 1949 was recording for Four Star Records then later for Coral and Capitol. While working at KWEM in West Memphis in 1954-55 he befriended a young Elvis Presley. He also later worked at KFOX in Long Beach, where Biff Collie worked, and recorded for Sun. His best know hit was Hillbilly Hades, a 1967 parody on Starday.

At one time on there was a picture on-line of Texas Bill Strength at the KTHT control board; I think that was on the CRB site but it’s not there now. That might have been taken ca. 1944-45 when he worked there although as I remember it he didn’t look to be just 16 or 17.

Arch Yancey arrived at KNUZ in January, 1958, from Memphis to do 1-4pm and had a long career in Houston radio as a hugely popular disc jockey. He was just inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame last year. There are pictures of Arch (who I had the pleasure of working with at KILT) and other KNUZ deejays among the Bob Bailey Collection at the University of Texas linked to in the External Galleries section on the sidebar.

The ad for Collie’s Coffee Club above comes from the archives of the Houston Chronicle at the Houston Public Library for October, 1950.