Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gallery III - Memorabilia

A collection of miscellaneous bumper stickers.

ABC-FM was running Love FM on their 7 FMs, a taped album rock format, but flipped them all to live and local with new calls in September, 1970. In Houston KXYZ-FM flipped to KAUM. The artwork and calls were determined by ABC. Houston got the coolest artwork. The bumper stickers came in about a half dozen different colors.

The Air Corps was a locally conceived, short-lived positioning first used in the fall of 1971. This is actually a billboard card; the bumper stickers were longer and not as tall.

This was when the station was known as Rock 'n Stereo, beginning in 1972. The positioning and design were selected by ABC-FM.

A reverse window sticker for Majic 102, KMJQ-FM

Calls very briefly used on 100.3, KILT-FM

The calls were officially KIKK-FM.


KMKS-FM, Bay City

KMZK, Fort Worth, ca. 1981, owned by Taft Broadcasting of Houston at the time.


A KLBS Survey from February, 1955

A KXYZ survey from May, 1956

A KXYZ survey from November, 1956

A KXYZ survey from January, 1957

A KILT survey from August, 1957

A KTHT Hit Parader survey from May, 1961

More surveys from Houston radio stations (text only) can be found here.

Glad Music Co. - Daily's

While responding to a Query about Biff Collie I came across this site which will be of interest to many long time Houstonians.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The 1940s - Part 3 - The First Suburban Stations

After the close of World War II, broadcasters expected a lot of interest in FM radio, which had been used by the armed forces during the war and was unavailable for private use, and Congress had taken steps during the war to set up the FM band between 42 and 50 megacycles, then moved it to 88 to 108 megacycles. Instead there was a flood of applications for new AM stations, manufacturers put a lot of inexpensive new AM radios on the market and the development of FM was delayed for many more years. Part of the reason for the cheap AM sets was the shortage of wood brought on by the war; radio manufacturers stopped building big console sets and turned instead to table top models using plastic and metal cabinets due to the shortage of wood. (The chronology of FM in Houston, at least in the early years, is being discussed in a separate series of articles on the sidebar).

Around the Houston-Galveston area, several smaller communities got AM radio stations by the late 1940s. On the 9th of April, 1946, the Chronicle reported that three officials of the Goose Creek Daily Sun had chartered Tri-Cities Broadcasting Co. And applied for a permit for a 250 watt station; no hearing had been set. The principals were Robert Matherne, Publisher, Fred Hartman, Managing Editor, and Sidney S. Gould, Advertising and Business Manager. Fred Hartman later served as Texas Highway Commissioner and the big suspension bridge on Highway 146 is named for him. This application was apparently later withdrawn or amended.

On August 31, 1946, a story in the Houston Post was headlined ‘Tri Cities Radio to take to the air within 3 months.’ A construction permit had been granted by the FCC on Friday, August 30, to Bay Broadcasting Co. for station KRCT, to operate on 650 kc with 250w. C.Q. Alexander, the 6 foot 9 and a half inch mayor of Goose Creek was one of the principals. According to the Post a site had not even been selected yet but the Chronicle story said all the equipment had been acquired and the station expected to be on the air by Thanksgiving. The Chronicle reported the calls were to be either KBAY or KOCT, the latter apparently a typo.

It is not clear when this station finally got on the air. On the 4th of December the FCC accepted for filing an application to approve the antenna at a location on Bayou Road, 1.7 miles from the center of Goose Creek, and to specify the studio location in the M. Wilkenfield Building at 106 Goose Str. in Goose Creek. White's Radio Log for Winter/Spring 1947, covering January, February and March, does not list the station but the Texas Almanac for 1947-48 includes KRCT as one of 94 radio stations operating as of April 15, 1947. The earliest mention I have found in the Goose Creek Daily Sun was on p. 2, June 24, 1947, of a radio address on the issue of school consolidation to be aired on the station. The Sun was trying to get it’s own competing radio station on the air and seemed to have ignored the existence of KRCT except in paid advertisements or news stories such as when the station’s 200' tower on Cedar Bayou was knocked down by a strong norther blowing in on November 7, 1947. That story received mention also in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Mexia Daily News as severe weather had wreaked havoc across much of Texas and Louisiana.  (The station was back on the air the next day with a temporary antenna).

Other papers, however, provide earlier dates.  On February 27, the Liberty Vindicator, published in nearby Liberty, ran a story about a Baptist revival and stated one of the sermons would be broadcast over KRCT on March 9 at 2:30 pm. There were other mentions in the Vindicator and the Freeport Facts in April and May indicating the station was on the air.  The best guess is that KRCT got on the air sometime between late December, 1946, and mid-February, 1947.

Leroy Gloger became part owner of the station in late 1957. The station moved to Pasadena that year and in 1961 established studios in the Montagu hotel in downtown Houston and flipped the call letters to KIKK.

Roy Lemons, who was a Station Manager and Sales Manager for KIKK in the 60s, e-mailed me to report the original call letters KRCT came from the initials of Robert C. Touchstone, a furniture dealer in Goose Creek, who was one of the owners. He does not know when the station signed on or changed hands but says Gloger was the owner of a service station in Baytown when he bought the station for $110,000 with a $20,000 cash down payment. Roy has also provided information about the choice of the KIKK calls and the famous boots logo which will be included later in this chronology.

ETA:  Before the station got on the air an amended application was filed to move the studio location from the Wilkenfield building downtown to the transmitter site, described as the intersection Texas Avenue and Bayou Road or as 202 Bayou Road by the paper.  There is a 1957 Historic Aerial showing the facilities, just NE of the intersection of Wright Blvd. and Bayou Drive as it is now known.  The site does not allow links to specific images; go to the site and use the search parameters 'bayou drive baytown texas' and select the 1957 aerial.  Turn on the 'All Roads' overlay to identify Bayou Drive and Wright.  If you click on the 1964 aerial you will see that after the station relocated to Pasadena and went on KXYZ's main tower on Texas 225, the original KRCT facilities had been demolished and if you click on the 2004 aerial you can see what's there now - it is an upscale residential neighborhood.

More details on the history of KRCT and KIKK can be found here or by clicking on the labels below.

In its story on the KRCT action the Chronicle also reported Robert Matherne, owner of the Daily Sun at Goose Creek, had applied for a permit to operate a 1000 watt station on 1360 kc. Besides the principles of the Sun, the principles of Tri-Cities Broadcasting included I.G. Sanders, manager of the Culpepper’s Department Store in Goose Creek and Robert Strickland, an attorney. The call letters requested were KREL, because Robert E. Lee High School ‘had been and would continue to be an important part of life in the Tri-Cities.’ The go-ahead was given by the FCC on May 1, 1947.

The Handbook of Texas says that in 1942, Felix Hessbrook Morales first applied for a license for a radio station in Pasadena. Morales, a native of New Braunfels, had produced his own radio programs on a San Antonio station before moving to Houston and had bought time for Spanish language programming on KXYZ. Due to the war, Morales’ application was delayed for four years. The Houston Press reported on November 2, 1946, that Felix Morales of 2901 Canal had applied to the FCC for a 1000 watt daytime station on 850 kc, with the programming to be 80% Spanish and 20% English; there were said to be 40,000 Spanish speaking residents of Houston. Morales was finally to get a station on the air May 5, 1950 with a celebration of Cinco de Mayo. KLVL, “La Voz Latino,” 1480 kc, was licensed to Pasadena and is still on the air at that frequency with those calls, the third oldest radio station in Houston with the original calls. Read more about Morales and KLVL here.

According to the Broadcasting Yearbook, KGBC, Galveston, came on the air at 1540 kc in May, 1947, but the actual first air date was Saturday, February 1. A CP had been granted in August, 1946. James W. Bradner, Jr., was president of Galveston Broadcasting Co.; he had been an engineer with the TVA, with the national war housing administration during the war and City Manager of Waco. The station was only a daytimer at first and was promoted as Galveston’s only 1000 watt clear channel station. It is still on the air on the original frequency with the original calls.

According to Broadcasting Yearbook, KWHI Brenham, signed on April 15, 1947,  on 1280 kc. It was owned by the Brenham Banner Press but the archives of that paper are not available.  The earliest mention in print was an ad in the Bryan Eagle on May 9 and the first mention of the station in the Houston Post was on May 11. For more on the history of KWHI and it's sister FM, go here.

As far as I can tell it is the second oldest station in south east Texas outside of the Houston/Galveston or Beaumont/Port Arthur/Orange markets (WTAW, Bryan-College Station is the oldest).

The image above is from the archives of the Galveston Daily News at the Rosenberg Library, Galveston.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

News and Developments

An article about the sign-on of KLEE-TV, Houston's first TV station, has been added to the TV section on the sidebar.

The link on the sidebar to the Houston Radio History Calendar has been repaired. This is simply a listing of the monthly anniversary posts I have been publishing, in reverse order, of course, as the blog always does. You can access the same files by clicking on the label 'Calendar' at the bottom of any of the anniversary posts.

I continue to receive very interesting e-mails. Sam Lester, a long time transmitter engineer at KTRH, has offered some pictures which I hope to be able to post soon.

Michael Roesner has written, asking for information about his grandfather, George E. Roesner, who was a long time Farm Editor for KPRC Radio and TV and I think may have had a column in the Post as well. This will be added to the Queries section; if you have any information, please post in the comments section or e-mail me and I'll pass it or your e-mail address along to Michael.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The First FM in Houston (and Texas)

The month of August, 1946, was a momentous time in Houston; the papers reported on major developments on the local scene frequently. Early in the month, General Foods announced it was buying the old Ford assembly plant on Navigation for its Maxwell House Coffee division. Ford had abandoned the plant before World War II and it had been used as a factory for the assembly of airplane parts during the war, then as a warehouse by Pepsi. Maxwell House had been based in Houston since 1907. (Incidentally, the facility still produces coffee but General Foods sold it just last year). About the same time, ads announced the establishment of a new Phillips 66 distributorship for Houston and South Texas. W.S. ‘Bud’ Adams had arrived in town from Oklahoma to head the Ada Petroleum Company.

The travel editors of the papers were gadding about the southern hemisphere, reporting on the wonders to be found by Houston travelers there. Houston International Airport, now known as Hobby, had been certified as an International Air Gateway earlier in the year and Pan Am was offering flights to Havana, Caracas and Santiago; Braniff and Chicago and Southern Airways were also planning direct flights.

Houstonian Howard Hughes, bedridden, recuperating from near-fatal injuries suffered in the crash of a plane he was test piloting, announced from his hospital bed he had invented a fully adjustable bed consisting of 16 separate platforms, each independently adjustable, and had his engineers build it for him to alleviate his misery.

On the broadcasting front The Settegast-Kopf Singers had passed the 500 mark of consecutive live, weekly concerts on KPRC, on their way to setting an all time record for such performances in Houston. Meanwhile the directors of the funeral home proudly announced they had taken delivery on the first new Cadillac hearses to be received since before the war.

Also on the broadcasting front Mrs. John Wesley Graham, who had appeared on the first Houston Post concert on WEV in May, 1922, was still going strong on the radio, presenting her 15th Annual Talent competition; she had a weekly program on KTRH.

And on August 22 Roy Hofheinz announced he had put the first FM station in Houston (and Texas) on the air.

Hofheinz had been too young to play a role in the launch of AM broadcasting in Houston but his biographer Edgar Ray says that that he was determined to make a mark in the industry and be the first to get an FM station on the air in Texas, even though he knew he had to make a dash from behind to do so. By the time he received a Construction Permit, subject to Engineering Conditions, there were already 6 other applicants with Construction Permits statewide including 2 in Houston. In addition, FM had been used by the military during the war and there was virtually no equipment available and copper wire was extremely difficult to obtain. But Hofheinz knew broadcasting equipment and knew what he needed, plus he was a wheeler-dealer. As he had with KTHT-AM earlier in the decade but with much greater urgency, he set to work to get his FM on the air, running up an $800 long distance bill in just 2 weeks, calling all over the country trying to locate equipment. His initial grant of a Construction Permit subject to engineering approval was issued by the FCC on August 2, 1946, the same day a Construction Permit was issued for KTRH-FM on 99.3 mc. The Chronicle bragged that KTRH-FM would be on the air in 6 weeks and be the first Houston FM but it would be 11 months before the station launched.

But as a result of his concerted efforts in just two weeks, on August 15, Hofheinz wired the FCC asking for permission to begin test broadcasts. By the afternoon of August 16th an antenna was on its way from New York on a Slick Air Lines cargo plane and a transmitter was on its way from New Orleans by truck and on the evening of August 17th, test broadcasts began from the KTHT studios in the Southern Standard Building at 711 Main. Then on August 22, just 3 weeks after the CP was issued, the Press and the Chronicle carried the announcement that KTHT-FM would begin regular broadcasts that afternoon on 98.5 megacycles, FM Channel 253, and would operate daily between 3 and 9pm.

KTHT-FM went on the air with only 250 watts but the Chronicle reported that would be upped to 1000 watts within a couple of weeks, boosted to 2000 watts by a double gain antenna. The license was for 250,000 watts and a new antenna was to be erected at 215 N. Ennis on the near east side.

There were only five radio stations in Houston at the time and Roy Hofheinz owned two of them but between the two he put out only 500 watts.

Initially all programming was transcribed but there were plans to originate live programming on the FM; none of the programming duplicated KTHT-AM.

Hofheinz told the papers not only was KTHT-FM the first FM in Houston and Texas but was also the first FM anywhere to be sustaining. Programming was sold in one hour blocks with sponsors receiving one 60 second commercial per quarter hour. Business Manager Ted Hills said 5 sponsors had already signed on, a department store, a bank, 2 radio distributors and a public utility. There were estimated to be only 1500 FM receivers in Houston capable of receiving transmissions in the 88-108 mc band, perhaps another 2500 capable of receiving the earlier 42-50 mc band, but inexpensive converters for the older sets were said to coming to market soon.

For his achievement in getting a sustaining FM station on the air, Hofheinz was elected first President of the Frequency Modulation Association of America in 1947 and held the post for 2 years according to his biographer. I have not been able to find out anything about this organization.

The upgrades that were promised took longer than anticipated and it was not until December 2nd that a half page ad in the Press announced the extension of programming from 1pm to 10pm daily, all of it sustaining, with a boost to 1000 watts. The call letters also were flipped on that day to KOPY-FM. The ad touted KOPY as Houston’s newest radio station and Texas’ First FM and acknowledged that there were few sets so offered demonstrations at all the advertisers who had agreed to set up receivers in public areas so listeners could stop in and experience the new technology. The list of advertisers included Foley’s, City National Bank, Zenith Radio, Houston Transit Co., Stromberg-Carlson Radio, Black Brothers Furniture, Automatic Sales Co., and Houston Radio Supply Co.

Neither the Post or Chronicle took notice of the announcement of the upgrade and call letter change and none of the three dailies was printing daily program schedules for the FM station as they were for the 4 existing AM stations. By the time the Chronicle started printing FM program schedules, on June 30, 1947, when KTRH-FM signed on, listings indicated KOPY had cut back to 6 hours a day of air time.

According to White's Radio Logs, the station moved to 97.9 mc in the fall of 1949, presumably to accomodate a new FM in Galveston which had been allotted 98.7. The 98.5 frequency was later allocated to Port Arthur.

Hofheinz had always vowed that his radio stations would be profitable or he would shut them down and he pulled the plug on KOPY in the spring of 1950 due to declining ad revenues. Radio listings indicated that it was only simulcasting KTHT-AM programming at that time.

Nationwide, early FM broadcasters faced a long road to viability. According to Walter B. Emery’s Broadcasting and Government many were compelled to leave the air for lack of audience or advertising revenue. In 1949, there were more than 700 FM stations in operation, but by 1956 that had dwindled to 530 and many were simply duplicating AM programming. In 1949 more than 200 authorizations for FM stations were voluntarily returned to the FCC. In 1950, the year KOPY went silent, there were 35 new FM licenses granted by the FCC and 169 deletions. There were at least 2 other FM stations in the Houston area that made it on the air in the late 40s but did not last, KREL-FM, Baytown, and KLUF-FM, Galveston, and there was KXYZ-FM which operated for just over 5 years then went silent for 8 years before returning to the air. There were also other permits issued for FMs in the Houston area which never got on the air at all.

The original call letters of Houston’s first FM are now in use on Country Legends, 97.1, which is licensed to Cleveland, TX, and has a transmitter near Shepherd. The KOPY-FM calls are in use on a station in Alice, TX; the station now operating on 98.5 mHz, KTJM -FM, serves the Houston market from a transmitter near Devers and is licensed to Port Arthur and is not related in any way to the earlier FM. The original transmitter site on N. Ennis is still in use; it was the longtime site of the tower for KQUE-FM and KLTN-FM, 102.9 MHz, still operates from that facility while KHMX-FM uses the site as a back-up.

The owners of the Houston Post and KPRC were apparently miffed that Hofheinz had beat them on the air with his station. Three days after KTHT-FM signed on, on Sunday, August 25, 1946, a big article appeared in the Post about a new FM station for Houston - KPRC-FM - which the article said would be on the air by the end of the year. The article bragged about the pioneering role of KPRC-AM in Houston radio and the superiority of FM for symphonic broadcasts but no mention was made of an earlier station in the lower FM band in the early 40s that had been licensed to the Post. No where in the article was the claim made that KPRC-FM would be Houston’s first FM but nowhere in the article were readers informed that they could already tune in to an FM station in Houston. The Post apparently never acknowledged the existence of the other station until January 9, 1947, more than 3 weeks after KPRC-FM had signed on, when the paper started printing the daily program schedule of by then KOPY-FM alongside the schedule for KPRC-FM.

The Chronicle had carried the news of the launch of KTHT-FM on August 22 but apparently did not report on the call letter flip on December 2nd, and did not start printing FM program schedules until June 30, 1947, when KTRH-FM signed on.

The Houston Press, although it carried news about and ads for KTHT-FM/KOPY-FM and other FMs throughout it’s history, apparently never printed program schedules for FM stations.

Biographer Edgar Ray mentions KTHT-FM only a couple of times in passing and is careless with particulars. He says the license was issued early in 1946 and the call letter change took place on August 21. I had to skim every page of the Houston Press from January 1, 1946, thru August 22 to find the correct information, then continue skimming until December 2nd to get the correct date for the call letter flip. As a result, I know far more about what happened in Houston in 1946 than I ever imagined I’d know.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

January Anniversaries

January has been a big month for television developments in Houston. On January 1, 1949, the Age of Television arrived with the launch of KLEE-TV, Channel 2. The station hit the airwaves around 9:30 pm in the evening after a 3 and a half-hour delay due to last minute technical problems. Houston hotelman W. Albert Lee had been granted Houston’s first television permit 11 months earlier, on January 30, 1948.

On January 5, 1948, KTRH applied for a permit to operate KTRH-TV on Channel 13, the first of 5 or 6 applicants for that channel.

On January 6, 1967, KHTV-TV, Channel 39 signed on, owned by Gaylord Broadcasting of Oklahoma City. The station still operates from its original studios on Westpark at Hillcroft and is Houston’s oldest independent and oldest UHF station. The call letters KHCW-TV have also been used and the current call letters are KIAH-TV.

On January 8, 1954, the formation of Houston Consolidated Television was announced, a merger of the competing applicants for a TV permit to operate on Channel 13. Just days later on the 14th, KGUL-TV, Channel 11, Galveston, announced a deal has been signed for new Houston studios in the Prudential Building on Holcombe Blvd. at Fannin (the building is now part of the MD Anderson Center complex and is slated for demolition).

And on January 17, 1948, the Houston Post reported that Texas Television had applied for a permit to operate KTHT-TV on Channel 7, at that time allocated to Houston. Texas Television was the TV branch of Roy Hofheinz’s Texas Star Broadcasting.

Also on the 17th in 1968, KENR signed on at 1070 on the AM dial. The station has also had the call letters KRBE (AM), KKHT and KCCR; it is now KNTH.

On January 21, 1948 The Houston Post reported on p.1 that KPRC Radio and the Post had applied for a permit to operate KPRC-TV on Channel 4, at that time allocated to Houston. .

January 26, 1964, the Houston Chronicle reported on the launch of KMSC-FM at 102.1 megacycles, licensed to Clear Lake City. The owners included some workers at the Manned Spacecraft Center at Clear Lake. The station has also been known as KLYX-FM and has borne the call letters KMJQ-FM since 1977.

On January 31, 1948, W. Albert Lee received notice of the FCC approval of his application for a TV license in the midst of the hoopla surrounding the launch of his first broadcast venture, KLEE-AM, operating on 610 kilocycles from studios in his Milby Hotel at Texas and Travis. Lee, who had been on the Board of Directors of the Houston Fat Stock Show and Rodeo since 1938, had timed the launch of his radio station to coincide with the rodeo parade and first performance that day and took advantage of the entertainment stars in town for the rodeo for the opening festivities. The station became KLBS in 1952 and KILT in 1957.