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.


Anonymous said...

Was there a 50's late night radio program called Night Train, with the theme song of the same name? Who was the host and who's recording was the song?

Bruce said...

Sorry I don't know but I'll keep my eye out for it as I go through the 50s. I presume you mean on FM?

Anonymous said...

The antenna for KLUF (later KILE) was at the foot of 61st Street and Broadway in Galveston. I talked to an engineer who remembered the FM station using a mast on top of the AM antenna. I asked what the station was like. He said it was a simulcast of the AM station with the addition of a lot of humm.
William Macdonald

Anonymous said...

Hey, I remember listening to KREL. It was all R & B, mostly black DJ's and mostlly great black music. All of my friends who were white at that time listened to this station. We also all grew up to fight for fairness for black people during the MLK days. There was a late night show called, Night Train and the theme song played was, Night Train. One night I went to this radio station with some friends so we could request some songs. They let us in and the DJ started laughing but said get them out of here before they get me killed. This was aroung 1956.

Bruce said...

This was the FM????? I have to say Wow! So maybe KREL-FM didn't go off the air in 1953, they just stopped printing the schedule in the paper and it became the Houston area's first black FM?

I love the commenters on this blog, and the emails I get. I learn so much that doesn't ever appear in newspaper reports.

BH Dillingham said...

Host of Night Train on KREL was, I think, one "Rascal" McCaskell. Several stories about his days on Baytown radio have been in the Baytown Sun over the last fifteen years.