Thursday, December 3, 2009

The KTHT Cruising Studio - Another View

Andrew Brown has found yet another article on the KTHT Cruising Studio, this one from the June 18, 1948, Houston Post. I'll just publish this one without further comment except to say - love those big air horns!

The original article, updated, with more pictures and information, is here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More on the Marvin Zindler tapes

The Bayou City History Blogger, J.R. Gonzales, has continued to post excerpts from the Marvin Zindler tapes but not all of them have been in The Roving Mike series. Recently J.R. posted what I guessed were excerpts from the production music library at KATL and just yesterday revealed excerpts from a live country music show that ran on KTRH with Western Swing musician Bennie Lueders, whom Gonzales tracked down and interviewed in Bastrop.

J.R. is hoping to be able to make more of the Lueders recordings available; if anyone can advise or help him, please contact him on his blog, by making a comment or emailing him from the link on the sidebar.

Thanks once again to J.R. for publishing these excerpts and stories and giving us a fascinating glimpse into what radio sounded like in Houston in the early 1950s.

There were probably live country music shows on every station in town in those days and besides that, on local television in the early days. One of these days, I'm planning a piece on my memories of Houston television's country music shows like Utah Carl and Curly Fox and Miss Texas Ruby and others.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Feature on the Early Days at KLEE-TV/KPRC-TV

I just recently discovered Postcards from Texas, a great program on Houston's 55, KTBU-TV, on Sunday afternoons. It's hosted by Mike Vance and takes a historical look at stories from Houston and South East Texas. I found out that back in May they did two segments on KLEE-TV, Houston's first television station, with interviews with some of the people who worked there in the early days, a couple of engineers and a copy writer among them.

There are some factual errors, among them the claim that KLEE-TV was the 12th television station in the nation (one authoritative list counts 48), that after the change of ownership KPRC-TV had the market to itself for only a few months (it was almost 3 years), but all in all it's a great bit of reporting. Many of the remembrances actually apply to KPRC-TV after the change of ownership but that milestone is not mentioned until almost the end of Part 2. There is also a different account of how W. Albert Lee came to be involved in TV from that recounted by his biographer, Hilton Waldo Hearne.

With Mike Vance's help I was finally able to locate the video clips online, under the My Houston's 55 Community on the navbar on the station's website, so all can enjoy. (The program that included these two episodes will be rebroadcast on December 13).

Check out the videos. There are no video clips of the early days, of course, but there are lots of great still shots of the people and equipment.

Part 1

Part 2

Additionally, when the Chronicle's Bayou City History blogger, J. R. Gonzales, first touted the program back in May, he dug up a couple of stills of KPRC-TV from the Chronicle archives that are worth checking out.

Check out Postcards from Texas on 55, Sundays at 4pm, rebroadcast the following Friday at 1:30.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pioneer AMs in Texas

Chris Huff of the DFW Radio Archives has compiled a list of the first 40 AM stations on the air in Texas.

As followers of this blog already know, none of the first ones in Houston survived but there is one Houston station on the list, KTRH, which started in Austin, of course.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The 1960s - KIKK, Talk Radio, KODA, KENR

Most of the new station activity in Houston in the 1960s would take place on the FM dial; it was to be as active an era on FM as the 1920s or 1940s had been on AM. By mid-October, 1960, there were already two new FMs on the air as KARO-FM took to the air at 94.1 megacycles the weekend of the 15th and 16th. There will be more about this in the FM Chronology. Normally the launch of a new station would have had the radio industry buzzing but not only was there little publicity regarding the launch of KARO, industry types and many others were busy talking that weekend about the news of a Vice Squad raid at the offices of KILT. It was front page news in the Chronicle on the 15th with a follow-up story on Sunday. It seems the HPD Vice Squad had gotten a tip there was an office pool at KILT and, equipped with a betting slip provided by the anonymous tipster and a marked $1 bill, moved in on Friday afternoon. An undercover officer entered the station at 500 Lovett Blvd. and said he was there to place a bet. The slip and money were taken by a young copy writer, whose name is omitted here to protect the innocent. The officer then went back outside and motioned to the uniformed officers to move in. The copy writer was promptly arrested and just as promptly fainted.

The problem seemed to be that bets had been taken from persons outside the employ of KILT; one account alleged an employee of Air Call, which was located across the lobby from the KILT offices and I believe co-owned, had been allowed to place a bet the previous week and the young woman said she thought the man was an employee of one of the other companies in the building; she also had reportedly commented after the undercover officer left that she didn’t think they should be taking bets from non-employees. Felony bookmaking charges were filed; the $1000 bond was posted by the station.

Station Manager Bill Weaver was indignant. The next day Mayor Lewis Cutrer called Weaver to apologize for the raid and both men agreed the Vice Squad should have better things to do, but the Vice Squad officer who set up the raid, Capt. H. L. Ellisor, and the Police Chief both backed the action. The total netted in the raid was 11 betting slips and $9.00 (two of the bettors had not anted up). Weaver observed the Vice Squad must have been very busy the previous week during the World Series as there had been rumors of $1000 betting pools in town; Ellisor said no raids had taken place because no complaints had been filed. Weaver also said he had been told there was a betting pool at HPD the previous week.

In mid-December the Chronicle’s Open Mike column published an article headed ‘Dial a Station and Talk, Talk, Talk’ noting a growing trend of telephone talk shows on the radio. KXYZ had launched an evening program called Expressions a few months earlier and was so pleased with the results, plans were already being made to add more talk shows after the Christmas season, according to GM Cal Perley, but this did not come to pass. A change of ownership in a few months led to cancellation of Expressions and dismissal of some employees; the show would resurface later on KFMK-FM.

KTRH had noted the trend and launched a call-in program called ‘At Your Service’ which took calls on a wide range of topics. The Chronicle article opined that eventually talk, talk, talk might become so pervasive there’d be little room for rock ‘n roll on the radio. It took the rise of FM radio and a couple of other factors but that prediction, which must have seemed highly unlikely at the time, eventually came true.

Whether Expressions was the first listener participation talk show in Houston is not known and the Chronicle did not mention any other local stations that had latched on to the trend.

In the same column the Chronicle reported that KNUZ program director Ken Grant was talking about an unusual success story for that time of year, an album doing a brisk business and drawing lots of listener calls that had nothing to do with Christmas. The Humorous World of Justin Wilson had been aired on both KNUZ and sister station KQUE-FM and there were reports it was breaking sales records.

On March 19, 1961, formal transfer of ownership of KTHT to Winston-Salem Broadcasting from Texas Radio was completed. General Manager Sam Bennett resigned and the new owners unveiled a new moniker for the station, Red Carpet Radio. Within a few months the station would become known as Demand Radio 79.

On May 1, 1961 KRCT changed call letters to KIKK, again proclaiming the switch in a big ad in the Chronicle. A story in the TV section of the Chronicle the previous day helpfully noted the DJs would refer to the station as ‘kick,’ ‘for kicks.’ Owner Leroy Gloger told the Chronicle reporter the change came about because research had shown call letter confusion among listeners. By that time, the station had studios in the Montague Hotel at 804 Fannin at Rusk as well as in Pasadena.

According to Roy Lemons, who worked for KIKK during most of the 1960s as Sales Manager, the KIKK call letters were the idea of a San Antonio country broadcaster A.V. 'Bam' Bamford, who owned KBER in San Antonio. Bamford knew that the calls had been dropped by a California station. He also came up with the "boots" symbol over a drink at the Montague. The logo was designed by Don Newcomer, a Heights resident who charged $250 for the soon-to-be-famous KIKK design.

This ad in May, 1961, just used block lettering for the call letters; it is not known yet just when the familiar boots came to be used for the ‘K’s.

This image appeared in the Sam Houston High School yearbook for 1963 and is apparently of the side of the KIKK studio building on E. Sterling.  At the left end of the fence, note the partially obscured sign for the station hanging on the front of the building.  According to other information found online the building also housed a recording studio, perhaps after KIKK moved out.

This business card type ad appeared in the Pasadena High School yearbook for 1964.

I am grateful to Tori Mask of the South Belt Houston Digital History Archive who found these images and allowed me to use them.

In the first week of June the FCC approved the transfer of KXYZ from NAFI Corp. of Los Angeles to Public Radio Corporation of Houston. The new owners consisted of Lester and Max Kamin of Houston and Morris Kamin of Victoria; they also owned stations in Tulsa and Kansas City. Lester Kamin had been involved in advertising and radio since at least the 1940s when he was a disc jockey in an era when disc jockeys were often well known people who hosted shows spinning records in addition to their other jobs. Sam Bennett, formerly of KTHT, came aboard as GM and Milt Willis, PD of KTHT, came aboard as the new Program Director.

Within a few days, Bill Roberts’ column in the Post announced that Cal Perley and Ken Collins had departed KXYZ. They had been closely associated with the Expressions program and announced they were already talking to KFMK about re-launching the program there.

 July 31, 1961 saw the beginning of KODA-AM at 1010 kc, a daytimer and the first new Houston AM radio station in more than a decade, joining its sister station KODA-FM which had taken over KPRC-FM in 1958 as KHGM-FM and recently changed call letters to KODA-FM. KODA-AM brought the ABC Radio Network back to Houston; ABC had been dropped by KXYZ several years earlier and carried for a while by KWBA, Baytown. The station featured ‘good music’ news, sports and a traffic helicopter, the KodaBird. KODA-AM and FM were owned by Paul Taft of Taft Broadcasting who originally had been General Manager of KGUL-TV, Channel 11, Galveston in 1953. Taft also owned the Muzak franchise for Houston. Westinghouse Broadcasting, Group W, bought KODA-AM and FM in 1978 and quickly spun off KODA-AM which changed call letters to KLAT, La Tremenda, obtained permission to become a 24 hour operation, and still operates on 1010. The KLAT calls went into use on August 29, 1979.

The picture above shows the new building at 4810 San Felipe which housed the KODA-AM and FM operations.   Roche Bobois now occupies the building.  The building in back, added sometime after 1961, housed Taft's non-broadcast businesses.

KANI, Wharton, signed on June 17, 1962, at 1500 kc and those calls are still in use.

At the end of June, 1967, LIN Broadcasting of Nashville purchased KILT and KOST-FM from Gordon McLendon for $15 Million dollars. McLendon said he had plans to purchase a UHF station in the market when one became available.

January 17, 1968, KENR, ‘Keener,’ became only the second new AM signal in the market in the decade at 1070 kc. Originally a daytime only station, KENR expanded to 24 hour a day operation within a couple of years. The format was country.

Bill Edwards of Saginaw, MI, was the owner and he told Chronicle TV/Radio reporter Ann Hodges the station was the culmination of a nine year dream. Edwards, who had apparently never even been to Houston before his permit was granted, said nonetheless he had been fascinated by Houston for years and considered it the ‘most exciting and most profitable of major radio markets’ and was proud of his engineers for finding a way to squeeze the station in on the crowded dial. Jack Fiedler of WNUS, Chicago, was to be the first General Manager. Edwards also owned WKNX-AM/TV in Saginaw.

Although the station had a good run as a country station, it eventually left that field to KILT-AM/FM and KIKK-AM/FM. The station tried country gold and then aired a radio magazine format for a while. For a while it was known as KRBE-AM and carried classic rock and simulcast KRBE-FM. The call letters in use on 1070 now are KNTH; it is a newstalk station.

Brief Postscript on the 1970s

In 1974, KEYH, started broadcasting at 850 kc; originally a news station it’s now a Spanish station, still operating with the same call letters. Also that year, KACO, Bellville, signed on at 1090 kc. The station on that frequency now uses the old Houston call letters KNUZ and is a Hispanic religious station.

To be Continued.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

FM Chronology - The 1950s - Part 2 - KFMK-FM, KHGM-FM, KHUL-FM, KRBE-FM and a Gordon McLendon permit

It was not until 1958 that there were any further changes on the FM dial in Houston. A list from ‘North American Radio and TV Station Listings’ by Vane A. Jones for that year has four FMs again listed for Houston: KFMK, 97.9; KPRC-FM, 102.9; KTRH-FM, 101.1, and KUHF, 91.3 KFMK-FM was the first commercial FM on the air in Houston without a sister AM. The station was apparently ready to go on the air in mid-January, 1958 but had to await regulatory approval and finally got on the air Sunday, February 2nd at 5pm. The station operated with 10,000 watts from the Medical Towers Building at 1709 Dryden. The newspaper listings showed the frequency just as 98 mc but later as 97.9; the format was popular music. Bob Gardner, who had previously worked at KLBS before it was taken over by McLendon and in Beaumont radio and at KTRK-TV, was the General Manager.

Interest in FM broadcasting was beginning to pick up around the country and before the year was over there were more developments on the FM dial in Houston. In November of 1958, Paul Taft purchased KPRC-FM and changed the call letters to KHGM-FM which stood for ‘Home of Good Music’ or ‘Houston’s Good Music.’ The call letter switch took place at 1pm on Sunday, the 9th of November. Taft had resigned as General Manager of KGUL-TV, channel 11, earlier in the year and formed Taft Broadcasting.

Just before the switchover, KPRC-FM had been operating only from 6pm to 11pm daily and the new ownership meant an expansion of broadcast hours. KTRH-FM was on from 1pm to 12 Mid, KFMK-FM from 8am 12 Mid and KUHF-FM from 7am to 9:30pm.

On April 26th of the following year, KHGM-FM moved to 99.1 mc, signing on at 12 Noon after being off the air for 24 hours to complete the changeover of equipment. The station boasted 49,000 watts and claimed to be the most powerful FM in Houston. This apparently coincided with a move to a new facility at 4810 San Felipe on the city’s far west side. Ads highlighted the station was to be a showcase of ‘tasteful music,’ 17 hours a day with the library having been selected as a result of a survey of 2000 homes. The regular broadcast day was to start at 7am.

On July 1, 1961, the call letters of KHGM-FM were changed to KODA-FM to match an AM sister station. KODA-FM is still on the air today on 99.1 MHz and as the heir to KPRC-FM is believed to be the oldest FM in Houston and either the first or second oldest FM in Texas, depending on whether KPRC-FM was on the air continuously in the 1950s. KODA-FM was later to claim to be only the second station in the nation to broadcast full-time in stereo. Meanwhile the KHGM-FM call letters were later used on a station on 95.1 mc in the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area.

Taft Broadcasting was also to operate the Muzak franchise for Houston in addition to an AM station, KODA-AM, and was also involved with the first sound system at the Astrodome and as a contractor for NASA. Taft Broadcasting LLC is still in business, run by Paul Taft’s son, Philip, although they have not owned any broadcast properties in Houston since 1978.

At least two more and possibly three new FMs started broadcasting before the end of the decade. A story in the Chronicle in eary September said KHUL-FM would be on the air on September 22 but it was not until 7am on October 4, 1959, that the station started broadcasting on 95.7 mc. The call letters of this station were pronounced ‘cool’ and initially it operated 24 hours a day. Studios were located on the 15th floor of the Park Towers, a high rise apartment building at 1700 Holcombe Blvd. at Braeswood which is no longer standing. T. A. Robinson, Jr., President and owner, said the station would program ‘tasteful arrangements’ of music by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Vernon Duke, James Van Heusen, Lerner and Lowe and Duke Ellington.

KHUL has been remembered fondly as a jazz station by many but that can not be confirmed from the newspaper accounts and early listings; it may have evolved into a jazz station later. An ad in 1963 touted ‘All Night Jazz’ and ‘Swinging Standards all day and evening.” An ad for the station in 1964 mentioned ‘Jazz after Midnight’ in addition to other special programs and did not claim it was a full time Jazz station.

A typical program schedule in the papers in late 1959 showed KHUL Start at 6am, KHUL, Calm and Collected at 12:05pm, KHUL and Refreshing at 3:05pm, KHUL of the Evening at 6pm and KHUL All Night at 12M with news 4 times a day. Those program titles could refer to easy listening programming.

The twenty-four hour a day broadcast schedule did not last at KHUL-FM. An ad for the station in early 1962 said KHUL ‘Stays up til 2am, Friday Saturday and Sunday, Midnight Monday thru Thursday’ and could be found ‘Just Under 96 on Your Dial,’ for ‘Good Music and News.’

The station changed hands and call letters in the mid to late 60s becoming KIKK-FM and operating as a country station for more than three decades before becoming a smooth jazz station, KHJZ-FM, The Wave, in 2001. It is now Hot Hits 95-7 (KKHH).

On the same day the paper announced KHUL’s impending launch it also noted KUHF-FM was installing the first stereo control room in the city and KHGM-FM had published a program guide.

At 6pm on November 8, 1959, KRBE-FM came on the air at 104.1mc. This was originally a full-time classical music station with studios in the 1400 Hermann Drive high rise apartment building across from the Rose Garden in Hermann Park. Some have asserted the calls were because the station was located on Kirby drive just north of US 59 but the station did not move there for almost a decade. Ads appearing in the papers the day the station launched indicated the call letters stood for ‘The Key to Radio Broadcasting Excellence” but it has also been noted the calls happened to be the initials of the owner’s business, Roland Baker Enterprises.

Ellis W. Gilbert was the President and General Manager and also had an air shift. Gilbert had just recently resigned as manager of KTRH-FM, which also scheduled a lot of classical music, and according to a story, had been known as ‘Mr. FM’ in the early 50s when he hosted ‘House of Music’ on the ‘now defunct’ KYXZ-FM. Other air personalities included Roy Landers, Eamon Grant and Eddie Bates. The station has had the same calls throughout its history.

According to the history of Dallas radio station KLIF Gordon McLendon owned an FM in Houston in 1959 with the call letters KZAP-FM but exactly how those calls figure into Houston radio history is not clear. Gordon McLendon was one of the first to recognize the value of ‘parking’ call letters that he wanted to use and that may be what happened in this case. When McLendon bought a San Francisco AM and flipped it to KABL, the previous call letters KROW were assigned to his proposed FM in Houston. Later, McLendon switched the KROW calls with his proposed calls for an FM in Dallas, KOST-FM, and that is the call the Houston FM signed on with. Just how KZAP figures into to this is not clear. The first mention of KOST-FM, 100.3 mc, is not found in radio listings until mid-1961 and when it actually first got on the air is not known. I have found only one listing in the Houston papers for a KZAP-FM, much later in the 1960s.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FM Chronology - The 1950s - Part 1 - KUHF-FM, the end of KXYZ-FM

At the beginning of the decade of the 1950s there were four FMs on the air in Houston. The first year would see KOPY cease operations in the Spring and KUHF-FM launch before the end of the year. A list published in the Broadcasting Yearbook for 1950 shows KXYZ-FM, 96.5 mc with 15,000 watts, KTRH-FM, 101.1 mc with 33,000 watts, KPRC-FM, 102.9 mc with 57,000 watts, and KUHF-FM, at 91.3 mc, which had a Construction Permit for 9600 watts.

Both KUHT and KUHF have station histories on their websites and the story of KUHT as the first educational TV station in the nation is well known. According to the KUHF web site, that station signed on November 6, 1950, making it at least the 4th oldest FM station still on the air in Houston and the oldest one with the original call letters. There have been several hiatuses in KUHF’s history and some may have lasted as long as several months but at the present time there is no evidence the license ever lapsed.

The Chronicle took note of the launch of KUHF-FM on Sunday, November 5th, noting the station would go on the air at 91.3 megacycles for six hours a day on the 6th with the formal dedication services set for December 1. The facilities were in the tower of the new Ezekiel W. Cullen building which had just been dedicated the week before; 5 stations had provided live coverage of that dedication, a big day in the history of the University. The new station’s facilities included two studios that could hold more than 100 people each. Dr. Wilton Cook, Chairman of the Fine Arts Department, was in charge of the station. He said the plans were to use as few transcribed programs as possible, to allow radio majors at the University to get as much experience as possible and expose as much on campus talent as possible. A leased line to KTRH would make it possible for that station to air simulcasts and re-broadcasts of some KUHF programs to reach a wider audience that didn’t have an FM receiver.

I understand the staff of KUHF-FM has been researching the station’s history for the upcoming 60th anniversary in 2010; I’m hoping they will come up with an audio retrospective. The station website includes a brief chronology of important milestones in the station’s history.

Besides the 4 Houston FMs, White’s Radio Log for Winter, 1951, a national monthly publication, listed KREL-FM, Goose Creek (Baytown) at 92.1 and KLUF-FM, Galveston, at 98.7. Neither of these were to last.

For the next several years the FMs that were on the air in Houston struggled with the same problems facing FM operators across the country: few listeners and poor advertising revenues. As far as is known there were no new stations either applied for or on the air in Houston until late in the decade and as of September 10, 1953, the number of stations dwindled to just three as KXYZ-FM ceased operations. The station was to remain silent until late 1961 when it returned to the air with the same calls and frequency. Fred Nahas was President of the radio station when it ceased broadcasting; it had been programming Classical and semi-classical music. Nahas said all the staff would be devoted to putting KXYZ-TV on the air, a UHF station that they hoped to launch on Channel 29 in 1954 but never did.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Charles Nethery

Some punchlines just write themselves and some blog posts do too. I received the following communication from Tim Campbell with attached photo concerning his grandfather, one of the early announcers on KXYZ.

"I really love your site.

My grandfather, Charles Nethery, worked at KXYZ in the 1930's.

He was on of the regular announcers, etc. He left KXYZ somewhere in the late to mid 40's with T. Frank Smith, Sr. to start a radio station in Corpus Christi -- KRIS AM. This later developed into KRIS TV in 1956.

Frank Smith worked at KXYZ in upper management.

He stayed with KRIS & Frank Smith Sr until he retired in 1977. He was VP Programming, news anchor, editorial commentary, etc. He did it all.

He died five years ago --- lived a long healthy life to 93 years old.

I am sending this pic that I found and keep in my office -- he is probably in his late 20's. I figure it was early in KXYZ -- early 30's???

My brother has a box of pics /clips from KXYZ early days in the Texas Hotel and later in Gulf Building.

One story was -- my grandfather tied himself to a pole on top of the Gulf Building to provide "live" coverage of a hurricane.

If I get more-- I will share."

Thanks, Tim. We'll be looking forward to hearing from you again with more pictures or more stories.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Solved Mysteries - The KLEE-TV Reception Hoax

Most people probably never would have heard of Houston's short-lived first television station were it not for a widespread story of its signal mysteriously being received in England, three years after it had ceased operations (call letters changed to KPRC-TV).

The hoax took years to unravel and not until after it had appeared in the pages of Reader's Digest and become widely known. Even today, long after it has been debunked, the story continues to raise its head from time to time.

Snopes has a full explanation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Marvin Zindler on KATL

JR Gonzales of the Bayou City History blog in the Chronicle has notified me he's come across some audio tapes of an old Marvin Zindler crime reporting series on KATL in the early 1950s called The Roving Mike. There will be several installments throughout the month. Here's a link that will take you to a file with all the posts.

Check it out. It's going to be a fun month!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The 1950s Part II - KILT, KILE, Galveston, KRCT,Pasadena

Updated 6/18/11 to add information about the change of ownership of KRCT.

Around the end of February, 1957, the McLendon Investment Corp. completed purchase of KLBS from the Howard Broadcasting Corporation for $535,000, thus repurchasing the station Trinity Investments had owned from 1952-1954. It was said to be the largest cash transaction in Houston radio history. Glenn Douglass, General Manager of KLBS, told the Chronicle there was much speculation on the part of the staff about what was to happen as McLendon was known for making wholesale personnel changes when he took over a station. The line-up included Bob Yongue doing mornings, Bob Gwyn, Dave Chase, Mark Noble and Mike McKay. The station was airing a number of paid religious programs daily including Rev. Lester Roloff at 7am, an Assembly of God program at 9am, Unity Viewpoint at 9:15 and a Dr. Weber from 9:30 to 10am.

On the fifth of May, Jack Harris, GM of KPRC-AM/FM/TV announced the radio stations would begin Houston’s first regular stereo broadcasts that week, from 9:05 to 10pm, five nights a week. Listeners were to tune one station to the AM, another to the FM to get the stereo effect. KPRC-FM PD Ronald Schmitt had secured more than 80 hours of programming that would include music outside the regular Classical fare of the FM station.

The same day, Bill Weaver, a new GM at KLBS, told the Chronicle changes at that station would be coming in a couple of weeks. Weaver had been brought in from KTSA, San Antonio. The big changes were announced just a week later on May 11 and occurred on May 14, a Tuesday, although the new calls, KILT, appeared in the Chronicle the previous afternoon.

The new line-up included Eliot Field from Boston doing mornings, Bob Stephens of Miami on 9a-12N, Art Nelson from Dallas on early afternoons. Don Keyes of San Antonio was the Program Director and did afternoon drive. The newspaper schedules showed Buddy McGregor, 6-9pm, and Bob Adams, 9pm-12M. Other deejays announced included Tom Fallon of Kansas City, Mike Whalen and Bob Horn of Philadelphia and Joe Long of Knoxville as News Director. Mike McKay and Mark Noble were the only holdovers from the old staff; McKay did overnights while Noble was not listed in any slot for several weeks. All the religious programming was dropped.

A full page ad in the Post was designed to look like a Wanted Poster with six pictures bearing only serial numbers and warned Houstonians to be on the lookout for

‘...these men. They are about to steal the Houston radio audience. These men have begun operations on Color Channel 61 Today. These colorful characters are highly entertaining. Their deep resonant voices will ‘con’ you into listening to KILT, Houston’s new radio voice, around the clock every day.

REWARD: Twenty four full hours of daily listening pleasure

After Field left for a gig in Los Angeles, Keyes took over as morning man.

The same week of the big flip, Tim Nolan moved from the job as morning host on KXYZ to the same post at KPRC where he soon was to be teamed upwith Bob Byron, a KLBS-ex, to form Houston’s first duo team in morning drive, Tim and Bob; they were to be together for more than a decade.

For more on my memories as a kid of listening to KLBS and KILT, see my ‘Thanks for the Memories’ segment here:

KNUZ, expecting tough competition from the new station, had just purchased a helicopter and ran ads promoting itself as Houston’s only radio station with wings and touting its top ranking. The helicopter had just been put in use when some heavy flooding hit the area and was used in exclusive reports.

Toward the end of the summer a group of Galveston businessmen completed the acquisition of KLUF from it’s founder and owner George Roy Clough and his sons. Clough, whose name was pronounced cluff, hence the call letters, was, even by his own admission, a contentious man who made many enemies and brought a lot of attention to Galveston, not all of it favorable. The son of a telegraph operator and former race car driver, Clough’s knowledge of radio had led him into the field but by this time he was serving as Mayor of Galveston, said to have run initially because he was angered over a city water bill and vowed retribution. He served two terms as Mayor but lost a re-election bid for a third term and a subsequent try for city council. For years he operated a radio and television shop next to his home at 34th and Ave P. He died in November, 1966.

The new call letters for the station were KILE and it debuted on September 2, 1957, at 6am. According to GM Robert. L. McClellan there was all new equipment and programming. Tim Lewis was News Editor and the staff also included Bill Bance, Tom Beck and Warren Anderson. The morning show was called Hit the Deck while an afternoon program was called Teen Tempos. Most old-timers in the Houston/Galveston area will remember KILE as a Top 40 station and it has had many alumni working in Houston radio.

The call letters of this station are now KHCB and it has recently been relicensed to League City.

The first week of October, 1957, KRCT began broadcasting from new studios at 227 East Sterling in Pasadena. The station always ran lots of ads in the Chronicle with the first concerning the changeover appearing on October 2 proclaiming a Grand Opening going on the 3rd thru the 6th with everyone invited to stop by to visit the new facilities. $1000 worth of door prizes were to be given away. The on-air schedule included Hal Harris from 6a-10a, Gabe Tucker, formerly of KATL and KLEE from 10a-1p and Sleepy Bob (Bob Everson) from 1-5pm. Leroy Gloger liked to claim that 650 was Houston’s only ‘clear channel’ station but the clear was assigned to WSM, Nashville, the Houston station was always limited to daytimes only. Over the years the station was also promoted as the ‘Voice of Labor.’ The format was always country.

An application for approval of the sale of the station was announced November 18, from W. D. Christmas to John H. Touchstone and Leroy J. Gloger for $175,000. Touchstone had been a 7 % owner; he and Gloger were to be equal partners under the new ownership. The transfer was approved a month later. In March of 1959 they sought approval of a transfer of the license and CP from Bay Broadcasting to Industrial Broadcasting noting this was a corporate change only, not a change of control. This was granted in mid-May. Touchstone was President, Gloger was Vice President and General Manager.

KRCT was to become KIKK in 1961.

The image above is from the Galveston Daily News

Monday, August 17, 2009

Update to the KXYZ Gallery

Twelve images from a brochure published in the 1950s have been added to the KXYZ Gallery, originally published on 5 August 2009. Scroll down or find the gallery under the KXYZ station profile on the sidebar.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tim Nolan and Bob Byron

I've been working on an article on these two broadcasters, most famous as the duo of Tim and Bob on KPRC for nearly 15 years, but I've been beaten to the punch by JR Gonzales of The Chronicle, who published an article on the show today.

It's a good article. JR has access to the archives with an index so he found a lot more than I had found but I've been in touch with descendants of both Tim and Bob and will also have a lot more on their respective careers with, I hope, more pictures.

In the meantime, don't miss JR's article.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A KPRC and KPRC-FM Gallery

A letter by Alfred P. Daniel, program director of KPRC, dated 1932, confirming a date and time for a prospective guest on a KPRC program. The image in the lower left is the Post-Dispatch building on the southwest corner of Polk and Dowling showing the flattop antenna on top (see below for another image). By this time the KPRC transmitter and antenna were located at Sugar Land and the former KPRC antenna was being used by sister station KTLC. The image in the upper right is the Post-Dispatch 'skyscraper,' 22 stories tall, on the corner of Fannin and Texas, now the Magnolia Hotel. The building was completed in 1926 and starting February 3, 1926, KPRC programs began emanating from a suite of three studios on the top floor that were to become known as the Skyline Studios of the Houston Post-Dispatch. They had a view of perhaps the whole city at that time as this would have been one of the tallest buildings in town.

Image courtesy of Andrew Brown.

For a very good shot of the Post-Dispatch skyscraper dating probably from the late 20s, see the first post in this thread on HAIF.

Alfred P. Daniel, Dean of Houston Radio. Owner of Houston's second radio station, WCAK, program director of Houston's first radio station, WEV. First program director and announcer on KPRC in 1925. Photo by Paul Huhndorff, published in Jack Harris' book The Fault Does Not Lie With Your Set.

The Houston Post building, originally the Houston Post-Dispatch building, on the southwest corner of Polk and Dowling, now demolished. First occupied in 1925 just weeks before KPRC signed on. The radio station occupied the structure on the roof for the first nine months of its existence but had long since moved out of the building when this picture was taken. Photo by Al Shire from the website Toasted Posties.

Judd Mortimer Lewis, early KPRC children's show performer 'Uncle Judd,' Post columnist and first Poet Laureate of Texas. Lewis' great grandson Judd Perry maintains this website devoted to his poetry.

The following photos are courtesy of Robert Wilford, an engineer at KPRC, and date from June, 1949.

Pictured is Raymond Franks in the AM Master Control. Franks was a student at Rice who worked at KPRC while going to school and moved to California on graduation.

This is Jim Bailey taken in what was called the 'broom closet' at KPRC-AM. It was located at the end of a hallway. According to Robert Wilford, Jim was a very good announcer with a voice to match. He was the one who did the Houston Symphony broadcasts originated by KPRC for the Texas Quality Network (WSAI, WFAA, KARK) weekly. The broadcasts were sponsored by the Texas Gulf Sulfur Corporation.

An ad from Broadcasting Yearbook, 1965.


The following pictures are also from Robert Wilford. All the photos date from June, 1949.

The FM control room, located in the City National Bank Building at Main and McKinney, a new building at that time but since demolished. The transmitter and tower were atop the building. The people are unidentified.

The FM transmitter.

Robert Wilford is shown working on one of the 250 FM receivers that were being installed in the city's buses as mentioned in this blog post. The other people are unidentified.

An unidentified piece of equipment.

This gallery will be listed under the KPRC station profile on the sidebar and will be added to from time to time as more pictures become available.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A KXYZ Gallery

A KXYZ Rate Card from 1936.

A KXYZ ad dated January 20, 1949

A KYYZ ad, undated.

Some KXYZ stationery and a letter from one KXYZ engineering employee to another in the Army in World War II. Dated 1942 the stationery shows KXYZ was using the color green long before Glenn McCarthy took over (the 1936 rate card above is a pale lime-green color).

The ads and letter are courtesy of Andrew Brown.

The following images are from a brochure published by KXYZ in the 1950s. Although a letter from Fred Nahas makes reference to KXYZ serving Houston for 27 years (KTUE became KXYZ in August, 1930), there are other clues that the brochure was published in 1956 or perhaps early 1957, such as the reference to Buff Baseball on KXYZ in 1956 and the fact the morning man pictured, Tim Nolan, left KXYZ in March, 1957, to join KPRC.

The first 2/3rds of the brochure dealt with Houston and its history, with images from over the decades, plus modern photos of the city and its industries and landmarks and some shots of outlying communities. I have posted only the images from the last third of the brochure dealing directly with KXYZ.

There are numerous images of Houston radio people of the era, some of whose careers were just beginning and others who were at their peak, plus one of Ted Hills, who had been involved in Houston radio since the 1920s and served as program director of several stations over the years.

These images are from the archives of the Houston Public Library.

This image is from the St. Agnes Academy yearbook for 1955 and was shared by Tori Mask of the South Belt Houston Digital History Archive.

This gallery will be listed under the KXYZ station profile on the sidebar and may be added to from time to time.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The 1950s - Part I - KLVL, KMCO, KLBS, KBRZ, KCOH, KYOK

EDITED (BELOW) 9/8/2023

The number of stations on the AM dial in the Houston/Galveston area continued to grow throughout the 1950s but at a much slower pace than in the 1940s. By the end of the decade, FM began to come into it’s own.

As mentioned previously, KLVL signed on May 5, 1950, at 1480 kc, licensed to Pasadena. (Posts including mentions).

On April 16, 1951, KMCO signed on in Conroe at 900 kc. In 1979, the call letters of the Conroe station were KIKR; presently, KREH, licensed to Pecan Grove and a Vietnamese language station known as Radio Saigon, operates on the 900 frequency.

After the death of W. Albert Lee in November, 1951, Trinity Broadcasting Corporation purchased KLEE from his estate for $300,000. Trinity was made up of B.R. and Gordon McLendon of Dallas and oilman Hugh Roy Cullen of Houston. They owned KLIF, Dallas, KELP, El Paso, and the Liberty Broadcasting System. The station’s new calls were to be KLBS and the change took place on April 25, 1952, probably at midnight since both stations operated 24 hours a day. Ray A. Lewis was general manager of Trinity; Tom Cavanaugh was to be the General Manager of KLBS.

Gordon McLendon also said plans were being made to move the Liberty network’s headquarters to Houston from Dallas by sometime early in 1953 with about 150 jobs accompanying the move. KLBS would be the key station of the Liberty Broadcasting System and there would be a 100% change in the programming of the station. “Our goal is to salute Houston daily with top local and national entertainment, public interest and sports features,’ McLendon told the Houston Chronicle. The proposed move never took place as the network fell apart. McLendon was to sell KLBS in less than 2 years, only to repurchase it in 1957 and flip the call letters to KILT.

The Liberty network’s re-creations of baseball games had been a huge success and are what the network is mostly remembered for but there was a full range of programming offered including soap operas and newscasts originating from Washington, D.C., with such noted journalists of the day as William L. Shirer, Raymond Gram Swing, Joseph C. Harsh and John C. Vandercook. By the end of 1950, Liberty was supplying programming 16 hours a day and by August, 1951, had 431 affiliates, second only to the Mutual Broadcasting System. In Houston, LBS programs were heard on KATL. Less than a year later, 100 of the affiliates had pulled their affiliations, the broadcast day had been cut to 8 hours and the network was unraveling. Finanical problems were at the fore, with the loss of a $1,000,000 advertising contract with Falstaff beer the biggest single blow. This is what had led Hugh Roy Cullen to buy a stake in the network. Cullen, probably the richest Texan of the period, was impressed with McLendon and put $1,000,000 into the company without ever looking at the books. The network continued to lose money, however, and a second major blow was the refusal of Western Union to provide the wire service accounts that were necessary to the re-creation of ball games, a refusal that was upheld by a Federal judge in Chicago on April 14, 1952, one day before the start of the ‘52 baseball season.

For a first hand account of a McLendon sports recreation, see Don Keyes' account of working with McLendon, posted online a few years ago. Keyes was to be the National Program Director of the McLendon station group in later years, after the demise of LBS, and did mornings on KILT in Houston in the late 50s, being most famous for a flag-pole sitting stunt at Gulfgate Mall in 1957 (story here).

For a history of Gordon McLendon and his Liberty Broadcasting System and his ‘home’ station KLIF, see this excellent, comprehensive site maintained by Steve Eberhart. Also see the biography Gordon McLendon: The Maverick of Radio by Ronald Garay.

KBRZ, Freeport, came on the air at 1460 kc at the end of August, 1952.  A detailed account of the sign-on and early years of the station has been posted here.

The first week of August, 1953, a group of investors headed by Robert C. Meeker acquired the license to KCOH and announced plans to change the programming over to serve Houston’s Black community. The office, technical and sales staff were to be retained but an all new air staff would be brought in. Vernon Chambers, who for three straight years had been voted one of the nation’s best Black disk jockeys, was named program director. Walter Rubens was the commercial manager. KCOH was the first Black-owned radio station in Texas according to the Handbook of Texas and only the second programmed for a Black audience in the state.

The official switch over of programming was supposed to be on August 21, 1953, but a look at the daily listings indicates the changes may have been made gradually or the station might have already been programming some toward the Black audience before the change of ownership. Programs included Harlem Breakfast and Harlem Nights, Tuxedo Junction and Cool and Easy. It is, of course, impossible to know what the musical content of those programs was just from the names. On the 21st, the newspaper schedule showed Chambers Corner, King Bee and Hattie Holmes, Sweet and Solid, Jammin’ Jamboree, Swing Low, the Rhythm Parade and the PM Ramble on the schedule.

A similar switch seemed to be taking place on KATL in the same time period. Program listings included Dixie Downbeat, RFD 1590, and the Chuck Wagon Call that had been the station’s morning show for years, but also Trummie Cain and Ramblin’ Round, both of which were later seen on KCOH schedules. In early 1954 King Robinson, General Manager and part-owner, announced that he and William H. ‘Little Eva’ Talbot, majority owner, had received an inquiry from a couple of Louisiana businessmen interested in buying the station. An announcement was expected soon and it came on the 15th of January. Jules Paglin and Stanley Ray, who owned stations in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, bought KATL for $200,000. Their group was known as the ‘OK’ chain and they were considering KYOK as new calls on 1590. No changes in programming were planned, it was stated.

KYOK was to become Houston’s second Black radio station; program changes apparently were brought into place gradually. Like most stations, KATL/KYOK was block programmed. Paglin and Ray eventually were to own a chain of black radio stations, including WBOK, New Orleans, WGOK, Mobile, WLOK, Memphis and WXOK, Baton Rouge. The new calls first appeared in the listings in the Chronicle on March 10 but not until March 18 in the Post.

In the summer of 1954 KYOK program listings still included Chuck Wagon Call, Let’s Polka, Gabe Tucker, Serenade in Blue, Kosher Kitchen and Hillbilly Hits, along with Sweet Chariot, Hotsy Totsy, Spiritual Sunbeams, and Little Betty. Hotsy-Totsy was to be a name of a KYOK jock for years. Tucker, a country dj, had worked on KATL, KLEE, and was to be on KRCT and KIKK for years.

Other stations, including KREL, also played rhythm and blues but KCOH took note of the new competition running ads touting itself as ‘Houston’s First and Only Negro Radio Station.’ The line-up on 1430 by this time included Chamber’s Corners, King Bee, Hattie Holmes, the Great Montague and Ramblin’ Around. A real estate program had been added on Sunday afternoons, patterned after a successful show on KXYZ, presented by a Black realtors association and aimed at Black homebuyers. It has also joined a new network, the 45 station strong National Negro Network, and started airing the first network program, a soap opera called Ruby Valentine, daily at 11am. There were plans for 3 more soaps and a dramatic series; network programs were distributed on tape.

EDIT TO ADD:  King Bee, on KCOH, real name was Clifton Smith.  He had an airshift on KNUZ in 1950 and is pictured in the montage at the top of the blog.  He (and Gladys 'GiGi' Hill were nominated for the Texas Radio Hall of Fame this year (2023) but did not receive enough votes to get in.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dan Ammerman - RIP

Dan Ammerman

One time anchor of the Channel 13 News, before the long tenure of Dave Ward. Few in broadcasting in Houston today will remember him, perhaps, and I barely do since I was away from the area during much of the time he was lead anchor.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

KTHT's Cruising Radio Studio

Note: This article was edited and revised on October 17, 2009, to add two images and additional details, courtesy of some new finds by Andrew Brown.

Roy Hofheinz was an innovator. I’ve mentioned before that he was one of two individuals I’ve discovered in the course of this research project who most interested me. He made enormous contributions to the history of radio in this city, contributions which also had an impact elsewhere. One story I’ve wanted to tell for some time is the story of the KTHT Cruising Radio Studio.

There are only a couple of paragraphs in Edgar Ray’s bio of Hofheinz and I have wanted to find a picture and more details to do the subject justice. I have found the remodeled facilities for newspaper research at the Houston Public Library very unaccommodating, with no adequate lenses for scanning newspapers on the readers whose screens are uncomfortably high. Fortunately, though, Andrew Brown has shared clippings from his collection which provide a view of the entire unit plus glimpses of the interior of the unit and a very full description.

The first two images are from the station newsletter. I’m not sure which newspaper the clipping and the last photo is from, nor the exact date. From the typeface I’m tempted to guess the article appeared in the Houston Post but it would have been unusual for the Post to give such a glowing report on a competitor’s radio activities. The article mentions the unit was already en route to Philadelphia for the Republican convention which took place in June, 1948. The article in the station newsletter said the unit left Houston at dawn on June, 12.

One of Hofheinz’ hobbies was woodworking; he had hired an expert cabinetmaker, Stuart Young, to design and build the cabinetry for the KTHT studios and turned to him again for the building of the unit which the article says Hofheinz personally helped out on. Also involved was architect Bailey Swenson and two of the station engineers including O.B. Johnson.

The two-piece unit, built at a cost of $25,000, consisted of a gleaming, streamlined 26-1/2 foot trailer and a one ton truck that acted as power supply. The colors were green and silver. It could operate off a conventional 110 volt power source and public water hook-up but could also generate its own electricity to power the transmitting equipment and had a self-contained water supply.

There were sleeping quarters for four and dining accommodations for 10 (or 6 - both numbers in different parts of the article), including a complete galley that doubled as a photographic development studio. A powerful public address system, siren and powerful spotlights were included as well as a complete weather station with barometer, wind indicators and thermometers for use in covering hurricanes. The truck included storage facilities for remote equipment including the wire recorder and lengthy extension cords, complete parts and tube inventory, plus a monogrammed refrigerator and freezer. Hofheinz, always known as a generous host, would treat his guests at the conventions, in New York City and Washington to ‘Houston Fat Stock Show filet mignons and Texas shrimp,' served on monogrammed dinner ware with monogrammed napkins.

The three compartments in the trailer included an air conditioned and sound-proofed studio, a combination control room and galley with two shortwave transmitters, two transcription recorders plus playback turntables, 3 all-wave receivers, a consolette with 6 microphone channels, and a miniature control board, plus standard kitchen equipment including stove, refrigerator, cabinets and sink. The full-size beds in the sleeping quarters folded into sofas for daytime use; there was also an on-board bathroom. Walls of the studio and control room were decorated with photographs of KTHT’s news and public affairs involvement.

According to the article en route to Philadelphia the unit would stop in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Jackson and Washington, D.C. (Ray says the stop at D.C. took place on the way home). Between the conventions, the unit was taken to New York City and parked outside Rockefeller Center; network officials, celebrities and ordinary New Yorkers were invited on board for a tour. In D.C., the unit was parked outside the FCC and shown off to the Commissioners and staff and engineers.

At the conventions, runners went in and out of Independence Hall keeping in touch with convention activities; a leased line back to Houston was ‘kept pretty hot’ according to engineer Johnson, who also noted the unit attracted great attention. Interviews with important politicians were also transcribed for later broadcast. As at the UN sessions in San Francisco with the wire recorder in 1945, it was unprecedented for a ‘little radio station to be broadcasting as well as the networks.’

Back in Houston after the conventions, the unit was used to cover community events and major news stories (it had perhaps been inspired by the station's efforts to cover the Texas City explosion the previous year and a hurricane in 1946) and sent to schools all over the area to show students how radio programs were prepared and broadcast and recordings made.

Once again I am very grateful to Andrew Brown for sharing these finds.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A KTHT Gallery

A KTHT Rate Card, published just months after the station signed on.

I am grateful to Andrew Brown for sharing this piece of memorabilia.

Photos labeled KTHT in the Bob Bailey Collection at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. The personalities are Ted Nabors and Dick Gottlieb.

Photos labeled K.T.H.T. in the Bob Bailey Collection at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Roy Hofheinz.

At the time of this post those are the only photos in the collection that are online, apparently, but there are many more in the catalog.

Recent Comments

Most of the comments I receive on the blog are on older posts. I presume most regular readers of the blog have missed them if they're not on recent articles. I intend to add a 'Recent Comments' Module to the sidebar when I figure out how but in the meantime, I wanted to call special attention to a recent comment by Dene Hofheinz Anton, daughter of Judge Roy Hofheinz. The comment is appended to the article on KTHT, the 1940s, Part II, in the AM Chronology. It adds some good information to the history.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Other Broadcasting related discussions online

EDITED 4/13/2014

In addition to the articles sometimes published in the Bayou City Houston blog in the Chronicle relating to broadcasting, there have been many discussions on HAIF, the Houston Architectural Information Forum, about radio, TV, and personalities. There's a link to the Historic Houston forum on the sidebar but some of the discussions have also taken place in the Houston and the Media Forum. Here are some of the threads. In some cases relatives of the personalities or participants in the shows discussed have contributed information but mostly it's memories (and sometimes, a few facts).

Radio related threads


Tim and Bob, KPRC morning team

Alvin Van Black, KPRC and KTRH talk show host and KTRK-TV reporter

Paul Berlin, other KNUZ jocks, and the Larry Kane show on Channel 13

A KRBE Promo Stunt from the 1970s

Houston Radio, 1986, from an Astros Media Guide

TV Related Threads

A Thread on Houston TV Talk Shows over the Years

Larry Kane and Other TV Dance Shows

A Larry Kane Show clip

Don Mahoney and Jenna Clare, children's show hosts

More on Jenna Clare

Walter Cronkite


A Kitirik clip

Past TV Anchors

Ray Miller's Passing

TV Reporters

More on Past TV Personalities

KVVV-TV, Channel 16

Vintage Houston TV Commercials

A thread about Houston TV station sign-offs

Texas - the NBC soap, 1980s

Houston College Bowl TV show

In addition to these threads which have a historical connection, there are many threads on HAIF on the Houston and the Media board about broadcasting today, format changes, personality comings and goings, and other matters.

Some Threads on Music, Artists, Venues and Concerts

Liberty Hall

Bands and Orchestras from years gone by

Don Robey's Peacock Records

Rock Concerts of the 60s, 70s, 80s

Utah Carl

The Catacombs

P. J. Proby's early career in Houston

Famous Locations that no longer exist
(mostly country nite clubs)

Magnolia Gardens, on the San Jacinto River

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Features on Broadcasters

J.R. Gonzales' Bayou City History Blog at the Chronicle continues to fascinate and every now and then he does a feature related to radio or television in Houston.

Check out his posts on the following:

Long-time Houston radio and TV personality and wrestling promoter Paul Boesch.

Cadet Don

Kitirk, Channel 13's mascot.

Early Houston radio pioneer Will Horwitz of WEAY and XED.

JR touted a TV show that covered early TV in Houston. The show has come and gone but there are pictures in JR's article.

Early photos of KPRC-TV on Post Oak Road from the Houston Post archives.

The Marvin Zindler tapes - from when Marvin was a reporter for KATL.

More Marvin Zindler tapes.

A KILT Footrace.

A Day in the Life -

...of a Houston radio listener. Sunday and Monday, December 5th and 6th, 1937.

Note Frank Tilton, the blind pianist from the early days of KPRC, on KTRH at 6:15pm Monday and Vox Pop with Dr. I.Q. that evening at 9pm.

Note also Don McNeill's Breakfast Club on KXYZ, Monday morning at 8am. KXYZ had just joined the NBC Blue Network in August.