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.

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