Monday, September 20, 2010

FM Chronology - The 1960s - Part I - KQUE-FM, KARO-FM, KOST-FM, KXYZ-FM

This article was edited 10/1/10 to include some new information about the programming of KXYZ-AM/FM in the 1960s.

The decade of the 1960s would prove to be a very active one on the FM dial in Houston with many new stations signing on, but it was not until the end of the decade that FM began to make an impact in the ratings. A year and a half after KHGM-FM moved off the 102.9 frequency to 99.1, Veterans Broadcasting launched an FM in its place. KQUE-FM signed on at 6am, Tuesday, October 1, 1960, to broadcast 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. Webb Hunt was the first Program Director. Teaser ads in the papers ran heavily; ‘Cue – for the best in FM Radio. K-Que. Coming.’

An early program schedule in the newspaper listings had Webb Hunt, 6a-10a, KQ Music Hall, 10a-12N, Felix Martin, 12-2pm, Bob Brock, 2p-4p, Joe Walker, 4p-6p, Felix Martin, 6p-9p, and Bob Brock, 9p-12M.

The second new FM of the decade came on the air just 2 weeks later. KARO-FM took to the airwaves the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October with 8000 watts on 94.5 Megacycles. The studios were on the 11th floor of the American Investors Building at 600 Fannin and the transmitter was atop the building. Robert L. Weeks was the Station Manager and Bert Wiel Assistant Manager. The schedule printed in the papers showed the station was only on the air from noon to midnight originally but by years’ end the broadcast day had been extended to start at 9am. It’s been alleged the call letters were taken from Karo syrup because the programming was sweet, sappy music. The 1962 Houston telephone directory gave Mr. Weeks’ address as San Diego, CA.

KARO lasted just over 4 years before becoming KLEF-FM, a full-time classical music station. However, it’s not clear that KARO was on the air continuously during the 4 years; there were many times when program listings for the station were missing in the papers.

By mid-1961, Gordon McLendon’s FM took to the air waves. KOST-FM first appeared in the radio listings in the Chronicle the weekend of July 15-16; there was no story. The station operated at 100.3 megacycles and simulcast KILT-AM. Broadcasting Yearbook confirms the year 1961 but whether this station had previously been known as KZAP-FM as early as 1959 is not known. Other call letters that have been used on this frequency include KILT-FM and KXAS-FM, ‘Texas 100.’ It has been a country station since the Spring of 1981. (Spring 81 ARB was KILT-FMs first as country).

The Broadcasting Yearbook for 1979 gives 1960 for the first year of KXYZ-FM but it was not until the last quarter of 1961 that the station returned to the air after a hiatus of eight years. In a story about Gerald Chinski’s resignation as Chief Engineer on October 1, Chronicle Radio-TV Editor Howard Stentz noted Chinski would be leaving after 26 years with the station as soon as the FM station was on the air in a few days. KXYZ-FM first appeared in the Chronicle listings on Wednesday, October 4, simulcasting the AM 24 hours a day.

The stations had just changed hands that summer. The sale of the combo from N.A.F.I. Corporation of Los Angeles to Public Radio Corporation of Houston for $1,000,000 was finalized in early June. Public Radio Corporation was Lester and Max Kamin of Houston and Morris Kamin of Victoria; they also had stations in Tulsa and Kansas City. Lester Kamin had been a DJ in Houston in the 1940s and had owned an advertising and public relations firm locally. Sam Bennett, former GM of KTHT came on board as new GM and Milt Willis, former PD of KTHT became the new programming head.

KXYZ-AM and and FM was locally owned and simulcast a heavily proudced beautiful music format until mid-decade when a heavy personality format was installed. In 1968 the stations were purchased by the American Broadcasting Company which returned a produced, matched-flow beautiful music format on the air under the direction of Paul Mitchell. This did well in the ratings until the first matched-flow beautiful music FM came on the air, KYND, the one-time KLVL-FM on 92.9, began to eat away at the numbers. By the spring of 1970, KXYZ-FM was broadcasting the ABC Love format which consisted of syndicated tapes of album-oriented rock programming. KXYZ-FM flipped call letters to KAUM and went live and local with the album rock format the first week of September, 1970. KAUM dropped the album rock format after just a few years and went through several format changes before changing call letters to KSRR in mid-1980. (KAUM last noted in Apr/May 1980 ARB; KSRR shown in Oct/Nov 1980 ARB). The station changed call letters again in the 80s to KKHT and then to KNRJ. (I first have KNRJ in 1989 RnR Ratings Report, Vol II) and by the Spring of 1991 had adopted KHMX-FM. (Spring 1991 ARB). More will be posted on this site on the history of KAUM.

The image above comes from the Houston Press in 1961.


Anonymous said...

i first heard kxyz when young on my first trip to houston about 1962 and fell in love with its programming and the unmistackable sound of milt willis' voice, which i still believe to be the most incredible that has been on radio any where in the u.s.a.
when at texas a & m, i made a recording of kxyz on january 1966 to which i still have and play from time to time.
i met milt later around 1974(?) when he was at koda and sent him a copy of this tape for which he was delighted to receive.
would you know where milt might be these days?
also, is there any program tape(s) of kxyz from those wonderful days available?
let me hear from you, please.
gulf recording studios

Chris Huff said...

The KZAP calls were on 100.3 from November 1967 until 1968. McLendon was about to end the all-classified ad format of his Los Angeles station, KADS, and moved the KOST calls there. He replaced the calls in Houston with KZAP, but it and KILT(AM) were sold to LIN shortly thereafter, and the new owners quickly changed 100.3 to match its AM sister.