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June 4, 2004 [Friday]
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ELVIS PRESLEY DIES AUGUST 16, 1977 In August 1977, Chris Collier is the new KIKK FM Program Director who presents my newest radio adventure. KIKK FM is #1 ARB rated in Houston, TX plus KIKK FM is one of the most well-respected contemporary Country radio stations in America. Have to travel the dangerous 90+ miles one-way back-and-forth on I-10 from Beaumont to Houston for several weeks. This has to end. Time to pack up and move to Houston. The movers and I speed out I-10 West to the new assignment on KIKK FM. Surf the radio dial for a glimpse of my fresh destination. A scratchy voice on what appeared to be KIKK-650 emerges saying what sounds like Elvis is dead! No way! Impossible! Surely I hear it wrong through the raspy radio signals. Further down I-10, the 650 frequency comes into full ear range. What a time to embark on a new DJ position in Houston Radio!
A brand new building is under construction on Gulfton in the popular SW section of Houston. KIKK FM and AM simulcast during sunlight hours. KIKK-650 is a daytime only frequency. When we move into new studios, KIKK FM and AM become two separate radio stations, each with its own air staff and studios. When all that finishes, I am to do either 9a-noon or noon-3p on KIKK FM. In the meantime, Jim Rose becomes like a bouncing ball between KIKK FM and KIKK-650. KIKK FM glues me to Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Plus, fill in whenever and wherever there is a need on just about every airshaft on both frequencies.
Both KIKK FM and KIKK-650 management soon discover that the love of radio and the word NO are absent from my vocabulary when broadcast responsibilities come calling. Sometimes numerous assignments create on both KIKK FM and KIKK-650. That is perfectly alright with me. When an individual has such a predominant radio craving as mine, this becomes a strong factor in a person’s radio pursuit. Almost anything they request is just alright with me.
Even though the KIKK FM role is my primary obligation, still get caught up in the power struggle between the two programming chiefs. Chris, also, is fresh on the scene at KIKK FM. A powerful rivalry between KIKK FM and KIKK AM kept the fires burning. Could not understand why. Felt like we should be concentrating on our strong outside competition. All this locomotion just adds more fire to the flame in the wonderful game of radio. Never a dull moment. The KIKK-650 broadcast staff is jealous of the much higher ratings KIKK FM enjoys. Have a strong belief that all this mish-mash is mighty foolish, but who am I to say? Jim Rose is the new kid on the block. What does he know?
The KIKK FM-KIKK-650 studios are in Pasadena, near the ship channel, in an old two story building that weathers many hurricanes. The equipment is first rate, but the building needs to drift out to sea as a kite anchor. When the brand new building is complete, I am the very first DJ to broadcast live from the new KIKK FM control room on Gulfton with the fabulous all new building and equipment. Thus, KIKK’s music leaders officially relocate from Pasadena to Houston in one sweep. After we accomplish that feat, I waltz across to the KIKK-650 control room, just a few feet away, to get KIKK-650 rolling in the marvelous new building. What an historic occasion! Totally awe inspiring. Really exciting being in that beautiful new two story facility on Gulfton in the heart of SW Houston with all the stunning brand new equipment.
A couple of months after I arrive, Chris Collier, departs. Out the window go all the promises that he makes to me. The G-M says Do you have it in writing? The new KIKK FM Program Director Bob Young has absolutely NO relationship to the legendary Bill Young. That fact is quite evident right from the start. Bob comes in with his own agenda. I am not a part of it as a mid-day DJ. Bobby boy places me in charge of Music Research, in addition to KIKK FM DJ Swing Shift. This includes an occasional impromptu KIKK-650 DJ show.
One day, I receive a letter in the mail from the new KIKK FM Program Director. He fires me by mail! First time I ever receive the radio axe by letter. Wait just a minute. My First Class FCC license is still inside the loose-leaf notebook in the KIKK FM control room. Why I can stroll right into the KIKK FM control room with a blindfold and locate it. The document lies on the floor to the left of the KIKK FM control room horseshoe.
Determined to show this young whopper-snapper a thing or two, I am going to go fetch my 1st Class FCC license when Bob is on the air. There is a separate entrance, or exit for KIKK DJs. This is a two-story outside metal staircase which leads up to the studios on the second floor. Wait patiently in my car in KIKK’s rear parking lot for Bob Young to go on the air at 9a. Scramble up the back outside staircase, invade the KIKK FM control room. Bob’s eyes are as big as dinner plates. Bob is simply speechless. Merely state that my FCC license is still in the book and I am here to get it. Bob seems to relax a bit when he discovers that I am not there to cram the mica down his throat. Scoop up my First Class FCC License, hot-foot it out of the building with the biggest grin in Harris County. The huge smile never leaves my face for a solid week. This young hotshot is going to try and pull something like that on a guy who already experiences just about all the surprises that radio can bring forth.
WESTINGHOUSE BUYS BOTH KIKKS When on KILT FM for the second time about fourteen years later, Westinghouse buys both KIKK FM-KIKK-650. One Fine Day, KILT’s Operation Manager, Rick Candea, tells me to meet him at KIKK on Gulfton, in the now old building, to help him take a look at things. This is the first time I see the building since it is brand new in 1977. Boxes all up and down the upstairs halls. Not as pretty a picture as I remember.
There is my compadre, Joe Ladd, who is still on KIKK. We chat about old times. Up walks Harvey T. My, what a wonderful reunion. Joe and Harvey T are still holding down the fort at KIKK. We three have a good old time as we relive the good old daze. This is truly a great occasion!
NEXT DESTINATION KNUZ-1230 Larry Vance is Program Director of KNUZ-1230. I zip out of KIKK FM to all-nites on KNUZ-1230 to try to get away from radio politics. Nobody bothers the all night DJ, Right? After I get off the air at 5 am, have to zig-zag all over Houston in the KNUZ-1230 Mobile unit. I call in on the 2-way on-the-air to shout my location. The first person to find me, wherever I am, scores a bright shiny new LP.
Houston’s early morning traffic is terrible. Cannot believe the amount of people who brave heavy traffic while going to work to find me just for an LP. Rain or shine here they come. It is like watching police arrive at the scene of a robbery on the Cops TV show. Get outta my way! It’s mine! Always bring along extra LP’s. Everybody is a winner when Jim Rose hands out prizes. Never proclaim that fact on the air, but news travels fast. This is part of how we radio vets pay some of our dues. Things like this make radio so very exciting but sometimes dangerous, too.
Early on, I learn one-on-one radio communication. By lots and lots of practice, a voice emerges that magnetizes female listeners. Many female admirers actually feel as if we are on dates when I am on the air. Unbelievable. That’s the way good one-on-one communication works, I guess, but some damsels take it too serious.
FEMALE LISTENER GETS OUT OF HAND Early one morning, the inevitable, happens. A girl who calls every time I am on the air constantly pressures for us to meet, shows up for her prize LP. This huge girl is an Amazon! A couple of times, before, when I get off the air at 5 am, notice what appears to be her, in wait in the shadows of the dark tree-lined KNUZ-1230 parking lot on Caroline Street near downtown Houston. She tells me on the phone several times that she might show up one morning. This causes me to begin carrying my car keys in hand before I exit the building in case she really does show up. When I believe I saw her in the parking lot, I act like I do not see her, hurry to my car, get in, lock the doors, zoom out of the parking lot! She never follows me home, as happens several times by a couple of girls in San Antonio.
This particular morning, she thinks that she strands me where I cannot get away from her clutches. At this moment, she is the only one who shows up, right then. Have to speak to her face-to-face and hand her the KNUZ-1230 LP that she wins, Thinking quickly, I remain inside the KNUZ-1230 mobile unit, hand her the LP through the half opened car window. Tell her Congratulations. Thanks for listening to KNUZ. She tries to grab my hand. Tell her that I have to rush back to KNUZ-1230 to record some commercials. Rev that KNUZ-1230 mobile unit off like space pilot Buck Rogers. Experience teaches to plan ahead for times like these. You just never know what to expect. Especially a city the size of Houston.
FT. WORTH COWGIRL ATTEMPTS HEIST In 1974, a similar situation occurs in Ft. Worth after a KXOL-1360 remote broadcast. She grabs my car door before I can close it. The big girl rams her massive arms over the car’s window. She is jumbo! That’s a whole other story. Another KNUZ-1230 all-night show listener becomes just like the crazy woman in the movie Play Misty For Me with Clint Eastwood. Her name is Shirley. It takes nearly five years to shake her. I move all around SW Houston. Somehow, she locates me. She goes all over the place telling people she is my fiancé. This continues way past my KULF-790 period from 1978-80 and further. This girl is the main reason I get out of radio in 1981. That seems like the only way to get out of her grasp.
THINGS BEGIN TO LOOK UP In 1981, I move over to #1 rated KENR-1070 to do weekend swing, which overlaps with my new drafting position at Shell Oil. Ease into the massive seven building Shell Oil structure at Dairy Ashford and I-10 as a Geo-Tech and Draftsman. She finds out about Shell, which is not very far from where she lives on Gessner. She hassles me on the telephone in my office. Should write a book about all the many episodes she brings my way. Maybe more about this girl, Shirley, in another episode.
KNUZ-1230 MOVES ME TO MID DAYS In 1978, KNUZ-1230 shifts me to the noon-3 pm DJ spot on your radio dial. Much better. Artfully maneuvering the KNUZ-1230 Mobile Unit all over Houston’s traffic becomes more and more of a challenge. Especially after five hours on the air. Here I am right back in the center of radio politics again. The KNUZ-1230 lineup includes Arch Yancey 6a-9a, Larry Vance 9a-noon, Jim Rose noon-3p, Dave Biondi 3p-6p and Charley Seay 6p-midnight.
I meet with Larry Vance, to ask for a sizeable increase due to the phenomenal move up the ladder. Larry grabs his heart and says Elizabeth I’m coming home! Soon discover that you simply never ask for more money at KNUZ-1230. What you get is what you have at the present, no more. The owner/GM comes downstairs from his gold-studded office on high. He makes a long speech as to why I will not receive a raise at KNUZ-1230. He believes that it is an honor and privilege to be on the air on such a tremendously historic radio station, such as KNUZ-1230, which remains in its original untouched building from the 1950’s. Outside there are huge KNUZ letters splattered at an angle that nearly covers the entire front of the edifice. It is an honor and a privilege to be a DJ on KNUZ-1230, but that doesn’t put beans in the pan. When the meeting ends, I rush to the Production Room, type out a full page one month letter of resignation and take it to Larry in his office.
Really should not do that, but I feel so defeated. No thought where my next radio assignment lies when my resignation comes due at KNUZ-1230. Just get caught up in the moment. That is not a bright idea. When we are younger, sometimes we make rash decisions. We should learn from our mistakes. Living and learning are a part of life.
KULF-790 IS NEXT DESTINATION What eventually happens is I land on KULF-790 in the extraordinary penthouse high atop 2100 Travis in the Hospital District. KULF-790 has the finest equipment and facilities I ever have the honor and privilege to use. Everything is exactly where it should be. Just sitting in the tall DJ chair, and look around, gives glimpses of splendor. The Control Room has tall windows that look out onto the huge Medical Center Area at the edge of Downtown Houston. You can see for miles and miles. This is a long, long way from that little 250 watt Daytimer KTER-1570 in Terrell, TX.
In 1965, KTER-1570 is inside the very old abandoned American National bank building on East Moore Avenue in beautiful downtown Terrell, TX. That old structure should be a condemned site years ago. After a few months on KTER-1570, I end up on the air sign-on to sign-off every single day Monday-Saturday. KTER-1570’s old gray audio console must be the first one ever built. The Production Room doesn’t Produce. All spots I have to read live. No News department. Play Brookshire’s grocery store commercials from an E-T while I am on the air. Not extraterrestrials, but Electrical Transcriptions. No News department. Have to rip’n’read all newscasts. All the 45’s and LP’s are in another room. Each day, I pull what records I want to play, lug them into the tiny Control Room. Cue them up on noisy Rek-O-Kut turntables. Those were the days, my friend. Dues paying at its ultimate.
That’s pretty much the way I remember it.
Jim Rose and Kei-Kou
Houston, Texas – Laus Deo
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