Monday, December 31, 2007


Anyone who grew up in Dallas knows that it was a very conservative town at one time. It probably still is. The management at WFAA TV would sometimes decide that a show on the ABC TV network was too racy or controversial to be broadcast on their
channel 8 to go into Dallas living rooms.

"Hair" producers wanted to come to Dallas right after the 18 year olds got the vote. KNUS general manager, Bart McLendon, and I had decided that we would approach the city council meeting where they had vetoed the musical in Dallas. Bart was going to be the spokesman for KNUS FM to propose a live performance of the musical on the stage of one of the McLendon's downtown theatres as a station voter registration promotion.

Bart was supposed to pitch the council of the idea of free showings of a "sanitized"version of the musical on stage at one of the McLendon downtown theatres. We naively thought that the city council would approve the theatrical performance of the musical.

Just the week before, the the city council said that "Hair" could not be performed in Dallas. After all. there was brief nudity, language objections, and a controversial subject matter. It was a flat "NO WAY, NO HOW,NEVER."

Bart's name was on the city council agenda as the station spokesman. I was there for moral support only. The council just knew that it was about KNUS FM wanting the city's blessing for a voter registration drive. Bart suddenly got laryngitis (read stagefright) and whispered to me that I was to do the pitch to the council instead of him. I wasn't prepared to talk, but at least I knew that facts of the promotion.

When I stood up and told the City Council that KNUS wanted to do a "sanitized" version of "Hair" for a voter registration drive, there was a collective gasp in the room. I thought that the elderly and a couple of council members would faint. After all, the city had banned the Musical in Dallas for all days. This young upstart standing before them wanted permission to defy the collective wisdom of the city fathers and present Hair to get 18-20 years olds to register to vote.

As the groans, rustling, and irregular breathing of the council and the room's crowd died away, all of the TV news cameras were whirring. I was on center stage for my 15 minutes of fame, or infamy, or possible arrest if the council so decided. Once the shock of the council and crowd was over, I sensed that I just could possibly sell the council on the idea of a sanitized version of the musical to be presented in the public interest.

The producers really wanted a foothold in Dallas and had agreed to "clean up" the things that the City Council wanted. Tbe admission ticket was for theatre goers to show a voter registration certificate. Of course, all of the KNUS air staff were sworn in as deputy registrars, and anyone could register to vote through KNUS FM staff. I had gone to high school with M.L.Aday (Meatloaf) who was with the Hollywood production of hair, but I don't remember if the was with the trevelling group.

Hair came and went. We got a lot of voter registrations, a full theatre, and headlines on TV and the newspapers.


The biggest shock to everyone who worked for the McLendon corporation was the sale of KLIF AM to Fairchild Commnications for ten and one half million dollars. That was a record amount of money paid for a radio station in the late sixties and early 70s.
Some of the KILF staff were elated to get away from the quirky genius of McLendon, and unfortunately for them, burned their bridges with him.

Gordon McLendon had a non compete contract as part of the sale that prevented him from operating any AM radio station within a 150 mle radius of Dallas.
He offered to sell KNUS for $150,000, but Fairchild said no thanks. What a disasterous move for them.

We moved the studios to a scond floor of a downtown movie theatre complex that the McLendons owned and stayed there for a couple of years until Gordon changed the format to a version of top 40 radio and became the number one station in 90 days, beating KILF to the chagrin of the new ownership. I believe that Fairchild finally unloaded KLIF for a couple of million dollars some years later; thus, throwing in the towel on their radio broadcasting megalithic pipedream as AM radio died a painful death nationally.

A big benefit of working at the building that housed multiple McLendon theatres was the ability to slip into any one of the theatres of my choosing and having a first run movie pigout anytime I wanted.


KLIF AM and KNUS FM had separate sales departments. KLIF demanded huge money for 60 second commercials in the late 1960s. It was crazy to watch KLIF salespeople do a telephone sales call and seem to be making the next call to their stock broker. They were the sales kings of Dallas Radio. KILF sold itself. It was the most powerful thing in Dallas.

KNUS FM had one sales person, Ken Johnson. He replaced another person who came to the station and wasn't up to the job. Ken and I immediately became friends at once when he was hired on at KNUS. He really developed the revenue stream for the station by getting new clients who would never before advertise on alternative rock radio. Coca Cola is one. It opened the door to real establishment advertisers.

But, the sales people were all establishment "suits" in the late 1960's, and there was a market for business owners who wouldn't do business with them. One such person was the owner of the underground cinema in Dallas, The New American Cinema. It held Saturday night shows at the movie theatre on Maple Avenue in Dallas.

The owner of this operation was a retired NBC network camera man who let his hair grow long. His account was handled by KNUS DJ Weaver Morrow. Weaver left KNUS to go to work at KAUM FM in Houston. Ken Johnson suggested to me and KNUS management that I take over the account and I got it. So now, In addition to being a full time KNUS DJ and a part time KILF news man, I entered the world of radio ad sales. I had my first account.

After handling the account for some time, and personally producing successful off- beat commercials for the client, and keeping him happy, Ken Johnson approached Ken Dowe, the manager of KNUS, and suggested that I get involved in part time sales solicitation of other non traditional prospects. Ken agreed and said that he had been involved in ad sales too in the same manner when he started in radio.

I attended all of the the joint sales meetings of KLIF and KNUS under the general manager Al Lurie. I remember the meeting where it was announced that the government would no longer allow advertsing of cigatettes on broadcast media. That morning's meeting was like a wake.

I went from part time sales to full time sales at KNUS when the McLendons sold KLIF AM and kept KNUS FM.

Gordon McLendon was very particular what you could have on your desk top in he office. You could havce a phone, appointemt book or deskpad calendar, and something else. Any combination of two things plus the phone. He adhered to this policy, and if violated, you would find excess items in the dumpster in the morning.

That is exactly what happened when I came in one evening after the office closed with a one thousand dollar check made out to KNUS for advertising. Since no one was there to take the check for deposit, I slid it under my big desktop calendar where it couldn't be seen. The next day, when I came in, my desk top was completely empty. No phone, no calendar, no nice desktop fountain pen set, no nothing, including the check.

After asking an administrative assistant, I found out I wasn't fired, I found out though that I was busted for having more than three items on my desktop. That included the thousand dollar check, which was apparently considered contraband, even though out of sight. I knew everything would be in the trash downstairs if I could beat the Waste management truck. So, dumpster diving I went, and retrieved all of the contraband, including the check Gordon Mclendon had placed there paper clipped to the calendar.

I went from part time radio ad sales to full time sales when KLIF AM was sold, and the McLendons kept KNUS FM.

Friday, December 28, 2007

RADIO NEWS DAZE..I Become a KLIF Newsman

While I worked all nights at KNUS, Ken Dowe, the KLIF Program Director decided that I should do double duty as a DJ on KNUS FM and as a news person (news reader)on KLIF AM with a modest increase in pay.

KLIF had newscasts on the top of the hour and at the half hour then.
I had to time the records being played on KNUS to be long enough at those times to do a 5 minute newscast on the top of the hour and a one minute news headline report on the half hour on KLIF. I was off the night shift when McLendon went to the
"20-20" news format, with newscasts at 20 and 40 minutes of the hour on KLIF AM. That would have been trickier in timing records during the news.
This was strictly a rip and read news cast at the top and bottom of the hour.
I took news copy off of the UPI teletype machine and ran to the microphone in time to be there and ready to go on the news sounder that the KLIF DJ would run.
It was all a cold read live on the air. I didn't proof read before I read the newscast. I didn't have time.

The written newswire stories that we relied on for national and world news came from the venerable Associated Press and United Press International. The news editors there manually typed in the story copy and it came down the telephone line to news typewriter printers in countless newsrooms across the world.

The old newswire teletype machines were something to behold when they were typing out news stories seemingly automatically. They were limited in speed by the news service's editor-typists speed and accuracy. They sounded like a fast manual typewriter. No computerization here. They were slave typewriters, with a poltergeistly ghost typist. The news wire's typewriter carriages noisily moved back and forth and up and down automatically as stories were coming in and as the news copy went from capital letters to uncapitalized and spaces were added between words.

Their sound as they printed each individual word and each individual letter with punctuation reminded me of a slightly out of tune car engine with out of adjustment valves. When they were between stories or sentences in stories, they kept running at an idle speed with a moderate click, click, click, click like a crazed maracas player on a typewriter or a marathon runner trying to catch his breath. Hearing the news wires running as I worked in the newsroom was a uniquely pleasant sound that I miss to this day.

They were replaced by the first computerized printers that put the words on pressure sensitive paper rolls. You know, the kind of paper that you can run a fingernail across it and it will leave a line. It just wasn't the same to hear the computerized printer buzzing and zipping back and forth across the lines of the story it was printing. It was the end of the line for an era of radio history.

U.P.I. and A.P sometimes got the stories wrong or garbled. During a newscast that was reported on the Detroit riots, UPI juxtaposed inportant parts of two stories. You can imagine how I sounded as I read from the UPI wire copy and confidently read cold from the 1969 UPI story that, "A riot in Detroit today was broken up by a Division of North Vietnamese Regulars." But, I didn't even pause or break my delivery stride. I still have the UPI machine news copy that came across wrong.

I also happened to be at the right place at the right time when news stories broke. I was at the Executive Inn Hotel restaurant across from Love Field when poice charged in and arrested the man two booths over. I had never seen so many guns in my life. He had been sought by police for several years and was a cat burglar who police and the media nicknamed, the "King of Diamonds."

I also was driving on Lemmon Avenue by Love Field, when I saw a Braniff Airliner coming in for a landing with its landing gear up. I thought to myself, "This is going to be good." (but in a bad way, of course.)I had the news instinct even then. It turned out that there was hydraulic failure, and the plane landed with flying sparks and a big grinding noise. Lots of smoke and noise, but it made a good on the scene report. I happened to be on the scene for several other news worthy events, and called in reports on the newsroom hotline.

The News Director was suitably impressed with my on air delivery and dumb luck of being at the right place at the right time, and offered a weekend news shift on Saturday and Sunday. I needed the money,so, I took it. This was a different type of newscast. I became a news reporter/writer/editor, I had to gather, write, rewrite, and edit the news stories on one of the the old manual typewriters in the newsroom.

I also monitored the police radio scanners for police news. Dallas had four geographical substation divisions. In the newsroom, there were monitor speakers at the ceiling of each of the corners of the room whose locations corresponded with the north, south, east and west substation locations. It was really easy to listen to the police calls all at once and just tune in to the police calls that were relevant to our type of street beat news. We crisscrossed the address given to police units and got the phone numbers to call for eyewitness accounts of what had happened.

Gordon McLendon's father, B.R. McLendon was the money man behind the start of KLIF and the McLendon Broadcasting dynasty. He also listened to the station. I was approached by the news director of KLIF, who at the time was Mike Hyatt. He told me that B.R. had heard a newscast I did, and B.R. wanted me to be a fulltime newsman at KLIF. I was offered about four times what I was making at KNUS.

I talked to my boss at KNUS, Mike Selden, and told him of the offer at sister station KLIF. Mike told me that he could never match the offer, let alone better it.
It was decision time. Keep a job that I loved, playing records on the radio, being in the rock and roll world, and being a D.J., and they were actually paying me to do it. Or, take a new career direction and be a full time news man on the number one rated station in Dallas. I loved doing news too. I couldn't go wrong by staying where I was or going full time news.
I stayed with KNUS, which fortunately opened up many doors for me in the future.

My Radio Daze- Dallas Radio and KLIF AM

I, like most people who lived in Dallas in the mid to late 50s and 60s, grew up listening to radio giant KLIF AM. The DJs there were highly regarded celebreties. When KLIF had a public event and their DJs were there, the place where it was held was always jammed and overflowing with people. They were still riding the wave of being the number one station in Dallas when the Beatles had five songs on the top 40 at once.
KLIF had a well respected news department and stellar news men. KLIF had a newsman, Ron McAlister, stationed coincidentally at the triple overpass when Kennedy was shot, and his live report that began as it happened, "It sounds like someone is shooting off firecrackers," was the first on the scene live report of that fateful day.
Gordon McLendon was the genius of radio promotions. He brought in Jimmy Rabbit as a DJ and placed overturned cars next to Dallas streets with a sign on them saying "I flipped for Jimmy Rabbit."
There were many stunts and promotions done during each ratings period. Gordon once had a million dollar check hid in a bottle somewhere in Dallas and gave clues to where it was. Many yards were dug up to homeowners dismay. The prize decreased in value daily, and by the time it was found, it was worth $10,000.00. Even my father went out to look for the million.
While I worked at KLIF sister station KNUS, I got to see he inner workings of some of their promotions on KLIF. During one spring ratings period when dave Ambrose was program director, the station had a contest to give a listener a $100,000.00 house. This was 1969, and at that time thatamount of money would buy a mansion.The contest was geared to last two months. You can imagine the shock, dismay, and chagrin of the radio station, from the owner, Gordon McLendon, to the entire airstaff when some lucky listener won the house on the first day of the promotion. They had to come up with smething else quick.
Rod Roddy worked at KLIF during the time I worked at KNUS.

Thursday, December 27, 2007



Mike Selden took over as Program Director of KNUS while we were still in the old building on the golden triangle at 2120 Commerce Street in Dallas. The original studio was in a broom closet, literally, next to the spacious KLIF AM studios. It was across the street from the notorious "Cellar" night club on Commerce Street. Mike did the noon to two shift here and then left to prepare for afternoon drive next door at KLIF.
One thing that did happen during his tenure was to get the studio moved to a real room overlooking the parking lot behind the building. At last, we got a window. We also got an extra studio behind the control room where artists came in for live acoustical concerts.
We also opened up the studio for broadcasts by many local acts. Such acts like B.W. Stevenson, whose "My Maria" was covered by Three Dog Night, and Ray Wylie Hubbard, who wrote many songs that were later covered by Jerry Jeff walker and the like. These two probably still get Good royalty checks from their early songwriting.
I believe that Mickey Raphael, who later played harmonica for Willie Nelson played there with the local Dallas group he was with before Willie.
We had a lot of blues artists do broadcasts from there. Such artists as Lightning Hopkins, T Bone Walker and Freddy King are some who come to mind.
I also had a visit from David Bowie sometime after he recorded the "Space Oddity" album. Usually recording artists are accompanied by record promoters when they visit radio stations.
But, David Bowie was a loner. He wold not fly on airliners, or any other any other planes for that matter. He was going by Greyhound Bus by himself on this promotional tour across America. How times changed since then.
This was before his glitter rock period. He showed up at the radio station by himself. He had on blue jeans and a blue dungaree shirt. He looked just like anyone else. He didn't bring a guitar. He was a very personable guy.
Other notables that I remember who visited me while on the air were Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina. My apologies to those I have forgotten in the last 38 years.
I got autographs of Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell who signed a large poster of them that I took out of "Eye" magazine. I still have it. Hendrix signed it "To the Kats at 247, stay groovy, Jimi Hendrix." That was the apartment number where I lived with some other KNUS staff. I later found out that "Stay Groovy" was a regular thing that he put on autographs.

RADIO DAZE- KNUS-My first radio gig


My Radio Daze began in the summer of 1969. There was a new radio station called KNUS in Dallas that played what they then called "Heavy Music." I drove a 67 Corvette, and always turned up the "wonderbar" mono radio and cranked out the music of Jimi Hendrix, the Dead, The Doors, Moby Grape, the Airplane, and all of the other rock pioneers.
I shared an apartment with Mike Erickson, a friend from Thomas Jefferson high School who worked at KNUS FM. I had asked him to put a word in for me for a DJ job with Paxton Moore, a DJ at top rated KLIF AM in Dallas, who also acted as the Program Director at KNUS. Thanks, but no thanks.
I finally got a call from Pax on the day before Mother's Day, 1969. It seemed that the whole staff at KNUS had the flu, and no one could work the midnight to six shift. He asked if I was sick, so I said no, and had an on the air audition from midnight until 1am that night. If I could keep my cool for one hour on the air, I would be a major market radio DJ. How cool would that be?
Audition passed. No one told me that I should have gone for my radio start by paying my radio dues at some am station in Dillon, Montana or Abbeville, Louisiana. Nobody cared if I had a degree in broadcasting, or had worked at any other radio station. It was, "just be here at midnight, and you've got a job. Nothing comes without a price, and the price I had to pay was to work on the air as "Mother." Yep, that was my air name. But, with a deep bass voice like mine, and a free form format, I was able to pull it off for a couple of years until I was able to work under my own name.
My first shift was minight to six. I then progressed to 10am to 2pm and then 2pm until 6pm. My mother thought this was a part time job. You know, only working 4 hours a day, so she asked me what my real job was.
The few people I remember who worked there at that time were Paxton Mills, the program director, Mike "Murphy" Erickson, Burl "Price" Woolridge, Jack "Strider" Robinson, Mark Kristoffer, and Stuart Manning. There were others who worked weekends.

KNUS FM The station & philosophy

KNUS FM- The station and philosophy

Nobody listened to fm radio in may of 1969. I mean nobody. AM radio was the king. Gordon Mclendon had picked up an FM station for very little cash, and had to do something with it on the air to keep from losing the broadcast license.
He was always ahead of his time. He originated the top 40 format with business partner Todd Storz in the 1950's. He realized that a sharp person could keep track of the popularity of music hits by counting the plays a record got on jukeboxes. The top 40 most popular tunes became the basis of a regular Top 40 music hit list on his radio stations.
He also liked to name his radio stations some sort of catchy name. Hence, KLIF AM, was named for the Oak Cliff area where the station was originally located. He had eventually had the full complement of 7 AM and 7 FM stations such as KILT in Houston, WXYZ in Detroit, KABL in San Francisco.
He was going to name a radio station in San Antonio, the home of a number of air force bases KAKI, which was a natural for Khaki wearing air force personnel. That is until someone pointed out that the work bore an uncanny resemblance to a vulgar Spanish word.
Gordon made a fortune in his AM radio stations. He was going to make the FM stepchild radio station an all news station, so there came the call letters k-news (KNUS) It would be many years after that when the first really successful all news FM station hit the airwaves.
Our radio training consisted of the following from the program director, Paxton Mills. "Imagine yourself in your living room with your LP's and a stereo. Play what you want to. If somebody calls with a request, then play that if you want to. Also play the commercials when they are scheduled, say the call letters KNIUS FM and Dallas within five minutes of the top and bottom of the hour, and take transmitter readings as required by FCC regulations." The training was simple enough.
I was on my own. That is, with a few caveats. No songs that mentioned netherworld body parts or areas, no profanity, and no sounds of toilets flushing on the air (for real). These were grounds for immediate dismissal.
In 1965, the Stones came out with "Satisfaction." Another group came out with "Let it all Hang Out." For the longest time, you could play "Satisfaction," but you couldn't play "Let It All Hang Out."In other words, you could have "Satisfaction," but you couldn't "Let It All Hang Out." That was the ownership philosophy.
The McLendons also had a telephone number that they could call and hear the programming as it went out on the air at all of their radio stations individually. So, you never knew when you were being monitored by ownership or the Program Director.
Many times, air staff found out that they were fired for infractions or low ratings when their key no longer fit the lock on the front door. You always were told to get a new key for the front door to get in for your after hours shift when the locks were changed. You always knew that you were a survivor. We didn't have to worry about being fired for low ratings. We were never shown the ratings. They mattered to the money machine that was KLIF AM. We were in essence, a frequency holder that accidentally became popular and powerful in its own way. More to come on this.

KNUS FM THE MUSIC and selection

THE MUSIC and its selection

Selecting records to play was easy. All of the big album rock records of 1969 would fit into a box that was two feet wide. That was it. The entire available LP library everywhere at every radio station like ours. I was fortunate to be in on the ground floor of album radio. There were more records released than that but these were the ones worth playing. These were the ones from groups who toured and whose names you would find on posters advertising concerts such as those of Bill Graham's Fillmore in San Francisco. These were the big dogs, but the albums included those such as "It's a Beautiful Day, Captain Beefheart, "The Mothers of Invention," "Moby Grape," and the like.
There were mistakes made occasionally. I rescued the first "Jethro Tull" album from a bin of records not being played that the staff were free to take home and keep for their own. It was passed over at first by Pax, the Program Director, but added on second review.
Even with the idiosyncracies of the ownership and the occasional oddity that took place, I always respected the McLendon Family, and always look at my time with KNUS FM as my boot camp training ground for my future in radio. You gained a lot of respect in the radio trade by working for Gordon McLendon anywhere. You earned it.THE

SEX, DRUGS, AND ROCK AND ROLL- The Texas International Pop Festival


Several months after beginning my radio career, I was picked by KLIF News and KNUS FM to cover this rock event that took place two or three weeks after Woodstock . Many of the groups that were at Woodstock were there too with a some deletions and a notable addition of Led Zepplin. I must have been one of their first concert appearances. As John McCain said of Woodstock, this too was a major historical and pharmaceutical event. I'm sure he was tied up during this one too.

I was sent to Lewisville, Texas to the Texas International Speedway, the location of the show. I packed up the KLIF news cruiser (an Olds Cutlass with the KLIF logo all over it) with my tape recorder, two way radio, and extra batteries and away I went. This was a 4 day show, so would have a place to sleep too if needed.

I first went to the scene of the show about a week earlier before the show was to start, and met the promoters. These guys planned a lot better physical security than their New York Counterparts. They put up a fence that didn't come down. I believe they did let some people in free on the last day of the show.

It was rumored that the promoters had invited the mayor, city council and police chief to have a spaghetti dinner at the concert site some time before the show was to start and they showed up hungry. It was said that the main ingredient of the spaghetti sauce was a certain herb, unbeknownst to the diners, but many of the officials were reported to have said that it was the best spaghetti they ever had.

The police totally left the concert goers alone at the show, except for tending to the occasional medical emergency. The scene inside of the fence looked exactly the way things looked at the Woodstock concert. That's from the basic stage setup to the people who were everywhere. It was like a mirror image.

A high police official (so to speak) drove a golf cart around the area checking up on things during the 4 days. Maybe he was looking for more spaghetti. Rumor was that he received a substantial amount of money to provide "security" for the show and immediately retired after the show was over.

The promoters also had several free stages set up along the shores of Lake Dallas where local musicians performed for free. There were lots of campsites along the lake and thousands of people. It also had volunteers from the "Hog Farm" with Wavy Gravy and a free food tent there too.

This concert lasted four days. The press pass that I had received as an official radio newsman to cover news stories for KLIF AM and KNUS FM that was issued by the Dallas Police Department opened every door at the pop Festival. It was better than a back stage pass because it was issued by the cops and also had the powerful KLIF logo on it. KLIF was the number one station in the entire Dallas area with at least 27% of all of the radios that were on at any given time were tuned to it.

Along the way, here are some of the acts that I remember meeting and interviewing: Johnny Winter, Canned Heat, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, The Who, Sam and Dave, and others. Some of the others were Grand Funk Railroad, who had driven themselves and their equipment down to Texas in a VW Microbus and Santana, who were personally selling their first album for a dollar each while walking through the crowd.
Our radio station was given about ten four day passes for the show. We gave them out outside the gates at the show itself.