Thursday, December 27, 2007

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.


~Çχ Atlantic♡ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Çχ Atlantic♡ said...

"Nobody listened to fm radio in May of 1969."

^^ I did :)

"No songs that mentioned netherworld body parts or areas, no profanity, and no sounds of toilets flushing on the air (for real)."

^^ So that's why we never heard Steppenwolf's "Don't Step On The Grass, Sam" on KNUS!
(The very distinct sound of pot being flushed down the john during a drug bust at the end of the song...)

Or, Steppenwolf's "Resurrection" (the chorus of which contains the line "Why don't you let it all hang down."

Heh. Never knew.


Wayne said...

Weird. I worked at KNUS-FM in 1968 and Charlie Van Dyke was the program director. Jimmy Rabbit was the music director.

At first, they wouldn't let us talk. We just played album cuts, interspersed with carts that had introductions recorded by Charlie Van Dyke that said, "The Beatles" or whatever. Jimmy let us play whatever we wanted, except McLendon was really down on bad lyrics so some tracks had little blue dots on them so they couldn't be played.

Finally, they let us talk, but told us not to sound like disc jockeys, so I whispered. I was on in the morning and used the name "Sean"... because Sean Connery was so big back then.

We got paid minimum wage (it was a priviledge working for Gordon McLendon and so the money didn't matter).

jgh said...

Wayne...You were gone. I began at the station after Van Dyke left and after Rabbit went to L.A. I started Mothers' Day either in '68 or '69. Don't remember which.

Jim Hilty