Above: Park at the north end of the South Belt Bike Trail, December 27, 2009.
Music for gallantly dreaming on a summer night...
By this point, KXYZ had quit giving names to each period of the programming schedule. Nonetheless, the poetic prose and music still evoked a particular mood for each time of day.
The music on these promos is "Mine at Last" and "Reflection," both by the Otto Cesana orchestra. It took me until June, 2014, but now I finally know where KXYZ obtained most of its promo music. I remember hearing other Cesana music on other intros that I never recorded.
If I am not mistaken, the voice giving the time and the phone number of the time service is Pat Brown, an announcer who had worked for KTRH when they were still playing music.
KXYZ simulcast 24 hours a day, and I recorded these items off the AM 1320 side. Even though they are bit over modulated, I had a better tape recorder at this point, so the overall quality is decidedly better than my 1964 KXYZ-FM material.
I liked both the music and the format, and, unlike the typical conformist teenager, I moved easily between KXYZ and the top 40 stations.
Beautiful music formats are rare today. I know of none in Houston. The few which exist around the country function more as background music services than as creative radio forces. Their main audiences are in retirement communities.
Nowadays, the mere mention of light orchestra music invites derisive remarks about "elevator music" (as if you could still actually hear that kind of music in elevators).If you listen to Henry Mancini, Mantovani, or the Hollyridge Strings, don't tell anybody. Otherwise, you'll get clobbered by Cool Dudes and classical purists alike.
By the way, if you like the kind of music on these KXYZ airchecks, I recommend the Golden Age of Light Music series, available from Amazon.com. Some recordings in this series would have been too dated even for KXYZ in the 60's, but the material from the 50's and 60's would have fit right in with the KXYZ beautiful music style.
If you know where I can obtain more KXYZ recordings from the 60's, please let me know.
I have this fantasy that someone will send me a crate of unscoped KXYZ airchecks, recorded at 7.5 ips. I will then turn the entire collection into one 20-hour mp3 CD and listen to it for a few months in my car.
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1961: KXYZ turns Houston into Brigadoon on the Bayou
Web master's note: I coined the phrase "Brigadoon on the Bayou" myself. Houston used to be called "Baghdad on the Bayou," but that phrase has lost its original romantic flavor. In fact, everybody I know would rather be in the mythical Brigadoon than in Baghdad.
In its generic sense, Brigadoon means, "a place that is idyllic, unaffected by time, or remote from reality."
Announcer One: "The feathers of the sunbird dangle down from the sky to dazzle on the asphalt of Houston streets."
Announcer Two: "The great waves of verdant foliage in Houston parks seem capped with crests of gold."
Announcer One: "Veils of mist rise from lakes and rivers like water sprites dancing into day."Announcer Two: "The green, glistening sides of a fish are seen as he shatters the glass surface of a lake against a background of . . ."
Announcer One: ". . .Prelude."
Come with me now mentally to a leaner, greener, cleaner Houston.Light classical favorites and Irish folk songs on AM radio? Such things were still possible in the Houston of the 1960's. So much for the myth that Houston was just an oversized cow town. So much for the myth that sixties' radio was just rock and roll.
Although the audio quality is low, this recording captures the KXYZ beautiful music format just weeks after it was launched. It was a distinctive formula which served Houston well for the remainder of the decade.
I obtained this material by trading a copy of one of my own original recordings.
KXYZ exuded a wit and ingenuity rarely heard in stations playing light classical and orchestral pop music.
They constantly ran announcements to promote their own image, but the items were often hard to classify as promos, PSA's, commercials, or brief feature stories. You'll see what I mean in the above air checks.
They promoted odd products such as a Chinese junk and an executive yo yo. On one pseudo snooty occasion, a product was offered only to "those with proper references."
In 1962, KXYZ recommended competing stations by name for people who wanted a "change of pace" from beautiful music.In 1964, they read lyrics of rock and roll songs to help parents keep up with their teenagers.
One of them was "UM, UM, UM, UM, UM, UM" by Major Lance. I don't have a recording, but that poetic reading would have gone something like this:
That is a lot of "ums." Naturally, KXYZ edited the lyrics when they read them over the air. They cut the verses but left in a lot of ums. The Percy Faith orchestra soon recorded that song, and it was a version fit for KXYZ.
The KXYZ broadcast day was divided into segments of several hours with names like Prelude, Allegro, Rhapsody, Firelight, Nocturne, and Reverie, Each half hour opened with some poetic prose aimed at setting a mood for that time of day.
Here is some theme music for Rhapsody, a show that ran from noon till afternoon drive time.
Here is some theme music for Nocturne, a show that ran from 9:00 PM till midnight.
When taken as a whole, KXYZ promos made Houston sound like a majestic place to be, creating an electronic Brigadoon on the Bayou.
The original Brigadoon story was about a lost village which mysteriously appears in the wilderness. Similarly, one KXYZ promo quoted a 19th Century writer who called Houston "a city lost in forest."
I only dimly recall that quote but I think they attributed it to a Frenchman, possibly Alexis de Tocqueville. I need some Houston historian to help me put that quotation in context and identify its true author.
Houston lost in a forest what a concept. I think Houston must really be lost in a forest. Just look at the names of places surrounding Houston: The Woodlands, Kingwood, Roman Forest, etc. Of course, if you grew up on the southeast side as I did, the forest fantasy is a bit of stretch.
KXYZ was so stylized that it almost seemed to lampoon itself. But it was never dull, except to the dullards. The nameless KXYZ announcers projected an attitude of high mindedness mixed with whimsy.
In short, KXYZ was a far cry from what people think of as 60's music. Even then, it had an anachronistic quality, and much of its style seemed removed from its own time and place, perhaps a hundred years out of place, either forward or back.
In the original Brigadoon story, the village awakens only after sleeping for one hundred years. Maybe, something like KXYZ will arise in Houston in 2061. Let's wait and see.
Grady McAllister, M.S.
Revised January 19, 2015.
KXYZ & bEAUTIFUL mUSIC
The above slide show has the same music as the fishing reports in the KXYZ airchecks from 1961.
KXYZ: Slowly, silently now...
The quality here suffers from a cheap tape recorder. Also, I dubbed this down at least one generation in editing. With analog recordings, you lose qualilty every time you copy something.
Keep this in mind when listening to old airchecks: The audio for both AM and FM radio was nearly as good in the 60's as it is now. Any lack of aircheck quality is usually due to the recording, not the broadcast itself. Good home recorders were both rare and expensive.
I recorded all this material off KXYZ-FM (96.5 MHz) on at least two different days in October, 1964.
Notice how each music segment opens with an intro to create a mood for each time of day:
Or, how about this one from the nighttime:
The first words of this doggerel are lifted straight from a poem by Walter de la Mare. To view the original, go to my full moon page and check out "Silver," the second poem listed by Walter de la Mare.
I place an especially high value on KXYZ materials from the sixties. You simply can't hear programming like this any more. Material prior to the switch to beautiful music is also wanted.If you have any KXYZ recordings , please send them to me NOW.
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