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NBC's Monitor Remembered

One fond radio memory is listening to NBC's Monitor service on weekends on KPRC. Here is the link to a web site with lots of Monitor airchecks:

Monitor Tribute Pages

There is no need to reproduce all those airchecks on this site, but here is the beacon which Monitor used to lead in and out of station breaks:

The Monitor station break beacon

Monitor also used actual theme music which might run for two minutes while the host announced the coming attractions.

Excerpt of my favorite Monitor hourly theme music

That music is called "Night Flight to Madrid." Amazon.com now sells an mp3 file of the version of heard on Monitor:

"Night Flight To Madrid" by Kermit Leslie And His Orchestra

It took me my entire adult life to figure out the exact title of the tune and which version I heard on Monitor. I always knew the song was about some kind of night flight, but I always thought that the plane landed somewhere in South America.

It turns out that "Night Flight to Madrid" is popular among school bands, probably because it uses so many different instruments. Here is a recent version of the same music:

"Night Flight to Madrid"- University of Texas High School Band Camp '09

This orchestral intro theme was used on Monitor around 1963. The station break beacon was used throughout the 20 years Monitor was on the air.

Grady McAllister

Revised June 1, 2010.


Tim and Bob on KPRC

KPRC, Houston, February 1, 1962, Tim & Bob

KPRC, Houston, January, 1971, Tim & Bob

The second item was sent by Jake Rees.


Cool jazz on 95.7 in 1964?

KHUL, Houston, December, 1964

The call letters were KHUL, and you pronounced them "cool." It was a jazz station for refreshingly cool libation.

As most Houston radio buffs know, the FM station at 95.7 MHz was country station KIKK-FM for nearly four decades.

Then, in this decade it became a jazz station and remained one until 2008. However, few realize that 95.7 was also a jazz station in the 60's before it switched to country.

Of course, the music that was called jazz back then was quite a bit different from the recent Smooth Jazz format. The emphasis then was on big bands, and vocals were relatively few.

This recording only gives you a small taste of KHUL. I cut the length of this recording at some point, so what you hear is only a fraction of the original material.

In the following description, I will include some details I remember that you don't actually hear on the aircheck.

The main DJ is Hugh Foley, and there is another man making comical remarks in the background.

Foley announces that Tom Overton, the DJ scheduled to come on duty, has been delayed about fifteen minutes.

Overton can't really be all that far away. You can hear him coming down the hallway.(These guys really knew how to play around with the sound effect records. That is what this aircheck is really about.)

The Overton theme music and sound effects ran on for about another fifteen minutes. Not only did you hear the footsteps, but you continued to hear drinks pouring in anticipation of Overton's arrival.

Overton kept pounding down the hallway, but it seemed he would never really arrive.

Then, at long last, you finally heard the voice of the elusive radio star, Tom Overton. I must have decided that his journey down the hall ate up too much of my valuable tape and cut the length of the recording.

The reference to "private stock" meant that the DJ's brought in their own album collections. It may have also referred to the libation that poured so freely.

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Bertha Rita McAllister (1924-2OO2)

 

"Heidegger surf-boards along on the electronic wave as triumphantly as Descartes rode the mechanical wave"

— Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)

 

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Unless otherwise indicated, all commentary and photography on this site are by Grady McAllister.

Below: This is what my home "studio" looked like in April, 1966. All of the my early airchecks of Houston radio stations were made on the little Western Auto reel to reel unit on the lower shelf.

By this time, I had a acquired hi-fi stereo recorder to use as my main unit. Not visible in this picture, it was set up on the left side of the desk.

I also used the studio to record my own "radio show." Never actually on the radio, it was played back over the telephone, mainly to students at South Houston High School.

I didn't know much about electronics, so I improvised. Notice the household light switches with chrome metal covers. I used them for both electrical and electronic connections. I don't think this set up would have passed a fire safety inspection.

Sitting in the midst of this technical wonderland is Candy Jones. For a time, Candy filed reports to KNUZ about activities at South Houston High School.

She lived on my street one block off Edgebrook and appeared on some of my original recordings.

Candy is the sister of the late Bob Jones who worked at KQUE in the 70's.

A Bob Jones KQUE aircheck is below on this page. The material is somewhat famous because the DJ is alleged to have been drunk on the air.

Candy Jones in 1966

KQUE: Drunk on air?

KQUE, Houston, September, 1976,
Bob Jones, Take 1

KQUE, Houston, September, 1976,
Bob Jones, Take 2

KQUE, Houston, September, 1976,
Bob Jones, Take 3

These are recordings of a DJ who is alleged to have been drunk on the air.

I was reluctant to post this material on my web site. How many of use can honestly say that we would like to publicize our worst moment on the radio or our worst moment on anything else?

I would not be posting this material if Bob Jones were still alive.

Bob Jones is one of several people I should have met in radio but never did. Not only were we in radio at the same time, but I have known his sister since high school.

I first heard about this material from the sister in January, 2003. We were having coffee, and it was our first meeting since the 70's outside of a couple of high school reunions. She mentioned that she had recently heard a morning drive shock jock play the "drunk DJ" recording over the air.

At that point, I didn't really think of myself as an aircheck collector. My only involvement was that I had just started copying my own radio tapes to CD.

Later that year, I just happened to come across that Bob Jones material when I met with an old radio friend who wanted to trade airchecks.

I later obtained another version of the recording from an out of state aircheck trader.

That, by the way, was the only time I ever exchanged recordings with a stranger. The trade was mainly to get my KXYZ recording from 1961 and my Weird Beard recording from 1965.

There was a part of my mind that didn't even want to get involved with the "drunk DJ" recordings, and I think I would have left it alone if I had not known the sister. That was enough to make me wonder what the material was like.

I had the sister listen to all of it. She expressed the opinion that Bob Jones was not drunk. She said that he had tended to have trouble speaking whenever he was really tired.

Also, at a point when he doesn't seem to know his microphone is open, you hear him state that he is sick.

Obviously, he is struggling to get through a shift.

I offer no opinion. You decide.

Revised September 11, 2009.

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Adult Formats


ALL RECEIVERS ARE GO!

This is a brief look the long history of AM 790. From the 50's to the present, the station used all these call letters: KTHT, KULF, KKBQ, and KBME.

Some of this is backed by nothing but individual memories from very long ago. Such recollections must always be treated with caution.

For example, without an aircheck, I can't be sure that the early Demand Radio newscasts said "All receivers are go" instead of "All systems are go." I am only stating what I think I remember.

I am positive that Agent 79 was a man and not a woman (back then it was easier to tell them apart), but I am only about 90% sure that his purpose was to give clues to contests. In many cases, I write what I think is true, not what I can prove is true.

Remembering Demand Radio 79 (also KTHT, KULF. KKBQ and KBME)

You have a great web site.

From the 60's, I remember KTHT, 790. Neat station, called itself Demand Radio 79, had a tight MOR format . . . Demand Radio News, Demand Radio Weather. No personalities, Just good music. Very well done.

— Dorothy Lemons

I also remember Demand Radio 79. I especially remember the early days of the format in 1962.

When it first launched, Demand Radio specialized in hit parade songs from the late 40's and the 50's. At first, it didn't play anything new. They ignored what was currently popular and went for what was "in demand."

They covered that musical twilight zone between the big band era and the roll and roll era, highlighting such artists as Guy Mitchell and Jo Stafford. The Demand format was my first exposure to many of the songs.

I especially liked "The Green Door" by Jim Lowe. Demand Radio 79 played that one repeatedly: Midnight, one more night without sleeping.' I was just learning to stay up late. I think that song gave me the idea.

(Go ahead and read the lyrics for "The Green Door" at the link below. This article on Demand Radio 79 will wait here until you return.)

Click here for the "Green Door" lyrics.

Did you read the lyrics to "The Green Door" at the link above? Welcome back...

The idea of extolling a station name while minimizing call letters was new at the time. Demand Radio 79 continued to be KTHT, but the letters slid by rapidly once every half hour in a low key voice. Eventually, most listeners called the station Demand and didn't even know the call letters.

Another ingredient in the early Demand formula was that it emphasized the format rather than individual jocks.

The closest modern equivalent would be an Adult Hits format. For a while, Houston had Jack FM. Jack was on the air all the time and sounded like a robot with an attitude.

Shortly after its launch, Demand Radio had a newscast intro that was as arcane as a spaceship launch. It actually had a countdown. It went something like this: "5-4-3-2-1," and then the bombast, "ALL RECEIVERS ARE GO!" Radio people today would deride such a news lead in as too wordy and melodramatic.

(For a different sort of countdown, check out this Richard Dobbyn newscast on KIKK from December 22, 1966.)

I knew that turbo charged news intros were going out when KILT dropped hourly newscasts and switched to 20/20 News. That led to all of these other changes —

No more back timed instrumentals leading into the birth of a new hour...

No more softly beeping tone to lead into the long, loud automatic tone at the top of the hour — the radio equivalent of the West minister Chimes of Big Ben...

No more brassy news themes lifted from big band albums with titles like "Sound Power!" or "21 Channel Sound!"...

No more of anything like that. The newsmen would just come on and start talking. When I did newscasts at KIKK in the 70's, you just read a short script plugging the station and a sponsor. Not very exciting.

Somebody should bring back the rocket blast sounds and all of the bells and whistles. Most stations today have no significant build up to the news. Most stations today have no news.

Another early feature at Demand was "Agent 79," a cryptic personage who came in from the weather from time to time. He had the clues to the latest contest. This was before James Bond, Maxwell Smart (Agent 86), and others had created a veritable secret agent mania.

The early Demand Radio 79 was one of my all time favorite formats. If anyone has an aircheck, please send it to me. Those pre-1965 airchecks are hard to come by. There just weren't a lot of people with tape recorders.

I do have this aircheck from later in the Demand Radio era:

KTHT, Houston, November 25, 1965, Demand Radio 79, Jeff Johnson

Or, click here for just the newscast featuring Chuck Williams

By the time of this recording, the Demand format had lost its unusual mechanized quality. In other words, it was starting to bring back personality DJ's and to move at a more leisurely pace. The recording also reveals that KTHT had become an adult contemporary station with much less emphasis on oldies.

The announcer on the musical news intro was heard frequently on commercials and promos during the 60's. He was brought in when production called for a voice that radiated both maturity and authority.

It is surprising to hear him on a Demand Radio 79 news intro. I associate his voice more with KPRC and with the newspaper that owned it, the Houston Post. You also hear him on a Post ad on the KXYZ recording from 1961.

The music on the news intro is from the album, "Stereo 35mm, Volume II" by the Enoch Light Orchestra. This is not just a memory. I have owned my own copy since I was 16 years old. I made a hobby out of collecting music suitable for news themes.

Let's look at the words in the news intro. What music station today would brag that "everything stops" for the news? Does the phrase "tune out factor" come to mind? A sales trainer would call this "bragging about an objection."

Also notice that the newsman puts reverb underneath each dateline location.

Before I leave the subject of KTHT, I will mention a format which I heard before they became Demand Radio 79. I was just a kid, and I was just starting to take radio seriously. The slogan for the format was "continuous music and instantaneous news."

The idea was to feed the KTHT audience the news in bite sized pieces instead of a five minute block. It was an interesting concept, and I have never heard it tried anywhere else.

Of course, if someone tried that now, the program director would get fired for using such big words as "instantaneous" and "continuous." Our society has dumbed down quite a bit since I first listened to radio. If you sincerely want to be rich in radio, it pays to keep a leash on your word power. I say this as someone who has done more than his share of writing for adults at the sixth grade reading level.

Another KTHT slogan during the pre-Demand days was "Red Carpet Radio."

By the beginning of the 70's, KTHT had become "Gulf Radio" KULF. Air checks for those call letters appear above.. I am still looking for the date (or at least the exact year) when the KULF call letters began.

A Wikipedia article on the station states that AM 790 became KKBQ on August 13, 1982.

At around that time, 790 began to simulcast with KKBQ-FM. Those were the new call letters for KYND, formerly a highly successful easy listening station in Pasadena.

The KKBQ stations eventually turned to a variety of formats including top 40, easy country, and new country. I personally listened to KKBQ-FM during its 93Q top 40 era, mainly in 1984. By that point listeners in general had flocked to the FM radio band, so the FM side of KKBQ dominated the operation.

Nonetheless, AM 790 did manage to help pioneer AM stereo. Appreciate that fact the next time you relax listening to music on your AM stereo radio.

AM 790 became KBME in 1998 and returned to its traditional role of appealing to a more mature audience. By that time, the audience had become more mature than ever, and the the station filled the demand for the "Best Music Ever."

KBME blended laid back hits all the way from the 40's to the 90's. Many of their older songs had previously filled the airwaves in the 60's during the days of Demand Radio 79.

KBME was the last AM music station I listened to regularly. I know of no remaining AM outlet that features music in English and aims at a general audience.

That tells me a lot about what has happened to radio. That tells me a lot about what has happened to Houston.

What is AM 790 doing today? You can be sure that few who work there now remember Demand Radio or Agent 79. The call letters are unchanged, but don't look for the BEST MUSIC EVER. Don't look for music at all.

KBME is now The Sports Animal. The name alone tells you their target demographics. It's a great place for Sports Animals (more commonly known as Young Cool Dudes) to hang out and be cool together.

The station reveals the bare facts on the latest sports scandals.

The Sports Animal web site reveals the bare facts on female pulchritude and features endless Babes on Parade.

But if you knock on the Green Door and say, "Joe sent me," someone will laugh out loud. You'll find it shut forevermore.

Grady McAllister, M.S.
(Occupational Technology Education)

March 17, 2008


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