Call Signs, Frequencies, and Memories

In 1965, I was on the speaker end of the radio rather than the microphone side, but – in thumbing through an old broadcasting annual – I was surprised there were names I recognize from when I finally made it into a Tulsa broadcast booth.

Also surprised at the limited number of stations licensed to Tulsa, until I remembered that FM back then was still a futuristic enterprise. In fact, of the six stations included in the Tulsa heading, none carry the FM designation.

Some of you historian types will instantly know what these calls evolved into, but I have no recollection of KOME and only faintly recall KFMJ, although they signed on in 1938 and 1946 respectively. AH! Just looked at the fine print and recognize the name of the KFMJ program director – R.B. Blue, which I presume is Ron Blue, later of Swanson, I believe.

Possibly, broadcasting careers had a greater longevity back then, I don’t know. But it was over a decade later when I landed in Tulsa, and ran across some of these names. Carl Smith and Dick Schmitz listed at KAKC, although I think Mr Schmitz may have been in commercial production or marketing – I would recognize his voice, I’m sure, if I heard it today. I recall the names Joe Henderson and Mr Stuart (KVOO).

Out of market I recall the name Todd Storz at KOMA (OKC), but the name I was most familiar with at that frequency (I believe) was Jim St. John. Whatever station he was with, he was my favorite to imitate,

I’d be driving around in my little MGB, top down, radio up, and that big voice boomed out of my little speaker (monaural sound, of course!)

KOMA and JIM SAINT JOHN!

He would no sooner get it out of his mouth than I was repeating it in my wannabe radio voice. He had an affectation that had him drawing out the JIM part of his name, and almost skipping over the Saint, before closing it out. Like JIIIimmm st. JOHN! I practiced it often enough that I could have fooled his mother.

My memory has never been a bragging point. Some of the names sound SO familiar, but I can’t place how I would know them. Like Bill Hoover at KADA (Ada). William Drake (Bartlesville). R.J. Drury was still at Duncan (KRHD) when I was at KSWO (Lawton) – sister stations both listing Mr Drury as president. Dud Stallings was program director at KNED (McAlester) but when I worked across town at KTMC, Dud was that station’s chief engineer.

Looking over the listings for Oklahoma, I recognized KTAT (Frederick), the station where I first applied for a job, and – during the interview – was subjected to a litany of discouraging facts about that small SW Oklahoma town. There’s only one movie theater, he pointed out. Just change the movie once a week. Just the one drive-in restaurant. Not any young ladies, to speak of. (I was single.) A lot of farm reports to be read, hog futures, and such.

By the time the interview concluded, I felt fairly beaten down, and could not understand why ANYONE would want to live in Frederick.

Later in life, I realized that he didn’t want to hire someone with aspirations for a larger market career, someone he would train – only to have that person leave at the first opportunity. He probably hired a local who may be working there still.

Don Reynolds (SR and JR) at KOKL (Okmulgee). E.K. Gaylord, president WKY (OKC), where Danny Williams was program director, and the national advertising representation was provided by KATZ.

KATZ – the same folks I went to work for shortly after they acquired KWEN-FM in Tulsa to program contemporary country music on the FM side. That darn upstart FM thing… I believe it was one of the first books after I joined the K95FM team that KRAV became the first FM station to achieve a number one rating. (Although – thinking about it just now, it was probably a qualified-by-demographic rating. I believe KRMG held the 12+ top-of-the-heap position, almost forever it seemed.)

The name Allan Muchmore has a familiar ring for some reason, but the station he managed is Muchmore (so to speak) ingrained. WBBZ (Ponca City) is my earliest memory of radio, partly because I remember gazing at it on the car’s dashboard as I sat on the front seat. (No seat belts or car seats in those rugged days!)

At this point, I don’t know if it is an actual memory, or something that was repeated often enough by my mother, who would swear that my list of earliest spoken words included

COMO!

…which I would call out – pointing at the radio – when a Perry Como song was sent out over those WBBZ airwaves (they called them that, back in the day).

Ironically, as I was grabbing the old reference book to put it on the shelf, I opened the front cover and one of the first pages popped into view: an advertisement featuring the man himself. I was obliged to call out –

COMO!

And then went back to the business of book storing.