KVOS To KGMI in 1962

(Lafayette) Rogan Jones

Pacific Northwest broadcasting pioneer, Rogan Jones, bought Seattle’s early radio station KVOS (K-“Voice of Seattle”) and moved it north to Bellingham in 1928. He was a shrewd operator, credited with many innovative ideas. In 1953, Jones put Bellingham’s first TV station, KVOS, on the air. Both his TV station and the existing AM radio station maintained the KVOS call sign for nine more years. In the meantime, Jones’ founded  KGMI-FM in 1960. He sold the TV station in 1962 and that led to a mandatory change in the AM radio station’s call letters. FCC rules at the time made it necessary to alter the call letters of one of the properties — since they were no longer under the umbrella of a single owner. KVOS-AM became KGMI, which made sense with those calls already in-use at the new FM station. Jones, who was a pioneer in radio automation, was paying homage to his automation company with the KGMI calls: (K-“Good Music Incorporated”). That firm was better known in the industry as International Good Music (IGM).

I didn’t start listening to the radio until 1966; therefore, I never heard KVOS radio. I associated the call letters KVOS with the Bellingham TV station and 790 on the AM dial was always KGMI to me. It was an interesting discovery recently, when perusing the online archives of the student newspapers at Western Washington University, to find a number of old ads for KVOS radio. The collection contains copies of newspapers dating back to the 1920s. Below I pasted together three KVOS radio ads that were published in 1959.

Undoubtedly, the best-known figure to ever grace the hallways of KGMI was Haines Fay. He began working at KVOS radio in 1944, while he was still in high school. Fay stayed with the station, eventually retiring from KGMI in 1992. His first love was sports play-by-play, especially working high school basketball and football games. Fay hosted “Impact,” a call-in interview show, for more than 20 years. He was influential in the community, having served on the Bellingham City Council for eight years. Haines ran for Bellingham mayor in 1983. He conducted a good campaign, garnered many votes, but ultimately he lost the general election to an administrator at WWU.

A youthful (Walter) Haines Fay at a KVOS radio remote. Right, Haines “on-air” at KGMI.

In my collection of audio recordings, I discovered a tape of Haines Fay and Tim Douglas squaring off against one another in the race for Bellingham mayor. The interview was conducted in late October 1983, just prior to the general election referenced above.

Mayoral Candidates with moderator Rachel Grossman (KBFW news director). The original broadcast was one hour long. It has been edited to 9:54.

Another announcer at KVOS radio was Tom Haveman. Tom was also the guy who put another Bellingham station, KENY, on the air in 1958. Haveman completed his broadcast career at KVOS television. As an aside, Haveman’s KENY became KBFW. That’s the station I owned for 15 years, and where the above recording of the debate of the Bellingham mayoral candidates originated, so I can thank Tom for that. (To read more about Tom Haveman and KENY radio click HERE.)

Tom Haveman KVOS radio announcer & founder of KENY-KBFW radio, Bellingham

Here is a radio archivist’s dilemma: KGMI was and is a prominent Bellingham radio station — probably the best known of all of them. But as far as airchecks, from back when AM radio was king, I find very little of KGMI’s history remaining. I don’t even have any jingles, of which KGMI played very few in the years that I heard the station. The station focused on local news and the music was middle of the road automated programming from IGM featuring Don McMaster (click HERE), Del Olney and Bob Concie.

Despite the scarcity of material, I have put together this brief sound montage of KGMI’s history. You’ll hear the voices of (1) Haines Fay (recreating a play-by-play broadcast), (2) Tom Haveman presenting news on KVOS-TV in ’87, (3) a vintage KGMI restaurant ad, and (4) KGMI newsman Ken Bertrand from March ’72.

Run Time – 2:33

Back in 2011, prior to his passing in 2014, Haines Fay was interviewed by Deb Slater on her program “Experience Northwest.” The show ran on KVOS-TV (the same television station Rogan Jones had founded in 1953). In the interview, Fay provided lots of history, discussing his life, his career, the early days of radio, and retirement. I think readers might find it interesting.

Click on the names below to read about these broadcasters who were popular in Bellingham and Whatcom County, including nearby Canadian legend Red Robinson:

Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with QZVX.COM in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions. View other articles by Steven Smith

11 thoughts on “KVOS To KGMI in 1962

  1. Dick…yes KVOS existed for awhile in Seattle until Jones moved it north in 1928. When KVOS started out it was real low power, like 100 watts. Eventually it got to 5kw. The Bellingham AM’s just do not go that far. Most of them become unlistenable about Everett. Even KPUG currently at 10kw and the old KOQT at 50kw do better north than south. My station, KBFW at 930kc and 1kw actually had a signal pretty comparable to KPUG and KGMI at their 5kw. As I recall, KPUG was directional daytime and night after going to 5kw from 1kw in 1966.

  2. John….yes, since I am listing what KGMI stood for I probably should put in Voice of Seattle for KVOS ..although it was kind of an oddity when it was in Bellingham. In those early days stations had little power so did not go very far.

    1. Steve,

      I always wondered why, in the 50s and 60s from North Seattle, although I could listen to stations all the way across Western Canada from Nanaimo to Calgary, from Everett, Mount Vernon, Spokane and the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla and Blaine, I never could get decent reception from any station in Bellingham.

      I also thought that, back in the 20s or 30s, KVOS was a Seattle station, at least the call letters.

  3. Another great memory, Steven! Years before I ever was old enough to even contemplate a Broadcasting career, my Father and stepmother ran a Boarding house for WWSC female students. I remember an older gentleman in the large house next door who would always smile and wave to me. I asked my Father who that was. He said “That’s Rogen Jones. He owns KVOS TV”. Almost as memorable as sharing a house with 36 college-age girls, who loved having a young boy around. Incidentally, KVOS call letters stood for “Voice of Seattle”

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