Twisting The Dial: September-December, 1985

September 15, 1985 — Tacoma listeners can tune in another daytime talk show, hosted by Barbara Lord Nelson, at 10 a.m. weekdays on KAMT, 1360 kHz. The station has a nightly interview program by Art Popham, at 6 p.m. weekdays, and a “Sports Talk” program from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays… Johnny Clark and Charlie Burd, last of the stalwarts of the original KRPM crew, are now at KJUN, 1450 kHz., in Puyallup.

November 3, 1985 –Chuck Bolland got dumped last week, and that’s the way the ball bounces. Bolland had been news director and sports commentator at KTAC, 850 kHz., for the past 10 years. Bolland was let go as part of a cost-cutting measure at the Tacoma adult-contemporary station. The new news director is Ann D’Angelo, who had been doing public-affairs programs at the station. Bolland said he will continue his television appearances, Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Channel 11’s “Ten O’Clock News.” “I have things to keep me busy,” Bolland said. “But I will probably investigate news jobs at other radio stations.” Versions of his sports commentary continue on a sponsor-arranged network of stations, including ones in Bellingham, Bremerton and Mount Vernon. Bolland’s bombastic sports commentaries, always concluding “and that’s the way the ball bounces,” started at KJR, more than 15 years ago.

How do you react when a radio station is sold? After all, the new owners probably promise to breathe new life into the station. But some traditions, some familiar listening patterns are sure to be trampled
This comes to mind because of the announced sale of KXA, once a grand old lady of the broadcast spectrum. Even without the benefit of conversation with the new owners, the sale raises the question of KXA’s name _ its call letters. U.S. radio stations which sport three-letter calls trace their ancestry to pioneer times, between 1920 and 1927.

Most stations with three-letter calls therefore logically hold a place in broadcast history. KXA, for instance, traces ownership back to the Olmsteads, the Fishers, the Krafts _ back to the days when owners made personal imprints on their properties; when operating at a profit was not the first necessity.

When Vincent Kraft repossessed the station in 1927 and settled on the name, it was one of five stations in Seattle. Program features included a noon “Time Signal” and frequent piano and organ recitals.

By the 1930s, KXA was “The Musical Station” _ because it had no network entertainment programs _ and it took a bold step for Puget Sound radio, broadcasting at night. (In the ’30s and ’40s and even into the ’50s, radio was a daytime game. Many signed off at sunset; most at 10 p.m; few stayed on till midnight.)

KXA, at 770 kHz., was a daytimer. But in 1939 it gained permission to sign on from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. What developed was “Stay Up Stan, the All Night Record Man.” It was an outrageous premise: Stan would play contemporary music (from phonograph records!) and read dedications. The program was a direct steal from a New York station, even to the title and theme song.

Stay Up Stan himself was, variously, Jim Neighdigh, Earl Reilly and Bill Apple. During World War II, and again shortly thereafter, KXA lost its nighttime rights and until 1982 was again a daytimer. In the late ’40s, KXA programming included country music _ real country music, such as “Old Dog Tray” and “Blood on the Saddle.” Announcers went by such names as “Spike Hogan” and “Sagebrush Sarah.” In the ’50s a new owner introduced classical music, and while the station should have had new glory, it dissipated instead. Newer competitors bought new equipment, kept up with the times. KXA pinched pennies, continued to send its signal from an outdated T-Line atop the Arcade Building.

Through additional formats _ from beautiful music, religion, golden oldies and its present “love songs” format, KXA proved to be no competition.

It’s a safe guess that KXA’s new owner, Olympic Broadcasting Corp., which already operates KRPM, 106.1 mHz., will use the acquisition to provide boot-to-boot competition against KMPS-AM-FM, a country-music combo. The KMPS folk combine AM and FM listeners when selling commercials to advertisers _ a tactic which leaves the FM KRPM at a distinct disadvantage.

KXA’s three-letter name is a fine, easy-to-understand call. On the other hand, there are those who regard the letters KRPM _ as in “you’re going 106 RPM” _ as being picturesque call letters for a contemporary station.

Which would you do if you had your $7 million at risk? Call your combined facility KXA-AM-FM? Or KRPM-AM-FM?


When Olympic Broadcasting Corp. announced its purchase of KXA, it conveniently neglected to include a purchase price. What should a station that has the unfulfilled promise to increase power to 50,000 watts go for?

$3 million, a former owner’s `reasonable estimate’ when the sale was first announced.

$2.4 million, from the well-traveled manager of a competing radio group.

$1.8 million, `and not a penny over,’ from an individual who `shares the same banker.’

$800,000, `that’s what I heard,’ from a competing owner who has had recent dealings with radio brokers.

$2.1 million, `plus other considerations,’ from the purchaser, Ivan Braiker, by telephone on the date of an official filing.

$2.25 million, `plus other considerations,’ from the sales agreement, as filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

November 17, 1985 –Maureen Matthews has been named music director of KHIT, 106.9 mHz., working with A.J. Roberts, program director. . . . Charlye Parker left KMPS-AM for the midmorning shift at KRPM, 106.1 mHz. That move caused Penny Tucker to move from midmornings to traffic and features on the Ryan & Ryan morning show on KRPM. . . . Buck Wade moved from after-midnights to the 7-to-midnight shift on KMPS-AM, 1300 kHz., including the segment after 10 p.m. called “Loveline.’

November 24, 1985 –It’s not often that the listening audience knows a favorite station is up for sale. That’s a secret an owner likes to keep, so that neither advertisers nor listeners will defect. But with the Tribune Publishing empire up for sale, radio station KNBQ is part of the package and everybody knows it.

Tribune Publishing Co., privately held by Tacoma’s Baker family, publishes The Tacoma News-Tribune, but it also has had a quixotic relationship with broadcasting. It has been an unabashed pioneer in FM radio, cable TV, UHF-television and mobile paging, with mixed results.

Example: KTNT-TV, built from the ground up in 1953, and even though the area’s second station, always stayed a second-class TV station. Under Federal Communications Commission prodding in 1974, Tribune Publishing had to decide whether to sell the TV station or the cable-TV system. It sold KTNT-TV, Channel 11, and what we now know as KSTW became one of the most prosperous independent TV stations in the nation.

Example: KTNT-AM, at 1400 kHz., was established in 1948, nurtured for 25 years but given away in 1983 _ and the frequency vanished!

Example: KTNT-FM was the Puget Sound area’s first FM station (now known as KNBQ, at 97.3 mHz). KTNT-FM signed on in 1947, although its documented starting date was Oct. 26, 1948.

In 1948, you could count all the FM receivers in the area on one finger.

Most FM listeners in the late ’40s were bus riders, because Tribune Publishing supplied each Tacoma bus with an FM receiver.

In the 1960s, because of some internecine pique, The Tacoma News-Tribune refused to list programming _ not even dial setting _ for its own FM station, although it listed all other Pierce County radio stations.

KTNT-FM went nowhere until 1982, when it bumped its signal up to 100,000 watts and changed its name. Other FMs had been at the power peak for years. An ex-KVI-KSFO executive, Jack Bankson, got a commitment to blast away with contemporary rock and roll _ good enough reason to delete the familial “TNT” for something more contemporary.

In varying degrees since, KNBQ has been a significant contender for the younger rock fan’s ears.

It was Bankson, too, with enough savvy to acknowledge finally that 1400 kHz. was a lousy frequency for an ambitious radio station. He urged its jettison. New owners of the frequency soon saw it wash away completely as they mired into bankruptcy. And once in bankruptcy, Tribune Publishing decided not to take the turkey back. A suspicion is that Bankson had in mind acquiring a better frequency, perhaps even buying a Seattle AM station.

William Honeysett, chief executive officer of Tribune Publishing Co., acknowledged that Bankson deserves credit for assembling a staff that made the radio division as popular as it is.

Honeysett said all divisions of Tribune Publishing are generating profit.

December 15, 1985 — Larry Snider got his new job Thanksgiving weekend, and he’s been working overtime to put his own imprint on a new radio format. Time was limited, because the station, KQIN, 820 kHz., was destined to hit the big-time. After a decade of low power and a sunset sign off, KQIN began a 24-hour broadcast day last Wednesday. Daytime it has 50,000 watts, nighttime 5,000 watts.

With full power, Snider hopes to carve a niche out of the already crowded adult-contemporary field. He’ll do it with a diverse pop-music base, peppered with “the flavor of soul.”

“This is not a `black’ thing,” Snider said. “It’s just recognition that there is a lot of music that doesn’t get played.”

Previously the station’s music planner had been Greg McClure, a former KZAM/KJZZ programmer. McClure planned an eclectic format that he described as “sort of FM on the AM.” But after six months of planning and four quiet weeks of execution, McClure left (both sides agreed) “because of philosophical differences.”

Snider, with air work and music-selection jobs at KZAM and its successor, KLSY, was the first disc jockey McClure hired. Snider had been helping with the format.

Now Snider is revising the process, building a card file to match each music cartridge. The basic library has several groups of like-sounding tunes, with a category of “golden” hits. It’s this category that will flavor KQIN: early rock _ back to Sam Cooke, the last from Smokey Robinson, everything ever done by Diana Ross and/or the Supremes.

Snider said most stations categorize music by tempo. His process focuses on a “feel.” Snider alone decides whether a song sounds “jazzy,” “contemporary”’ or “black,” for instance.

“Whatever jazz we play,” Snider said, “will be foot-tapping jazz, not cerebral jazz. It should all be familiar music, but maybe not heard recently.

“Jimi Hendrix, for instance,” Snider interjected. “The last time I heard a song by him on an FM station was in 1979.”

His goal is to lure listeners back from FM stations. That’s where most listeners are.

It’s a tough fight for a new adult-contemporary format, especially on an AM station, to get a foothold. Seattle dialers long ago learned to tune right past the low-powered KQIN as it went through country, nostalgia, beautiful music and an earlier satellite-supplied adult-contemporary. With its daytime power boost and the added presence of a nighttime broadcast schedule (at a much lower 1,000 watts), Snider hopes he has the formula to stop dial-twisters.

Within a week, Snider will announce announce a permanent air shift of moderately familiar names. One of the members of the recently assembled staff is Leilani McCoy, formerly of KZAM and KEZX. McCoy recently ad-libbed a series of station “one-liners,” describing the format somewhat tongue-in-cheek as “gold and silver . . . and platinum . . . and tin and antimony . . . and a few other alloys.”

KQIN is owned by All Pro Broadcasters, with the principal owner Willie Davis, a former athlete with several business interests, including other stations. A sales office remains in Burien, but the studios have been moved to a Denny Regrade office building.

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Author: Victor Stredicke

Former radio columnist for the Seattle Times (1964-1989). --- View other articles by Victor Stredicke
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