Saturday, August 29, 2009

KAAY Transmitter Building

Several contributors have added to this blog, in regard to the mammoth 50,000 watt transmitter, which sent the signal of KAAY programming over most of Arkansas during the daytime hours, and throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond at night. I thought some of the readers of this site might enjoy seeing the building in which that huge piece of equipment was housed. The top photo shows the three towers on the property. The second is a sign just past the locked gate, in the driveway to the structure. The transmitter building for the station is located at Wrightsville, Arkansas, some 20 minutes from downtown Little Rock. It is a two-story, brick structure, complete with a bomb shelter, emergency broadcasting equipment, an emergency generator, workshop, equipment storage, music library and an apartment for the resident transmitter engineer. These photographs were shot during the summer of 2007. This was during my first visit to see it, when I also interviewed Felix McDonald, the original transmitter engineer for many years, who lives about a half-mile from the building. According to several sources, McDonald kept the grass mowed, and the entire area, both inside and out, in immaculate condition. He was a stickler for the entire transmitter complex and grounds (which was HIS baby), and believed it keeping it neat, clean and in good repair. As you can see, the site has not been cared for in that manner, probably beginning when Felix retired a few short years ago. As a former engineer and host of "Beaker Street," Tom Rusk said, "Companies and people just don't take pride in their work today. The condition of the transmitter building and surrounding area is just sad to see today. Felix McDonald took great pride in the part of KAAY operation that he supervised. In today's corporate environment, we just don't have that anymore." Of course, this building is where the program "Beaker Street" originated, and where Clyde Clifford and others gave us underground radio programming from 1966 until 1977. The studios in LIttle Rock were where most of the programming originated, but this area represents the heart of the KAAY broadcast operation.

Richard Robinson


  1. **sigh**
    I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that during "our time" at KAAY, the transmitter never looked like this. Felix and his helpers kept the entire property mowed and respectable looking. Sorry folks for the forlorn look - we did keep it in a lot better shape than this! Dave M//

  2. Felix had his engineers wax the transmitter to make it shine. And it did!

    My key to a successful transmitter operation with Felix as my Transmitter Supervisor was to leave him alone and let him do things his way.

    I only had one constant source of constant disagreement - whether to adjust the power level of the 50,000 watt MW-50B transmitter by using the power adjustment knob or by adjusting the transmitter RF loading control.

    Just before I left KAAY, Multimedia engineer Terry Baum brought his audio spectrum analyzer to town and we tuned the MW-50B for minimum distortion. I normally tuned the transmitter with an Intermodulation Distortion Analyzer, but with Terry's machine we found that we could significantly lower the second harmonic distortion. We also found that virtually every control on the transmitter had an effect, including the loading control. After Terry was through, that MW-50B sounded pretty sweet.

    The week after I left, I heard the on-air distortion slightly increase and knew that Felix had adjusted the power with the loading control.

    But that didn't matter because a week later, my successor decided that he needed to tune the transmitter to his liking and the sound was back to square one.

  3. I had the privilege of climbing the 3 towers many times from about 1987 till Felix retired. A long time friendship with Felix and Leta has been the ultimate privilege.

  4. a little background info...Used to listen to KAAY Little Rock Ark. late late at night on my Rocket Radio. I was in grade eight or so at the time and would have been about twelve or thirteen years old , I was living in Emerson Manitoba a small Canadian Boder town about a one hour drive south of Winnipeg. In the mid seventies I had the good fortune to spend three months in Cozumel Mexico. One evening I was sipping a Superior cervasa at the local seaside cantina....and much to my astonishment and A M radio joy the call letters KAAY LITTLE ROCK came beaming loud and clear over the bar house sound system...This called for a celebration and I ordered a shot of very very dangerous Mescall said "Salut" and knocked it back in memory of my late nite radio-wave youth...and to the time and miles between these memories