Tuesday, December 1, 2009

KAAY Signal Strength and Reach


The 50,000-watt clear-channel AM signal offered KAAY coverage that no other station in Arkansas could match. During the daytime hours, the primary coverage area reached all of central and much of southern Arkansas with a strong signal (Silliman, 1967). When combined with the secondary coverage area, the entire state was covered by the signal of the station (Silliman, 1967). This is one reason why the station touted itself as “The Friendly Giant” (Walsh, 1994) (Appendix T).

During the nighttime hours, however, with the phenomenon of Skywave, or skip, caused by atmosphere conditions, the station’s signal stretched across virtually all of central North America, into Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of Northern South America (Silliman, 1967). The station collected and totaled mail from listeners for a period of 6 weeks, from January 27 through March 7, 1964 (Appendix ). A total of 14,437 cards and letters were received from 40 states, 11 countries, and from the USS Saratoga, which was a United States Naval ship at sea (KAAY, 1964). According to several sources, the signal at night reached 40 states and 15 foreign countries (Walsh, 2004; Graham, 2008; Seidenschwarz, 2008).

“We got a ton of mail right from the start (of Beaker Street). I mean garbage bags full of mail (Appendix W). And I’d try to answer it, but there was no way,” Seidenschwarz recalled (Seidenschwarz, 2008). According to both Pat Walsh and Eddie Graham, KAAY held the number 1 spot in Des Moines, Iowa at night for several years, and was quite popular throughout the Midwest (Graham, 1994). The station also made the ratings books in Chicago, although it was never a ratings leader there. Chicago had its own 50,000-watt powerhouse station, WLS (Lindsay, 2008). It was reported that Beaker Street turned up among the radio station ratings in Chicago, Illinois, where it had one-half of one percent of the listening audience (Edmark, 1980). While that is not a large rating share for a radio station, Chicago had nearly 50 radio stations at the time, and even local stations were considered successful if they obtained a single digit share of the audience (Edmark, 1980).

Beaker Street typically produced strong rating numbers in its first hour of the program, from 11:00 p.m. until 12:00 midnight. Ratings services did not provide audience measurements for markets such as Little Rock, Arkansas after midnight. Several sources indicated that it did make ratings books in markets such as Des Moines, Iowa, Chicago, Illinois, and others (Graham, 2004; Walsh, 2004; Lindsay, 2008). When KAAY management once tabulated listener mail response for a period of 6 weeks in 1964, of the 14,437 pieces of mail, the station received over 1,000 items from the Midwest states of Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. There were 70 mail responses from Canada and 6 from the Panama Canal Zone. The station utilized this information in a brochure, as mail outs and in sales presentations (Appendix U) (KAAY, 1964).

Graham said:

Oh, well you can tell (in radio) when you are doing something successful, from the responses that you get. We had responses from all over mid-America on the program; telephone calls, people writing in, and so forth. We’d get cards; they call them QSLs (written confirmation of a radio signal reception). They asked for a response that they actually picked you up, and they’ll describe some of the programming that they heard, at a certain time. And, we’ve had them from Sweden, which was obviously around the poles back down around the other side of the earth, all over South America, down through there (Graham, 2008).

Seidenschwarz recalled:

The station signal went way out there at times. During the Vietnam conflict I got several letters from Southeast Asia. And you see, I never really thought about that then. But while I was broadcasting at night, over there it was daytime. And the big thing about sky waves is that you’re dealing with reflective signals from the nighttime ionosphere, and during the day the sun dissipates the ionosphere. You only have ionosphere on the dark side of the planet, and I guess what was happening is that it would get its last bounce and then bounce into the daytime signal, and they were hearing it over on the other side of the world. They would send lists of the stuff that I played and requests and all (Read, 1993).

According to Eddie Graham, the phenomena of this is quite feasible. “Ham radio operators talk all over the world using small amounts of wattage by comparison. Beaker Street was being beamed over a 50,000 watt AM radio station. Depending upon conditions, the signal went all over everywhere” (Graham, 2008).


  1. Does anybody remember when one would receive telephone calls asking what station we listen to on our radios? I always replied, "KAAY is my favorite" The usual response, "Huh!" was something which always made me chuckle. I was thrilled that somebody actually wanted my opinion. Those same phone calls became an annoyance later on in life.


  2. I have a non-sequitor reply because I can't find any other room to post this. :) This goes back to a New Years Eve several years ago. I was feeling down and had had some booze. Nothing helped. Then I heard FAMILY THEATER on KAAY. And so I wrote the station. These ********* wrote me back to say, "Thanks for calling this to our attention. We will immediately stop all Family Theater programs. They were being run in violation..." Blah Blah. What bunch of ******** !!!

  3. I bet your wimps won't approve of my TRUE KAAY comment on Family Theater.

  4. I remember listening to Beaker St. in NY. But could not wait til it got dark in 1965. Now an old man in FL at 2015 and have just downloaded all the shows I could find so I relive some memories of my younger years tuning in on my gigantic tube radio with a wire strung out my window to the nearest tree.What memories when I can put it on my stereo and blast the neighbors. Thanx so much. Rob in Tampa

  5. All I can remember is when I lived in the suburbs of NYC I had a great big old tube radio and ran a wire outside to a big old tree and waited till night to listen and just waited for the best music going. By the way it was 1965 and I was 15. Memories,memories so that's why I DO download anything I can! Thanx, Rob who is now 65 and still blast the great music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. I was in college in SouthEastern Iowa inn 1964-68 and worked nights you boomed in my 58 Ford radio,,,Mighty 1090 great souds at the time.