Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Memories Of KAAY Radio

This is probably going to be a different perspective than most of the contributors to the Mighty 1090 blog. I've never worked in the broadcasting industry in any capacity nor in the music industry. I'm also not a baby boomer, since I was born in the mid 1960's.

KAAY was for many years the station that my parents listened to. Both of my parents were Arkansas natives but had lived in Wichita Kansas and met each other there and married. A few months before I was born, my parents relocated back to Arkansas and moved eventually to McGehee. My first exposure to radio was KAAY which they received with tube-type clock radio in their kitchen and occasionally they would listen to the local station, KVSA in McGehee. In 1972, we relocated to Pine Bluff for a few years, North Little Rock and finally rural Lincoln County where I became a teenager.

In Pine Bluff I got my first radio, a transistor pocket radio that was AM only. I managed to find KAAY, and KOTN (Pine Bluff) the two dominant stations at the time (Pine Bluff had other stations such as KCLA and KCAT). I could hear KLRA but I didn't like the twangy country music as a child.

My father considered being prepared for severe weather, and for about two years we lived in a mobile home near Pine Bluff. When the weather got rough, he would load us up and drive into town, sometimes after midnight. These times (1974-1976) were my only exposure to the Beaker Street radio show, and my Dad would become frustrated of having to hear that "hippie music" just to hear the severe weather warnings, but those warnings were aired and professionally, through the static of thunderstorms.

An important year was 1976. First my parents purchased their first car with a factory FM radio. That was the beginning of the end of their KAAY listening in-car, and secondly I got a GE AM/FM portable for my birthday. By that time, I was living in North Little Rock This was no "DX" machine by any means, but I could tune a bit easier and also I had a personal FM radio for the first time. I discovered stations such as KKYK, KLAZ, and a few others. I still listened to KAAY some but those days were slowing.

The next important year was 1979, I was in middle school, living in Lincoln County and had a budding interest in AM DX. In November of that year, the American Embassy in Iran was raided by radical Islamic students supported by the Iranian government. It was at that time, that a talk show on weekday evenings premiered hosted by Dick Price. Price's talk show was my introduction to talk radio. While I listened to KAAY some, most of my listening was to the FM music stations that I could pull in from Little Rock.

By about 1980-81 I only occasionally listened to KAAY. My first car (old and used ) had an AM only radio and while I listened to AM music in the car, it was only until I had gotten an FM radio/cassette tape player for it. I did discover the show Blues Alley and occasionally ran across the 9pm-Midnight paid religion block that KAAY was doing in the final years. That reminded me of my early days of listening to KAAY when the music stopped between 6pm-8pm and the preachers took over when most people were at home watching local news and early evening TV.

In March of 1985, I had gotten word of KAAY's pending demise as a secular-formatted radio station I happened to be home of the last day and recorded some airchecks of that time. Sadly those had gotten lost (including a recording of the "final" Beaker Street). At midnight, the station signed off and there was silence then a instrumental version of the Sanford and Son theme came on for a few minutes. The next morning I heard the Southern Gospel music that would become a mainstay for the early months of the post-Rock KAAY.

1985 was like 1979, a watershed year. That year Eddie Sutton would resign as head basketball coach at the University of Arkansas (in my house growing up Hog basketball and football were on equal standing), and my high school had their last graduating class. I graduated the year prior but knew several students in that last class.

My generation was one that looked to MTV and Little Rock FM stations for the latest music. Our "Ipods" were Walkmen or clones, and while we still listened to vinyl, most of us played the store-bought cassettes in the car/boomboxes/walkmans until they were ate up in the tape players (at all the wrong times). Still KAAY had a huge early influence in my music tastes and was a positive ambassador of Arkansas and America. Had I been born a few years earlier, I could have had memories of listening to Beaker Street under my pillow--or returning home from a date. I am grateful to have had the privilege of hearing Sonny Martin, Ray Lincoln, Dick Price, Marvin Vines, and those Razorback football games that never faded out.

A Gen-X fan of the old KAAY,
Star City AR

1 comment:

  1. Bruce M - Houston, TXApril 7, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    Fritze, thanks for sharing your KAAY memories as a Gen-Xer. I’m on the tail-end of the Boomers (born 1961) and want to share my memories of KAAY, all Beaker Street. It was around 1973 and I was 12, living in mid-Missouri. I had 4 huge teeth pulled one day to get ready for braces, and I was up late at night with severe pain. I had an AM radio; while turning the dial amongst all the late night noise, I came across KAAY…I think there was a cool song playing, then I heard the background track. WOW! This was COOL! I would thereafter go to sleep with the radio on (if I was still awake at 11!) and listen to the show. Sometimes I’d wake up for Beaker Theatre. After I got my driver’s license and became busier, I listened to Beaker Street less often. I recall only a few times picking it up in the car, as the show discontinued sometime around 1977. You may have heard the brief clips posted on the web….one of Stuart advertising the “new” Rush Farewell to Kings album I had on a tape. I later followed FM stations, often driving several miles in the country to barely pickup KSHE 95 from St. Louis, a VERY COOL station! Anyway, I wanted to share a list of songs that I remember from Beaker Street. BTW, I never paid attention to the DJ’s back then, please accept my apologies!
    A few Beaker Street Classics that I recall in the mid 70’s era…
    Blind Faith – Had to Cry Today
    King Crimson – Court of the Crimson King
    Steve Miller- Fly Like an Eagle
    Led Zeppelin – In my Time of Dying, Stairway…, Kashmir, Nobody’s Fault but Mine
    Peter Frampton Live – Do You Feel Like we Do
    Ted Nugent – Together, Writing on the Wall, Stranglehold
    Rush – 2112, Necromancer, Lakeside Park
    Black Sabbath – Wheels of Confusion, War Pigs, Paranoid, others
    Jaime Brockett – Legend of USS Titanic
    Frank Zappa – Montana
    Leon Russell – Jumping Jack Flash
    Also, lot of Yes, Little Feat, Allman Bros. I could add a few more with time, but these may stir up a memory or two!