Monday, September 13, 2010

Hollis Duncan Checks In!

At my request, I was pleasantly surprised to find an e-mail today from Hollis Duncan!  He has quite a history to report and I'll let him tell it:


After spending last evening posting comments on your site, I thought that I might introduce myself. I was delighted to find your invitation. Please feel free to post, edit, or disregard this message as you see fit.

Here's my history in Central Arkansas radio.

I grew up in Heber Springs and clearly remember KAAY playing the Baby Elephant Walk and then turning itself into the Silver Dollar Sound of Music. I remember the controversy over Louie Louie and Len Carl's
editorials defending the song.. I even ordered a copy of the lyrics from KAAY. Somewhere I might have autographs by Doc Holiday (presumably A.J. Lindsey) and the late Buddy Karr, whose family ran a highly-successful radio station in Portageville, Missouri, near Poplar Bluff.  As the only rock station on the dial, KAAY was a pretty big deal in Heber Springs.

Thanks to Charles Rasberry at KASU, I knew that Harold Sudbury (KLCN-Blytheville, KNBY-Newport, KSUD-West Memphis) held a CP for 1370 in Heber Springs. Mr. Sudbury acquired the Heber Springs CP
when he purchased KTPA-Prescott from Mr. Cochran (KCCL-Corning). Mr. Sudbury put KAWW-1370 on the air in 1967 with used tube-type equipment and, thanks to Mr. Rasberry, I was prepared and was the only kid in town with a Third Class License. I was an easy, though talentless, hire.

Tommy Riggs helped me get the KAWW job. I needed some teletype copy for an aircheck and called KMYO, who told me to go to hell. I then called the KAAY newsroom line and Tommy answered. He was delighted to help me. He let me in through the back door and gave me a big pile of copy that I used to create an aircheck. I then stood on the corner of the control room and watched the legendary Rock Robbins at work. I also met Jerry Pitcock, who was then Ken Knight, and Jerry encouraged me to pursue a radio career and gave me several tips. I never forgot the kindness that I received from Tommy and Jerry that evening.

I did weekends at KAWW for its first two years and after the Chief Engineer left, I became the de facto engineer. KAWW was one of the first affiliates of KARK's Arkansas Radio Network and as I recall, Les Bolton did the very first ARN newscast. Because of our ARN affiliation, I spent a lot of time around KARK and soon made friends with KARK's Assistant Chief Engineer Tom Spencer, who taught me a lot about radio engineering. In those (pre-Snider) days, the KARK engineers were in the Union and it was fun to sit in the control room and watch the engineer-announcer operation at work. I remember watching Bill Deitz, Lloyd Denny, Jim Elder & Bill Valentine, and Tom Longfellow on the air at KARK-AM. KARK was a fast-paced operation that took NBC feeds several times an hour and ran NBC Monitor all weekend. It was a great place to see traditional radio at work.

I then did weekends at Conway's KVEE-AM and KVEE-FM (separate locations and programming) and then moved to KCON-1230 while Bill Johnson was still the boss. I also made friends with Dale Seidenschwartz at KAAY and would visit him at the KAAY transmitter at Wrightsville. Dale showed and taught me a lot about the KAAY transmitter and antenna and those lessons came in very handy when I joined KAAY as Chief Engineer.

While at KCON, I received my First Class Radiotelephone License. The ink barely dry, I quickly joined KALO-1250 as Chief Engineer. Bernie Mann had just purchased KALO and was trying to bring it out of the engineering dark ages. KALO was originally KGHI (and briefly KAJI) with studios at Stiff's Station (later the location of Pizza d'Action) and 3-tower array behind Shakey's Pizza on Rebsamen Park Road.. KALO was the first new radio station in Little Rock after WWII and the transmitter site was mostly original from that era. Everything was wrong with it. After an exciting studio and transmitter rebuild, I decided that working the evening shift at KXLR would be a lot more fun (and it was).

By 1972, KXLR was operating from its transmitter site in Protho Junction. I was the third in a series of Bob Roberts. At the time, KXLR and KDXE-1380 were the Country Music stations in Little Rock, although KLRA soon joined us. KXLR had a 4-tower array that was built in 1953 after KXLR (formerly KNLR) won 1150 in a contest with a Forrest City application and moved from 1450. The transmitter and antenna had been very well constructed and the KXLR antennas had a counterpoise like the KAAY antenna system. As an aside, counterpoises do wonders to stabilize the base impedance of an antenna but are currently disfavored because they are hard to model on a computer.. KXLR needed me because I had a First Class License to operate the antenna array at night. the antenna array was located at the edge of the Arkansas River swamps and we regularly used a boat to read the base meter at the NE tower. But with the counterpoise in place, the antenna array was stable even as the river level rose and fell.

I also made friends with the crew at KLRA-1010 which was at Galloway, just east of KXLR. KXLR signed off at midnight, so I would drive to KLRA and keep Paul Demaree company until he signed off at 1 a.m. I got to know a lot about KLRA, but that deserves an email of its own.

While I was working at KXLR, I did a little transmitter work at KEWP. Does anyone remember that brief operation?

I left KXLR to build KLAZ and I have already told you a lot of that story. But perhaps it deserves its own email. And that leads to my only meeting with A.J. Lindsey. In 1972, A.J. was managing KOKY. Eloise Bibbs left KALO for KOKY and A.J. asked her to introduce us. I came in and A.J. told me, with a smile, that by giving KALO a decent air sound, I had caused him a lot of trouble. And then, completely unbidden, he picked up the telephone and called Joe Dickey and recommended me for the KLAZ job. I never forgot this unexpected act of kindness.

Meanwhile, the Texas Border was calling. I moved to Del Rio in 1974 and went to work at KDLK-AM-FM. There is nothing like having your radio station off the air and knowing that you are the only engineer within 150 miles to focus your attention. During my time in Del Rio, I became acquainted with Paul Kallinger, legendary announcer at 250,000 watt XERF across the river. I worked in Eagle Pass, Laredo, and KINT in El Paso before ending my Texas phase at KVIL AM-FM in Dallas (Highland Park). I can tell you through personal experience that Ron Chapman, PD of KVIL, deserves an even bigger reputation than he already has. Unfortunately, Fairbanks was a cheap outfit and starved me out after a year, so I went back to El Paso and built KFIM, a new Class C FM at the far end of a tramway. I then moved to Seattle as a Consulting Engineer and did a lot of directional antenna work.

And then KAAY came calling and that deserves an email of its own.

As Ray Taylor - Coyote Kincaid later said, we were part of KAAY's last dying gasp as a Rock & Roll Radio Station.. I left the oncoming KAAY disaster to help build KLRT-16 in Little Rock under Chief Engineer Dexter Merry. After a couple of years at KLRT, I took an Electrical Engineering degree from Seattle University, became licensed as a Registered Professional Engineer in Washington, took a law degree from Seattle University School of Law, and then Graduate studies in Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. I now practice Electrical Engineering in Seattle but have long since priced myself out of reach of broadcasters. Like Little Rock, there are several radio stations in the Seattle area that have gone away,
never to return.

So there's my history in Arkansas radio. I haven't seen the inside of a broadcast transmitter in over 20 years.

Best regards,

Hollis W. Duncan
Edmonds WA"

Hollis' comments of how helpful and kind Tommy Riggs, A. J. Lindsey and Jerry Pitcock were reminds me of how classy folks at KAAY were- and still are.  No matter if they were a deejay, an engineer or anywhere in between, I have seen nothing but class.  You have to admire a station and people like that- I have, for all these many years.
Thank you, Hollis!  Please visit, comment and e-mail any time!
Bud S. (

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