Jonesboro’s KBTM-FM 101.9 is considered to have been the first FM radio station in Arkansas. It went on the air in 1947, 17 years after KBTM-AM 1230 became an officially licensed station. Initially the AM was the primary station, serving a vital role in Jonesboro, while the FM was little more than a muzak-type easy listening service. But that changed as FM became dominant in the 1970s. So KBTM-FM 101.9 was upgraded and through various incarnations over the years, played rock and pop music. It eventually became a 100,000 watt powerhouse, broadcasting from an 1,100 foot tower with a signal reaching parts of five states.
For most of their existence the stations were locally owned, but with deregulation and the corporate consolidation frenzy of the 1990s, they were sold and eventually ended up in the hands of Clear Channel. In September 2010 the company killed the mighty FM signal so that it could put a lower power station on the air at the same frequency in Memphis, 70 miles away. Having worked there for a couple of years when it was known as Power 102 and knowing the rich history of both the FM and AM stations, I couldn’t help but feel sad about the loss of another local institution.
Finding there was very little on the history of the stations online, I decided to add this section to my website. I’ve spoken at great lengths with many of those who ran the stations and former employees, using direct quotes of their experiences as much as possible to tell the story of the stations. I’ve also scanned photos from many sources and digitized reel-to-reels and cassette tapes to include audio of airchecks and jingle packages, many of which date back more than half a century. I’ve also included many of the full interviews I recorded while putting this together. I welcome additional contributions, airchecks, photos or stories from any of the many people who worked in that building at 603 Madison Avenue or its later home next to KFIN. You can email me at email@example.com. I also welcome any corrections to the information I’ve presented here.
A lot of people came through over the years, with many going on to big careers in broadcasting. Many of those were, like myself, college students at Arkansas State University, willing to work for minimum wage while happy to get some real world radio experience. The photo above is one I took of the building in 1992. It housed the stations for more than half a century until consolidation began in the 1990s. I’m happy to say that as of this revision in September 2014, the old building is still standing and today houses a law firm.
JAY BEARD CREATES KBTM
The story behind the birth of KBTM-AM in 1924 was well told in the 1974 book Arkansas Airwaves, written by Ray Poindexter, which features fascinating looks at the backgrounds of many of Arkansas’ early radio stations. Below is an excerpt:
Various circumstances have led to the establishing of radio stations. An effort by a young man to earn a Boy Scout merit badge in radio was the impetus that brought about Paragould’s first station. In 1924, Jay Palmer Beard was searching hobby magazines, looking for a circuit diagram of a radio receiving set when he found a drawing of a low-powered radio transmitter. His father, W. J. Beard had established Beard’s Temple of Music in Paragould in 1903, and in 1924 he was considering adding radio to the line of musical merchandise.
Jay built the small transmitter and tested it in the back room of their home. Some friends came in from a few blocks away and said, “We hear you as clear as a bell.” His parents were thrilled by his accomplishment. His father wanted to go even further with the project. Allan Grace, a friend and former employee of the music store, had built his own short wave station in Jonesboro. He was hired to build a more powerful transmitter. Jay’s father operated the unit on Sunday afternoons on an irregular, unscheduled basis.
An application for a licensed radio station was filed with the Federal Radio Commission in 1928. Times were good then and it seemed a wise enterprise. The FRC was a newly created body at that time and they weren’t handing out licenses for new stations on a wholesale basis. To receive a permit, the applicant had to show that he was financially able and technically capable of operating a station to serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity.” Jay and his father collected thousands of notarized signatures. Accompanied by a notary public, they attended gatherings such as fourth of July picnics, Labor Day celebrations, political rallies, carnivals and singing conventions. Names were obtained from all economic and age groups. These lists, along with personal letters from public officials, professional people and other individuals, were sent to the Commission as proof that a radio station was desired by the potential listening audience. As the poet once expressed, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” The Post Office returned a partially-burned envelope containing about 1,500 signatures. A mail plane had crashed and burned in Virginia. Fortunately enough letters and signatures had already been sent to make a favorable impression on the Commission members. On October 29, 1929, the stock market crashed, and the “Great Depression” was launched. 22 days later, November 20, 1929, a construction permit was granted for the station. The financial status was rapidly changing. Pianos and other musical instruments were not exactly considered to be essential necessities of life.
Poindexter also wrote that the assigned call letters for the new station were KGKZ, but that a request was made that they become KBTM, which stood for Beard’s Temple of Music, the name of the family’s store. The new call letters were assigned December 14, 1929. An engineer from Little Rock was brought up to Paragould to help build a new transmitter and studios and Poindexter writes that the station made its first official broadcast March 16, 1930.
KBTM proved to be extremely popular and within a few years moved to the larger city of Jonesboro, where it built a staff of announcers and would broadcast live musical performances from throughout the area. The station also became vital in sharing information with the public, first during a massive flood that struck in 1937 and again during World War II, airing late breaking reports at all hours of the day and night via the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1942, KBTM moved into what Poindexter describes as an “ultra modern new building” at 603 Madison in Jonesboro. It would remain the home for the station for the next half-century.
AUDIO: KBTM jingle package, possibly from the late 1940s or early ’50s. Note how the singers had likely been instructed on how to say “Jones-bur-uh,” the way locals said it.
KBTM-FM BECOMES FIRST FM STATION IN ARKANSAS
FM broadcasting had been developed by Edwin Howard Armstrong as a way to broadcast without the interference that AM was susceptible to and with better fidelity. But there were years of legal battles between Armstrong and his former employer RCA, which saw it as a threat to the established radio industry. There were also countless copyright battles and struggles over establishing the standards for FM broadcasting.
Jay Beard apparently saw the potential of FM and put what is credited as being the first FM radio station in Arkansas on the air in 1947. For the next four decades it was broadcast from the same tower used by KBTM-AM on Aggie Road, along U.S. 49 in Jonesboro. These photographs were shared by Jay Beard with the Patteson family, which eventually bought the stations. They document the arrival and installation of the original FM transmitter in the summer of 1947.
Below is the Gates FM transmitter in a wooden crate being unloaded from the back of a truck. The next photo shows what is believed to be the original Gates AM transmitter, with space for the FM transmitter to be installed. Workers hoisted up the antenna, with others then climbing the tower to secure it in place.
For the first couple of decades, KBTM-FM broadcast at 8,000 watts. Guy Patteson, son of co-owner Alan Patteson, noted in a 2010 interview that “it was not customary to put an FM antenna on an AM tower because you had to do all this extravagant insulating stuff. It was like putting oil with water.” The FM signal would later be upgraded to 50,000 watts, then 100,000 watts in 1974, with 10 bays lining the side of the tower. It would eventually need to be moved to a much taller tower to maintain the station’s class C status because of a mandate from the Federal Communications Commission.
While FM was still relatively unknown to the general public, it’s clear from these photos that those running the operation were aggressively promoting KBTM’s new FM sister station. It’s unknown what year these photos are from, they weren’t dated on the back, but were probably from the late 1940s or early ’50s. They were part of a batch of 8×10 black and white photos that Jay Beard gave the Pattesons after their eventual purchase of the stations.
You can see in the photo that the banner in front of the microphone says KBTM FM. I have no idea who these people are or what the performance was. In a second photo that appears to be from the same show a small orchestra is nearby. I can only assume it was some kind of live performance being broadcast. The radio on top of the piano is interesting. I wonder if they actually turned up the radio station while waiting for their cues. Looks like it could have been an early AM/FM radio. Or maybe it was just a prop. Wish I knew more.
The photo here was from an Easter parade with two horses pulling a wagon with a sign that says KBTM AM and FM. I can’t help but think what a contrast this is from decades later when we would just drive the station van at local parades, tossing out candy. Again, there were no hints written on the back of this photo offering any details, meaning that as Guy Patteson and I were digging through looking at these images, all we could do was scratch our heads and wonder. If anyone out there has any insight to share, it would be welcomed. I assume these are people who were on the air at KBTM, maybe did a country and western program. I notice that the guy under the umbrella looks much older than the other three men on the brick street in front of a furniture store. If you have any ideas, you can click on the email icon at the bottom of the page to send me a note.
JAY BEARD SELLS KBTM-AM/FM
24 years after officially starting KBTM, Jay Beard decided to sell the stations in 1954. In a 1979 interview with the Arkansas Gazette, Beard told the newspaper “I think I timed everything just about right. I began when radio was still magic — voices through the air — and I quit when I was still young enough to enjoy my retirement.” The article was about Beard winning the Arkansas Broadcasters Association’s Pioneer Award that year.
While he got out of the business, the radio stations he started clearly remained in Beard’s heart. In a 1985 Christmas letter to then-owner Alan Patteson, Beard wrote that “KBTM and KJBR are landmarks in this area and as time rolls on it is good to see them stand out under your leadership.” Even though Beard sold the radio stations, he retained ownership of the building that housed them, with the later station owners paying him rent. Beard also continued to periodically stop by the stations, as David Wallace, who worked there a couple of years in the early 1980s, explained.
DAVID WALLACE: “I remember Mr. Beard would come by occasionally. I didn’t know much about him really but what I was told, and again it was like The Morning Herald and Clarence Adams, these were institutions from the past, but I just remember a reverence for Mr. Beard when he would come to the station. It was almost like a visit from the Pope. Everybody was so respectful because of what he had built and I think we all sort of had an awareness that we were carrying on his legacy. That was interesting. He would come by just to check on things. He was in his late 70s or early 80s. He seemed old to me, but I was like 24.”
Beard sold the stations to Hal King, who only ended up keeping them for four years. Below is an advertisement that ran in the annual industry publication Broadcasting Yearbook in 1955 also noting that “In this young broadcasting business, a quarter century is a long time.” For three years during King’s ownership, ads were purchased in the publication to solicit advertising for the stations.
AUDIO: KBTM jingle package. I’m not sure exactly what year this is from, but I’d guess from the sound that it’s the early to mid-1950s.
The photo to the left is from a newspaper ad that ran in 1955, touting the 25th anniversary of KBTM. King apparently had big aspirations and around the same time period also bought Little Rock station KGHI-AM 1250. In a 1956 ad in Broadcasting Yearbook, which is below, it touted that together the stations covered three-quarters of the state. That’s a little bit of a stretch. There was also ad for the radio stations in the 1957 Broadcasting Yearbook, which you can see by clicking on the link. Later owner Alan Patteson said that King also purchased a station somewhere in Florida.
Broadcasting Yearbook, which listed all licensed radio and TV stations in the country, noted in 1956 that a construction permit had also been issued by the FCC for KBTM-TV. I haven’t found anything about that beyond the listing, but it appears King was also pursuing the possibility of putting a television station on the air in Jonesboro with the same call letters. It was on channel 8, which eventually became KAIT-TV. I assume management decided not to pursue it any further or sold the license. Within a few years KAIT would be on the air at that channel, listed as a satellite relay of ABC network affiliate KATV in Little Rock.
PATTESON BROTHERS BUY KBTM
In 1958, Alan and Carter Patteson bought KBTM-AM/FM. “It began strictly as an investment,” Alan told me in a January 2011 interview. He and his wife had, by chance, become friends with Hal King, who bought it four years before that from Jay Beard.
ALAN PATTESON JR: “We met Hal and had no idea he was interested in selling the station. It turned out that a third party who happened to know that we were looking for an investment knew that Hal was interested in selling the radio station, which we did not know. But the third party brought us together and it worked because we happened to know why he was interested in selling the station. We checked into it and it was a good investment for us. Carter and I are very alike. We were young. I was 28. We had a reasonable amount of business knowledge already. Principles don’t change much from business to business. We did not have broadcasting experience, but were intrigued by it. We weren’t looking for just any business. It seemed like a fit. We both were literate, we had similar interests, my brother and I. We were not right off the farm and we both were local, we’d grown up in the community. There were more positives than negatives about it.”
Alan said they made the arrangements in 1957 and took over KBTM-AM/FM in January of 1958. They would end up owning the stations for 35 years. The immediate challenges concerned programming and possible expansions that could be made.
ALAN PATTESON JR: “When we bought the station the AM was 250 watts daytime only and the FM was 8,000 watts. TV had just gotten popular and FM was considered a lame duck. What would you do with FM? Many people dropped their FMs. FM was getting ready to kick off just when TV came along and it seemed to undermine it. AM went along as regular, then over a period of the next several years music became stereo and a more dominant thing. Over a period of years it turned around and the AM became the lame duck and FM blossomed. When that happened we went to 50,000 watts and then later went to 100,000. The AM we took from 250 watt daytime during our watch to a maximum of a thousand watts and we ended up going to 24 hours.”
AUDIO: KBTM jingle package “Talk of the Town,” produced by the Pepper-Tanner Studios in Memphis, which is from the late 1950s or early ’60s.
AUDIO: KBTM “New Adventure” jingle package from late 1962, produced by Radio and Television Productions, Inc. of Hollywood, California.
In the early years the AM station had block programming, playing different forms of music at different times in the day. On the FM, Alan Patteson says they automated it as much as possible to try and sustain it since it didn’t have much of an audience and wasn’t really a source of revenue.
ALAN PATTESON JR: “I don’t know why, but we didn’t want to give up our FM, which turned out to be a good thing. We also ended up, when we did broadcast on FM, we were the first stereo in Arkansas. And oddly enough, when we first started in stereo, it was like a game. We’d broadcast one channel on AM and one channel on FM and people would have to listen to two radios. We did some crazy things like play records that would have things like the train coming and you could hear the train coming in on one speaker and out the other and all those kinds of sound effects when we first started. And when we became serious about it, everything became stereo then.”
DENNIS ROGERS BEGINS AT KBTM
Dennis Rogers would become one of the most familiar voices on the AM/FM combo. He estimates that over several decades he worked for the stations five separate times, “but Alan always took me back.” Dennis had grown up in radio because his family operated KWYN in his hometown of Wynne, Arkansas, about 45 miles south of Jonesboro. He started with KBTM in August 1965, just before the start of his sophomore year at Arkansas State University. In December 2010, he reflected on how he first came to KBTM.
DENNIS ROGERS: “I needed a job. I needed to make some money for college and my dad said that Alan Patteson was looking for somebody at KBTM. Well of course I was familiar with KBTM and thought, ‘I don’t know if I’m good enough for that station.’ I mean, I’ve been working at podunk KWYN in Wynne. So I called Alan and made an appointment and came up in August. I remember walking into the station and the air conditioning must have been down on about 60 because it was real hot outside and it was real cold inside, and I said, ‘I like this place.’ Alan came out, we went into his office and he interviewed me and he was extremely nice. I liked him right off the bat and he hired me.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “I was going to be working from five until sign off which was usually 10 o’clock unless we had a Cardinal ball game, then it could be whenever. And then I would be working Sunday mornings and my day off was Saturday. I was going to be working 44 hours a week and I believe my salary was $75 dollars a week, somewhere in there, and I was delighted. I thought, ‘man, this is cool.’ But classes didn’t start for a couple of weeks and he wanted me to start the next day. So I said, ‘Well I don’t have any… the dorms aren’t open yet and I don’t have anywhere to stay.’ And he said, ‘well I’ve got an agreement with the Holiday Inn on the corner, you can just stay there for the first week or two. I ended up staying there for two weeks. I thought I was king. And the first night I worked at KBTM, Marvin Smith was the engineer, and he came up and showed me how to run the board. They had this huge GE board with about 14 pots on it. And everything was interchangeable. It had all these push buttons and you could interchange things. It was very complicated. But he showed me how to work it and I played records and read news up until a west coast game for the Cardinals. They were playing the Giants and it didn’t start until like 9:15, 9:30. The next day was Saturday and I had to sign on that day, which was at 5:30. Well the ball game went into extra innings and I remember walking across and down the street to the Holiday Inn at about 2:15 AM and had to be back on the air at 5:30. That was pretty tough, but it was a lot of fun. It was live radio and there’s just nothing like it.”
PROGRAMMING IN 1965:
DENNIS ROGERS on KBTM-AM: “(We were) playing basically top 40 at night. It was block formatted back in those days and we played middle of the road or easy listening in the daytime. You know, Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, that kind of stuff, Les Brown and his Band of Renown. And then on Sunday mornings we played gospel music. We had Harvey, who was this real cool black guy and he came in and did Sunday Morning at the Cross from 6:30 until 7. He always brought donuts and was just such a great guy. He introduced me to the Dixie Hummingbirds and all these famous black gospel acts and it was just a blast. And at night we were playing top 40: Jay and the Americans, the Beatles, Dave Clark Five, all that stuff. The British invasion was on and it was a lot of fun.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “On the FM side there were two Garrard turntables and a four channel mixing board and a carousel cart machine and one microphone and a whole bunch of albums: Martin Denny, 101 Strings, André Kostelanetz, all the easy listening stuff, mostly instrumentals. And we would stack up those Garrards, we’d put eight discs on each one and then every half hour we’d go down and give a live ID and if we had any commercials to play we’d do that manually as well. That was the FM back in those days. But it was stereo.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “I stayed there until ’66. My uncle Bud Raley, who had put on the station in Wynne with my dad Art Rogers, got killed in a car wreck and my aunt then had to take over running that radio station. She called and asked me to come back and help her. So I went back to Wynne. I really shouldn’t have, I really didn’t want to, but I felt obligated because of family and I stayed there for one year to the day and then I came back to KBTM and worked the year of ’67 and then I to Memphis in the year of ’68. And except for that one year in Memphis and one year in Fort Smith, it was Jonesboro.”
AUDIO: Boss jock Dennis Rogers on the air at KBTM-AM in 1967 hosting a Saturday edition of the What’s New Show. The aircheck includes full commercials and other goodies.
DENNIS ROGERS: “We had a pretty cool thing there in ’67. I was playing heavy music at night. I was playing Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix. All that was brand new and the old AM control room had a sliding window directly behind the operators chair and you could open it up in the summertime and let fresh air come in and somewhere to throw your cigarette butt out. The show became very popular and Jonesboro people would actually come up and pull around the back of the building and hang out at the back window. So one night I said, ‘We’ve gotta come up for a name for you guys’ because it was starting to be 15 or 20 or 30 different people every night, so I came up with the Back Window Boogie Club. And there are still members of that club around Jonesboro who remember those days. But it was the only live station in town because KNEA, the other station in town was a daytimer and they signed off at local sunset so it was me basically.”
In February 1968 Dennis left Jonesboro after being hired by Plough radio station WMPS in Memphis, Tennessee. There he would work with some of the biggest names in the industry, even crossing paths with Scott Shannon who would eventually become an icon in New York radio. But Dennis would eventually return to Jonesboro.
AUDIO: Dennis Rogers on the air on a Thursday afternoon in 1968 on legendary top 40 station WMPS, “The Great 68” in Memphis, Tennessee.
AUDIO: In 1969 Dennis returned to Jonesboro and KBTM-AM, with this aircheck of The Dennis Rogers Show from July 8, 1969.
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL) BEGINS CAREER AT KBTM
Arkansas State University was a big school for broadcasting and a great source for cheap air talent with a lot of young people eager to get some real world experience. One of those who would get his start at KBTM and go on to become a longtime radio morning man in Little Rock and eventually a TV anchor was Craig O’Neill. But during the three years he worked at KBTM he was still known by his real name, Randy Hankins. The photo to the left isn’t from his time at KBTM, but from 1982, 10 years after he left Jonesboro and was working at KKYK in Little Rock. A friend suggested during the spring of his freshman year in 1969 that Randy try to get on at KBTM and even called Alan Patteson on his behalf. Randy met with Alan, but ended up spending the summer with his father in Houston. In a July 2011 interview, Randy Hankins said Alan would later reach out to him.
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “Alan calls me in August of ’69 and says ‘Hey, I want to hire you. Come on up when you come back to school, I want you to do a shift for us.’ And man that was the greatest day because I thought, here we go, this is step one in taking over The Tonight Show. This is the beginning of a great career, so I was real dramatic with it, but I will never forget that phone call from Alan Patteson. The trouble was I was overly dramatic and did think this was the first step and I was going to impress everybody right out of the box. I think, as I recall, my first day I did every impression I had in my repertoire, all of them bad. And it was early in the first month or so that Alan Patteson called me. I was working afternoon drive and Alan calls and goes, ‘I’m spending a dime of my own money to call and tell you to shut up. Just shut up. Play the music.’ I never forgot his first call and I’ll never forget his second call!”
Like Dennis Rogers a few years earlier and Guy Patteson a few years later, Randy Hankins also handled running the Sunday morning religious programs on KBTM.
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “We would start at 6 o’clock with H.L. Russell and black gospel and that would be for an hour. And then we would proceed to have every denomination known to man with 15 minutes each except for 11 to 12 o’clock when we’d have the First Methodist Church with Worth Gibson. However rather than listen to the First Methodist Church, I would play Led Zeppelin on the audition channel. If you left your remote switch in the neutral position on the board, whatever you played in audition would then be fed back down the line to your remote spot. One day I did that and fed Led Zeppelin back to the First United Methodist church over the PA. So people were hearing Worth Gibson say ‘let us pray,’ and then ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ The phone rang off the wall and Tom Fox, a local photographer called and goes, ‘what are you doing up there? We’re getting rock and roll music!’ A great day for us all! Didn’t get fired for that. I think they heard about four minutes of ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ which is not a bad thing.”
Hankins says he took three months off at one point to do voicework for an educational organization, then came back to do mornings at KBTM-AM. “That’s when I learned that I was really destined to be a morning man,” said Hankins. “Wake up early and go in there and act a fool. But it wasn’t zany. It was pretty much tame.” Below is an aircheck from one day in 1972 that features part of his shift.
AUDIO: An aircheck of KBTM-AM from January 19, 1972 featuring three shifts on that day: Randy Hankins (later known as Craig O’Neill), Dennis Rogers and Bill Little.
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “My favorite thing at KBTM was the infancy of the FM. The FM at that time was just two record changers through a board. You had a stack of records on two turntables and you would, every 30 minutes, go down and turn the stack of records over. So if you were one of the 18 people in Craighead County that had an FM radio in 1970, you heard the same record over and over. And sometimes it would stick. Or sometimes two records would come down and one would be on top of the needle and that wasn’t very good either.”
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “Dennis was my idol. I can still remember him opening records because records would come into the stations from these record companies in bulk. And I was just so impressed by how much Dennis knew and how he could hear a song and know it was going to be a hit. It was a real interesting time because you had… it was a crossroads in 1969, 1970, 1971. You had the infancy of FM. You had a conservative manager in Clarence Adams, very conservative. You had the progressive liberal Alan Patteson to go with the wild rock Dennis Rogers to go with the overly dramatic Craig O’Neill. Of course on the air I was still Randy Hankins, my real name. But it was a real interesting group of people. And on top of that you had old crusty Paul Hoffman who was the primary sales person who was just out there selling the devil out of advertising dirt cheap, but they were making money.”
While Hankins got his broadcasting degree from ASU, “you got more education at a small town station doing a hundred different things,” he said. “Whoever worked at KBTM came out of there with a general understanding of just about every facet of radio. If you got the KBTM degree, that was the one that was gold.” Soon after finishing at ASU, he would get a job in Little Rock, first doing nights at KARN-AM 920, back when it was still an MOR music station. But a manager suggested the air name Craig O’Neill, which would become legendary in Little Rock radio. Soon he was doing mornings at KARN, then, over the next few decades handled wake up duty at KLAZ-FM 98.5, KKYK-FM 103.7 and KURB-FM 98.5. He then made the transition to television sports and news at CBS affiliate KTHV-TV 11. But he says the days immediately after leaving Jonesboro were hard.
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “I got homesick for KBTM for about the first few months because KARN was in a competitive situation. Within three months I was on the morning show on KARN up against one of the radio legends of central Arkansas, Brother Hal. I’m 22-years-old up against this man who had dominated morning radio. It is February 1973. The first book would come out in June and Brother Hal had an incredible 32 and I had an 8. I got killed!”
GUY PATTESON ENTERS FAMILY BUSINESS
The incredible photo to the left was taken in 1974 when Guy was 14, with braces on the teeth, spinning 45s on KBTM-AM. In an interview in January 2011 he talked about what it was like growing up in a family that owned a radio station and going on the air at a relatively young age.
GUY PATTESON III: “I was born in 1960 and have three sisters and a brother. So all five of us kids grew up with ownership of that radio station being very much a part of our lives. We were aware of the nuts and bolts of radio. We knew about sales, we knew about the need to be good readers, good speakers, the ability to write. We were definitely aware of music, all kinds of music and radio copies of records that dad would bring home. So by the mid-60s all five of us were old enough to walk and talk and we were aware of really how big a deal KBTM-AM and FM was and had been to the community. In the mid-60s, unlike today, in most markets back then, at least in these areas, they were much more than just entertainment venues. Local radio back then was very much a part of everyone’s day. Cable television had not yet come to Arkansas or actually most of the country. And here in Jonesboro, the local TV station had not yet affiliated with a major network and had not yet matured into a credible existence because local television was always being compared, just like radio, to the professional signals that were coming out of Memphis. And of course Memphis at the time already boasted of having three network television stations and that’s where Jonesboro residents for the most part got their television. So KBTM-AM and to a lesser extent FM were very much part of the community, much more than just a little music. They were still doing lots of news, lots of sports, so it was more high profile I think than radio stations are these days. So we kids knew that kind of put us in view of people that we didn’t personally know, so we were always sort of cognizant of the fact that owning the radio station was a pretty big deal.”
GUY PATTESON III: “At one point or another all five of us kids worked at the radio station, either cleaning up or keeping books or writing copy or in my case, and I had a sister do this too, the two of us did quite a bit of air work. My first duties included running the board for Cardinal baseball games because it did not require on air work and the board could pretty much be run by anybody with a little training. All the local ads during baseball games were pre-recorded, but they were played at the station. Now I believe they’ve automated that, so they’re sending inaudible tones down that trigger all the commercials. But we had to have living, breathing human beings in the studio to play local ads. So the first time I ever got on the air was probably to give a legal station ID thrown to the local station by the play-by-play guys who, for the most part in my day, were Jack Buck and Mike Shannon.
GUY PATTESON III: “When I got old enough to get my driving permit, I would work on Sunday mornings, Sunday sign on, which consisted of lots of religious block programming and a few opportunities to get on the air with periodic news or intros and outros to the religious programming. Our studios were located downtown on Madison, caddy corner from jail. We were only 30 or 40 yards from the jail and I vividly remember that on Sunday mornings gospel singers and guitar playing religious people would come to the jail. They would be allowed to go into the jail and sing religious songs to help the prisoners and bring them some kind of spiritual service on a weekly basis. I have vivid memories of going outside for a break or to get something out of my car while I was working at the radio station and I would hear, what I assumed was a Pentecostal religious group and they would be singing hymns and it would be coming out of the jail.”
GUY PATTESON III: “I think the first time I was ever on the air as a disc jockey was probably 1974. I do remember the first song I ever introed was Dionne Warwick and the Spinners, “Then Came You.” I remember being nervous as hell and mistakenly thinking the entire world was listening. It was a short into and you didn’t want to walk over the vocals, that’s for sure. That song had a pretty easy little intro, it was not difficult to hit the post. But in ’74 KBTM, the AM side, was still live from sign on to sign off and it pretty much stayed middle of the road with lots of network and state and local news and then Cardinal baseball and ASU sports and Jonesboro High School football and basketball and post season tournaments. So between all that was, for the most part, middle of the road music, although music on AM, even KBTM, by the mid to late ’70s was in the early stages of becoming a losing battle because of the popularity of FM and stereo.”
KBTM-FM JUMPS TO 100,000 WATTS
With more people listening to FM radio, the decision was made to increase the power of KBTM-FM to the maximum possible. The company applied to the Federal Communications Commission and, as The Jonesboro Sun article to the left notes, was allowed to make the upgrade to 100,000 watts. You can read the article from October 18, 1974 as a PDF by clicking on the image. It noted that the station would be known as Stereo 102 and quotes Alan Patteson Jr. saying that the AM and FM stations “will be two separate operations.” It said new equipment had arrived and was undergoing extensive testing before being put on that air. That was a reference to the automation systems that would be used by both stations. The article also says new staff members had been hired to operate the FM.
A great, fun new logo was designed for the new KBTM-FM Stereo 102, which was presented in different ways on letterhead and bumper stickers. The version of the logo to the right comes from stationary. It’s certainly a rather dated looking logo, but these days looks very retro and cool. One thing the Pattesons did not buy at that time for the upgraded FM station was a new tower. Additional FM bays were added to the existing AM tower, with 10 bays transmitting the FM signal. That kind of power shooting from a short stick created terrible interference for anyone near the site. It was just across the street from Arkansas State University, where stories of the intense interference were practically legendary. Anyone with a cheap radio on campus couldn’t pick up anything else on much of the FM band. There are even tales of people being able to hear what was being broadcast through a buzzing in toasters and other metal appliances. But part of the problem for ASU was that it had expanded the campus over the years, getting closer to the transmitter site.
GUY PATTESON III: “The tower on which this FM antenna was hanging was, maybe in 1930 when the AM tower was built, might have been in the country, but it was on the edge of the Arkansas State University campus…”
DENNIS ROGERS: “Right next to the AGR agricultural fraternity building. Those poor guys couldn’t get anything but our stations.”
The first day on the air for the newly upgraded 100,000 watt station was Monday, December 16, 1974. The Jonesboro Sun ran this story the day before that. You can read a PDF of the story by clicking on the article. I also separately scanned the great photo showing staffers Bill Little, Jack Harris and Dennis Rogers working on the automation system. By chance 16 years later I would work for Bill Little when he was co-owner of KDXY in nearby Paragould. The increase in power for KBTM-FM gave it a much bigger coverage area, making it more of a regional station.
GUY PATTESON III: “That was an increase in power but not facilities. Definitely an increase in fidelity, it was an improvement in the sound chain for sure and that upgrade came about because we could.”
The automation system used was extremely complex and had a computer to mix the elements together. Announcers would record a reel containing a voice track, which would be synched with reels containing music that were provided by a radio programming service out of Fresno, California. The reels included tones at the end of each song, announcement or commercial which would automatically start the next element.
ALAN PATTESON JR: “We had two matching automation systems. The FM sort of stayed automated for quite a while. On the AM we were in portions automated, but the majority (of the time) we were live until it reverted and the FM became more and more the major station and AM more and more… what do you do with it?”
To go with the new format and image for the FM, KBTM also bought a new jingle package called “Simple & Free.” It was produced by the William B. Tanner company, which also sold similar versions of the same jingle package to other stations. One of the singers the production company used here was Janie Fricke, who started out singing jingles and later had a string of country music hits.
AUDIO: KBTM-FM Stereo 102 jingle package “Simple and Free” from December 1974, produced by the William B. Tanner company of Memphis.
AUDIO: The first evening on the air after the upgrade of KBTM-FM, with Dennis Rogers playing free-form progressive rock, December 16, 1974.
PROGRESSIVE ROCK HITS KBTM-FM
With the upgrade and re-branding of the FM as Stereo 102, Dennis was its program director and evening DJ. The format was essentially top 40 during the daytime, while at night Dennis aired free-form progressive rock, geared toward college-aged students at Arkansas State University. The recording above of that first night opens with him playing Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” for “some dudes studying” for finals at ASU. The aircheck also includes ads for The Fantasy, a Jonesboro head shop selling pipes, waterbeds and leather accessories, saying “If you want it and you’re with it, you got it at The Fantasy.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “It was a lot of fun because at that time, really FM 100 in Memphis was the nearest free-form rock station. John Scott was doing the nightshift over there. And even with our short tower and lack of reach we did have listeners in Memphis even in those days.”
After Dennis got off the air at Midnight, the station went back to the automation, though continued playing rock for the rest of the night. Guy Patteson eventually became the voice of the overnight shift, recording an automation reel each night that was synched with music.
GUY PATTESON III: “I got that shift probably when I was 16. Of course I was never, for the most part, up there all night because we would record the voice track. But at that time I was 16 and I think I did that a couple of hours. And it was more album rock, it was a continuation of what Dennis had been playing and then when the guys came in the next morning to sign on at 5 o’clock on the AM side, then the music on the FM would go more mainstream and top 40. And at that time, I remember using the air name Pat Allen. I did not use my real name on the air, I used a derivative of my name and there was a pretty good following because of ASU and our approach was young and even on that short of a tower at the time, 110, 120 feet with a big FM antenna strapped to it, the signal was heard much further away than during daylight hours. Also at the time, even in 1974 or ’76 the FM dial was still fairly uncluttered. There wasn’t a lot of stuff on the FM dial. You could scan your tuner and hear nothing between signals, which is difficult to do today.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “I left in 1976, the year after my wife and I got married and went to work full-time for White Dog, which was a local record and hi-fi store. But I continued to voice-track my night show for several months after that and then when I left White Dog two years after that I went to work for KNEA (AM 970). I worked there for a couple of years and then went to KAIT (TV ch. 8) in sales in the early 80s.”
AUDIO: Paul Hoffman’s Sports Scope on KBTM from the mid-1970s. The tape had deteriorated, but is still clear. Includes a live commercial for Happy Burger!
AUDIO: KBTM-FM jingle package from 1979. Includes some for Rick Sherwood, a DJ from a California company that produced voice track reels for KBTM.
CLARENCE ADAMS RETIRES, MORNING HERALD CONTINUES
For almost four decades Clarence Adams had been a fixture at KBTM, not only on the air, but as station manager. The photo to the left came from a KBTM newspaper ad in 1955. A publication looking at the history of agricultural broadcasting noted that he started as a farm broadcaster on KBTM in 1943 hosting a program called Man at the Stockyards, which was a half-hour of the latest market quotes mixed with interviews with farmers in northeast Arkansas on crop conditions and other topics. Adams would go on to become station manager while also serving as news director, which included him anchoring The Morning Herald, which was a daily 15 minute newscast that became extremely popular.
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “The Morning Herald was huge. So many people built their morning around it. And the show stopper for the Morning Herald was obituaries, a good three minutes of obituaries. You’ve heard the top 20 hits? We had the top 20 obits. And that’s when I learned that there were so many relatives of people in Craighead County in Flynt, Michigan. They’d gone up to work in the car factories up in Michigan and everyday there would be somebody survived by someone in Flynt, Michigan. And then years and years later, 35 years later I would read by John Grisham A Painted House and the fact that there’s a family moving up to Flynt, Michigan is a key story line in that novel written and situated in northeast Arkansas and it brought me back to KBTM.”
One person, Thurman Dwight Lane, who wrote his life story on the internet, mentioned the importance of The Morning Herald in his household while growing up in a small community just outside of Jonesboro in the early 1950s. “We did have a radio when we lived at Owl City. I think it was powered by a dry cell battery and when REA run the electric lines to our house we got an electric one. Old habits were hard to break for dad and mom and new ones were hard to form. The dry cell battery was very large and I am sure quite expensive and using the radio was not a casual thing. The Morning Herald news program with Clarence Adams from KBTM radio in Jonesboro, Arkansas gave the local news and told who died, etc, was popular in our house. The radio was turned on for the program, and promptly turned off when it was over, a habit they never changed even after they got a television.”
AUDIO: One of Clarence Adams’ final The Morning Herald newscasts, including the popular obituaries segment, from November 11, 1981.
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “He had a definite way of doing things. He had a belief system that was entrenched in his personal history. He knew how to make a station successful and he actually carried with him an incredible ability to work both sides: to know what worked in sales and appreciate that but at the same time he always was conscious of news and especially of the community. He knew people in the community just because he had been on so long. He didn’t get out there and MC stuff and make himself known in the community like you see now with radio personalities, but he’d just been doing it so long. That Morning Herald that was the mainstay of the radio station. That’s where everybody wanted to advertise, that’s what people wanted to sponsor and Clarence knew what to put in it: obituaries.”
David Wallace was hired as news director at KBTM-AM/FM in 1981 and would eventually take over anchoring The Morning Herald. He had graduated earlier that year from Harding University in his hometown of Searcy and worked for five months at KARV in Russellville before coming to Jonesboro.
DAVID WALLACE: “This came out in my interview with Alan Patteson. He realized that Clarence was near the end and wanting to retire and they didn’t really have a replacement for him. He had been doing news at the station, I don’t know how long, but it was at least 30 years and during that time he was also well known as a correspondent for the Memphis Press-Scimitar, the east Arkansas correspondent, and he was a well known news man in his day. But his day was waning and so they were looking for somebody to kind of take his place. I had the interest in doing the sports, but also had experience in doing news and so Alan hired me for that. But he had to stick me somewhere else until Clarence decided to leave. It was pretty much his prerogative, as long as he had been there they weren’t going to boot him out the door. So that took a couple of months as I recall and I was doing production and copy-writing. Also I was doing my sports responsibilities doing football. But sometime during that fall Clarence did go on and retire and I took on doing the newscast and trying to really put together a news operation because even though it had been there, Clarence really wasn’t actively doing a lot of news at that time.”
David would learn he had big shoes to fill. “I was told that when I started and was given instant respect for the program and also for Clarence and his history,” Wallace said. “Even though what I witnessed of Clarence, he was kind of going through the motions, but he was 68-years-old at that time I think and he was tired. But what I learned about him as a news guy and his history and particularly that program, The Morning Herald, gave me a lot of respect for it, so I brought that respect to what I did with the program.” One thing David didn’t change, although he might have wanted to, was reading obituaries on the air.
DAVID WALLACE: “From 1981 to 1983 when I was doing it, we were still reading those obits which sounds, when you listen to it, it really sounds anachronistic and it did even then really. It seemed out of place, not the kind of thing you were used to hearing on the radio. It kind of harkened back to an earlier time, but we still did that. But that was a Clarence thing and I never gave serious consideration to eliminating that or if I did it was quickly shot down by Alan because that was sort of a tribute to what he had set up with that program that had meant so much to so many listeners over the years that we basically kept the format, but I did add the sound in a more modern approach to the news segments.”
But the equipment at KBTM presented big challenges. The Morning Herald had to be recorded using a large 15 minute cart which was then put into the automation system. “My biggest problem was I would be running late getting a newscast ready which had to be put on cart. So if I screwed one thing up three or four minutes into it I’d have to erase it and do the whole thing over again. So I would be running late a lot of times and I made Alan unhappy by just missing when they’d go to that cart machine for the newscast, just missing it by a second or two. And I flew into that room and more times than not I’d make it by five seconds or whatever, but he wasn’t too happy with that either,” Wallace said. Part of the distraction was that he would be looking to add new stories for The Morning Herald, which aired during the mid-morning.
DAVID WALLACE: “I’d done the shorter early morning newscast and then I’d start calling people and reporting news and working on some stories, getting some fresh stuff. So lots of times I would be in the middle of that when it was time to tape The Morning Herald and I wouldn’t drop everything to tape it early enough to get all that 15 minutes on cart and to get it cued up to put into the system. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t have a fast-forward or a fast cue on those cart machines so we would just have to let it go and if we were trying to cue it up it would take whatever time it would take until the full length of the tape ran out so a lot of times I would even have it taped but it just didn’t have time to cue and I would go into the studio and do the whole cast live anyway. That was the contingency plan, that was plan B. But going into that studio you never knew when a board was going to fall out from under you, it was so freaky. Everything was just so old in there. It really was like going into your grandmother’s attic or something to do a newscast.”
For two years David maintained a hectic schedule trying to remain competitive with the other two news entities in Jonesboro, KAIT-TV and The Jonesboro Sun. “I did the morning newscast and recorded a noontime newscast, but then I would took a break because most nights I would have something to go to cover, not because Alan or anybody told me to, but because I wanted to make that kind of imprint on the market with the way that we covered news,” Wallace said. He was also busy covering sports at ASU and local high school teams. Sports was his real passion and David left in 1983 to take a full-time sports position Owensboro, Kentucky. In later years he would work at Little Rock radio stations KARN and KUAR.
KBTM-FM BECOMES KJBR
The call letters for both stations remained KBTM until 1982, when the FM was changed to KJBR and it became known as J-102.
ALAN PATTESON JR: “On the AM we never changed the call letters, partially out of respect. They were not especially easy call letters to work with when you try to add some PR and that sort of thing. But it had been named for Beard’s Temple of Music. Jay Beard founded the station. We kind of left that for old time sentimental reasons. We eventually changed the FM to KJBR. KJBR, we were thinking in Jonesboro. I wish we had thought a little bit bigger at that stage of the game and made it not so much related to the city, but we didn’t. And JBR had been a ship of some kind and had those call letters and they had been declassified or whatever they do with a ship and the call letters were available so we got them.”
After years of having mostly recorded elements on the FM, in the early 1980s it was decided that J-102 should instead use satellite automation. They went with the Satellite Music Network AC format called Star Station. “It was live but it did not originate in Jonesboro,” said Guy Patteson in 2010. He called it an improvement over the reel to reels because “there were more tools to add local flavor than the other automated system.” But the practice of using satellite automation came to be widely criticized within the industry, especially by DJs who felt it cut the number of available jobs. It was relatively easy to tell that the station was not local, even to someone not trained in radio. The jocks sounded rather generic and certainly didn’t sound the way most people talked in a place like Jonesboro.
GUY PATTESON III: “You can have the philosophical debate forever as to whether or not you should have done it, but from a management and ownership standpoint, you were looking for consistency. It cost probably no more than it would have to have staffed a full lineup of jocks. But those jocks would have been coming and going, in and out of Jonesboro looking for better opportunities, better money, more visibility, you know it’s an ego business. So with automation you at least were buying some consistency, but you were also buying a degree of being canned.”
Part of the station’s deal with Satellite Music Network also involved KBTM-AM, which had been running its adult standards/MOR format via the reel-to-reel automation system. KBTM picked up SMN’s Star Dust feed, which Guy says worked well for the AM.
GUY PATTESON III: “It was more of a big band. It actually breathed new life into our AM facility because we were running automated tapes on KBTM. The format was good but the fidelity… tapes playing over and over and over on Revox reel to reel machines on an AM frequency. Fidelity-wise it was not that good and at the time automobile manufacturers were not putting any money into the radios that went into automobiles. So you had poor fidelity on poor machines. And the AM stereo debate raged and raged and the FCC threw up their arms and decided to let the industry decide, the marketplace decide and as a result the marketplace waffled. The AM stereo standard was not chosen, so AM continued to waffle. So the Satellite Music Network big band program really brought a lot of people, a lot of older people, 40 and older at the time, back to radio because it was good quality, the talent was good and the line up of music was good. So that continued for quite a while on the AM, while the FM went and did its live thing.”
FCC AND MATURING MEDIA MARKET FORCE UPGRADES
In the 1980s, the regulatory body overseeing broadcasting was wanting to greatly expand the number of FM stations on the air. To create space on the dial to accommodate this, the FCC said that stations like KJBR, which were licensed for the maximum power allowed, had to meet certain criteria, mainly related to the height of their towers. This presented a big dilemma for KJBR.
GUY PATTESON III: “It was a mandate that all class C stations, which were 100,000 watts, were required to bring their facilities up to the new minimum standards in order to maintain their class C status or lose it and be downgraded to class A or some other status to enable the FCC to allocate more frequencies on the FM dial. They were littering the FM dial with stations. Used to be you could scan your FM dial and there would be just beautiful silence between stations. Nothing. It did not sound like the AM dial did when you went from frequency to frequency. So what we did, it was basically use it or lose it. We had at the time 100,000 watts but we had a 10 bay FM antenna hanging on the side of an existing AM tower and antenna structure that had been built in 1929 or 1930. And so we knew we were going to buy property that was large enough to handle an 1,100-foot tower.”
Another factor for KJBR was that the media landscape had changed greatly over the years. People had more options than ever before when it came to entertainment. Guy says this was considered as they debated whether to spend the money to upgrade the signal.
GUY PATTESON III: “By the mid to late ’80s cable television had definitely permeated the entire country and music signals continued to bombard Jonesboro out of Memphis and there was lots of good professional, slick media coming into Jonesboro. So the market on a regional basis was getting pretty sophisticated, as was Jonesboro. And we knew that. In fact we had some long-term plans that were sort of rushed, and maybe that’s a good thing, by the FCC. They were in the process in the mid ’80s of allocating new drop in FM frequencies. They were to be class A stations, 3,000 watts, and in order to do that, I think the issue can be found under docket 8090, at least that’s the FCC legal piece that affected us. We were a class C FM station, meaning licensed for 100-thousand watts, 24 hours. We had obtained approval for 100,000 watts back in 1974, but our FM antenna remained on the AM tower and we didn’t do anything to exert or to use or live up to the technical potential for which we were licensed. And that was not a unique case. There were stations across the country that had that class C status but were not using it. So the FCC told everybody in that position, ‘OK, you have a deadline, you must upgrade your facilities to the new minimum by a certain date or we will downgrade you and your signal to sprinkle these class As to drop them in across the country. So much of what you hear today when you scan the FM dial are many of these new stations that were made possible by the freeing up of the spectrum when the class C FMs failed to, or opted not to upgrade their facilities. We were included on that list of full power FM class C 100,000 watt stations with facilities, tower and transmitter, they didn’t care what you had in your studios, but you had to have a tower and a transmitter that met the minimum requirements and we knew that soon we would have to bite off and embark on a major upgrade if we wanted to keep the class C status. And it was never our intention to allow the downgrade that would have devalued the property or the license whether we stayed in the business or not. If you were going to protect your Class C status, that was the time to do it.”
While Memphis radio stations were still impacting Jonesboro, other radio stations in town had improved. At that time country station KFIN, Super Country 108 had grown in stature and, with very strong ratings, dominated the market. KFIN had originally been a beautiful music station, put on the air in 1974 by Ted Snider, who also owned Little Rock stations KARN and KKYK, as well as the Arkansas Radio Network, which was heard on stations statewide. Snider sold KFIN to Larry Duke in 1978, who had worked for Snider in Little Rock and was later general manager of KFIN, before buying the station. It was the only other 100,000 watt commercial station in Jonesboro. By the late 1980s, KJBR was also getting direct local competition for pop music from KDEZ, KZ-100, which, despite being a lower-powered station, had live, local DJs and a relatively professional sound. KJBR would have to dump the satellite automation to really get back in the game. In advance of the changes, Dennis Rogers was brought back to the station as program director.
DENNIS ROGERS: “Guy and I got back together in ’84 or ’85 because he said ‘we’re fixing to do something big with the FM.’ And I said, ‘well I’d really like to get back into radio’ and I did and I stayed there until 93.”
KJBR GOES LIVE & LOCAL AS SUPER HITS 102
GUY PATTESON III: “When we decided we would go through with the upgrade we also decided that would be the obvious time to abandon the Satellite Music Network and return to live, local programming. But the competitive market moved faster around us than we liked or wanted and so we, before we wanted to, we had to do some remodeling at the station and bring up a couple of studios and make them capable of going live sooner than we wanted, that is, sooner than the completion of the new tower and the transmitter and the studios. So when we started Super Hits, and the name actually came from the particular music service to which we subscribed at the time, we went on live still on the old tower with sub par equipment and at that time vinyl was still very much a part of radio programming, but CDs were coming fast and I remember these studios had to be remodeled to accommodate vinyl and CDs. Digital audio tape was never really an issue at the radio station. I know it was short-lived in the industry and fortunately we had never invested in any of that. But Super Hits was us going live sooner than we wanted, honestly because of the local level of competition, so we could not afford to wait to upgrade the facilities and come on with a big splash, so Super Hits was kind of a transition to what would later become Power 102 when we completed the installation of the new transmitter and another through remodeling of the studios at 603 Madison.”
AUDIO: On April 28, 1988 KJBR debuted its new all live and local format at 6 AM with the Miller In The Morning show, with Doug Miller and co-host Dana Beard.
AUDIO: Phil Jameson handled afternoons, saying here, “the negotiations are over and the verdict is: I’m back on the radio.” Includes sports from Ken Miller.
A full staff of DJs were hired to man the station 24 hours a day. To the left is a professional photo, taken by Don Nall in front of the building shortly after the new Super Hits 102 hit the air.
Program Director Dennis Rogers, who was on the air 10 am to Noon, is seated in the middle. Beginning in the bottom left going clockwise along with their positions at the time are: Jennifer Reed (Bradford), Weekends; Phil Jamison (Roy Hill), Afternoon Drive; Adam Brock (Mark Pulley), Weekends; Randy Meyers, Overnights; Doug Miller, Morning Drive; Andy Lockwood (Robert Lockwood), Evenings; and Dana Beard, Morning co-host and Middays. Not included in this photo is part-timer John Broughton who did production and one weekend shift or Ken Miller, who handled news and sports. Eventually the morning and afternoon shifts would be switched with Phil Jamison and Jennifer Reed hosting the Toast and Jam morning show, with Doug Miller moving to afternoons while also handling the duties of Production Director.
ALAN PATTESON JR: “Challenges were constant, employees specifically. How do you keep the thing going 24 hours with personnel and holidays and all those things. It was a constant struggle. As owners, you’re working a lot more hours than the individual employees are because you’ve got to be down there and make sure it goes. And you’ve got to watch the books. We had a couple of situations of embezzlement and that’s where an owner has to be able to walk in, and I would go in periodically and close the books out, just unexpectedly have to come in and that’s when I’d find it. And that’s true in any business. So you have to have some, not just broadcasting knowledge, you had to have some business knowledge also.”
Toward the end of the Super Hits days, Zeke Terry was hired in 1989. He ended up staying at the station for nine years, through more changes than he ever could have imagined.
ZEKE TERRY: “I left K-105 (KDXY/ Paragould) and I got hired part-time at KJBR and I think I was a part-timer like two weeks before I got bumped up to full-time. The guy who had been on before me, Andy Lockwood, had a problem smoking in control room, and they had been trying to modernize the control rooms for a while, and they told him, ‘Look, you can’t do it, you can’t do it, you can’t do it.’ Well he got caught one too many times and then boom. I became a full-timer.”
With a deadline approaching for upgrading the tower site, The Patteson family had to take action or face the likelihood of the FCC cutting KJBR’s broadcast power, which would have also reduced what the station worth.
GUY PATTESON III: “I think 1,089 feet was the new minimum for class C so we had to buy 35 acres north of town. We had farmland in the area, but the locations we kept proposing were not satisfactory to the FCC because the FAA deemed those spots inappropriate for the flight path for landing aircraft and the Jonesboro airport at the time was a very busy airport statewide and still is, so they wouldn’t allow that. So we had to go north of town, almost to the Green County line and got 35 acres. That was enough to handle the construction of the tower and I don’t remember the timeline but we made application then fulfilled the upgrade requirements before we were downgraded. KFIN locally did not. They were downgraded to a C2. It didn’t really hurt them, but what stations needed to do was protect the value of the asset or what they had and it was a good thing we did because later on we did sell and commanded a better price with an 1,100-foot tower than we would have with a FM antenna on the side of an AM tower.”
GUY PATTESON III: “So we didn’t quite know when we filed to upgrade the facility what our plans were but we did know we did not want to be downgraded and we really did it at the last minute because it was not something we were looking forward to doing because it was going to mean the outlay of a lot of money. But we also knew if we didn’t do it, the value of the property would be diminished.”
BUILDING A NEW TOWER
In the fall of 1989, after years of discussions, the new transmitter tower was finally constructed by Central Tower of Newburgh, Indiana. To the right, workers prepared to lift the final section into place. Guy Patteson extensively documented the project. He also apparently didn’t have a fear of heights. On a cold Sunday morning, when work was about 90 percent complete, he, friend Marilyn Hummelstein and one of the workers strapped together and were hoisted to the top of the tower. That’s Guy at the bottom of the three in brown coveralls with the video camera. The incredible photos from high up looking down and across were taken by Marilyn.
Soon the tower would be complete, allowing KJBR to hit the air with a massive signal, reaching communities that had never before been able to hear the station. With the new signal, KJBR would debut a new identity for the station on New Years Day 1990.
POWER 102 HITS THE AIR
With a new tower, greatly expanded coverage area and new equipment, there was a feeling the station needed a rebirth and a new image. To emphasize that it now had the most powerful signal in the region, the decision was made to call it Power 102. Our liners frequently mentioned that we were broadcasting from the 1,100 foot “tower of power.”
PROGRAM DIRECTOR DENNIS ROGERS: “One of the major things that the Pattesons did was they didn’t spare any expense when they decided to do the upgrade on the FM. Everything was state of the art. New studio, new production room, new production library. I mean, everything was fresh and new, right out of the box with a contract engineer installing all this stuff. We had the Texar Prism processors, which at that time were the best audio processors you could buy and we just had a kick ass sound. It was just so much fun. Those six years that I spent with the Patteson Brothers through the SMN, satellite delivered for the first year and then we got KJBR-FM Super Hits going and it was a little bit better. And then we did the upgrade and it just took off like a rocket and it was just so attractive and so successful that our competitor Larry Duke wanted to buy it and did.”
DJ ZEKE TERRY: “I was there when they were just fixing to upgrade stuff. Power 102 went on at the first of the year. I remember when we were doing the whole New Years celebration and all that saying ‘after New Years we’ve got something in store for you,’ and then they came along with Power 102. And I thought OK, this is kind of cool because it was different. It was my first taste of day-parting where you had some songs you could only play at night or during the day, which, in hindsight I thought was kind of funny because a lot of the harder stuff they wouldn’t want the kids to hear they would only play when the kids were listening. And the stuff adults wanted to hear was only on when adults weren’t listening. But it worked. I remember we played everything from Garth Brooks to Bon Jovi, Metallica to Celine Dion. It was strange. It was an odd kind of train wreck, but it worked the way that it was programmed and the way that it was imaged. It was a lot of fun. It was probably the one job that I had that when I walked in I was happy. I was like ‘this is fun.’ And there are things that I really do miss about it because with automation and stuff today you go into the control room and you sit there and you don’t do anything. You wait for a stop set and stuff like that. The automation fires off and segues every element. We hit everything, every song, every liner or sweeper.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “When Power 102 came on the air we had a tremendous reach and we had regular listeners in Cape Girardeau, Memphis, Little Rock, Brinkley, really a 70-mile radius of Jonesboro, Jackson, Tennessee, Dyersburg, Tennessee. And we did a television campaign that was very well produced, newspaper ads and we did a lot of promoting and that was the most fun of radio I’ve ever had. It was just a great station. Really good staff. And the owners were behind us and it was really a lot of fun. And we made some money I think.”
The station began reporting new songs it was playing to the trade paper Gavin, which meant record companies eagerly courted KJBR to add new releases. Part of that included them sending us lots of extra copies of new CDs and cassettes that we could give away on the air. The office of Program Director Dennis Rogers was just crammed full of boxloads of new releases. Power 102 also had a steady supply of station tee shirts being printed up and given away. There was also a constant stream of tickets for practically every major concert in Memphis. The aggressive promotions were effective in building a tremendous buzz for the station, which sent staffers throughout the region in the “Power 102 Street Machine.”
ZEKE TERRY: “I remember one time that Jennifer Reed and I went up to Pocahontas for some kind of school function. I think it was a career day and we got mobbed at the school. We were like, wow. I think Power 102 had been on three or four months, something like that and we just got mobbed, so we thought, maybe this is working. And we left the school and stopped at a McDonald’s there in Pocahontus and we actually got blocked in by people who were wanting stuff. They were wanting tee shirts or anything we had. Even people inside the drive thru were like ‘got anything for us?’ So we’re handing shirts through the drive thru window. It was unreal. It was as close to being a celebrity as you could think.”
AUDIO: Aircheck of a midday shift of Dennis Rogers on Power 102 in the summer of 1991. The tape is a little murky at the beginning, but clears up about 30 seconds in.
GOVERNOR BILL CLINTON VISITS
Just a couple of weeks after going on the air with the new signal, Power 102 got a visit from then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton on January 17, 1990. Of course, three years later he would become President of the United States. He came by to join Dennis Rogers on the air that afternoon after taking part in a big jobs announcement in the city. In the photo to the left he talks into the mic and you can just barely see a Junior Walker album in front of him. “Bill Clinton is a very interesting guy,” Dennis said in 2010. “You could tell that he was super intelligent, but very accessible. Most politicians that I’ve interviewed over the years tend not to be that way. They tend to be a little aloof. They don’t answer questions directly in many cases, but he answered every question I asked him and I thought he was very honest and very forthcoming.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “It was rumored at that time that he was planning a run for the presidency, however his office had denied it. But he was in town for a dedication or a meeting and we arranged to have him come by, Guy actually did, and it was probably one of the best, if not THE best interviews I have ever had the pleasure of doing because he was so laid back and so friendly and was very accessible. He came in and sat down next to me and about 15 minutes into the program he said, ‘Dennis, do you have any Junior Walker records?’ And I said, ‘Well as a matter of fact, I’ve got his greatest hits right over here,’ and he said ‘Well you know, I’m a sax man myself,’ so we played ‘Shotgun’ and a couple others that I think he picked out. Then toward the end of the interview I said, ‘Governor, I’ve got to ask you this because our listeners want to know. Are you going to make a run for the presidency?’ He said, ‘well that’s to be determined. At this point, no, but I can’t say what will happen in the future.’ And of course we all know what happened in the future. He overstayed, he was supposed to be there I think only about 20 minutes and I think the interview ended up being about 45 minutes and his state police escort stood outside the control room the whole time watching the whole event. It was a very exciting day for Power 102.”
AUDIO: Then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton joins Dennis Rogers on the air, January 17, 1990. They talked about jobs, music and children.
THE POWER 102 PARTY ZONE
Another way the station reached out to potential listeners and generated revenue was with the Power 102 Party Zone. A few of us on staff would DJ dances and parties, often at very distant schools and country clubs. To the right is Phil Jamison in 1991 at the Twin Rivers prom, about 50 miles northwest of Jonesboro. The biggest ordeal about doing these events was having to lug the equipment, including a couple of speakers, a mixer, CD players and a whole bunch of crates full of CDs. I guess being a DJ is a lot easier today since you can have a whole library of music on a computer or ipod. But back then you had to make sure you had a CD of whatever anyone would potentially want to hear. And the funny thing was, it seemed the smaller the town, the more rap and hard dance music they would want, while at the last dance I did at one of the high schools in Jonesboro it seemed all anyone was requesting was country music.
The dances were a big pain to do, but we could make what would have been a weeks pay at the radio station for just a few hours work. And sometimes they could be fun. At that time I (Michael Hibblen) had a tiny Nissan Sentra, so whenever Guy would ask me to do a dance he would loan me his car, a larger four-door Mazda 626, which had a big trunk and just enough room to load everything inside.
AFTER 35 YEARS, PATTESON BROTHERS SELL KJBR & KBTM
Drastic changes were about to come to the radio industry and KJBR and KBTM were among the first wave of stations to be impacted by deregulation. A staff meeting was called for August 18, 1992. I think all of us knew something was up. A full staff meeting was extremely rare, especially since you had people working all hours of the day and night having to come together. There were fears that a format change could be in the works, but I don’t think any of us expected that the stations were about to be sold to a cross-town rival, country powerhouse KFIN. To the right is the promo card we read on the air that day announcing the deal. Normally when I’d kill such cards at the start of my shift, I’d put them into Dennis’ box, but I kept that card all these years as a memento.
DENNIS ROGERS: “My son, my wife and I had gone to Florida on vacation and the day after I got back to work, Alan and Guy took me, Rene Agee, who was the office manager and Perry Jones, who was in sales, to lunch at Piero’s downtown, which at that time was located in the basement of the building where the Radio Jonesboro Group is operating out of right now. I thought something was up because we didn’t do lunch a whole lot. Guy and I would occasionally have lunch, so I thought something was going on. Alan told us at the lunch that he had agreed to sell the two stations to Duke Broadcasting. And I’ll be honest with you, I was in shock. I had no idea that was going to happen. It didn’t surprise me, but it shocked me. So he said tomorrow we’re going to make the announcement to the staff and then Larry Duke is coming in to make his announcement. And that’s exactly what happened. We were sworn to secrecy and didn’t say anything. The next morning, I think it was around 11, Alan gathered the staff together and made the announcement that he had made an agreement to sell the stations to Duke Broadcasting and he assured everyone that in the meantime, in the transition, everyone’s job was secure, that part of his agreement was that every full-time staffer would be guaranteed six months of employment with full benefits and after that it would be negotiable with Duke Broadcasting. Right after that, Larry Duke and Clyde Bass, who was his general manager, came in and spoke to us. And Steve Tyler, who was our production guy and afternoon disc jockey, who had worked for Larry Duke and been let go there and was very bitter about it, walked out. Right after the meeting he came into my office and he said, ‘Here’s my key. I’m out of here. I’m not going to work for Larry Duke’ and he walked out. Everybody else stayed, including myself and it wasn’t very long before he started making the transition from Power 102 to Kiss-FM. It was lame, but Duke was only interested in making money. He had been very successful with KFIN. He knew how to make money.”
Up until that time such a transaction would not have been allowed because of an FCC rule that limited ownership by a company to one AM and one FM in every market. But the first steps of deregulation had recently been cleared, which over the next decade would dramatically alter the radio industry. I recall Duke saying during that meeting that the key reason he wanted to buy the stations was that KJBR, with its incredible coverage area, was the only station in the market that he felt could have offered a significant challenge to KFIN, had it changed formats to country. He assured us we would all still have jobs at the station, but did make it clear there would be some modifications in the format coming. Dennis then typed out the promo card that you see above, which we immediately began reading on the air, announcing the change. Walking out of that meeting was a little surreal, with none of us really sure what was ahead. It wasn’t just the radio business that was changing at that point. As Alan Patteson noted in 2011, deregulation was happening everywhere, changing the entire business landscape.
ALAN PATTESON JR: “I think radio, as many other industries… banks had to get larger, stores were getting larger, supermarkets were getting larger. You either had to get in radio for it to be economically feasible in a much bigger way or get out of it. Our commercial interests were primarily agricultural. Much as we enjoyed the radio, we were not inclined to expand in that direction. Guy was managing the station and we really needed him elsewhere at that stage of the game and Larry Duke happened to come along with an attractive offer. That was the truth about it.”
It took more than a year for the sale to actually go through, which Alan Patteson says happened toward the end of 1993. But he says the agreement gave Duke the ability to immediately take over KJBR and KBTM. “Technically it was under our control,” Patteson said, “but he operated it from the time that we made the sale. He took over by contact. We had a contract until the FCC approved the final sale.”
ALAN PATTESON JR: “35 years was long enough. I enjoyed it. There were some really happy, fun years, but I had had it and we really needed to get out of it or get bigger, either go and buy stations and get a little bit larger, which most of them have done, as you’ve seen. Larry didn’t hold his for very long before he sold them. And really now, it’s like banks, they’ve changed signs so many times and merged and bought, you don’t know who… I really haven’t kept up with radio in the last many years. I don’t know who they are, they changed hands so fast there for a while. But no, I really don’t miss it. I enjoyed it, but I was glad… I think Guy may have missed it more than I did.”
KJBR BECOMES KIYS, CALLS ITSELF KISS-FM
Larry Duke brought in Jim Grant to become General Manager, who had held a similar position at longtime Little Rock pop station KKYK-FM 104, which was the sister station for KARN, where Duke had worked under owner Ted Snider. They immediately altered the format, eliminating all harder edged music and making us a hot adult contemporary station Within a few weeks we also abandoned the name Power 102, which I felt was a shame because we had worked so hard building up that brand, especially because there were a LOT of cars in northeast Arkansas with our bumper stickers on the back and many people owned tee shirts with our logo on the front.
On March 25, 2013, I was surprised to get a polite email from Larry Duke, who had stumbled onto my website. He weighed in with his perspective and we exchanged a few emails, which I appreciated.
LARRY DUKE: “Of course, I received a lot of criticism for being more attentive to financial management than programming, but then, I was a salesman first and foremost during my thirty year broadcasting career. My job was to turn a profit, which I was able to do very successfully.”
A fair enough point. Yes, commercial radio is a business and I can understand an owner wanting to protect his investment. Duke wrote that the new KIYS did well, however KBTM-AM, which by this time was running satellite talk shows, did not. During his time as Vice President and General Manager of KARN in 1970s, Duke had overseen the first steps toward talk there, with a news and information block added between 6 and 8 a.m., while the rest of its broadcast day was MOR music programming.
LARRY DUKE: “The changes we made to KIYS increased revenue considerably and contributed to what may be the highest selling price of small market radio ever. I was always disappointed that KBTM never reached the potential I had hoped for, which caused me to believe that talk stations need to be in larger markets where talk radio’s smaller share of audience can produce an adequate number of listeners for successful financial operation.”
AUDIO: The introduction of a new identity followed my 6:20 a.m. newscast in October 1992. We became 101.9 Kiss-FM, playing no rap and no hard rock.
AUDIO: An aircheck with eight hours worth of programming of Kiss-FM from New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1992, with Dennis Rogers, then Zeke Terry.
The clock was ticking for Program Director Dennis Rogers. “I stayed for seven months after that and I just… we didn’t see eye to eye programming-wise and I said ‘it’s time for me to do something else’ so I got out of radio for about four years.”
Duke owned the stations a few more years, but corporate radio companies were growing rapidly, gobbling up radio stations as fast as they could, even in small markets like Jonesboro. Eventually Duke’s stations ended up in the hands of Clear Channel, which killed the powerful 101.9 signal the Patteson family had built up so that it could put a lower power station on the air in the nearby Memphis market. Even as a business person, Duke noted the impact of corporate ownership of stations.
LARRY DUKE: “You may be pleased to know that I also feel consolidation of radio has damaged radio’s community involvement due to ‘cookie cutter’ programming direction from corporate programmers. Fortunately we have seen corporate owners like Clear Channel spin off smaller stations in recent years allowing individuals to again own stations in smaller markets where they can make important contributions to their communities.”
Once you’ve been bitten by the radio bug, it’s hard for many to stay away for long. After leaving Kiss-FM in 1993, Dennis Rogers went into retail management at a Jonesboro pool and spa store. He then worked for a medical supply company. In 1999 Dennis noticed a new oldies station was on the air at 95.9 FM and was intrigued.
DENNIS ROGERS: “So I got to listening to them and I thought, man that’s what I need to be doing. So Perry Jones, who I’d worked with at KBTM back in the day was the manager and I went in and talked with him. The stations at that time were owned by BIll Pollack out of Memphis and they hired me to do the morning show because at that time they were strictly voice-tracked on the FMs, nothing live, and they wanted me to do a live morning show, so they hired me to be the production manager and morning show guy. I started doing that in 1999. Well a year later Clear Channel was buying stations left and right and they bought KNEA, which is AM 970 and they bought the oldies station at 95.9 and we moved across town, they had to do an expansion out on Parker Road at their studio facilities because they were kind of cramped. They had KFIN and KBTM at the time and Kiss. So they expanded and I was hired by them and continued to do mornings on the oldies station for another year.”
In the summer of 2004 I heard from Dennis Rogers for the first time in years. He sent me an email after stumbling on to my website while doing a search. I was still living in Miami, Florida at that point, but during a visit home to Arkansas I drove up to Jonesboro on July 13, 2004. It was the first time I had been back in the town in 11 years.
I met up with Dennis and Phil Jamison at the Clear Channel facilities there, housed in what had been the old KFIN building on Parker Road. It was really good seeing them after so long. Dennis drove me around town a bit and we had lunch along with several others from the company. Back at the station I watched as Dennis recorded the voice-track for the afternoon shift on KFIN, which wasn’t part of his regular duties at that point, but I guess he was filling in for someone.
Below are two more photos from that afternoon in 2004 with Dennis, me (Michael Hibblen) and Phil. Afterward I drove over to the office of former station manager Guy Pattison and visited a while with him. He had been out of radio since his family sold KJBR and KBTM in 1993. As of this revision in the summer of 2013 Phil Jamison is still on the air in Jonesboro, doing mornings on country station KFIN-FM 107.9 and afternoons (probably voice-tracked) on what is today KIYS-FM at 101.7. Dennis Rogers continued doing mornings on the oldies station at 95.9 FM until Clear Channel changed its format.
DENNIS ROGERS: “Then they changed that station into a Buzz station playing hard rock and they kept me on as Production Manager. So that went on for two years and then after those two years were over the Buzz station just didn’t click. They just couldn’t sell it and they got a very smart idea to go classic country on that frequency and upgraded it with a new tower, new transmitter, increase in power from 8,000 watts to 37,000 watts and at 95.9 they had a really good signal. So they went classic country and I started doing afternoons on that station and did up until two years ago. They sold again to a company out of Wynne called East Arkansas Broadcasters and I stayed for 18 months after they bought the stations and it just ceased to be fun, so I said, well if it’s not going to be fun, I’m not going to do it, so I got out.”
After more than four decades since he first got into radio, Dennis has seen some drastic changes in the business. In my conversation with Dennis and Guy Patteson in December 2010 they discussed the pros and cons of the modern corporate radio culture.
DENNIS ROGERS: “No originality, cookie cutter programming and reduced staff. Clear Channel started at my stations letting people go in programming, then they started letting people go in middle management and that seems to be the rule nowadays. You’ve got five radio stations and you run those five radio stations with one staff instead of five staffs. So through consolidation and automation a lot of people lost their jobs in the last 10 years, particularly in the last five years. A lot of people. The up side, if there is one, is the benefit package is pretty good. You’ve got a 401k and you’ve got good health insurance, good dental and vision.”
GUY PATTESON III: “There wasn’t a lot of that with individual ownership.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “No. But there was with corporate. When I was with Clear Channel they had a good package. And you have access to, if you want to call them experts in programming and sales and management who can give you guidance and instruction on how to do your job better.”
GUY PATTESON III: “And what about the ability to move to other markets?”
DENNIS ROGERS: “You can do that too. And you can voice-track in other markets if you’re good enough and they’ll pay you extra money. But it was very sad to see people that I had worked with for the last four or five years be let go simply because of greed. And the corporations just wanted to make more money. So to make more money and make the bottom line look good they started letting people go. And they said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about a night DJ on that station, just voice track it. Let your Kiss guy voice-track the night shift on KFIN. Or bring a satellite delivered DJ in. They do that a lot too.”
THE END OF THE ORIGINAL 101.9 FM
In April 2007, as part of a company-wide effort to shed itself of smaller market stations, Clear Channel sold this and its other stations in Jonesboro to East Arkansas Broadcasters. But it retained an option to take back the 101.9 frequency if the signal could be moved into the Memphis market, 70 miles away. It eventually built a transmitter in Crawfordsville, Arkansas, just outside of Memphis, which would be at a lower power than the station had been, but would put it into the Memphis market. In September 2010, the 100,000 watt signal broadcasting from near the Craighead-Green County line was shut down and the new low power signal for Memphis was turned on. It was the final nail in the coffin for what had been the first FM station in Arkansas. I know this is a business and that a station, even at a lower power, will make much more money being part of a bigger market, but I still couldn’t help but feel sad. Part of the deal involved East Arkansas Broadcasters moving a Walnut Ridge station that had been at 106.3 FM to 101.7 FM and they continued calling it Kiss-FM, but it too is at a lower power and isn’t really any kind of continuation of the historic old station that aired for 63 years at 101.9 on the FM dial.
ZEKE TERRY: “It was bittersweet. That frequency means a whole lot to me and it really angered me what Clear Channel was doing with it. They want to use it in a way that I don’t think it was meant to be. And what I mean by that is that it wasn’t designed for Memphis, especially if you look at the graphical layout and things like that. It could already reach into there. If Clear Channel had wanted to make money on it, they could have had some Memphis stuff advertise on it because there were people who traveled in eastern Arkansas who traveled into Memphis all the time. They didn’t need to move everything and get the entire city of Memphis, but trying to figure why or how Clear Channel does things is like what goes through a cat’s mind. It doesn’t make any sense. But I think Clear Channel kind of bit themselves in the butt when they bought that station because they were expecting to be able to sell it and I know East Arkansas Broadcasters wanted to buy it but not for the price that Clear Channel was wanting for it. Once Clear Channel got a hold of that signal I was done with it because to be honest I don’t like Clear Channel.”
RANDY HANKINS (CRAIG O’NEILL): “There is no upside to corporate radio. Corporate radio has made the product so bland. In an effort to maximize profit and minimize expense and satisfy stockholders the product has gotten so watered down. And you talk about diversity, there is no diversity in radio, just the corporate. It’s all, coast to coast, ‘most fun in the morning, most music all day, K-Blah-Blah-Blah…”
REMBERING KBTM & KJBR
Having run the radio stations for 35 years, they clearly meant a lot to the Patteson Family. Guy Patteson saved a few relics when his family sold them in 1993. In one room of his home today he still has a few old advertising posters hanging, mostly promoting Mutual Broadcasting System programs that were being aired on KBTM. As you can also see in the photos, he has a few old microphones, radios and mic flags. The metal plate that says KBTM-FM had been above the old transmitter at the original tower site shared with the AM.
In the photo to the left below, Dennis Rogers points to a customized speaker cover that says KBTM. This was one of several that were in the ceiling of the old building at 603 Madison. In the center is a closer look at it, laying on dark carpet so that the shape is clearer. In the bottom right is a vintage RCA microphone that for many years in the 1960s and 70s was the main mic in the control room for KBTM-AM. It’s the same mic Guy was talking into in old black and white photos earlier in this history. To the right is a photo from December 29, 2010 with Dennis Rogers, me (Michael Hibblen) and Guy Patteson.
After the original FM 101.9 was put off the air three months earlier in September 2010, I decided that since I had written about my time at KJBR in the early 1990s, I should do a follow up looking at its history and what eventually happened to it. I started this project by meeting up with Dennis and Guy that evening and recording an interview, which you can listen to at bottom of this page, along with others I’ve done. I didn’t intend for this history to be as comprehensive as it has become, but it sort of took on a life of its own as I slowly kept finding more people who had worked there and had great stories, photos or audio.
I’d also love to hear from others who may have worked there and have more to add. You can write to me by clicking on the email icon at the bottom of the page. I love radio history and guess I’m nostalgic for era that will never come back, when each radio station was like a family, like the great old TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, which was surprisingly accurate for its time. And an AM-FM combo was about as big as it got in each market. Dennis agreed that night those were wonderful times to be in radio. “Absolutely. Those were the best days, absolutely.”
GUY PATTESON III: “But consumer trends were different then. There was a time when the local radio station was the local lifeline. There was not a television station, there were not that many competing signals. You had a variety of listeners. That’s when old folks and young folks were basically listening to the same thing and being pretty happy about it I guess. And then I guess we broke the mold in the mid ’60s when you came onboard and it was a fact that the older folks were at home watching television or going to bed and the young folks were staying up and wanted to listen to the radio. And at the time FM had yet to really go mainstream, so your local stations, the ones that were licensed to stay on after dark, albeit at lower power, were able to rock and roll.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “And nowadays there are very few radio groups that are concerned about local news. They just don’t do it. In Jonesboro, for example, of the two radio groups, the Jonesboro Radio Group, which is Trey Stafford and Bill Pressly’s group of stations, they do local news.”
GUY PATTESON III: “But they re-read the Jonesboro Sun.”
DENNIS ROGERS: “Yeah, they don’t have a news director. They don’t have anybody making phone calls or going to the city council meetings. It’s just not done because they don’t have the people to do it. KASU on the other hand still has Greg Chance on the air and he covers the local beat. But as for commercial radio, except for very few instances now, it just doesn’t get done. And I miss that now because if there’s a fire, I want to know about it. If there’s a bad car wreck, like I encountered today, I’d like to know who is involved in it and how long I’m going to be stuck in traffic.”
DENNIS ROGERS on current trends: “I just read an article a couple of weeks ago that contemporary hit radio stations, or CHR, are in trouble because their core audience, which is basically 18-to-24-year-olds are not listening to the radio anymore. They’re listening to their iPods and their computers. They’re downloading their music. They’re not going to Hastings and buying it, they’re downloading it and they’re not listening to radio for it because radio is not breaking new artists anymore. It’s too set in its ways and too pre-programmed and the kids are hipper than that. That and satellite delivered radio, although it has not been as big as they thought it would be, it’s still pretty big, and people who have satellite radio in their cars really like it. But kids are listening to their own music on iPods. It’s changed a lot over the last 20 years and not for the better. There are still pockets of good radio, but they’re hard to find. They’re few and far between.”
KBTM BUILDING STILL IN USE
I’m happy to say the longtime home of KBTM and KJBR is still standing and looks to be in good shape, today housing a couple of law firms. Built in 1942 at 603 Madison and designed specifically for the unique needs of a radio station, passersby today might not realize the building’s significance. Maybe I should start a campaign to get a historical marker put in front of it. Or maybe it’s only the kind of history a radio geek would appreciate. For 50 years, within its walls, words were spoken that were transmitted to countless people. In 1993, after KBTM and KJBR were purchased by Larry Duke, the stations were moved over to the KFIN facilities. The old building could have easily been bulldozed, but I’m pleased and almost a little surprised that someone decided it was a place worth keeping and fixing up. And finally below I have the audio that you can listen to of some of the full interviews I conducted while putting this history together. Thanks to those who took time to share their experiences with me, which I know many people will enjoy hearing. In particular, thanks to Guy Patteson and Dennis Rogers for also sharing so many photos, old tapes and more. And as I’ve said elsewhere, I’d welcome hearing from others who worked there and would be willing to share their experiences. You can send me an email by clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this page.
FULL RESEARCH INTERVIEWS:
AUDIO: Interview with Alan Patteson Jr., who co-owned the stations for 35 years, recorded January 4, 2011 at the age of 82.
AUDIO: Dennis Rogers and Guy Patteson talk about their experiences at KBTM and KJBR on December 29, 2010.
AUDIO: Randy Hankins, who later became known as Craig O’Neill in Little Rock radio, reflects on KBTM on July 19. 2011.
I welcome additional contributions, airchecks, photos, stories or corrections. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.