KNX turns (about) 100
KNX (1070 AM), one of the oldest broadcasting stations in the United States dating back to 1922, is about to celebrate 100 years on the air. If the numbers don’t add up, you’re right. But it’s a technicality that I am letting slide. Here’s the full story as it has been told to me.
On September 10, 1920, Fred Christian started broadcasting his amateur radio station, 6ADZ. A former shipboard radio operator, Christian was manager of the Electric Lighting Supply Company in downtown Los Angeles. Broadcasting primarily to customers who had constructed radios they assembled from parts bought at the store, his first transmitter put out five-watts and used the 1500 kHz (AM) frequency.
Now, five watts doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t. But in the early days of broadcasting, there wasn’t nearly as much man-made interference in the air as there is today, and five watts would actually travel pretty far. Especially with no other stations on the same frequency … or almost any frequency, for that matter. There were truly only a handful of stations in the entire country at the time.
In early December of 1921, the Department of Commerce, which was placed in charge of regulating radio broadcasting, formally adopted rules that placed all stations on just two frequencies — 619 kHz (to be used for market and weather reports) and 833 kHz (for entertainment). Christian’s station was thus issued an official license to broadcast on 833, using the call letters KGC and the hours of 2 – 2:30 and 7:30 – 8 p.m. KGC shared 833 with six other stations, all off which also had specific hours with which two broadcast.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In May of 1922, the Supply Company was issued a second license to broadcast on 833, with the assigned call-letters KNX and a broadcast time of 9 – 10 a.m. For whatever reason — probably related to allowed broadcast time — the Supply Company decided to broadcast exclusively on KNX, and gave up the KGC broadcasts. KGC got deleted from the Department of Commerce station list; the Department then decided that, since they were under common ownership, KNX and KGC were really the same station,. KNX thus “assumed” KGC’s identity and used December 8, 1921 as the date it was first licensed to broadcast. That means the experimental broadcasts — by default — became part of KNX history as well.
And that history is valid, I believe. I don’t know, but I am assuming that the Supply Company originally wanted more broadcast time and a new set of calls was needed under the 1921 regulations to do so. That means KNX was really just an extension of KGC anyway … if anyone can confirm or deny this (radio historian Jim Hilliker … I’m looking at you), please let me know.
So as KNX begins the plan to celebrate 100 years on the air, what can we expect? The station is mum, but I expect on-air tributes, and if they were found, early recordings of KNX itself. I doubt there are many of the very early days that still exist (if they ever did) but what an exciting thing if they are around.
KNX’s Bill Nesbitt has been sharing posts on social media over the past months looking for such historical audio; he announced on Facebook that there will be “a lot of historical audio, jungles, and memories” on September 10th, and my bet is that this will continue through the month. As it should: it’s not often that your station turns 100 years old.
Other upcoming centennial birthdays include KHJ (930 AM), and KFI (640 AM), among others.
Speaking of the Past
Dave Beasing, formerly of The Sound (now KKLQ, 100.3 FM) and now head of Sound that Brands, sent me a link to 1940sradiowlvn.com.
What is it? A recreation of a radio station from the 1940s.
“It all started with the purchase of my first antique radio, a 1935 GE Tombstone,” says the anonymous creator on the website. “This has been a 2-year journey and finally, WLVN Radio was established in 2020, in Livingston, MT with one simple mission in mind: to bring you back in time to the 1940s.
“I have always enjoyed listening to 40s music on my time period radios but it never had that real feel to it. So over 2 years’ time I collected over 20,000 files of music and radio shows from the 40s and created this radio station.”
The music is basically a jukebox, at least during the time I have listened. Production quality is superb, though it seems oddly too good. But there are old time radio shows that “air” at the same time — or close — as they did when they were on the radio during the ‘40s.
Jack Benny — my favorite comedian of all time — is there, along with Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, Burns and Allen, Fred Allen, Glenn Miller, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow, The Mercury Theater on the Air, Captain Midnight, President Roosevelt, and many more.
Good find, Dave. Thanks!