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Dallas-Fort Worth Radio History
by Alex Cosper
see also American Radio History


The earliest commercial radio stations in the Dallas-Forth Worth area sprung up in the early twenties. Over the next few decades the radio industry flourished through national networks and the sound of big bands. By the forties the AM dial included WBAP, WDAO, WFAA, WPA and WRR. In the fifties, television and the rise of rock and roll forced radio to evolve from block programming to serving specific audiences.

Dallas was the place where much of the concept of top 40 radio was crafted following the success of a Todd Storz station in Omaha, Nebraska. It was Storz who introduced the idea of playing the most popular songs over and over again to radio. According to Steve Eberhart's website www.HistoryofKLIF.com, a Storz associate named Bill Stewart brought ideas to the station and did a show on KLIF. The station successfully brought rock and roll music to Dallas in the mid-fifties.

Gordon McLendon and his father actually put KLIF (1190 AM) on the air in 1947. On day one the station aired a live sportscast of a football game between the Chicago Cardinals and the Detroit Lions. The format was a mix of typical radio programming of the day, which included soap operas, sitcoms, drama, news and sports. The station name came from serving the town of Oak Cliff. Originally it was "KLIF the Parrot" featuring an actual parrot trained to say the call letters. An early KLIF employee while in high school was Wes Wise, who went on to become mayor of Dallas in the seventies.

McLendon began shifting the format from block programming to top 40 gradually from 1952 to 1954. KLIF jocks of the fifties included Kenny Sargent, Bruce Hayes, Gene Edwards and Don Keyes. The air personalities still had control of music selection then as long as it came from the Program Director's playlist based on local sales and the national charts. By June 1954, KLIF was number one in Dallas. It became the usual market leader from the fifties through the seventies. McLendon went on to own and program other stations around the country. His formula for success involved putting programming as a priority ahead of administration, sales and engineering.

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