NEW! EARLY CHARTS & PROMOTIONAL ITEMS 1957-1960 : HERE
By C J Brown
Introduction - When people remember KTKT and its run as Color Radio a common memory that is shared by all is the great music that was heard on the station. For more than twenty five years KTKT was the home of popular music presented as part of a great sounding fast paced top 40 type radio format. During many of these years KTKT published a weekly list of the popular songs heard on KTKT. These lists - known as top 40 charts or surveys - were distributed to the public as free handouts at record shops and music counters all over Tucson. The KTKT Top 40 Certified Sound Survey presented the top 40 songs as ranked by record sales in the Tucson area. Tucsonans looked forward to the new chart each week to see how their current favorite songs were doing and to see which tune would be the number one song for the week. The following essay will try to explain how KTKT picked, played and charted the music we all grew up with in Tucson during the Color Radio era of 1957 through 1967.
Where It Begins - Frank Kalil brought Color Radio to Tucson during the spring of 1957 after returning from Texas where he worked for Chuck Blore at KELP AM 930 in El Paso. Chuck Blore – who had been a KTKT DJ earlier in the fifties prior to leaving Tucson for Texas to work for Gordon McLendon (who along with Todd Storz fathered the top 40 radio format) – as Program Director developed a new format at KELP called Color Radio - using everything he learned while working for Gordon McLendon. Blore added new features and ideas of his own to the new format and before long. KELP took the El Paso market by storm. It was while Frank Kalil worked in this very creative and exciting environment he learned the building blocks of Color Radio. Upon returning to Tucson Frank brought all he learned with Blore and then added his own ideas to create Color Radio at KTKT. A corner stone of Frank Kalil’s new format at KTKT was popular music. Not just any popular music – but the best of the best. Coinciding with the birth of Color Radio popular music in the United States started to be dominated by a new sound – aimed at the burgeoning group of youngsters in America – called rock and roll. KTKT presented this exciting new sound to Tucson with the new Color Radio format. Many of the music policies – the subject of my effort here - used by KTKT during the Color Radio Era were first put in place by Frank Kalil As the founding Color Radio Program Director (PD) the impact of Frank Kalil on both KTKT and Tucson radio cannot be overstated. It is also a story that cannot be fully told in this effort.
Charting The Music - Making up the weekly chart at KTKT was a task handled by the program director at KTKT. According to former KTKT program director Chris Borden (1959-1960) the music that played and charted on KFWB Los Angeles was a big influence on the music heard on KTKT while he was the PD. KFWB - at 980 on the dial and programmed by Chuck Blore - could be heard in Tucson after dark when KTKT had to sign off. KTKT started 24 hour operations during April of 1960. Several other tools available to the PD included music trends and record sales action found in national trade magazines such as Billboard and Cashbox, radio station playlists and local charts from other markets, local listener requests and most importantly local record sales in Tucson. Tucson’s leading record stores during the fifties and sixties were Rubitom’s, Mars-Hall and Johnny Barker’s Record Counter located downtown in Woolworths. According to Phil Richardson - KTKT general manager during the sixties - record sales at Johnny Barkers was a major factor used to make up the weekly KTKT the top 40 chart during the early and mid sixties. Phil Richardson tells me Johnny Barker’s meticulous and detailed record keeping of weekly sales combined with Barker’s integrity and honesty made him a reliable and accurate source of information. Former KTKT program director Jerry Stowe (1963-1965) says” Johnny Barker provided KTKT with his weekly Tucson sales figures along with a copy of Billboard magazine”. The new KTKT weekly chart would be completed during the week and then forwarded to a local printer for publication. The new weekly charts would be then available for handout at record stores and counters all over Tucson by Saturday mornings. The new KTKT chart would also debut on the air on Saturday morning starting at 1030am. More on this very important program follows. I do not know exactly when KTKT first started publishing the weekly chart but according to Frank Kalil “the charts started early on with the programming of Color Radio”. The earliest KTKT chart I have seen so far is dated March 7 1959. This early KTKT chart comes from the Russ Jackson collection. Russ worked on the air as DJ and newsman at KTKT during 1958 and 1959.
On The Air - KTKT may have charted 40 records a week during the Color Radio era but the actual music played over the air weekly differed somewhat. The music heard on the air came from an in house document called the stations “playlist”. This list was another responsibility of the KTKT PD. The playlist was created in a very unique and democratic manner as described below. The playlist differed from the published weekly chart in several ways. The playlist included new music that did not yet appear on the weekly chart. Other music on the playlist included certain album tracks – such as tracks from the long running KTKT feature “Album Sound Of The Day. On the other hand - certain songs that appeared on the weekly chart were not on the playlist – songs falling in popularity that were dropped. Hand in hand with the weekly playlist was the KTKT music policy. These were rules that dictated when and how certain music was played on the air. Ray Lindstrom talks about the KTKT playlist and music policies.” Our regular playlist was a dittoed form with all the songs we could play that week. Usually about 10-15 of the songs found on the top 40 we would never play. They were the ones that had been on for a long time and were on their way down, even thought they were still on the survey. We only played the tunes that were moving up or had arrived at the top...and the entire top ten “. Ray continues “When I started at KTKT in 1962, we played the pick hit the second tune of the hour. Sometime during 1963 we alternated, the second tune after the on the hour news in the first hour, the second tune after the half hour headlines in the second hour and back and forth”. KTKT had several set rules each DJ had to follow regarding how the music was selected and played from the playlist. To see these rules in detail please view an actual KTKT music policy document – circa the early to mid sixties - from the collection of our webmaster and former KTKT DJ Ray Lindstrom.
Selecting new music -At KTKT - as at many other radio stations - the program director was in charge of overseeing the new records that arrived daily. During email exchanges with me a few years ago KTKT program director Dan Gates explained this could be a daunting task. Dan would spend several hours each week sorting through new records as they arrived at the station – sometimes more than 50 per week- to compile a manageable group of hot new considerations to be added to the KTKT playlist. Jerry Stowe says he tried to keep the number of new records to be considered at about 15 – 20 per week. At this point the new music selection process at KTKT becomes very interesting. Weekly staff meetings were held to choose the new music to be played. Frank Kalil tells me that he started this important policy soon after the debut of Color Radio at KTKT. Chris Borden explains that during the fifties the meetings were held on Wednesday mornings. By the early sixties the meetings were held late Thursday afternoons or early evenings. These staff meeting was held in the KTKT production studio. Attendance was mandatory and all DJ’s were expected to attend with the exception being whoever was on the air at the time. But this DJ could be summoned or consulted for brief moments as he was in the adjacent on the air studio.
The Disc Jockey Jury - While all on air policy and topics were up for discussion at these weekly meetings Dan Gates told me the primary purpose of the meetings was for the PD and DJ’s to develop the new weekly music playlist. A big part of this task was for the staff to decide which songs were to be added or to be dropped for the upcoming week. Dan Gates said he would present the new group of music to consider – playing all or portions of each record – followed by a vote of yeah or nay by each DJ. It took a majority of yeah votes from the KTKT Swinging Seven DJ’s to enable a new record to be added to the playlist. After all of the new music was considered the best of these new additions was chosen - once again by vote of the DJ’s - to be the new KTKT “Pick Hit of the Week”. A record chosen as the “Pick Hit” could be sure of lots of exposure as it was played every hour during the upcoming week. More votes would take place to determine what records of waning popularity were to be dropped from the playlist. The PD would also give the DJs a sneak preview of the next weeks top 40 chart at the weekly meeting. Former KTKT General Manager Phil Richardson spoke with me via email regarding these weekly meetings. “I kept myself completely apart from the decision making process concerning the playlist, for two reasons. One does not even think about touching hugely successful programs! Another concern was that the owners and my self could never be tainted by the record promoting payola scandals then prevalent - and were of great concern to the FCC at the time. I once (like ONE time) attended the weekly jock meeting. I never voted in any way, nor made any suggestion as to what was played in what sequence or frequency.”
More on the meetings - Former KTKT DJ and our webmaster Ray Lindstrom remembers the meetings held during his time at KTKT. “All the jocks were expected to attend at 7 pm, unless of course you were on the air, which I was for much of my tenure. When I moved to the 9 pm show I attended. Along with the jocks was Uncle Johnny Barker from Woolworth's (yes, he was located at McLellan’s before moving to Woolworths). We met in the production room and the PD ran the meeting...Jerry Stowe was PD for most of my tenure. We would listen to the new records just released, Jerry would tell us about them, like "this is really hot in San Diego right now" or "Columbia is spending a lot of money on this new artist". Then we would vote on the new records to include on the following week's playlist, usually around 15-20. Then when those were selected we would choose the "Pick Hit of the Week." It was all very democratic -everybody had equal say. Except for when there was some moral issue. For example, Frank Kalil would not allow "Chug A Lug" by Roger Miller on our playlist since he felt it promoted teen drinking. Good for him. There was also a controversy when Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" was played the first time at a meeting...it actually got somewhat hot, some thought he was a communist and unpatriotic...Johnny Barker said if we didn't play the Dylan tune it would be like Hitler's book burnings. We did play it. I remember the night we first heard "Downtown" by Petula Clark...nobody liked it but me. It was one of the very few times I was right. Some of the other pick hits I remember include: The Yellow Bandana by Faron Young (bomb); Little Latin Lupe Lu-Righteous Brothers and I Keep Running Away From You by Merv Griffin”.
The Top 40 Show - Playlist rules and policy were followed at all times on KTKT except for one special time of the week (not including brief periods of public service programming on Sundays). Starting at midnights on Friday KTKT played solid gold – all KTKT Klassics – until 1030 Saturday morning when the new top 40 chart would debut on the air. The oldies acted as a buffer - dividing the old week’s chart from the new week’s chart. During the Top 40 Show all forty of the songs would be played in reverse order starting at number forty and running up to number one just before three pm. Casey Kasem will popularize this style of program with a hugely successful weekly top 40 radio syndicated program a few years later. The Saturday Frank Kalil Show followed the KTKT Top 40 show right after the 3 pm newscast. Frank would debut the new KTKT Pick Hit of the Week soon after the start of his program. Ray Lindstrom recalls The Top 40 Show very well.” I did the Top Forty Show on Saturday from 10:30 to 3pm the entire time I was there, even when I became a salesman and didn't have a regular shift. It was the only time of the week that the ENTIRE top 40 was played”. Phil Richardson recalls the popularity of the Saturday Top 40 Show with a tongue in cheek chuckle “The new chart was revealed to a panting audience each Saturday. Often fights would break out in the streets over which record held what position”.
A Big Thank You - The above effort could not have been completed without the help, time and kindness shown to me by many former KTKT people. I have been fortunate that so many would suffer my many questions and give me the answers and pointers in the right direction regarding the KTKT policies. Included in this group alphabetically are Chris Borden, Frank Casanova, Dan Gates, Russ Jackson, Frank Kalil, Ray Lindstrom, Phil Richardson and Jerry Stowe. Special thanks to Chuck Simms for sharing various oral interviews with me.
The KTKT Chart Collection - My KTKT chart collection is made up of charts ranging from 1962 to 1983. As time permits images of all my KTKT charts –starting with 1962 - will be made available for viewing on this web site. If anyone has scans or copies of KTKT charts to contribute please contact us at: email@example.com