The Kennedy Assassination and KTKT
by Ray Lindstrom
It was about 11:30 in the morning and I was driving to my political science class at the University of Arizona. During the day I was getting my college degree. At night I was a disc jockey at KTKT radio. This day I sat at the traffic light on Broadway at Wilmot traveling west. I was listening to my station, KTKT. There was a Kinney Shoe commercial on the air. All of a sudden Lloyd Couch, the News Director, interrupted the commercial with a news bulletin. Interrupted the commercial! You never interrupted a commercial. Any bulletin could wait a few seconds to make sure you got those few extra bucks in the coffers. But, not this news bulletin.
His first "flash" was that shots had been fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas and that apparently he was hit. I was stunned. As I drove west on Broadway, Lloyd kept up with the bulletins until he announced that President John F. Kennedy was dead.
I arrived at class and the students were just milling around the professor, Dr. Conrad Joyner (who would later go on to be elected a Pima County Supervisor), discussing this horrible event. Girls were crying. Somebody went out and brought in a TV set and we watched Walter Cronkite provide the details of the murder and the search for the gunman. After a while, Dr. Joyner said there would be no class, so we all went our separate ways.
I decided to go to the radio station, a magnet for any radio guy at a time like this. When I got there, the three executives were in the production studio having a meeting. Phil Richardson, Station Manager, Frank Kalil, Assistant Manager, and Jerry Stowe, Program Director. The President of The United States had just been shot and they were deciding how to format the station appropriately until at least the state funeral was over.
The question was, "How can we go ahead and play rock and roll music during this time of national tragedy and mourning?" The answer was, they couldn't. They all agreed to stop the top forty format immediately and start playing patriotic tunes until after the funeral.
It sounded like a wise choice at the time, but I ask you to come up with the names of over 5 patriotic songs in 1963. Lee Greenwood wasn't even around yet. Jerry Stowe went out to Rubitom's Records and came back with a couple of albums, shaking his head. For 4 days you heard nothing but, The Star Spangled Banner, America, America The Beautiful, My Country Tis of Thee, Columbia Gem of the Ocean, and Battle Hymn of the Republic. Over and over again for 4 days. Sure, the assassination was depressing, but listening to KTKT made it even worse.
After the funeral we went back to Fats Domino and Elvis. However, there was a memo from the Program Director eliminating some songs from the play list because they could be considered in bad taste. Two I remember were Long Tall Texan by Murray Kellam (self explanatory) and Down at Papa Joe's by The Dixiebelles (JFK's father was known as Papa Joe). Also he reminded us, "Do not to play any cuts from the "First Family" comedy album by Vaughan Meador."
As I left the station on the day of the assassination, I picked up a copy of the Tucson Daily Citizen that was just "hot off the press." A scan of that actual newspaper's front page is at the top of this story.
I often wonder what rock stations would do today if a President was assassinated. I hope we will never find out. But, I'm absolutely sure that they won't do what we did. In retrospect, it was the right thing to do in 1963.