The KAZZ-Sonobeat Connection

How a tiny but groundbreaking Austin, Texas, FM station launched a record label

Odds and ends

One of Bill Josey Sr.'s famous notes to the KAZZ-FM deejay staff
Less of a note and more of a script for a voice over promo that Kirk Wilson will record for Rim Kelley's KAZZ program
KAZZ-FM's evening deejay Kirk Wilson; portrait by L. Santoya

KAZZ-FM station manager Bill Josey Sr. wrote notes to the staff frequently enough that he had special "From the Desk of" note pads printed. His notes were always handwritten. The subject matter of Bill's notes ranged from expressing appreciation for a job well done (for example, on a live remote broadcast) to suggestions for adding new music to the station's playlist to simple notifications or instructions. One note alerted afternoon deejay Rim Kelley to a call from International Artists Records president Leland Rogers, whose label released the 13th Floor Elevators singles and albums. Unfortunately, Rim no longer remembers the purpose of Leland's call.

Even before becoming KAZZ's program director in 1967, Rim had personalized notes printed, too. He generally used these to draft promos for his weekday afternoon and Saturday morning top 40 program and handed them over to other KAZZ deejays to record for him. The British Invasion that started in 1964 with the Beatles was still going strong in 1967, so KAZZ subscribed to a one-hour weekly syndicated program from the BBC, Top of the Pops, which Rim ran on his Wednesday afternoon programs for several months. Top of the Pops featured performances by and canned interviews with top U.K. recording artists; the program was syndicated worldwide and, to make it appear that the local deejay was interviewing the artist, the local deejay was provided with a script of questions to read in synchronization with the audio tape of the artist's canned answers.

Since the mid-'60s were the era of the British Invasion – not just the Beatles and Rolling Stones but dozens of hot British artists including Donovan, Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, the Kinks, The Searchers, and The Who – KAZZ subscribed to the New Musical Express, England's equivalent to Billboard magazine. Rim ordered the top-selling British 45s to play on his program from a London mail order store. In most instances, British rock artists' new singles and albums were released first in the U.K. and didn't make it to the U.S. until months later, so Rim was able to get a jump on his competition at KNOW radio. Often, multiple versions of the same song were recorded during the same U.K. sessions and by mistake (as in the case of the Animals' We've Gotta Get Out of This Place, for which the wrong version – an alternate take with a faster tempo – was accidentally shipped to the Animals' U.S. record label, MGM) or by design (as with the Beatles singles and albums), the U.K. versions and U.S. versions were often different.

Because KAZZ-FM's engineering staff was parttime and the Federal Communications Commission required various transmitter parameters, such as input power and output power, to be logged every half hour, each deejay had to hold at least a Radio Telephone Third Class Operator Permit. The permit also recorded data about the holder's service record. Rim's permit shows the stations for which he worked in Galveston and Austin. During the break in service between the closing of KAZZ in January 1968 and Rim's stint at his former competitor, KNOW AM, beginning in March 1968, Rim worked exclusively on Sonobeat projects with Bill Josey Sr. When Rim later worked at KOKE (which had purchased KAZZ) in the news department, he did not need an FCC permit.

A few years back, we caught up with Kirk Wilson, KAZZ-FM's mellifluous deejay during 1966 and '67. Kirk anchored KAZZ's weekday evening Folkways program and hosted KAZZ's Saturday morning rock program during 1967. Kirk's easy-going style, perfect sense of pacing, and deep knowledge of folk and jazz music made him a highly popular deejay with hip University of Texas students and faculty. Kirk also was the voice of most promos that ran on Rim's rock program and voiced commercials for local businesses that ran across KAZZ's broadcast day. He also was the in-studio host of most of KAZZ's live remote broadcasts and had the distinction of quickly cutting off a particularly, shall we say, colorful outburst by Janis Joplin – in which she used several of George Carlin's famous seven dirty words – between songs on an infamous KAZZ live broadcast from The Eleventh Door folk club in downtown Austin.

Today, Kirk is president and creative director of Austin's Bazzirk business-to-business marketing agency group, which he founded in 1988. Maybe recording all those commercials for KAZZ-FM back in the '60s influenced him to make a full-time career of advertising.

The backside of Rim's FCC 3rd Class Radio-Telephone permit showing the radio stations he's worked for and his service record
Rim buys singles from the U.K. to get British Invasion artist releases months before they're available in the U.S.