The KAZZ-Sonobeat Connection

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

KAZZ's “personality”

Kirk Wilson (right) and Rim Kelley flank folksinger Judy Collins as she takes the KAZZ microphone to talk about her breakthrough 1967 album In My Life; part of KAZZ's "personality" was its live interviews with pop, folk, and jazz musicians flowing through Austin and its live remote broadcasts originating from Austin night clubs

Radio in the '60s featured deejays with strong if not downright over-the-top personalities, placing as much emphasis on what they said between the records they played as the music itself. Often the deejays' patter was the only way to distinguish one top 40 station from another, since all top 40 stations played essentially the same list of then-current hits. Gordon McClendon's "Texas Triangle" – trend-setting top 40 AM stations in Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and San Antonio – served as the "personality" gold standard for stations throughout Texas. Mac Hudson on KILT in Houston (a McClendon station), Woody Roberts on KONO (which was not a McClendon station but a top Central Texas station) in San Antonio, Art Roberts on WLS in Chicago, and Charlie Tuna and The Real Don Steele on KHJ in Los Angeles demonstrated that projecting a strong and witty persona on the air built and maintained a loyal audience. Still another way to establish a station's personality was through station ID jingles sprinkled throughout each hour to remind listeners just what station they're listening to, quite important when the Arbitron ratings pollsters called random radio listeners.

Even though Austin's KAZZ-FM broadcast in a block format – covering almost every type of music in different segments across its broadcast day – each of its deejays had a distinctive personality that matched the music he played. The jingles KAZZ selected to project its image added consistency across the day but also reflected its block programming philosophy and individual deejay personalities. The package, from Pepper Spund Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, included jingles that spanned pop to jazz to light rock. The Variety Fair package was a "trade-out", and came with an extensive commercial production library on several dozen LPs. In exchange for a greatly reduced license fee for customization of the ID jingles for KAZZ, KAZZ provided Pepper's parent company, media buyer Pepper-Tanner, with an inventory of 30 and 60 second spots that Pepper-Tanner used for its national and regional advertising clients. This trade-out saved KAZZ a significant amount of money, since custom station ID jingles from other major suppliers, such as PAMS of Dallas (which produced rival station KNOW's jingles), were quite expensive. And, with the Pepper-Tanner production library, which contained generic jingles for almost every kind of business, KAZZ was able to produce national-quality spots for local advertisers.

KAZZ first began using its Pepper jingle package in late '65 and continued to use until the station shut down in January '68. The jingles included general station identifications as well as news, weather, and time intros, special purpose jingles (the "Holiday Radio" jingle that opens our presentation is a good example), and a longer jingle saluting the University of Texas Longhorns. Even deejay Rim Kelley had a custom jingle for his top 40 show on KAZZ.

The Pepper "Variety Fair" KAZZ-FM jingles

Before KAZZ bought the Pepper jingle package, Rim attempted to record two or three custom station ID jingles locally, enlisting his former high school's choir. The choir's a capella attempts didn't come close to professional quality, both in performance and recording, and were never used on air.

Not surprisingly, KAZZ-FM air checks are rare, although one of KAZZ's biggest fans during the '60s, Ralph Y. Michaels, made many of them for his personal library; in 2012, we reconnected with Ralph, who has kept his reel-to-reel and cassette tape collection of KAZZ air checks for 50 years and generously offered them, along with his candid control room photos, exclusively to Sonobeat.com, which we've put over here.

Not counting Ralph's collection, most of the air checks we've found over the years are of KAZZ's live remote broadcasts from various club venues around Austin. Although we've provided three of these air checks elsewhere on Sonobeat.com, we've gathered them together here, along with an air check of a 1967 Sweetarts live remote broadcast from a popular '60s downtown Austin night spot, Club Saracen.

The Pepper "Variety Fair" logo package that KAZZ acquires in 1965
To afford the Pepper station jingles, KAZZ bartered advertising time, and in return also received the Tanner Total Sound production library, dozens of 33-1/3 RPM LPs consisting of generic jingles for almost every kind of business, from car dealerships to restaurants to beauty parlors