The KAZZ-Sonobeat Connection

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

The KAZZ-FM staff

The KAZZ-FM weekday program schedule beginning in fall '64

When Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) joined its deejay staff in October 1964, KAZZ-FM's weekday programming blocks featured Spanish, easy listening, light classical, showtunes, folk, country, and jazz. With Rim's addition, a new top 40 block was added on weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings. During this period, Gib Devine was station manager, Sam Hallman served as program director, and Norman Bodden was the station's chief engineer. Bill Josey Sr. joined the staff as sales manager in December after only a three month stint as local sales rep for Austin's KTBC-AM-FM. Elward "Ruff" Ruffin not only carried a large part of the broadcast day on the air spinning easy listening and pop albums, but also served as the station's traffic manager, preparing the daily program logs and scheduling commercials across the broadcast day. Most of the weekday deejays also pulled at least one weekend shift, and KAZZ's regular weekend-only deejay, Gene Chapline, specialized in folk and jazz. Among KAZZ's jazz deejay staff in the early '60s, before Austin restaurateur Monroe Lopez purchased the station, was Jeff Millar, who attended the University of Texas and later went on to much greater fame as co-creator of the popular nationally syndicated Tank McNamara newspaper comic strip, which he wrote until his death in November 2012.

The station's broadcast day began at 6 AM and ended at 1 AM. Although in 1961 the FCC had authorized FM stations to broadcast in stereo, KAZZ never invested in the necessary stereo equipment, which would have included a two-channel audio control console and stereo-capable transmitter. So, KAZZ remained monaural, despite being outfitted with stereo turntables and tape decks.

KAZZ subscribed to the Associated Press newswire and presented a five minute newscast at the top of each hour plus quick headlines on the half-hour. The AP teletype machine was in the station's transmitter room, down the hall and half a flight of steps downstairs from the studio itself, so twice each hour the deejays would make a mad dash out of the control room, down the hall, down the stairs, into the locked transmitter room, and back, trailing five to six feet of teletype paper behind, all while a long song played. Heaven forbid they forget the transmitter room and control room keys! Adding to the deejays' challenge, the men's restroom was half a flight of stairs up, also just off the stairwell.

Like all radio stations, KAZZ underwent many personnel changes. In early 1965, Bill Josey Sr. replaced Gib Devine as station manager (also retaining his role as sales manager), Mike Hull briefly joined John Jay on the late night shift, Don Craig joined as a weekend deejay, and David Lopez (who had been managing editor of the Daily Texan campus newspaper while a student at the University of Texas) replaced Juan Urda on Mañanitas Desde La Capital!, and Henry Misgrot replaced Norman Bodden for a short stint as chief engineer. In February 1965, KAZZ adopted a 24 hour format, playing rock from 1 AM to 6 AM. Gary Paul Davis (who initially used the air name "Gary Davis" but soon shifted to "Paul Davis") took the all-night slot until Stan Parks joined the deejay roster in fall '65 with a rhythm & blues show starting at 1 AM weeknights and midnight Saturdays. Mid-'65, after graduating high school, Bill Jr.'s friend Gary Thomas, an avid ham radio operator, took over chores as the station's chief engineer, remaining in that position until mid-'67. In October '65, Kirk Wilson replaced Bob Lockhart on the Folkways block. In April '66, Richard Grammon joined the staff, taking the rock block at 2 AM weeknights and bringing the program a more eclectic and erudite playlist culled from more obscure album tracks, foreshadowing the progressive rock movement in American FM radio that peaked a decade later. But there were still more changes ahead...

KAZZ-FM midnight R&B deejay Stan "the Man" Parks shows off his height
courtesy Ralph Y. Michaels