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
Bill Josey Sr.'s and Rim Kelleys' name tags, worn when hosting live remote broadcasts over KAZZ-FM or making public appearances on behalf of the station
Rim buys singles from the U.K. to get British Invasion artist releases months before they're available in the U.S.

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 note pads 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.

Station manager Bill Josey Sr. rotated several on-air staff into hosting slots on KAZZ-FM's live remote broadcasts. Bill Sr. himself hosted live remote broadcasts of pop and jazz acts from the Embassy Room at The Club Seville in the Sheraton Crest (now The LINE Austin) in downtown Austin; Kirk Wilson hosted folk acts in live performances from the 11th Door, also in downtown Austin; Rim Kelley hosted live remote broadcasts of rock acts from the Jade Room, New Orleans Old World Night Club, and Club Saracen; and Sam Hallman occasionally hosted live remotes of rock acts as well. Bill Sr. wanted to make sure that the audiences at these live music venues knew the names of the on-air staff, so each wore a name tag that also prominently identified "KAZZ RADIO".

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 part-time 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 (now adult pop music station KJFK), 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.

The station staff signed a holiday greeting card each December to send to advertising clients, regular listeners (who provided their mailing addresses for contests or to receive KAZZ's hit lists), record distributors, and other "friends and family". The December 1967 card was the last KAZZ mailed out, since in January '68, the station shut down for several weeks when new owner KOKE took over.

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 station promos and 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 cabaret in downtown Austin.

In 1988, Kirk founded and served as creative director of Austin's Bazzirk business-to-business marketing agency group. Maybe recording all those commercials for KAZZ-FM back in the '60s influenced him to make a full-time career of advertising. Today, Kirk's a published author whose newest book, a collection of his short stories entitled Out of Season, was released in January 2023. Details at Kirk's personal website.

The backside of Rim's FCC 3rd Class Radio-Telephone permit showing the radio stations he's worked for and his service record
Front and inside of KAZZ's 1967 Holiday greeting card
KAZZ-FM's evening deejay Kirk Wilson; portrait by L. Santoya