Friday, February 09, 2007

KZM and KLX go seperate ways

Oakland is overshadowed by San Francisco's coloful radio history and so, Oakland is not remembered for it's radio heritage, but it like many towns, had its notable events. This is more of a parable. Two stations that began very equal and with two very different outcomes.

Preston Decker Allen became interested in radio in 1910, and began working nights as a Western Union telegraph operator while still in highschool. His interest led him to get one of the first amateur radio licenses, 6PF that same year. By 1911 the industrious young man was working for Marconi operating his high-powered trans-Pacific telegraph station at Kahuku, Hawaii. He did a tour of duty in WWI and returned to marconi afterwards in 1921.

But working for marconi wasn't going to be enough. He left Marconi after 2 more years and started a radio operator's training school called the Western Radio Institute. (NBC announcer Bill Andrews was one of Allen's first students) About mid-1921, an experimental radio station was started as a part of the school's operation. Allen built the transmitter from spare parts and a couple of discarded French tubes he had acquired while in Europe with the Navy, and it was on the air as 6XAJ. 6XAJ became KZM in September that same year.

News material to the radio staiton was provided by the local newspaper, the Tribune. Or it was until Allen himself mistakenly convinced publisher Joseph Knowland that the Tribune should apply for its own license. Tribune went on the air as KLX July 25, 1922, sharing the single broadcast frequency of 360 meters with all other area stations. such was the curse of 1922...

At this point KLX was kind of faking it. It was operated with the same staff and equipment as KZM. For all intents and purposes they are the same damn 5 watt station. In 1923 they went to 100 watts still sharing everything like brothers at the Oakland Hotel .

But in 1923, the Tribune's new office building was finished. KLX moved off of KZM's couch and got it's own 500-watt transmitter and studios. The station even got it's own frequency at 590. Dejected Allen sold the KZM license to Leon P. Tenney, a Hayward businessman. Tenney turned KZM into a sharingtime with KRE in Berkeley, first on 1300 (breifly on 1370 too)

In January of 1930, Tenney sold the station to Julius Brunton and Sons, operators of KJBS. But the FRC decided that the transfer of licese to Brunton was unauthorized. They killed the KZM license on June 23, 1931.

KLX asurvived unharmed for 30 years. In 1959 the Oakland Tribune sold KLX to the Crowell-Collier Publishing Company. This company operated KFWB, a successful rock'n'roll station in Los Angeles, and KLX became KEWB and eventually KNEW.