Thursday, April 05, 2007

Gene Autry's radio station

Gene Autry, western star and recording legend was a good capitalist. He didn't just put his money in the bank to gather dust. He bought stuff. Since satellite radio, PCs and ipods had not yet been invented be started companies. He owned Golden West Broadcasting which in turn owned KMPC-AM, KOOI-AM, KOWL-AM, KPHO-AM, KOPO-AM, KSFO-AM, KTLA-TV and the California Angels baseball team. Let's focus on KMPC since I care less about baseball than TV.

Today KMPC-1540 is known in LA as 1540 The Ticket. It's owned and operated by the radio division of the Sporting News magazine under the company Rose City Radio. They compete directly with KSPN-AM, (ESPN outlet obviously) How the station got from the bedazzled hangs of Mr. Autry to a sporting magazine is kind of interesting. Go here, click the pic.

Let's move backwards. In September of last year KMPC's parent company was sold to American City Business Journals (ACBJ) with a block of other stations. ACBJ bought Sporting News at the same time. They used the brand to develop what they thought would be a competitor to the dominant ESPN brand. Before that it was on 710, and that was the stick that Gene owned. The irony is that today 710 is KSPN-AM, that aforementioned ESPN competitor.

The station first went on air in 1927 with the call letters KRLO and the frequency of 1170. it was started by a real Estate Developer and a Stock Broker. A year later the money men bailed, selling the station to engineer Ernest J. Krause who renames the station for himself with the calls KEJK. He offloads the hot potato the same year to R.S. MacMillan Petroleum Company. they start a dayshare with KFSG the station airing insane drug-addled mumbling from Aimee McPherson. In 1929 the gasman moves the stick to 710 to get away from Aimees death cult.

MacMillan tried to change the KEJK call letters to KMP the same year, but the call were already assigned to the Omaha-based Boeing Air Transportation Co. They retry in 1930 and settle naming it after themselves, MacMillan Petroleum Company. In 1932 they accept an offer from the Beverly Hills Broadcasting Co. It's major stockholders were all stars and starlets, including Bing Crosby, Paul Whiteman, “Amos & Andy” (Freeman Gosden & Charles Corell) and others.

The movie stars ran the station into the ground and by June of 1934, the Beverly Hills Broadcasting Co was in receivership. It was acquired by Pacific Southwest Discount Corporation and in turn purchased by Detroit businessman George Richards for $125,000. Things are profitable and stable until Dick kicks the bucket in 1952. It was only then, that the widowed Mrs. Richard offloads the station and Gene Autry became the principal owner. His real first name is Orvon just so you know. Gene is his middle name.

So what happened between then and the call change in 1998? Orvon died in 1998. his personal office was inside KMPC, it's bigger-than-a-football-field building was his as well. His own radio show had ended it's run in 1956. Gene’s Melody Ranch radio show aired for an unprecedented 16 years. Autry of course first found fame in radio, beginning his career as “Oklahoma’s Yodeling Cowboy” at KVOO in Tulsa, OK. Autry is the only entertainer to have all five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one each for Radio, Recording, Motion Pictures, Television, and Live Theatre/performance. More here.