Wednesday, April 14, 2010

KEX and the Castle Jazz Band

It's a tale of a conflict of interest. Some of this relates to another post here, but I'll summarize briefly. The basic story is a to and fro for KEX-AM. They moved repeatedly from a member of a network to a station without one.It begins in Portland, OR. 1250 KEX-AM began broadcasting on December 23rd, 1926. It's important to note that date because from that time until October 3rd, 1928 all programing on KEX was local. After that date they syndicated some programming from KJR. that was when they joined the Northwest Network. The next week ABC started working with CBS and KEX was able to syndicate some of those programs as well. In August the Northwest Network folded. KEX was back into local programming (and moved to 1080.)

But in 1931 they were bought by NBC and were back into a very syndicated schedule. In January 1942, KEX's was caught up in an antitrust lawsuit and NBC had to divest KEX. They sold it to Westinghouse. (Who moved the station to 1190) Westinghouse already owned WOWO who shared the 1190 frequency. But WOWO has the clear channel license. Their interest in the property was partly to protect WOWO. KEX had to operate as a daytimer.

The Castle Jazz Band were not the only band playing on KEX. Live music was a huge focus in radio well into the 1960s. Seems quaint now, but it was once the meat and potatoes so to speak. Which brings us to the Castle Jazz Band. This band came together in about 1944: Monte Ballou, banjoist, and vocalist put the first incarnations of the band together. Early members included Bob Gilbert, Freddie Crews and Bob Short, Bob Scobey, George Brunis, Don Kinch, Chris Tyle and most importantly George Edward Bruns.George Bruns (sometimes Brunis or Burns) was born July 3, 1914 in Sandy, Oregon. He played trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano, string bass, and tuba. He was also the Music Director for KEX and simultaneously the the Music Director at 970 KOIN-AM. More here. He'd already played in the Jim Dericks Orchestra, Jack Teagarden's band and Harry Owens' Hawaiian Band. This must have impressed some people at the job interview. George joined the Castle jazz band at the end of 1945 when he returned from WWII. I dont' know which came first, the radio gig or the jazz band.. but he made it work for him.With this direct connection to radio the band exploded in Portland. Their success was so great that they opened their own club in 1949. In 1951, after the cooperative dissolved, Ballou opened a second club in Portland, with a new band which included Bob Gilbert, Freddie Crews and Bob Short. But Bruns only stuck with the band for 4 years. He left Oregon for Los Angeles in 1949. Eventually he ended up working for Disney scoring films such as Sleeping Beauty. His best work was obviously behind him. More here.