Wednesday, December 07, 2022

DJ Claud Pettit


There is something oddly endearing about this tiny book with it's awkward idioms on the inside and rear cover. I was most taken with this one, a true product of the 1950s: "The insects must be laughing at man. We developed DDT for them but saved the H-Bomb for ourselves." 

This began with the above songbook of shapenote music. There are no call signs anywhere on the booklet. So despite the radio towers drawn on the cover, it was a struggle to find information on Claud Martin Pettit. Unusually, the sacred harp material and the time period this printing appear to have no connection with the Stamps-Baxter company. Stamps appears as the publisher on a few hymns and that's all. But on the inside page I got my first hint. Under his name was noted "Arvada, Colorado". That was enough to find a memorial page on the broadcast pioneers of Colorado  webpage.

Claude started in radio before he was even a pastor. In 1943, while still in high school he worked Sundays for KFKA at their Record Stockman studios. His pastoring began in 1952 but the two careers intersected more formally in 1952 in 1955 when he became known as "The Country Parson" on KLAK in Denver. It was a country gospel music formatted program of a type that's quite rare these days.

Most of his obituaries are about his church, and bible college, almost nothing is said about his radio career despite lasting 60 years and including at least 8 radio stations. In 1960, Claud and his wife Margaret bought 1290 KEOS-AM in Flagstaff, AZ as partial owners of CLEM, Inc with another couple: Edythe Walker and Lee Walker. The walkers were owners of KLAK so you can see the connection.  But The Pettits' sold their shares in 1961. 

In 1965 they bought KWIV in Douglas WY. In 1974 they applied to build a station in Brush, CO which was granted as 1010 KCMP-AM in 1976. A 1979 directory refers to the format as "Beautiful music, relig, spec prog: farm 12 hrs; Spanish 4 rs." Sounds like a hodge podge. I also found a slightly  incongruous citation for Claud Pettit as chief engineer on the Western Bible College owned KWBI on 91.9 in Morrison, CO.

But in 1981 they sold their station again. About then most print references to the Pettits' peter out. The last note I saw was about that sale in Broadcasting & Cable. But instead of actually retiring from radio, the Pettits' bought another radio station in 1989, and became owners  of KKDD and KKGZ in Brush, CO again.

At the time  KKGZ, and KKDD, so it was his second try on 1010 and 107.1. At that time the stations were owned by G-Z Broadcasting and were dark.and the stations in receivership according to R&R. It looks like a bit of a rescue mission. But a 2009 business directory lists Better Life ministries as owning 8 stations: KYNN, KHJR, KEHT, KOAH, KHTW, KHRX, KHUA, and KYHR across Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. The citations appear to conflict.But various directories do list him as president through 2008.

Outside of radio Claud was a Trustee for Colorado Christian College (above, top center) which itself owned two radio stations and a TV station. He was the Chairman of the radio committee at Western Bible Institute. He finally retired from radio in 1991, but continued pastoring at Better Life Ministries until at least 2009 when the Denver Post profiled him [LINK]  He was 88 years old.

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