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November 21-28, 2002

"Tower Site" Does Dallas, part IV

At the end of last week's installment, your intrepid tower hunters had finished up their morning in Fort Worth, gorged themselves on good Mexican food and were rapidly headed back towards Dallas - but with a few more interesting stops on the way.

Between Fort Worth and Dallas lies Irving, home to the Dallas Cowboys - and to the transmitter of one of Big D's least impressive AM signals.

The 1150 signal, licensed to Highland Park, was historically KVIL(AM), sister to the very successful adult contemporary FM on 103.7.

It was a latecomer to the air (1960), and was shoehorned in, running just 500 watts into these six towers near a golf course on Royal Lane during the day, and signing off at sunset. (Later, it would get six watts at night, though it wasn't clear that they were actually using any night power during our visit.)

In any event, after some 34 years as KVIL (and a quick stint as KVIX in the mid-80s), 1150 became standards KDMM in the mid-nineties, then KBIS doing business talk. Today, the business talk is gone and KBIS is doing leased-time ethnic - at least if you're in the corner of the market (northern Dallas County, essentially) that can hear it.

Head north from KBIS through Farmers Branch to the North Lake area, and just south of Belt Line Road and west of I-35E you'll encounter the four towers of KTCK (1310). This site is a relatively recent one, but the station isn't; as WRR, it was owned by the City of Dallas as early as 1921. The city sold WRR(AM) in 1978, keeping the FM side (which still does classical music and Dallas City Council meetings), and the new owners changed the calls to KAAM (matching KAFM 92.5, its new sister station) and moved the transmitter from White Rock Lake, southeast of downtown, to this site, where 1310 throws an impressive signal over Dallas (though it misses the fast-growing Denton area after dark - but we'll get back to that.)

The standards of KAAM gave way to sports as KTCK ("the Ticket") in January 1994, and that's what they're still doing to this day.

A couple of miles to the west of 1310, Belt Line bends south at the intersection with Denton Tap Road, and right there at the corner (actually reached via a small service road) are the three towers of KLIF (570), one of the very best regional-channel signals in America.

If you've been paying attention to the earlier segments of this story, you know by now that the 570 signal is the old WFAA radio, descendant of that unusual WFAA/WBAP shared-time operation on both 570 and 820. This site came into use in the late sixties, when the original 570/820 site just a bit to the southwest in Grapevine was condemned for the construction of the new Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

When it first came into service, I'm told, there were four towers here: WBAP 820 at the northern end of the site, then the three 570 sticks to the south. Today, WBAP has moved over to Tarrant County and 570 stands pretty much alone here. Two of the towers are closely spaced; to get the third in frame requires a view from the southern end of North Lake. (And getting that view required parking across Belt Line Road and running across traffic to the other side, whereupon your overly-intrepid editor tripped on a high curb, gouging his hand and cracking the filter on his lens - ah, the lengths we'll go to for tower pictures!)

In any event, WFAA radio lasted just 13 years on 570 once the WBAP share-time deal ended. In 1983, in a last gasp of AM music radio, 570 became classic rock KRQX - in AM stereo, even - for the last four years of Belo Corp. ownership before it was sold in 1987. Then came oldies as KLDD and a year as KKWM, simulcasting soft AC from sister KKWM-FM (97.9), and then the station was sold to Susquehanna to become the new home of KLIF, the heritage calls relocated from their home at 1190. And for 12 years now, KLIF 570 has been doing talk down there at the bottom of the dial.

(One more site visited but not shown here is KMPX, the Decatur-licensed channel 29 signal, on a fairly short tower on Northwest Expressway in Irving, shared with translator K213BP on 90.5.)

And after two big days in Dallas and Tarrant counties, we're headed north to see what's happening in the fast-growing northern fringe of the market. We rejoin John Callarman, one of the previous day's travel companions, in Denton, some 30 miles north of Dallas, for a couple of hours' exploration of the sticks, both old and new, on his home turf.

First up is the old KDNT (1440 Denton), whose site off Teasley Lane (the street sign says "Mel Wheeler Drive," after the longtime owner) has seen better days. It's now Tejano KTNO, the old studio building is vacant and the three towers are badly in need of maintenance. They may never get it; 1440 holds a construction permit to move to University Park (one of the "Park Cities" in wealthy North Dallas) and relocate to the 1040 site on Dallas' east side, and someday this site will be empty.

From here, we pass through Denton and head up to the north side of town, where the University of North Texas observatory sits on a big piece of land on a road called FM 2164. Here we find the tower of the university's radio station, KNTU (88.1), which was originally licensed to Denton but changed city of license to nearby McKinney a few years back. (Why? So that a McKinney-licensed FM on 106.9 could relocate, clearing the way for a big move-in that allowed 106.5 in Muenster to move to 106.7. This will make sense in a minute; hang tight!)

KNTU still signs off from midnight until 6 daily; when it is on the air, it's playing a nice selection of jazz, with a good signal into the northern parts of Dallas and vicinity.

(Oh, by the way: the calls came from UNT's earlier identity as North Texas State University. Would you have renamed them when the acronym changed?)

A couple of miles to the northeast is the very tall, but otherwise unexciting, tower of KDXX (107.9 Lewisville), one of the many FM rimshots that dot the terrain of these counties north of Dallas. This one used to be licensed to Gainesville, way out to the north of Dallas, but moved in as part of a chess game that relocated another 107.9 from Corsicana, south of Dallas, way down to Robinson, in the Waco market.

Moving east, we make a quick stop just shy of the Denton/Cooke county line at the short tower of KTDK (104.1 Sanger), which relays the "Ticket" programming from KTCK to this area with 11 kW of glorious mono. (KTCK also supplements its northern coverage with KTBK 1700 in Sherman-Denison, an area that lost literally all its local FMs and most of its AMs to Dallas move-ins over the last decade or so.)

And then, another ten miles or so to the west where Wise, Montague and Cooke counties all come together (about 35 miles north of Fort Worth and a good 60 miles from the Cedar Hill TV/FM site), we find the tallest of the rimshot towers. At 2000 feet, this one can be seen from miles away, even in the suddenly cloudy conditions we've encountered. This monster is home to KMEO (96.7 Flower Mound), a former Sherman station now serving Dallas/Fort Worth as part of the ABC family, playing soft AC as "Memories 96.7"; KKDL (106.7 Muenster), the former 106.5 that's now playing dance music for the Metroplex; and construction permits for KZMP (101.7 Azle), another Denison/Sherman move-in that's now on another tower nearby - and for KICM (93.7), which is in the process of moving all the way from Healdton, Oklahoma to John Callarman's hometown of Krum, Texas.

Off in the distance, we can make out the towers of still more move-ins: KHCK (99.1 Denton), one of the earliest signals to target the Metroplex from up north, as well as newcomers KRNB (105.7 Decatur) and religious KDKR (91.3 Decatur). (The very first Denton signal to target Dallas, the 106.1 now known as KHKS, had the advantage of being able to relocate all the way down to Cedar Hill; the other early FM rimshot, the 94.5 signal now known as KSOC, shares a site east of here with fellow move-ins KWRD 100.7, KESN 103.3 and KTCY 104.9. It's a crowded dial!)

We start the next morning in the same vicinity, along I-35E heading towards Denton, with a stop at the brand new four-tower site of KSKY (660) along Huffness Road near Highway 121 east of Lewisville. KSKY will soon move here from its old South Dallas site, sending 20 kilowatts by day into these fast-growing areas.

We part ways with Garrett after this, as he heads out from DFW airport to return to Boston, and the next few days bring only a handful of final sites in between other business.

In our first installment, we showed you the "Communications Center" studios of WFAA-TV (Channel 8) in the dark; now we see them in daylight, and it makes for an interesting comparison with the engraving shown at right, which comes from the 1961-62 Broadcasting Yearbook, when the building on Young Street in downtown Dallas was brand new. WFAA still sits next to the Dallas Morning News on Young, but there's a security gate between the two buildings in our more cautious era - not to mention a new second story on the front of the channel 8 building, home to an expanded WFAA-TV newsroom.

The basic view remains unchanged, though, and it's still an awfully impressive facility.

A few blocks away from here, of course, is the infamous Grassy Knoll, Dealey Plaza, the Book Depository and all those other reminders of that terrible day 39 years ago this week; we had a chance to visit the Sixth Floor Museum, and it's an interesting experience indeed.

From there, it's only a few blocks to 400 North Griffin Street, the longtime home of channel 4 in Dallas, dating all the way back to its days as KRLD-TV. This is where Dan Rather was based when he covered the Kennedy assassination - but today channel 4 doesn't even carry Rather's nightly newscast, having switched from CBS to Fox in 1995 during the big Fox/New World affiliation shuffle.

In the meantime, of course, channel 4 had changed from KRLD-TV to KDFW (the KRLD calls stayed with the radio side, which split off in 1974), the calls it still uses today as "Fox 4."

And today there's a second station sharing the building; Fox also owns independent KDFI (Channel 27), which carries most of the local telecasts of Rangers baseball and Stars hockey.

The tower next to the studio building is still used for STLs and ENG; I believe it's the original channel 4 tower from the days before KRLD-TV and WFAA-TV built the Cedar Hill site in 1955.

And if you've been paying careful attention to our story, you'll know that there's just one more Dallas AM site left on the list, the 1480 signal that was long known as KBOX. (Actually, 1480 began in 1953 as KGKO, borrowing the calls of the long-ago Wichita Falls station on 570 that became half of the WFAA-WBAP sharetime, but that's another story). KBOX challenged KLIF's top 40 supremacy for many years, broadcasting from a site at 9900 North McCree Road that no longer exists. In later years, as KMEZ, business news KDBN, easy listening KCMZ, Spanish KMRT and under today's calls of KHCK, it's used this five-tower site near Hutchins, south of Dallas where I-45 crosses I-20. Today's format on 1480 is Tejano "Kick FM," simulcasting KHCK-FM (99.1) up in Denton. And since 99.1 doesn't go south very well, while 1480 doesn't really get north at all, it all works out, more or less.

(What doesn't work out so well is the speeding ticket we get heading back up north on I-635, but that too is another story...)

And we leave you with one final site, appropriately enough a very old one.

At 3000 Harry Hines Boulevard, just north of downtown, sits the rambling studio complex of public broadcaster KERA, home now to KERA-FM (90.1), KERA-TV (Channel 13) and KDTN (Channel 2).

Look very carefully at the part of the building on the corner of Wolf Street and you can see that it's significantly older than the rest of the complex. It dates back, in fact, to 1949, when this building and the tower next door were the first transmitter site of Dallas' first TV station, KBTV (Channel 8). The Harry Hines site remained home to channel 8 when it became WFAA-TV the next year, and the site remained WFAA's home until Cedar Hill went up in 1955.

It was conveniently available when KERA started operation in 1960 (WFAA's studios having just moved downtown to Young Street), and the public broadcaster has called it home ever since. And here's an irony to consider: WFAA's FM station, now known as KBFB and operating on 97.9, can trace its history all the way back to 1947...when it signed on the air at 94.3 on the dial - as "KERA"!

And with that we bid adieu to the Metroplex, with fond hopes of returning next fall when the National Radio Club celebrates its seventieth anniversary there. As for Site of the Week, we'll be back in seven days with a special Thanksgiving treat...stay tuned!

Special thanks to WFAA transmitter engineer Don Guemmer, Wally Wawro, John Callarman, Chris Huff of KSCS, Wayne Kube at Belo corporate, and KRLD's Tyler Cox! Also be sure to check out Mike Shannon's excellent Dallas radio history pages at, and Steve Eberhart's amazingly comprehensive History of KLIF site...

Want to see more neat sticks all year round? Nashville's WSM (at left) is one of the more than a dozen Tower Site images featured in the 2003 Tower Site Calendar, coming this fall from Tower Site of the Week and

If you liked last year's edition, you'll love this one: higher-quality images (in addition to WSM, this year's edition includes Providence's WHJJ; Mount Mansfield, Vermont; Buffalo's WBEN; KOMA in Oklahoma City; WTIC, Hartford; Brookmans Park, England; WPAT, Paterson; Four Times Square, New York; WIBC in Indianapolis; WWVA in Wheeling, W.V.; WGN Chicago and more), more dates in radio history, a convenient hole for hanging - and we'll even make sure all the dates fall on the right days!

This year's calendar will go to press very soon, and if you order now, you'll have yours in hand by late November, in plenty of time for the holidays. And this year, you can order with your Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express by using the handy link below!

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