On Thursday, December 18, 1947, on page 16 of the Sherman Democrat newspaper, a new radio heralded its beginnings in a full-page advertisement with the headline: "Here Is An Event for Which You Have Long Been Waiting." The owners, Joe Carroll and Elmer Scarborough, were proud of their investment, even though they sold the station just a year later.
Otis McKenzie was announced as station manager of the new radio station in Sherman. McKenzie was already known in the area for his work at KRRV-AM, also licensed to the town. In the front office, Louise Cobler as program/traffic manager, commercial writer and program producer. Sue Hill was the station's accountant, receptionist and stenographer. Remember this was 70-plus years ago.
Bill Collins was named staff announcer and music librarian; Bill Jaco, production manager and part time announcer; Stafford Davis and Paul Phillips handled technical duties and keep the equipment operating.
"Nothing has been spared to make your new Radio Station one of the finest of its kind on the air."
The program schedule noted that 1500-AM would present a full-day's offering. As a daytime broadcast station, that meant from 7:30 am until sunset each day. And while a listing of programs was printed, the ad also warned that "This is the program that will be followed for the time being. Changes will be announced in the Democrat as they occur."
Although the station will offer a large variety of carefully selected programs, its music will be principally of the recoded type which is universally accepted as the finest sort to be had."
Monday through Saturday, morning began with "An Ear for Corn," followed by "Time Out for Sports," at noon the "Farm to Market Report," then later in the day "Adventures in Jazz," then ending the day at 4:35 pm with 40 minutes of "Campus Classics."
Proud of the Record Library
The radio station was proud of its record library. Shelves loaded with mostly 78-RPM discs and a few transcriptions discs. The first long-play album did not arrive on the scene until the next year, in 1948. Transcription discs were huge—16-inches in diameter—compared to the 12-inch that we know as a 33 1/3-RPM LP.
The ad in the Sherman Democrat boasted "More than 5,000 records are included in our Record Library which will open up to you a vast field of entertainment from the finest artists on earth."
Grayson County was created from Fannin County by the Texas State Legislature on March 17, 1846, just over 100 years before 1500-AM went on the air that December.
The county's population was at 70,000-plus in 1947, Sherman counted just under 20,000, and Denison tallied approximately 17,000 residents. For a growing population, the radio station joined others that were already serving the community.
Since December 9, 1947, 1500 AM has been broadcasting on the AM radio dial, in one form or another.
It was Sherman’s first commercial broadcast station. Its original programming was classical music and the radio station, over the years, offered a variety of formats. Now, 70 years later, KJIM-AM’s sister station KJIM-FM, is the area’s newest radio station at 101.3 on the dial.
KJIM-AM’s signal can be heard across North Texas and Southern Oklahoma. The new FM signal at 101.3 covers a 40-mile radius from its 370-ft tower in Denison on Texoma Parkway just north FM 691.
KJIM-AM and FM are owned and operated by Bob Allen. He bought KJIM-AM in 1995, and invested time and money improving the facility’s technical standards and experimenting with different programming formats. In the end, he settled on an eclectic mix of popular music from the charts as far back as the 1950s. That “nostalgia” format, that Allen dubbed “The Memory Maker,” has successfully attracted a loyal adult audience for over 20 years.
Big Dreams Come True
“I always dreamed of owning my own radio station. In fact, as a child spending summers at our family’s vacation home on Lake Texoma in the 1950s, I listened to 1500 AM when we were on the lake. Who could imagine that one day I would own it,” said Allen.
“I always dreamed of owning my own radio station."
For Bob Allen, running his radio stations is more than a full-time job. His day starts at 2:30 a.m. and ends most days about 8:00 p.m. The schedule is 7 days a week and requires him to be on the air more than 5 hours each day.
“My biggest job—and greatest pleasure—is preparing and reading the news. I am proud of the fact my radio station concentrates on local news, local events, and supporting the many projects of non-profit organizations in the community,” said Allen. KJIM has the most locally-produced news and weather on the local radio dial, with newscasts at 6:45 a.m., 7:45 a.m., 8:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. He also supervises the extended news broadcast from CBS Radio at 5:00 p.m.
“Having CBS Radio News at the top of every hour gives us access to national and world events, and we also run the commentaries from the legendary Charles Osgood.”
Getting a license for a FM radio signal in a market the size of Texoma is difficult. New allocations for FM frequencies are rare. There are few available channels on the dial in a growing area like Grayson County, particularly when it is adjacent to a major metropolitan area. Allen got his latest license because of a landmark ruling in 2015, by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) titled TheAM Revitalization Act.
The act allows AM broadcast radio stations that are limited to daytime service to apply for an additional license to simulcast its AM programming on a low-power FM channel if one is available. Since 1947, 1500-AM has been limited to operating during daytime hours only, with 1,000 watts of power.
Allen’s application for the FM station was filed in 2016.
Allen’s application for the FM station was filed over a year ago, shortly after the government announced that the revitalization ruling was in effect. “I know that I was one of the first group of independent broadcasters to request the add-on signal, and in the scheme of things, it is probably one of the fastest turnarounds I have experienced with the FCC,” said Allen.
On the Cutting Edge of Top 40 Radio
Bob Allen, has been in the radio business since the 1950s when he was hired at age 16 as a disc jockey at KTOK-AM, Oklahoma City. Still in high school, Allen admits he was fortunate to enter the radio industry at a time of major change in how radio stations were programming.
“My high school operated a non-commercial, educational, radio station on campus and it was there my interest was stimulated,” recalls Allen. “It seemed like a great way to make some money and be popular with the girls!”
The idea of playing rock ‘n’ roll records exclusively was a radical concept when Allen began his career. “Pioneers like Todd Storz in Omaha and Gordon McLendon in Dallas were beginning to experiment with a top-40 format that played a short list of hit songs, mixed with personalities, heavy on-air promotion and contests, and a much faster pace overall,” Allen recalls.
The idea of playing rock ‘n’ roll records exclusively was a radical concept when Allen began his career.
Three years into his radio career, Allen began to hear rumors about a revolutionary format that would appeal to the millions of baby boomers entering their teen years.
“The general manager of the radio station called me in to tell me that a consultant from New York would be sitting with me on the night shift teaching me how to run a new style of program. That was when I first learned about Top 40 radio and I absolutely loved it!”
Over the next few years, Allen moved from one station to another in the growing Oklahoma City market making a name for himself as a reliable employee with a dynamic personality that attracted young listeners. He learned the ins-and-outs, ups-and-downs of a competitive industry and he managed to stay on top of the ratings and always moving forward. But not everything worked out as expected.
In 1961, Bob Allen accepted a job at KRMG-AM, Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a dream come true for the young man who had grown up listening to the powerful radio station and thinking that one day, he would sit in that studio and play records for an audience that covered most of Oklahoma and parts of Texas. But, not all dreams unfold as expected.
Just as Allen moved to Tulsa, the radio station changed its programming and moved away from its Top 40 format. “Instead of playing Chuck Berry records, I was now playing The Mills Brothers and Patti Page. It wasn’t the dream scenario I imagined,” Allen remembers.
Allen did his time in Tulsa, but at the first opportunity returned to Oklahoma City and KTOK-AM to lick his wounds and regain his confidence. “As lucky as my life has been, the KRMG-AM episode was devastating and it took me a while to get back on my feet,” said Allen.
Reestablishing himself in the Oklahoma City market and with his now-honed skills in the emerging Top 40 format, Bob Allen found his career back on track. Then, KXOL-AM in Fort Worth came calling.
“It was very difficult for me to leave Oklahoma City that second time,” Allen remembers. “The Tulsa disaster was still on my mind, but the radio business is fickle. Not everything revolves around ratings. If a radio property is sold, it can mean a complete change of format and personnel.”
KXOL-AM was owned by Wendell Mayes, Sr., another broadcast pioneer, who Allen admired. “As nervous as I was, with a wife and three kids, it felt like an opportunity I could not pass up. After much back and forth, they agreed to pay me more money than I had ever made and pay for my move. A week later I was on the air in Fort Worth,” said Allen.
Today, Allen credits the move to Fort Worth as a life-changing event.
Today, Allen credits the move to Fort Worth as a life-changing event. It was there he proved his talent and learned how to navigate the complex world of corporate broadcasting. And it was there that he realized the real money to be made was in sales.
“KFJZ-AM was looking for a sales representative and it was time for me to make a move,” recalls Allen. Over the next few years, Allen excelled in his new position and built a strong advertiser base for the radio station.
Later, Allen started a small advertising agency and signed clients like Tandy Corporation’s RadioShack, ColorTile, and the McDavid automotive dealerships. It was for the McDavid family that Allen built the Widetrack brand. It was Allen’s pet Great Dane that played the role of Widetrack and became a star on Dallas-Fort Worth television with commercials Bob Allen wrote and produced.
Still building on a 60-plus year career in media, Bob Allen is still enthusiastic about his life’s work. “How lucky am I, to have had a successful run on radio and television, and now my own radio stations, where I can program exactly the music, news, and features that please me?” asks Allen.
Early to bed. Very, very, early to rise makes Bob Allen a happy man.
Billboard magazine has been the bible of the music industry since the first charts were published in 1951. In the beginning, songs were rated by retail sales, in what was then the heyday of vinyl. 78 rpm disks, made of a brittle material and covered in shellac, were still being sold, but quickly becoming less popular.
The origins of Billboard go back to 1894 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Titled Billboard Advertising, the trade publication was published for the bill posting industry. Over the years, The Billboard included coverage of the amusement business, movies, radio, television, and of course, the music business.
Charting the Music Industry
With the development of the jukebox industry during the 1930s, The Billboard began publishing music charts. Originally, there were only three genre-specific charts: Pop, Rhythm & Blues, and Country & Western.
Billboard, published its first music hit parade on January 4, 1936; its first record chart was calculated on July 20, 1940. Billboard first published weekly music charts in 1940, there were sales charts and there were airplay charts. These separate charts became the “Hot 100” on August 4, 1958.
Before the Billboard Hot 100 chart was established in August 1958, Billboard used to publish several weekly charts. Throughout most of the 1950s, the magazine published the following three charts to measure a song’s popularity:
Best Sellers in Stores – ranked the biggest selling singles in retail stores, as reported by merchants surveyed throughout the country.
Most Played by Disk Jockeys – ranked the most played songs on United States radio stations, as reported by radio disc jockeys and radio stations.
Most Played in Jukeboxes – ranked the most played songs in jukeboxes across the United States. At that time, this chart used to be one of the most important channels for measuring the popularity of a song among the younger generation of listeners, as many US radio stations resisted adding rock and roll music to their playlists for many years.
This article, written by Edward Southerland, first appeared in Texoma Living! Magazine, March 19, 2007.
Bob Allen has been in the radio business since he was a kid in Oklahoma City. He runs the only locally owned and operated radio station in Grayson County, KJIM 1500AM. Well and good, but even Allen’s impressive credentials and long experience in broadcasting pale to his real claim to fame. Bob Allen knew Icky Twerp. That’s right, he knew Icky Twerp personally, and he knew Ajax and Delphinium and Arkadelphia, too. They were apes.
“I worked at radio station KFJZ in Fort Worth. KTVT-TV, Channel 11 was in the same building as KFJZ,” said Allen. “Icky Twerp worked for KTVT-TV and I saw him every day. I learned to do television production by being in that building and watching him do his show. There’s no telling how many times I stood in that studio and watched the Icky Twerp show.”
Icky Twerp was Bill Canfield, who graduated from TCU in 1955 and went to work for Fort Worth department store. When a friend suggested he might get some work in television at KFJZ-TV Channel 11 —the station would become KTVT-TV later on —Canfield gave it a whirl. The television whirl lasted more than 30 years.
He started by creating commercials for the station’s advertisers. It took a special sort of wackiness to come up with a character called Mortimer Moneybags to promote a local bank, and the station executives knew talent when they saw it, so they turned Canfield loose to come up with other characters to host local shows.
In those days, stations carried a lot of original programming, and this was especially true at KFJZ-TV.
In those days, stations carried a lot of original programming, and this was especially true at KFJZ-TV. There were four stations in Dallas and Fort Worth, and KFJZ-TV was the only one without a network affiliation. With a line up of old movies, and kid shows, they were scrambling to fill the broadcast day, and Canfield, with his amazing imagination quickly became the man to call when the station need something to put on the air.
He began as Captain Swabbie, the host of a cartoon show. Then came Ickabod Twerpwhistle and then Icky Twerp. Icky wore a wrinkle black suit, black glasses and a tiny cowboy hat that perched atop a mound of frizzy hair. Late at night, Icky Twerp transmogrified into Gorgon, the spooky host of Nightmare, a station’s weekly offering of horror movies.
If you were a kid living within range of Channel 11 in the late 1950s and early 1960s, you watched “Slam Bang Theater” with Icky Twerp every day. It was not a negotiable option, even if you parent were less than enthused by your taste in shows.
It was Icky, the apes, the Three Stooges, cartoons and the more than occasional flying cream pies – just the kind of stuff kids love. Icky Twerp became so associated with the Stooges that they put him in their 1965 movie, The Outlaws Is Coming.
“The camera guys were the guys who wore the gorilla masks,” recalled Allen “They’d take a couple of shots and then run on the set and do a bit. If fact all of the characters on the show came from the crew. Most of the time is was live, unpredictable and really crazy. It was wonderful to watch.”
Canfield took a job in Denver in the 1970s, and Icky Twerp said farewell, announcing to his loyal fans that he had inherited the Lost Twerp Mine from Uncle Ickabod. With a shovel on his shoulder he waked across the station parking lot and in to the sunset, while “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” played in the background..
Canfield came back to Dallas in time, and back to television as a sales representative, and in 1989 a local Dallas station taped the Slam Bang Theater 30th Anniversary Show before a live audience of former fans, now grown up, in Arlington. Top complete the honors, the governor and the legislature proclaimed it “Icky Twerp Day,” from one end of the Lone Star State to the other. Not bad for a guy who let apes hit him in the face with pies. Bill Canfield died in Fort Worth in 1991.
As for Bob Allen, he had a notable career in radio and advertising from one coast to the other, but he always wanted his own radio station. He got it when he moved to Sherman in 1994, bought KJIM-AM, then a religious music station, and gave it a new life with a lineup of nostalgia music and old radio shows. Yes friends, Fibber Magee and Molly, the Great Gildersleeve, Jack Benny and the Lone Ranger did not die, they just moved to Texoma.
A Follow-up for True Twerpians This was a follow-up article written by Edward Southerland, was published in Texoma Living! Magazine’s June 2007 issue.
The response from Twerpians, if that’s the word we’re looking for, was substantial, and so, to correct a few errors in the first piece and to expand on the phenomenon that captured a generation of North Texas children 50 years ago, here is a bit more, although not all, of the story.
The meeting came to order at three o’clock in the afternoon at the home of George Nolen in Pottsboro. Present in fact were Nolen, Phil Crow and Clem Candelaria. Present in spirit were Ickamore Twerpwhistle, aka Icky Twerp, Mortimer Moolah, Gorgon, Captain Swabbie, Blitz and Blotz, of department store fame, Constable Cavendish, Louie Lavender and of course, the apes, Ajax, Arkadelphia, Delphinium, Linoleum, and Clyde. The show aired mornings and afternoons.
Nolen: “From 1957 until 1964, I did a character called Captain Swabbie, on Channel 11 in Fort Worth, in a show built around Popeye cartoons. In the early days of television, virtually all of the TV staff came from radio. It was KFJZ radio, and in the beginning, Channel 11 was KFJZ-TV—later to become KTVT Live-ly 11—I was a staff announcer or booth announcer.”
“George started in radio when he was 14 years old.”
Nolen: “In those days a lot of the men were off at war, so they would hire kids. My voice changed one day, and I went to work in radio the next day. That was 1945. I was born in Texarkana and grew up in Denton. I started on a station in Denton, KDNT, 100 watts. We covered both blocks.
“I started the Captain Swabbie character in 1957. I had been doing silly little voices on the radio for years. I can still do Captain Swabbie; at the end of the show, I’d say something like: (In a mix of Gabby Hayes, Parker Finley and Amos McCoy) Lower the mizzen mast, scuttle the portholes, and we’ll see you tomorrow.”
Crow: “I went to work for Channel 11 in 1959 and worked for them for 36 years. Channel 11 was an independent, no network affiliation. That meant that everything that went on the air came out of that building.
“Management bought the rights to the Three Stooges, and they went to Bill Camfield, who was already at the station doing a little bit of everything, and asked him to come up with a show to showcase the Stooges. Bill had a degree from TCU in creative writing, and being the creative fellow that he was, he came up with a character called Ickamore Twerpwhistle and a show called Slam Bang Theater. Icky Twerp grew from there.
“Camfield would elicit help from everyone who worked at the studio —camera men, lighting people, secretaries— to be other characters. Clem Candelaria and I were both TCU graduates who were just starting in television. That’s how we were involved.
“One of the things people remember about Slam Bang Theater is the apes. There were five apes, Ajax, Delphinium, Arkadelphia, Linoleum, and Clyde. Camfield had a deal with Harris Costume Shop in Fort Worth. We gave them ads, and they lent us costumes. Bill would go out there and just wander through the warehouse and bring props and costumes, including the rubber ape masks, back to the station.
“One day I would be Delphinium, the next day Clem might be Delphinium. They didn’t talk, so it didn’t matter who was behind the mask. There was a lot of sight comedy. Then other characters came along. Clem and I played brothers, Blitz and Blotz. They owned a department store, and their scheme was to cheat Icky Twerp out of something. Icky would come into the store wanting a new pair of shoes, and we would end up selling his old shoes back to him.”
Candelaria: “As Phil said, we were part of the Icky Twerp entourage. We would play recurring characters on the show. Phil was Constable Cavendish, who was always interrupting Icky when he was doing something, and Lavender Louie was the janitor who tried to clean up the stage when the show was going on. I was Mr. Blotz and Phil was Blitz. Sometimes we would tape 15 different scripts in one night, usually working a week ahead. We may have recorded two or three thousand scripts.”
Crow: “Slam Bang ran five days a week, and for each show we would do an opening, a little sketch leading in to a Three Stooges short. We’d do a feature sketch inside the middle of the program, and we would do a close. We did it for 13 years, from 1959 to 1972. It was the highest-rated children’s program on television in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Camfield developed other characters unrelated to Slam Bang. Mortimer Moolah did commercials for an advertiser called Texas Consumer Finance. Bill wrote the commercials and acted in them.”
Nolen: “Actually his basic job at Channel 11 was in promotions and advertising, in addition to all the others.”
Crow: “Bill would come to work each morning in a suit and tie, and then he would change into his Icky Twerp costume, which was a too small, blue, pinstriped, double-breasted suit, with the ugliest tie you could imagine, a black wig and a little tiny cowboy hat that sat on the top of his head. He had poor eyesight; he wore real thick glasses, and that was part of the Icky Twerp character.”
Candelaria: “Bill also created Cosmo the Clown for morning cartoons and Hoover the Hound dog. Hoover was a plastic puppet who introduced the afternoon movie. Hoover sat on a table, and Bill would be behind a wall with his hand through a hole in the wall and in the puppet’s head. Hoover talked to an announcer sitting in a chair next to the table.”
Crow: “Ted Lumpkin and Hoover would discuss the movie on Million Dollar Matinee. It was all ad-lib. Ted would ask Hoover about the day’s movie, and Bill would just make up a bunch of junk that might have nothing to do with the movie. They’d do four or five minutes, some really funny stuff.”
Nolen: “Hoover was always having Tom Mix come into the movie, even when Tom Mix had nothing to do with it. It was disassociation comedy at its best.”
Crow: “The station bought a package of old horror movies, and Bill came up with Gorgon to host Nightmare Theater each week. I thought Gorgon was one of the best things that Bill ever did creatively.”
Candelaria: “Nightmare started before Slam Bang, in about 1957 I think, and it was live. He didn’t talk about the movie so much as develop some sort of scheme that would tie in with the movie. I remember we had a movie called The Man They Could Not Hang. We had a gallows and Gorgon talked about how bad the guy was and what was going to happen to him.”
Nolen: “He had an amazing maniacal laugh.”
Crow: “We didn’t have the technology to do things like reverb, so we would tape a lavaliere microphone right next to his Adam’s apple and then run the sound through a machine to get an echo effect. As George said, Bill had this guttural laugh as Gorgon that was frightening, and of course the kids loved that.”
“The kids loved that.” There could not be a better epitaph for Bill Camfield and his characters than that. Camfield left Channel 11 in 1972 to become the program director for a station in Denver, and Icky Twerp bid farewell. He announced to his loyal fans that he had inherited the Lost Twerp Mine from Uncle Ickabod, and with a shovel on his shoulder, he walked across the station parking lot and into the sunset, as “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” played in the background.
Camfield did not find the gold mine and returned to Texas a year later, but except for the occasional personal appearance, he put the characters away and concentrated on a broadcast consulting company he started called Business Communications, Inc. Camfield died in 1991. TCU awards a Bill Camfield Creative Writing Scholarship, and in 2005, he joined the Ernie Kovacs Comedy Hall of Fame. But there is something else.
Crow: “On the last page of every Slam Bang Theater script, written in big letters was F O C. It stood for Fade on Confusion.”
A research study conducted by IPSOS, for iHEARTMEDIA in JANUARY 2015, finds that AM/FM radio remains the overwhelmingly preferred audio entertainment option in the car.While consumers do use new streaming services, virtually all consumers —99%— are comfortable with the current AM/FM in-car radio operation.
And 91% of consumers say they prefer physical AM/FM radio buttons and controls built into the car dashboard, rather than AM/FM being an app that appears in the car's electronic interface (with only 9% saying they would want it changed into a dashboard app).An additional finding was that while AM/FM radio remains paramount in the car, consumers use their in-car CD player three and a half times as much as they use any digital music service.
The survey also detailed other facts highlighting the importance to consumers of AM/FM radio in the car; the demand for digital services is increasing, but they are still behind AM/FM radio, the CD player and satellite radio:
AM/FM radio still dominates in-car listening as the top platform used, with 84% of consumers using it in the car, followed by CD players at 64% -- but radio still maintains a leadership position over the next closest service choice, SIRIUS/XM -- which had 22%. PANDORA was 18%; iHEARTRADIO was 8%; HD RADIO 7%; and SPOTIFY was 7%. 80% of consumers chose AM/FM car radio as the top option for their car’s entertainment system, followed by the CD player at 68%, satellite radio at 45%, and a streaming music service at 34%.
“Overall, this study makes it clear that in spite of consumers' love of apps and new digital products, they have a great attachment to their AM/FM radio and an overwhelming desire to keep its operation and function as it is,” said IPSOS MEDIACT VP THOMAS SPINELLI.
“The in-car AM/FM radio is still a universally known audio platform – and its ease of use, convenience, features and familiarity continue to make it a top consumer choice for in-car audio.”SPINELLI added, “This study shows that the consumer isn't replacing existing services and products with new ones; instead, they want them all -- making the car even more music-enabled with a number of choices at any given time.”
The study, conducted by IPSOS for iHEARTMEDIA in JANUARY 2015, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1036 adults 18+.