Bob Allen is Living the Dream

Broadcast Tower
The FM antenna is mounted atop a tower that rises 370-feet above ground.

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 The AM 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!”

Typical 1950s radio satudio
A typical 1950s-era radio station studio.

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.