Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby jon » Mon Nov 26, 2012 7:31 pm

Over the history of TV and Radio in Seattle, the city has had some great call letters.

I'd like to collect some stories of how creatively they've been used over the years. To get things started, I'll cite a few that immediately come to mind:
  1. TV Guide in about 1964 ran an article on U.S. call letters, noting, for Seattle, that Perry Como was on KING-TV and The King Family was on KOMO-TV. And just how wrong that was
  2. On April Fools 1970, DJs switched radio stations. Robert O. Smith, normally KOL afternoons, was doing the morning on KAYO, which he ID'ed as "K-O without the L"
  3. When KING-AM switched to Top 40 around 1970, Robert O. introduced Carole King songs as "Carole KOL" because to do otherwise would advertise a competitor
  4. A false DX report was once filed, in jest, of reception of Egypt from the Pacific Northwest on 710 KHz. An ID of "Cairo Radio" and an announcer saying "I'd walk a mile for a Camel" were the "positive IDs" reported by the DX'er
I'd like to hear your stories.
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby czarcasm » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:12 am

I wonder if any stations refused to mention Cairo in newscasts and simply referred to any news item that took place there as "In the capitol of Egypt today". Likely not.

I'd think the Carole King name change would bring more attention to the name King than if the name had been mentioned without highlighting it with a flourescent yellow highlighter. As it turned out,
KING didn't need free advertising from ratings challenged KOL
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby Toomas Losin » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:07 pm

I always felt that KING 1090 had a great call. When I returned to DXing after being away more than a decade I was horrified to learn the call had changed. Whatever the call is now it's not the station it used to be!

The station that has KXRX now has had that call for several times longer than the real KXRX had it. KXRX 96.5 called itself "The X" in homage to the Mexican border stations. They'd play ZZ Top's "Heard it on the X" and, being an ignorant young dude, I wondered how the station convinced the band to record that for them. That song payed homage to the same Mexican border stations. Hmm, it's been a while since I last heard Ciudad Acuña on 1570...
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby jon » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:42 pm

Yes, KING really was the King for a time, though the call letters actually refer to King County, where Seattle is located.

Already, by the end of 1949, there was KING-AM, KING-FM and KING-TV, the Pacific Northwest's first TV station and likely Seattle's first FM station. Not bad, considering that Dorothy Bullitt started in 1947 by buying KEVR-AM, then buying the KING call letters from an old merchant ship, and getting the FCC to grant her 1090 KHz with 50,000 watts. The next year she obtained a license for KING-FM. And the year after that, she bought eight month old KRSC-TV and turned it into KING-TV.

The classical format still heard on KING-FM today was still going strong on KING-AM all through the 1960s. For which I was very grateful, as it gave me a chance, from Vancouver, to spend 6 months in 1967 listening to Wolfman Jack every evening on XERB-1090, thanks to the relatively quiet music played on KING-1090.
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby Dan Sys » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:04 pm

Here's the 1090 Seattle call letter history from Wikipedia:

KVL (???-???)
KEVR (???-1947)
KING (1947-1995)
KKNG (1995-1995)
KINF (1995-1995)
KNWX (1995-1995)
KRPM-AM (1995-1996)
KMPS-AM (1996-1999)
KYCW-AM (1999-2004)
KPTK (2004-2012)
KFNQ (2012-current)

Interestingly the FCC database also shows that the station briefly held the KMPS calls prior to September 22, 1995. I sure don't remember this and there was no entry for it in my BCB log book.
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby radiofan » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:17 pm

Toomas Losin wrote:I always felt that KING 1090 had a great call. When I returned to DXing after being away more than a decade I was horrified to learn the call had changed. Whatever the call is now it's not the station it used to be!

The station that has KXRX now has had that call for several times longer than the real KXRX had it. KXRX 96.5 called itself "The X" in homage to the Mexican border stations. They'd play ZZ Top's "Heard it on the X" and, being an ignorant young dude, I wondered how the station convinced the band to record that for them. That song payed homage to the same Mexican border stations. Hmm, it's been a while since I last heard Ciudad Acuña on 1570...


Prior to 96 dot 5, the KXRX call letters were on an AM Top 40 station in San Jose, CA. KXRX 1500. Some of the 96 dot 5 KXRX imaging featured old KXRX jingles. Those jingle were from San Jose.

In Vancouver, the C-F-O-X jingles used on FM 99's Electric Lunch were from the original C-FOX AM 1470 in Pointe Claire (Montreal) QC.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby groundwave » Mon Dec 03, 2012 4:53 pm

Back in 1970 when Seattle's KING 1090 changed to a new top-40 format, the station's management did something I considered (at the time) quite rare for the AM dial, - they "rounded" their actual 1090 kHz frequency upwards to a truncated form of 1100 for promotional purposes. All on-air references (weather voiced or embedded in jingles) took the form of "Eleven K-I-N-G." This strategy was obviously inspired by the notoriously inaccurate tuning scales found on most consumer-grade receivers of the era, many of which used an abbreviated "11" to represent a vaguely general zone centered around 1100 kHz. A similar example closer to home was Vancouver's CFUN 1410 going with "Fourteen C-FUN." Perhaps, given the geographical and market proximity of the two stations, one had "inspired" the other? Obviously, given the accuracy of today's (and by virtue the last 2 decades or so) synthesised digital tuning and indicators, such a practice would no longer serve any discernible purpose - at least not one related to ease-of-tuning.
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby Toomas Losin » Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:41 pm

In the Good Ol' Days KISW 99.9 used to be "FM 100". That ended in the early 1990's but I don't remember if its legal ID in the "FM 100" days mentioned 99.9 or not. Presumably in that era the FCC would have laid down the law if it didn't.

I certainly remember the days of "14 CFUN". Actually, CFUN is frozen in my mind as it was in the early 80's when Jim Hault left because that's when I stopped listening, being annoyed by the repetitive sports+news every hour which interrupted the music and talent.
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Re: Seattle Has Had Great Call Letters

Postby jon » Mon Dec 03, 2012 8:56 pm

Surprised that no one else mentioned the days of C-FUN Channel 14, patterned after KJR Channel 95. It was such a big deal on air when CFUN first introduced the change in "branding" that this 10 year old thought they actually changed frequency to 1400 KHz.

More than a decade prior to the Fourteen C-FUN days.
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