Friday, May 31, 2013

Welcome to the KNON online history museum!

KNON 89.3 FM is a non-profit Community Radio station located in Dallas Texas.  As we approached 30 years of broadcasting on July 30, 2013, we thought it would be a good time to look back at our past as we prepared to move forward into our next 30 years.  It has been a long strange trip indeed, and one well worth documenting.  KNON would not have survived  without the support of our Dallas/Fort Worth listeners, hundreds of volunteers, local musicians, churches, community groups, and many small local businesses.  We thank you all for your support.

The goal of this project is to archive and make available online many documents, photos, and stories from our past.  This will be a "living document", updated from time to time.  It will never be complete.  There have been hundreds of volunteers and shows through the years and every one of them has their own story to tell.  We are starting out with a simple Google blogger site, but we hope eventually to move everything to the KNON website.  That will take time, personnel, expertise, and money we currently do not have, so please bear with us as we use this simple site for now.  This is just the beginning.  We hope to improve this collection in the future and, with your help, we will.  This site has been created and is maintained by volunteers at no cost to KNON.

This site is laid out chronologically beginning from the early days of KNON up to today.  At the end are various additional contributions of photos, posters, and remembrances.  At the bottom of every page is a list of all the individual pages here.  Sort of like an index, where you can jump to any individual page.

We welcome your comments and input to this site.  We are especially anxious to see YOUR photos from past KNON events and of the old KNON studios.  You may contact us directly by e-mail at or through the KNON website at  All material will be credited.  We thank Don O., Ranger Randell, and Ranger Rita for their contributions, which are the foundation for this site.  Thanks to Pat Avery for sharing his KNON poster collection.  Thanks also to Robert Wilonsky and the Dallas Morning News for their coverage here.

KCHU, the predecessor to KNON

The history of KNON begins with our predecessor station, KCHU 90.9 FM.  KCHU was an early community radio station started by Lorenzo Milam and Dennis Gross.  Milam helped start many different community stations across the country in the 60's and early 70s and he is known as "The Johnny Appleseed of Community Radio".  Milam has written several books on the process and his adventures with various community radio stations across the country.  One is even titled "The Radio Papers: From KRAB to KCHU".  It took several years for the group to go through the FCC licensing process.  Work began in 1971 with the formation of The Agape Broadcasting Foundation.  Once the license was obtained they were able to borrow money to purchase broadcasting equipment and a staff of volunteers was assembled.  KCHU signed on the air on August 28, 1975 and was able to broadcast through August 1977.  Self described as a "hippy radio station", KCHU's programming was much like KNON's.   A small staff oversaw nearly 100 volunteer programmers who produced music and talk programming from a 3 story Victorian building at 2516 Maple Avenue in Dallas.  Programming included poetry, radio theater, the first gay programming on Dallas radio, a bagpipe show, electronic music, big band, classical, a science fiction show, R&B, swing, reggae, a women's talk show, and world music, to name a few.  The
station issued 20 program guides which included articles, artwork, poetry, and stories contributed by the volunteers.  Funding was accomplished by on-air pledge drives and occasional live events, however the monies raised never paid all the bills.  Lorenzo Milam helped pay the bills as the station struggled to gain a foothold and economic support in the Dallas market.  Eventually internal discord within the staff and continuing financial insolvency led Lorenzo to withdraw his financial support from the station.  At that point the tower and most of the broadcast equipment were repossessed.  Other equipment and the station's music collection disappeared along with the volunteers.  Milam reported the KCHU experience left him over $250,000 in debt.

Here's a link to an old 1995 site about KCHU:

After the station went off the air, Milam looked for a new organzation to take over the license and hopefully begin broadcasting again.  On January 1, 1978 he turned the license over to a new group who renewed the license, formed a new board of directors, and changed the 90.9 FM frequency call letters to KNON.  In 1978 Agape was approached by the owners of 89.3 FM with the idea of swapping frequencies in exchange for broadcasting equipment and other considerations.  Due to the lower broadcasting power license (10 kilowatts at 89.3 FM versus 100 kilowatts at 90.9 FM) Agape declined.

For the first several years, regular filings were made with the FCC and there were few problems as there were other open frequencies in the non-commercial band in the DFW area.  During the first 5 years the station was off the air, there was little action towards getting the station back to broadcasting.  One near revolt of the Agape board was quelled by board action.  At one point the board considered disbanding.  From May 1980 to May 1981, the Agape board did not meet at all and a quorum had not been met in the year before that. 

By the early 80's, non-commercial frequencies in this area were filling up and other broadcasters became interested in the unused 100,000 watt license at 90.9 FM.  In the spring of 1983, FCC challenges to the license  were filed based on the fact that KNON was not broadcasting.  After several appeals, the FCC issued an order that if KNON was not on the air by July 31, 1983, the license would be forfeited.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The early days of KNON, 1983-1985

The threat of forfeiture forced Agape Broadcasting into a desperate situation.  With the help of a number of local church groups, a door to door campaign was begun to raise funds.  Enough money was raised to purchase some 20 year old broadcasting equipment and a used transmitter.  Agape leased some upstairs space at 4415 San Jacinto and volunteers worked frantically to repair and install the old equipment.  An ancient transmitter was set up on Chalk Hill.   Agape applied for and received permission to broadcast at 9.6 kilowatts instead of the licensed 100 kilowatts and applied for a broadcast test permit on July 29, 1983.  In a 1985 feature article in the Dallas Times Herald's Dallas City Magazine, volunteer Joe Norvell described the panic leading up to the first broadcast.  "It was the last week of July and I took my vacation time from driving a bus to help work at the station.  The temperature on the outside was about 105 degrees and inside the house it was about 125.  We worked very, very hard all week, but the equipment wouldn't work.  It was just junk.  Friday we worked straight through 22 hours, all night.  We finally got on the air that morning."  At 3:15 am on July 30, 1983, KNON 90.9 FM signed on the air with the words "This is KNON, Dallas.  We have just begun broadcasting." 

KNON had survived the FCC deadline and was allowed to keep its license.  However the station's problems were far from over.  Money was an immediate and continuing problem.  In September of 1983, the station qualified for a bank loan of $15,000 that helped KNON stay in business while volunteers were recruited and equipment was being repaired.  That was critical start-up money that allowed KNON to get on its feet.  The antique equipment that had been cobbled together meant that we were only broadcasting at a few hundred watts instead of the licensed 9.6 kilowatts.  The joke was our signal only reached a few blocks from the transmitter.  There were few volunteers so a search began to find reliable people who could do programs.  The small staff consisted of Lou Sartor as station manager, Charlie "Sonny" Rawls as program director, Mac England as volunteer coordinator, and Tom Davis as community outreach director.  The staff spent countless hours doing broadcast slots until a small cadre of on air volunteers could be built up.  The mission statement of KNON was:  To empower the low to moderate income community.

The original broadcast booth was literally in an old closet on the second floor of 4415 San Jacinto.   The broadcast board looked like something from a 1950s Russian submarine with huge black bakelite knobs used for volume control and large, loud switches used for pot controls.  You had to lower the volume before flipping a switch, otherwise the "clunk" of the switch would go out on air.  The control room included two old turntables, two cassette decks, and a rotary phone.  The station frequently went off the air for hours or days at a time until various repairs could be made.  The most serious downtime occured in December of 1983 when the station was down for almost 2 weeks as the engineer searched for replacement parts for our obsolete transmitter. 

KNON's first on air pledge drive took place in April of 1984 and was called the Springathon.  In October 1984 Jeff Murray arrived as our new station manager.  In 1985 KNON did its first live broadcast, Little Joe Blue live from the Nairobi Room.  We also held one our first live music events, the first ever KNON Blues Bash at the Nash Street House in Dallas.

By 1985 the condition of the transmitter had become critical.  Parts were almost impossible to find and repairs were becoming more difficult.  KNON was still broadcasting far below its licensed power.  In May 1985, Agape obtained a new $60,000 bank loan.  This money allowed the station to purchase new transmitter equipment, a new broadcast board, and finally increase our broadcast power to the licensed 9.6 kilowatts, still far below our allowed 100 kilowatts.  The new broadcast board was much smaller and more modern than the ancient equipment we had been using.  Many of the volunteers called it "the Playskool board" because it looked like a toy compared to the massive equipment we had been using.  It featured bright blue colors and push button operation.

Also in 1985, volunteers began construction on a new broadcast booth in the larger room adjacent to our broadcast closet.  It was completed in late 1985. 

1985 was a banner year for the station as our signal finally reached many more people.  This led to recognition by press and listeners alike.  KNON was named best radio station in Dallas by the readers of the Dallas Observer.  Volunteer Phil York's program, The Texas Toast, was also recognized as the best radio show in Dallas.   Volunteer Nancy "Shaggy" Moore was the subject of a cover feature article in statewide magazine Texas Monthly.  Her life story was optioned as the subject of a possible movie project (which never happened).  The Dallas
Times Herald featured the station in a multi page cover feature in the July 21 edition of their weekly magazine supplement.  KNON issued its first regular newsletter, The KNON Scrapbook, in the fall of 1985.  The Scrapbook lasted 4 issues before it was discontinued. 

KNON station schedules, 1983-1985

Click on the schedule for a larger view


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

KNON Scrapbook, Volume 1, 1985

Click on the pages below to see a larger picture and page through the Scrapbook

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

KNON Scrapbook, Volume 2, 1985

Click on the pages below for a larger view and to page through the Scrapbook.