One of KLIF's most trying days was November 22, 1963. President
John F. Kennedy was assassinated on the streets of Dallas. KLIF
News went into full motion on that day.
KLIF News Director Joe Long was given the duty of "pool reporter"
that day for the arrival of Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas.
His reports were heard live on KLIF
and other stations in Dallas Fort Worth as part of pool coverage.
As the motorcade left the airport, KLIF resumed normal programming.
The Larry Wilson show on KLIF continued for the final seven minutes of the 11 o'clock hour. Gary DeLaune did the 12 Noon newscast on the hour describing the President's arrival at Love Field. The Rex Jones show began at 12:05 after the news. Between 12:05 and 12:40 Rex did a normal show including commercials for the Jimmy Stewart movie "Taker Her She's Mine" and John Wayne's movie "McClintock". The KLIF contest being aired at the time was for listeners to count the number of "whopees" they heard broadcast during a given period. Gary DeLaune's first bulletin interrupted the song "I Have A Boyfriend" by "The Chiffons". That was at 12:40 p.m.
This information is included on file at the "National Archives" as part of their collection on the JFK Assasination. It includes hundreds of hours of audio tape recorded from Dallas radio stations covering the event, including the entire weekends un-edited aircheck of KLIF.
An album exists that was released by KLIF and Capitol records Special Projects in 1964 which includes an edited aircheck of KLIF coverage from that weekend. The album is called "The Fateful Hours" as is narrated by KLIF's Don Keyes. The material at the National Archives is the actual un-edited broadcast of KLIF.
KLIF's newsman on duty in the studio was Gary DeLaune. Gary was scheduled to do the 12 Noon newscast and await Joe Long and Roy Nichols to relieve him at the studio. He was then to head to the Trade Mart for Kennedy's speech.
Shortly after 12:30 p.m., just seconds after the shooting, DeLaune received a "hotline" call on the newsrooms telephone. The caller asked "what do you know about shots being fired at Kennedy's motorcade and Kennedy and Connally being hit"? DeLaune responded that he didn't know anything about it yet and the caller hung up. With that, DeLaune signalled the KLIF Control Room Disc-jockey to put him on the air immediately as he had a "bulletin" to report.
KLIF was always quick to interrupt regular programming for
KLIF's first bulletin on the assassination was as follows: A sounder (not unlike the shrieking sound in the movie "Psycho") signaled a forthcoming bulletin and interrupted a song. Gary DeLaune then said..."This KLIF Bulletin. From Dallas, three shots reportedly were fired at the motorcade of President Kennedy today near the downtown section. KLIF news is checking out the report - we will have further reports - stay tuned. The song picked up where it was left off.
DeLaune was KLIF's Police Department Reporter, so he knew the dispatcher on duty. He grabbed the phone dialing up the Dallas Police Department Dispatchers Office. He began recording the phone call as was KLIF policy. Begin recording immediately as you never know what you might get that you could use on the air later. The dispatcher answered, Gary identified himself, and asked what they knew about a possible shooting in the motorcade. The dispatcher confirmed it, Gary hung up, quickly rewinded the audio tape and again signalled the KLIF Control Room for another "bulletin". "....Here is a further report after having just received word that shots had been fired at the Kennedy motorcade - we just talked with the police department - here was that conversation:" (Police spokesperson) "Several persons arrived at Parkland Hospital and no other information is being given out at this time." DeLaune: "But you did have reports of shots being fired?"... (Spokesperson).."We did have reports, yes sir." DeLaune: "KLIF News en-route to Parkland Hospital to confirm reports of that someone had been wounded in the firing of shots in the Kennedy motorcade in downtown Dallas.
News Director Joe Long was in his KLIF Mobile Unit and stopped with many of the press from the motorcade at Elm and Houston Streets in Downtown Dallas, the site of the assasination. Via his two-way radio, he went on the air describing the scene there, then proceeded to the KLIF studios to continue reporting.
From there began continuous non-stop coverage of the day's tremendous events.
Gordon McLendon was not the typical owner/operator. Often he
would arrive in the studio and take over to anchor coverage of major
events, election coverage, and breaking stories. He was not above
calling in a report from a pay phone while out and about in the city or
anywhere in the world during his vast travels, for that matter. Staffers
would be required to step aside for McLendon when the urge to broadcast
the story himself came about.
Gordon McLendon remembers being at the Trade Mart in Dallas
awaiting the President and the speech he was about to give. As normal,
McLendon would file the report on the speech himself, lending to
his credibility of being the only one at KLIF with enough stature to
cover the President of the United States.
McLendon was sitting at a table awaiting the arrival of the President when someone at another table who was listening to a transistor radio jumped up and shouted "the Presidents been shot!" No one at the time was aware, but quickly everyone crowded around the radio listening to hear the latest. The man was listening to KLIF.
Upon hearing of the shooting, McLendon immediately phoned in a
report to the studio detailing the "horror and shock" on the faces
of those in the giant Trade Mart Center when the announcement was
made to the crowd awaiting the President. He then hailed a local
Dallas Police Squad Car heading downtown to give him an express
ride to the KLIF studios. Not so amazing at the time, the officer
was happy to oblige.
McLendon rushed into the KLIF studios and immediately went on the air anchoring the KLIF coverage with News Director Joe Long, as he often would in times of news crisis. His expertise and cool under fire during this national emergency were evident of his extensive education and knowledge.
McLendon and Joe Long did team anchoring on KLIF. DeLaune was sent to the Police Department since that was his normal beat and he would have connections there. Another KLIF newsman, Roy Nichols was sent to Parkland Hospital.
KLIF dropped all programming and commercials and devoted all of
it's air time to covering the story.
Nichols had difficulty getting a report filed since almost all of the telephones in the Emergency area of the Hospital were being commandeered by Secret Service and Government officials communicating with the White House in Washington. After getting a phone, it was difficult to get a line going out, since almost everyone at Parkland was on their phone calling someone to tell them the President was there. To make it more of a challenge, all of KLIF's incoming lines were tied up with listeners asking about the President, witnesses to the assasination calling in their story, or reporters from other cities across the U.S. asking for an update on what the newsmen at KLIF knew about the President. He did finally get through and was able to confirm that the President was mortally wounded and that the First Lady was safe as was the Vice President, who was under heavy security guard at he hospital.
Interestingly, McLendon summoned one of his staff to inform all
McLendon stations to begin airing KLIF programming immediately.
As such, McLendon was anchoring coverage in many cities across
the U.S. on that day. McLendon once told a story of how stations
in other cities that were not associated with McLendon Broadcasting
would simply call the telephone Operator up and ask to be patched
to an Operator in Dallas. They then asked to be patched to a radio
set to KLIF.
Southwestern Bell did not have the facilities in place for such
an arrangement on such short notice, so many stations simply
dialed people at random in the Dallas area and paid them a fee
to place their telephone receiver next to a radio set to KLIF.
The stations put the phone on the air at their end and
broadcast KLIF's coverage to their cities as well. McLendon
said he knew of 90 such stations that contacted him later
to tell him they did this. How many beyond that number that
did it without informing him is anyone's guess. He initially
considered legal action against those who did so without
his permission, but finally relented realizing the honor
bestowed upon he and his station as being the source
much of the nation came to for the news that day.
KLIF stayed with the story from 12:32 p.m. (two minutes after the shooting) until well into the next day. KLIF basically switched to an "all-news" format and handled it as if that was their format all along. It began with the unbelievable bulletins of the shooting, followed by McLendon stating "We have unconfirmed reports that the President is dead. That's an unconfirmed report that the President has died. This has not been confirmed by any member of the government and again we must stress this is an unconfirmed report that the President is dead. We won't know officially for another few minutes, so stayed tuned as we will stick to this story until all details on the attempted assasination have been exhausted." McLendon was relying on word he received from Roy Nichols off the air at Parkland Hospital that the rumor was flying in the Emergency Room that the President was dead. Those at the scene saw Mrs. Kennedy leave the Emergency Room and be comforted by others in the hall. The knew that meant the President was dead, but nothing was official.
Moments later, as McLendon and Joe Long were detailing other elements of the story, the United Press teletype in the background signaled a "flash". Issued only in cases of extreme newsworthiness, it stated simply that the President had died. McLendon made the dramatic announcement "The President is dead. This is official word, the President, ladies and gentlemen is dead."
KLIF had reporters at every important point of Dallas that day. At Parkland Hospital, at Police Headquarters, Dealy Plaza, and Love Field. Each detailed the very latest information with expertise that today seems remarkable, considering how "under the fire" they were. Witnesses were called upon and gave gripping details of the horror of the scene.
When KLIF did break from the story much later, they played only Easy Listening music. McLendon reasoned that it would be inappropriate at this time of national mourning to be churning out the latest pop hits. He felt, most rightly so, that KLIF's listeners were not in the same frame of mind at that time.
The assasination was on a Friday afternoon. By Saturday evening, much of the attention in Dallas was turning to the suspect arrested Lee Harvey Oswald. KLIF was right on top of it again. Reporters from KLIF kept their listeners up to date on the latest details of the investigation.
Interestingly, KLIF was included in the Warren Commission Report on the assasination because of an event which occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday morning of that weekend. Jack Ruby was well known around Dallas, the Police, KLIF, and other stations as well. He was a gregarious guy who liked to make friends with influential public figures. Early on Sunday morning after the assasination, he obtained the phone number to KLIF's hotline from a KBOX radio reporter at the District Attorney's office. Jack would often "hang out" with cops and reporters so it wasn't unusual for him to go unnoticed at a late night press conference at the DA's office. Jack spoke up making a correction on fact during the conference. And, Jack used a pay phone to call the KLIF hotline and spoke with Russ Knight and offered an interview with District Attorney Henry Wade to KLIF. Knight said they would love to interview Wade and Jack leaned out of the phone booth and had Wade come to the phone. KLIF got the interview and thanked Jack on the air for arranging it. Russ Knight then left KLIF with a recorder and made another interview with Wade and spoke briefly with Ruby.
Jack then called Dan Patrick, the all-night jock on KLIF, and said he had gone to Phil's Delicatessen and had picked up some sandwiches and soft drinks and would like to come bring them to all the guys working late at KLIF. Dan Patrick let him into the KLIF building at the Jackson Street entrance. At KLIF, Joe Long, Gary DeLaune, and Glen Duncan were still working on news coverage of the assasination. Network reporter Ike Pappas was also there. Jack watched them do the 2am newscast and later went into the control room and watched Dan Patrick do his show.
He stayed around a half-hour and left. Later that Sunday morning, he was in Police Headquarters watching the transfer of Oswald from the City to County Jail. The transfer was to take place at 4:30 a.m., but the major television networks encouraged the Police Chief to move it to a more acceptable hour of 9:30. They argued it was an event of such magnitude that it should be shown live on television for the country to see. Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry amazingly agreed and the transfer was on for 9:30 a.m.
KLIF News Director Joe Long had told newsman Gary DeLaune not to worry about it and go home and get some rest. DeLaune went home, but decided at the last minute to go anyway and bring a recorder. He arrived and positioned himself in the crowd of Press awaiting the transfer.
DeLaune was not live on the air, since there were no phone lines in the basement and KLIF had not set up a remote link to the radio station as had all of the television crews. He did, however, have a tape recorder and as the entourage leading Oswald emerged, DeLaune began describing the scene onto the tape.
To the unbelievable astonishment to all attending, Jack Ruby, well- known to many in attendance, leaned forward and shot Oswald. DeLaune began shouting into his microphone, "a shot has rung out!, a shot has rung out!, and Lee Oswald falls, repeat...a shot has rung out and Lee Oswald, the presumed assasin of President Kennedy...has been shot!"
More amazing is the fact that DeLaune had been knocked completely on his back in all the commotion, but continued reporting into his tape recorder.
Immediately realizing there would be no way to get on the air from the Police Department with what was happening, DeLaune raced out of the building and down the street 2 1/2 blocks to the KLIF studios. Tape in hand, he put it on the air as fast as he could.
An interesting side-note. KLIF's station manager at the time, Bill Morgan thought the tape was in poor quality because DeLaune was shouting into the microphone and the audio was distorted. Morgan told DeLaune not to air it again. McLendon heard the tape and ordered it to be played over and over as part of their descriptive coverage of the events which had just occurred. His reasoning was that no one listening later would know it wasn't live on KLIF when it happened, and they certainly wouldn't care about the quality of the audio considering its treamendous contents. KLIF personnel were instructed not to mention it wasn't a "live broadcast". In doing so, the impression given was that the report had been aired live earlier on KLIF.
KLIF News went back into full motion, now with non-stop coverage of the shooting of Oswald. The KLIF newsmen were all too familiar with Ruby. As mentioned before, he was always one to show up at an event or scene and they were well aware of who he was.
As the national media swarmed Dallas to cover both angles of the story unfolding before their eyes, some began to wonder what Ruby was doing at KLIF hours before shooting Oswald. Every supposition and rumor one could imagine began circulating.
It was later learned that Ruby not only had visited KLIF's studios, but had telephoned KLIF DJ's Russ Knight and had spoken to KLIF's Ken Dowe earlier on Saturday as well. Some from the KLIF staff were subsequently called to testify before the Warren Commission when their investigation began. In the report, one can find testimony of Dan Patrick (Danny Patrick McCurdy), Russ Knight (Russel Lee Moore), and Ken Dowe.
Certainly, KLIF had nothing to do with anything other than being the place that Ruby chose to try to "rub elbows" with, as he often did. As one KLIF staffer explained, "Jack liked to be where the action was, so he could talk about it later."
KLIF's location began at the Cliff Towers Hotel in Oak Cliff.
From there it moved to downtown Dallas. The first downtown studios of
KLIF were on Jackson Street and located right next door to Sellers
Studios. There was a glass door at the bottom of a flight of stairs
which led to all offices and studios upstairs. In 1964, KLIF moved
into it's famous "triangle point" studios at 2120 Commerce.
The studio's were in what at one time was an old three-story
gas station that featured a drive-thru on the ground floor.
KLIF parked their news cruiser vans there when they were
not scouring the city for news reports.
Offices were on the first floor, engineering on second,
and the top floor above the drive-thru featured all glass
walls. KLIF's Control Room, Newsroom, Production Rooms,
Talk Studio, and the KNUS studio were all located here.
This is where the DJ on duty did their show.
On the wall in KLIF's control room for years was a framed sign that listed the "Three B's of Good Broadcasting". "B funny", "B informative", or "B QUIET".
KLIF's control room was a basic "horeshoe" design. An 8 channel Gates President console, with turntables on each side, three cart machines to the left (later four), and a RCA 77DX microphone hanging on a large studio-type boom. Live copy was in the folder on top of the console to the right. A small bulletin board to the top left of the console had posted the current "KLIF Survey" of the Top 40 hits of the week on its left side so the DJ could refer to it. On the right side of the bulletin board was a roledex type flip card device with the current "liner cards" on it. As the DJ read one, they flipped it up to reveal the next one. Other station material and promotional items were posted elsewhere on the bulletin board as well as the current forecast. Jingles and recorded promo's were in racks to the immediate left of the cart machines. Large rotating cart racks held commercials to the left rear of this image. Directly in front of the control position was a table with another microphone for use in the two-man "Charlie & Harrigan" show. Through the glass in front of the DJ was the newsroom. The door to the right was the studio entrance door. This was one of the first optional "stand-up" configurations. The DJ could actually stand to do their show or sit down depending on their mood.
Listeners driving by could look up and see their
favorite DJ standing and dancing along to the likes of
the Beatles, Stones, or Supremes. Since it was a triangle
shape control room, the DJ had a perfect view of all
directions from Commerce, Jackson, and Central Expressway.
Jack Woods as "Charlie Brown" and.............................. Michael Spears (Hal Martin)
Jimmy Rabbit at KLIF 1966...........................................Charlie VanDyke
Mike Selden...........................................................Paxton Mills
Dave Ambrose ..................................................................... Dickie Heatherton
Johnny Dark .................................................................Mike Selden
It was here that many of KLIF's most famous DJ's worked.
Charlie and Harrigan (Ron Chapman & Jack Woods, Dan Patrick (McCurdy);
Charlie VanDyke; Michael O'Shea; Dave Ambrose; Mike Selden; Ken Dowe and Granny
Emma; Jumpin' Jim O'Brien (father or Peri Gilpin of "Frasier");
Rod Roddy (of "Price Is Right" fame); Dickie Heatherton; Don Wade;
Deano Day; Hal Martin(Michael Spears);Chuck Dunaway; Randy Robins; John London;
Jimmy Rabbit; Johnny Dark; Rex Miller; J. Walter Beethoven; Bob McCord;
Jim Taber; Coyotee; Cuzzin' Linnie; Paxton Mills; Don Wade; Don McGregor;
George Michael; Brant Miller; Barry Kaye; and who could forget Russ Knight "the weird beard."
Many of today's top management types in radio honed their skills at KLIF.