Keith Morgan was born in Long Beach and raised in Santa Maria, California. Keith writes:
I started Radio in 1972 when I was hired to do part-time weekends for KZON, then a C&W Daytimer with 500 Watts at 1600 KHz. Hey, this was Big Time for a 15-year-old making a couple bucks per hour to play records and talk on the Radio. In 1974, I helped put KXFM on the air at 99.1 KHz. It was true laid-back Album Rock, the good old days. I was a high school graduate at 17 and off to the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting in San Francisco for my FCC First Class License now this was COOL.
I never wanted to be a Disc Jockey. I wanted to be the guy on the other side of the glass, kind of like the guy I saw that day over Bobby Ocean's shoulder at KFRC, the guy we all know and love today as 'Flawless' but I was born just a few years too late. XEROK 80 was One Hundred Fifty Thousand Non-Directional watts. HELLO NORTH AMERICA! I have always been lucky, timing is everything. I was in a little adobe studio on the outskirts of Juarez Mexico talking to over 22 million Americans on North America's most powerful AM Rock Radio Station of the day (LIVE and in living color...) XeROK 80 was a blast, a once in a lifetime opportunity and I rode that wave through early 1980.
After my return to Santa Maria I meet up with Dick Drury who was putting on KRQK (101.3 FM) out of Lompoc. In six short weeks we had a 38 share 18 - 34 and a 56 share 18 + at night - K-ROCK owned the Central Coast in the early 80's and yes, once again, I was in heaven. Bob Harlow called me in 1984 and offered me the morning gig at KERN in Bakersfield, which turned out being the afternoon drive position on Q94/KQXR. Then, Jay Rhodes brought me to KCAQ/Q105 in Oxnard to do evenings. It was fun being in the same building as the legendary KACY, though the AM was now Spanish with 10Kwatts (down from 50K).
When I was in high school, I set a goal: To be employed at a major market station by the time I was 40. I did it. I have worked with greats like Jim Taber and Dick Drury; have shared the same microphone with Jhani Kaye and Ken Levine (Beaver Cleaver) and am lucky to call Claude Hall and Bruce Miller Earle 'Friends'. Radio was good to me I hung my earphones up for the last time around September 1989, and now, I am a listener. I live in Syracuse, NY with my wife of ten years, Barbara. I'm an Owner/Operator of a big truck, and I haul freight throughout the East Coast.
[Descriptions by Keith Morgan]
TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16Khz)
XeROK 80 Composite, The Live Years (1977-1980) (18:57)
. . . The International Favorite . . .
I had no idea of what I was about to endure, having arrived in El Paso the week earlier. Chris Michaels, acting PD at the time, hired me to do weekends and swing shifts.
Stan Main gave me directions from the Cielo Vista Bank building where we had our Management and Production studios. Back in 1977, the Cielo Vista Mall was just about the end of east El Paso on 1-10. It was around 20 miles to Zaragoza, where the transmitter and studio were housed and that 20 miles was in the middle of nothing - desert... Following Stan's directions I proceeded towards the Border.
Zaragoza is a small dot on the map about 20 miles South East of Mexico's fourth largest city, Juarez. The XeROK 80 tower stands just under 400 feet and is lit up like a typical European AM antenna. A tandem set of amber tower lights marked every 20 feet, making it look bigger than life.
There were two old adobe buildings. The bigger building enclosed the Engineer's office, work room and the 1972 Continental Electronics 150b, medium wave flame-thrower. A smaller building about fifty feet from the main building housed a very simple studio. Autogram IC-lO board, two ITC triple decks, two Shure SM 5-B microphones, one Collins R-390A receiver, (for reception of Sunday nights Mexican National Hour (from XEW in Mexico City)), a hybrid tri-band audio processor and an old Ampex 351 . (We had no shortage of reel-to-reel machines on both sides of the border.)
Even with several layers of RF screening around the studio building the X still had a real problem keeping RF out of places like the telephone and recorder heads.
You could feel the power in the air as you walked around the site, not to mention the pressure one would feel on and through ones body when you stand in front of the beast on full power.
Being live, on the air at XeROK was such a privilege. I knew fiom the very first day that this wasn't your everyday radio station. My first night on the air, (11p-3a) I received phone calls from listeners in Melbourne, FL , Davenport, IA , Pocatello, ID and assorted calls from all of the Western states.
We would receive letters of Reception and DX reports from all over Western Canada, Western and Central North America, all of Mexico, Central and South America. We also had listeners writing from Eastern Australia and the Pacific Asian Rim.
I remember driving to work one night They call it a highway, there's room for maybe two cars. The last mile before the station I noticed the highway lights flickering and going dim, then bright, all in synch with the modulation of the transmitter. Every Sunday night we would go off for maintenance and cleaning. When we came back on we would run audio tones for alignment. The highway lights hated those tones - they would dim to nothing and in an instant would be so bright, its a wonder how they would not explode.
The transmission feed was 'open line'. 150,000 watts would flow and hum across the cables connection the antenna to the transmitter. Birds would land on the line and in a flash they would be vaporized - only a handful of feathers would float to the ground. On a wet, rainy day, RF would flow down the tower support lines which made the insulators turn orange-red and a loud gun like 'bang' could be heard for several yards.
As I said, there was nothing 'normal' about XeROK.
When the President of Mexico wanted to speak to his people, all Radio and Television Stations would stop normal programming and carry him live. Some of our commercials were in Spanish. Mexican electricity is not as consistent as ours here in the States, so some of the cart and tape machines would have speed variations from time to time.
And of course, this was Mexico, 1977. All of us Jocks always had in the back of our minds the threat of some underworld terrorist group marching in with guns drawn to commandeer our facility for their own wants and demands. (Maybe we all were watching too many movies.)
Then there was the time some 'needy neighbors' came one night and stole the brand new copper ground radials that Bruce Earle and the Mexican Engineers had just laid the day earlier. How they did not get fried is still a wonder to us.
On the way home there were always the US customs agents as I crossed the Border for three years. I knew them and their names and they knew my name, yet several times each month it was my turn in the barrel.
The FCC hated us... You know it's strange, I remember like yesterday, Bruce Earle telling me he only wished the FCC Inspectors would come over and see, first hand what we were doing. XeROK 800 is licensed for 150,000 Watts, non directional. International Clear Channel. We ran 142 KWs at high-power, and on low power we ran 52KWs. The transmitter building was clean, no, spotless... You could eat off the floor (I wouldn't.) The transmitter was cleaned and maintained weekly, without fail. Mr. Earle would check tolerances and tweak the transmitter daily. The FCC would have been proud of our installation, and XeROK had a killer signal to test the new AM Stereo on. Even the Inspectors from the Mexican FCC, The SCT (Secretary of Communications and Transports), inspected the main transmitter room, but they preferred lengthy visits in the engineers office where they would check out the logs and paperwork, say everything is ok, and leave.
I was 20 years old. I only wish I knew then what I know now... One of my most treasured moments at the X was one Summer's night, I was doing my show, around 11PM, Bruce Earle walked into the studio and behind him was this middle-aged man with super thick glasses I will never forget those thick lens in his glasses. Bruce said "Morgan, I want you to meet one of my very dearest and oldest friends, Claude Hall", and Bruce then pushed me aside and went into a hour on-air live interview with Claude. They talked about other high-power U.S. stations. I remember Mr. Hall saying "if we were to mention other stations and their calls on-the-air, like we were doing, it could get us in big trouble with the FCC, but I guess we don't need to worry about that"...
Claude Hall said - "God has been good to me" - hearing that from the Radio Editor of Billboard Magazine, and looking back I feel God was good to all of us. The X was indeed one-of-a-kind, and I thank God every day for the opportunity to be a part of Radio History.
The Mighty XeROK 80 will live forever in the hearts of those of us that had the privilege of playing Rock-n-roll and speaking English, live, on the most powerful AM radio station of North America, in its day...
TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16Khz)
KINT El Paso TX, Composite, 1977 (12:51)
. . . write it down, 98 times . . .
Jhani hired me to do weekends and swing when I first came to town. That same afternoon while surfing around the AM band, I stumbled onto XROK 80. Now, I used to listen to this Mighty X station that came in so well on the California Coast that I thought it was one of the Baja Border Blasters. The next day I approached Chris Michaels and he also hired me for weekends/swing. Now what do I do? KINT and XEROK wanted me. Little did I know at the time, KINT was the most listened to station in El Paso.
I went back to Jhani and told him I was going to take the position with X-ROK. He said, "They're not even live", (though they had just gone live a week earlier.) "If you want to be with a number one station, you'll stay with us". I had other plans. The last thing Jhani said to me was, "OK - see you in the book." In the long run, he was right.
KINT would give away five cars a year, money every hour, concert tickets hell, Kaye and Taber gave away the world... We at the X had very little to give away, the only thing we really had was a HUGE amount of RF power. I recorded this composite one summer night while nursing a bottle of tequila with a radio friend from southern California who was visiting.
The KINT studio was housed in their transmitter building on the south side of town. Old equipment and a dumpy old building - but damn did they sound great...
The voice on the 'Super Star - Super Car' Promos was Jhani's old friend Rod Roddy of The Price is Right fame. Taber was one of the KLIF jocks in the late sixties. Like the top of the hour liner, "The McLendon Stations", Jim did the same with the liner at KINT. And the McLendon Editorials KINT also ran Taber's Editorial of the day.
KINT was a class act. Jim Taber and Jhani Kaye OWNED El Paso in the late seventies.