PART TWO:
KBOX-THE TOP 40 YEARS

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The Dallas Morning News and Times Herald report KGKO's sale, May 1958

It was in early 1958 that St. Louis, MO-based Balaban Broadcasting made application to the FCC to purchase KGKO.  The company owned several broadcasting properties including prestigious WIL radio station in St. Louis; WRIT, Milwaukee; WICS-TV, Springfield, IL and WTVO-TV, Rockford, IL.  The company was headed by movie mogul Barney Balaban, who was later president of Paramount Pictures.

It was on July 14, 1958 that Balaban purchased KGKO from Lakewood Broadcasting Company and the station became another property in the Balaban group ownership.  The KGKO call letters were dissolved and the FCC approved new call letters for the station.  Balaban paid Lakewood Broadcasters $450,000 for the station.

KBOX was born.


John F. Box, Jr.
Photo courtesy of Bob Whitney

The idea for the call letters came from the last name of the then-president of Balaban Broadcasting, John F. Box, Jr., who took an active part in helping to manage the newly-purchased property.  Box was a respected employee of Balaban who had become known for improving lower-cost stations against big odds.  Bob Whitney describes John Box:  "He was a very big, magnetic, mysterious man of few words.  Dan Ingram often says he had hands as big as ham hocks.  He walked like a battleship's sails:  slow, sure, smooth and powerful.  (But) I believe John was VERY paranoid.  I don't remember actual things he said, but I had many meetings with him in which he characterized people as keeping secrets and posing vague threats to our common good.  I know he viewed Gordon (McLendon) that way."

"John was a master manipulator.  He would tell (national sales manager) Stan Kaplan a different story than he would tell me about the same event or person.  He inspired passionate loyalties, particularly among women who worked for him, and, it seemed to me, they would do anything he asked.  Irene Runnels was certainly one of these."

"He would micromanage the smallest details, right down to whether two commercials should have run in the same half-hour, and yet he would delegate some big operational change to me or someone else, write a memo delegating the change, and leave town during the change."

"I'd say he was an expert at keeping people off balance and he did it as a matter of course. If he called a meeting, everybody would gather, and he would enter last and sit down, shooting his cuffs and looking around at everybody without saying anything.  You froze--with the prospect that he might fire a question--slowly and directly--at you in the hushed room of his loyal followers."

"John Box was truly impressive--and mysterious--and larger than life."

Previously, the KBOX calls had been used for most of the 1950s at an unrelated Modesto, California station.


1955 Dallas Mapsco shows location of KGKO towers,
and later the KGKO/KBOX studios.  Area was referred to as "Radio Park."

KBOX was established in a building at 9900 McCree Road, near White Rock Lake, or about a mile from the famous Dallas landmark, Flagpole Hill.  The building sat on the crest of a small hill and was accessed by a long, tree-lined driveway that extended from McCree to the radio station parking lot.  The studios were to the east of the juncture of McCree, Audelia Road and Mockingbird Lane (later Forestridge.)  During the early 1960s, the location would be referred to as “Radio Park” and all mail-in promotions were posted to the address, “KBOX, Radio Park, Dallas 18, Texas.”

The studio building was located on the west edge of a spacious parking lot.  It was a one-story, light-red brick structure whose wooden, double front doors were flanked by tall glass windows that extended from floor to ceiling and opened into the reception room from the parking lot.  To the right of the doors, a section of the outside wall was constructed of rock in multi-shapes and colors, an appointment that enhanced the exterior appearance of the building and gave it a “homey” touch.

Through the front doors, visitors entered into a reception area that led directly ahead to the sales manager’s office.  To the right front, on the northeast side of the building, was the office of the general manager, and adjacent to it, on the back, northwest end of the building, was the program director’s office.  Bob Whitney explains:  "The KBOX reception desk was right inside the front door and behind it, a small office where Irene (Runnels) ran things.  We had a manager, but Irene was the real administrator and had a secret kind of power because--everyone knew--she was John Box's eyes and ears."  Indeed, Irene had a certain pull with the boss, and it has been rumored that the relationship may have gone deeper than many thought...but this is unproven conjecture at this point!  Irene lived a mere three blocks from the station, and was a regular hostess of station parties and get-togethers.

From the reception area, to the left, a long hallway bisected the building and other areas of the radio station were accessed from this centralized hallway.  To the left, along the front (or east) side of the building, were a snack and break room, separate restrooms for men and women, the newsroom and the control room in the southeast corner of the building.  Bob Whitney explains:  "To the left of the air studio was the world's smallest news studio, looking through the glass at the jock.  In the hall were a coffee urn and the EMT--an eight-foot long box about 14 inches wide and about five feet tall--along the right wall.  This was our reverb unit.  It had been installed by John, and a similar unit was installed in (our) St. Louis (station.)"

Four windows in the newsroom faced the parking lot and the windows in the control room and the production room, at the south end of the building, allowed views of an open field.

Along the back, west side of the building, from the sales manager’s office, were the traffic manager’s office, storage room, the music library and the production room, in the southwest corner of the building, across the hall from the control room.  Windows in the offices of the traffic manager faced west toward the juncture of McCree/Audelia/Forestridge.

Windows on the north side of the building allowed a view of another part of the KBOX property including the driveway that linked McCree Road to the parking lot.  The exterior appearance of the building was further complimented by a variety of trees and shrubbery.

On the outside west wall at the north end of the building, the “KBOX” call letters were mounted white letters that were clearly visible to motorists and passerbys on Forestridge, Audelia and McCree.

On the opposite side of the parking lot, across from the studios, was a walkway that led to the transmitter building and large, open field bordered by McCree and Aldwick drives, and on which were located the station’s four towers.  Tower one was closer to the transmitter and studio buildings, tower two was further northeast and nearer to McCree Road, and towers three and four were situated near Aldwick Drive, which bordered the KBOX property on the east.

The biggest change Balaban made after it took control of the radio station involved the format.  The all-new KBOX became a Top 40 station that quickly became one of the leaders in the genre of the era that featured fast-paced rock-n-roll music interspersed with cleverly-produced PAMS jingles and on-the-hour and half-hour newscasts (later scheduled at :25 and :55 past the hour) delivered staccato-style and showcased with sound effects that were coordinated, in part, with KBOX’s MacKenzie repeater.  Another major change at the station was the level of talent.  Bob Whitney explains:  "John brought a number of his Phoenix gang with him to St. Louis and Dallas.  Rob Robbins and Johnny McKinney in Dallas, Jack Carney and Dick Clayton, I believe, to St. Louis.  My job was to change these guys or get rid of them while John remained the good guy.  They resisted a lot because John's approach had been what we later would call 'personality MOR' (with some early rock,) and what was now needed in all three markets (it was thought) was free-wheeling, high-energy Top 40 represented by jocks like my 'hooligans': Big Dan (Ingram,) Jerry Clemmons, Pat Hughes, Johnny Borders, Roger Barkley and Chuck Benson, along with our promotional approach."

THE KBOX CONTROL ROOM

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(L) The KBOX control room, and (R) A young Bill Ward operates the board, 1965
Photos courtesy Bill Ward

The DJs in the KBOX control room sat at a desk in front of a nine-channel Gates control board.  There were three large Gates turntables, two on the right and one on the left.  The turntables were started and stopped with remote control toggle switched that were nothing more than standard household light switches that had been secured onto the side of the cabinets onto which the turntables were mounted.  The switches were at waist level as the DJ sat in the chair in front of the control board.

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The KBOX control room remained largely unchanged over the years.
(TL) Frank Jolle, c. 1966, (TR) Peck and Peggy, 1977, (BL) Tim Kase in 1985, after station flipped to KMEZ, and
(BR) Russ Parr, Sammi Gonzales, Keith Solis and Elroy Smith in 1989, after the flip to KJMZ.

On the right, above the two turntables, were four Gates cartridge machines from which commercials were played.  Remote buttons mounted on the desktop in front of the DJ were used to activate the four cart machines.

Directly in front of the announcer, and resting on top of the control board, was a ring binder notebook that contained live spot announcements, and to the left of that was a bulletin board onto which material for other live announcements by the DJ could be attached.

Located behind the DJ, to the left, was a large Lazy Susan wire cartridge rack that contained the station’s spot announcements that had been prerecorded for playback on the air.

The KBOX prerecorded jingles and news intro and outros were permanently situated into the 10-stack MacKenzie unit that was location across the room behind the DJ as he faced the control board.

The MacKenzie Repeater played an integral part in KBOX’s on-air sound.  The machines were used by many Top 40 radio stations in the late 1950s and the early 1960s before the continuous loop cart machines became standard equipment.

The unit at KBOX was activated with remote control buttons that also were mounted on the control board desk in front of the DJ.  The news outro also could be started with a remote control button in the newsroom as the newsman segued out of his newscast back to the DJ-controlled music in the control room.

The MacKenzie unit was used by KBOX in the late 50s and early 60s in assembling heavily-produced, live on-air newscasts that featured dramatic music beds, downsweeps, tones and beeps and other sound effects over the incessant, continual sound of live newsroom teletype machines as the fast-paced newscast was delivered by the newsman.

The MacKenzie unit employed tape that was installed in a metal magazine that rested on a deck that was secured with thumbscrews.  Loosening the screw allowed the deck gate to swing open for access to the tape contained inside.

It utilized one-quarter inch magnetic tape in continuous loops.  The “cueing” of individual cuts on each loop was accomplished by placing adhesive foil strips on the tape.  The foil strips stopped the tape when it was finished playing, thus “cueing” it and readying it at the beginning for the next air play.

The unique playback machine was invented by Louis G. MacKenzie, and it allowed early-day Top 40 radio stations to air heavily-produced newscasts that became a trademark of the fast-paced rock-n-roll programming of that era and used until the standard cart machine with continuous loop was invented.  But even after the cart machine was developed, purchased and installed at KBOX, the station continued to depend upon its MacKenzie unit.

Dave Tucker explains how KBOX's famous reverb effect was achieved:  "It was called the 'Fisher Space Expander,' operated by a foot pedal under the control board desk.  When I got there, I noticed this pedal pushed up under the desk, and someone recalled that it was once used for a reverb unit.  I started playing around with it, found that it still worked perfectly, and worked it into my show.  It soon became a regular part of the KBOX sound again!"

THE KBOX SOUND


A KBOX window sticker from 1966

Programming a Top 40 station in the same town as formidable competitor KLIF was no easy task.  KBOX had to carve its own niche to grab listeners away from KLIF.  Longtime KBOX fan and historian Gary McBrayer explains:  “Starting with a 2 share in July of 1958, by the spring of 1960, KBOX’s audience had grown to shares of 25 and 26, just behind KLIF’s now 28 to 30 shares.  KBOX billed itself as ‘The Dallas Tiger’ and ‘the most exciting station in the nation,” and it sure sounded like it.  The station used every gimmick and sound effect in the book.  It ran the melody, ‘We’re from Big D, my oh yes!’ behind the jocks anytime the mic was open.”

"Before I got there," Bob Whitney explains, "the station sound was continuously reverbed, which gave the 'big chamber tone' to  the sonorous voices that John liked to employ.  You can imagine his early response to the sparky deejays I brought around like Jerry, Roger and myself.  I turned down the reverb and gave the guys an echo button so they could scream over the Big D theme song when they felt like it.  Eventually, John got to like it.  So did I.  So did the guys.  I'm not sure about Irene."

Gary McBrayer shares his impressions of KBOX as a dedicated listener:  "I vividly remember the first time I heard 'Wonderful K-Box in Dallas.'  My family had recently moved back to Texas after a three-year hiatus on Long Island, and I had just received my first 'All-Transistor' radio as a birthday gift.  Anxious to try it out, I started at the right side of the dial and never made it past the first station.  There he was at 1480 on the dial, Dan Ingram!  I had never heard anyone like him before on the radio.  He made everything else on the air sound like it was being broadcast at slow speed.  From the music, to the commercials, to the contests, to the jingles, to Dan's one-liners, over, under and around everything, it was incredible.  I was mesmerized.

"'Wonderful K-Box' became my constant companion in 1959.  From the Ingram Mess in the morning, to the Benson Blast after school, and the Night Creature, Bil Holley, in the evening, 1480, 'Tiger Radio,' and the Silver Dollar Survey were always on.  I went on a tour of the Radio Park studios and met my heroes Pat Hughes, Chuck Benson and Bill Holley.  Life was good!

"At that time, the station was a bundle of fast-paced, high-energy entertainment.  The contests and promotions were constant...the Secret Household Object, Lucky License Plate, Kid's Club, Name it and Claim It, the Two Million Dollar Dallas Dream, the Battle of the Bands at Yello-Belly Drag Strip, the Community Club Awards...all promoted around the PAMS jingles using the 'Wonderful K-Box in Dallas' logo, time tones, reverb and echo.

"The station had an iconoclastic sound and spirit all its own.  Sure, some of my friends still listened to KLIF, but I couldn't imagine why."

By late 1961 and early 1962, several of the station's major personalities had moved on.  Dan Ingram had given way to the 'Morning Mayor,' Jerry Clemmons, who in turn gave way to Tom Murphy.  The 'Round Mound of Sound,' Chuck Dunaway, was now in afternoon drive, replacing Chuck Benson, and Jack O'Day had replaced the 'Night Creature' in the evening.

"I can't exactly say when I felt the station began to lose some of its flair and forward momentum," says Gary McBrayer, "but have always pointed to the departure of Chuck Dunaway to the arch-enemy, KLIF, as the beginning.  By 1961, KLIF seemed to wake up to the fact that the little 5,000-watter north of White Rock Lake was a very serious competitor.  KLIF began using the PAMS jingle packages, and, with the pairing of Charlie Brown and Irving Harrigan in the morning, the 'Weird Beard,' Russ Knight, in the evening, and now Chuck Dunaway in the afternoons, KLIF had a powerful roster of talent.  K-Box still had some great personalities:  'Super Cooper' middays, Ken Dowe (later to become McLendon's national PD) and Gary Mack (who, in 1965, became an original KHJ-Los Angeles 'Boss Jock') in the afternoons, Tom Murphy and 'Emperor' Bill Ward in the morning, Bobby 'Wild Child' Brock in the evening, and 'The West Side Story All Night' with Jack West (later a popular personality under his real name, Jack Schell, at KVIL.)  However, the station seemed to lose some of its on-air edge and spirit.

Gary continues:  "One of K-Box's lowest points during the 1963-64 period was its late response to Beatlemania and the British Invasion phenomena sweeping the country.  While the station played the music, it never seemed to jump on the promotional bandwagon the way its competitor KLIF did.  Like many stations around the country, it brought in a British voice on staff for a few months, but KBOX never became identified as 'The Beatles Station' (no 'K-Beatle-O-X here!) and KLIF all but stole the Beatles' live appearance in Dallas in September of 1964.  The group was supposed to be introduced by a team of jocks from both stations, but instead, Charlie and Harrigan and Jimmy Rabbitt ran onto the stage and announced, 'KLIF is proud to present The Beatles!'  Suddenly, the most important appearance by a rock-n-roll band in Dallas' history had become KLIF's event."

"Not until the arrival of the 'Jolley Green Giant,' Frank Jolle, in January of 1965, did K-Box seem to regain some of its fight.  Jolle was a crazy man at night, and the kids loved it.  He and Jimmy Rabbitt were major competitors for the evening audience, and, at least in my school, it was Jolle that everyone seemed to talk about and listen to.  With the arrival of Dan Patrick, the former Charlie Brown of KLIF in 1964-65, and Joe Long, doing news with 'the voice of God,' both in morning drive, did KBOX seem to regain its old form by January, 1966."

Former KBOX jock Dave Tucker recalls Frank Jolle's popularity with listeners:  "There was a tree at the back corner of the KBOX property, and this became a hangout for station 'groupies'...many of them young girls, who would gather under the tree, radios blaring with KBOX, and were in view of the windows on the west side of the building...so the jocks were well-aware of them.  Frank Jolle seemed to have the most groupies, attracting a small crowd under the tree every evening."

And KLIF was in transition at the time.  Gary McBrayer continues:  "KBOX also benefited from a series of changes at KLIF.  Ron Chapman (Irving Harrigan) left the station in May, 1965 for WFAA-Channel 8 [Chapman hosted "Sump'n Else," "The Group and Harrigan"/"The Group and Chapman" and a local game show, "Away We Go," for WFAA between 1965-68.]  After a series of various Charlie and Harrigans, the station tried to rekindle the magic of the original with the return of the first Charlie Brown, Jack Woods, but the Dan Patrick/Joe Long combination at KBOX beat the latest C&H reincarnation.  Ken Dowe, who had returned to Dallas to do afternoon drive at KLIF in 1964, left for Cincinnati, and, with Jimmy Rabbitt moved to afternoon drive, Frank Jolle owned the evenings.  With Ron Rice (and later Dave Tucker) and Bill Ward in middays, and the return of Bill Holley (the former 'Night Creature,') KBOX had a very powerful lineup.


KBOX welcomes Herman's Hermits to the Radio Park studios.
These photos were published on the back of the Hermits' album.
"More than 7,000 were on hand for a concert at Memorial
Auditorium," the album cover stated, "In Fort Worth, 10,000
were on hand for the concert here."
Courtesy Gary McBrayer

"The station became more aggressive with its promotions.  It co-promoted concerts by Herman's Hermits, the Mamas and Papas, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.  Their promotion of the Hermits concert was so successful that pictures from the group's studio appearance at Radio Park appeared on the back of the group's 'On Tour' release in 1965.  The 'Good Guys,' as the KBOX jocks were now known, did regular appearances at K-Box-sponsored weekend dances and charity basketball games.  In 1966, the station promoted its own oldies collection, 'The KBOX Dusty Discs,' and produced a very slick weekly 'Forty From the Top' record survey.

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(L) The KBOX Good Guys display the winning trophy following a basketball game won for another charitable cause.
L-R:  Jack West (Schell,) Ken Scott, Sam Pate, Ron Rice, Ron Jenkins (McAlister,) and Bill Ward.
(R) The cover shot for KBOX's "Dusty Discs" album, photographed on top of Dallas' Southland Life Building.
Top L-R:  Terry Byrd, Ron Rice, Frank Jolle. Bottom L-R:  Dan Patrick, Bill Ward, Bill Holley.
Both photos courtesy Bill Ward

However, the changes at KBOX weren't enough.  Gary continues:  "The owners wanted more, and as PD Bill Ward stated in Billboard Magazine, it was a drag being viewed as the #2 rocker in town.  In an effort to make the station more attractive for a potential buyer, the station pondered changing to a country and western format."

But KBOX's Top 40 presence was indeed noticed by others:  Nighttime personality Frank Jolle, who served as music director for most of the mid-1960s, was selected Music Director of the Year for 1966 by Billboard Magazine.

THE KBOX NEWSROOM

The KBOX newsroom was opposite the AM control room.

A glass window separated the two rooms and enabled the newsman and the disc jockey on duty to be in visual contact at all times.  Hand signals could be critically important, especially when a newsman was trying to signal the DJ to get him on the air with a bulletin about a breaking news story.


Bill Ward poses with one of the KBOX Mobile News Units, 1965
Photo courtesy Bill Ward

Equipment in the newsroom included a Gates control board, a microphone, and Magnacorders onto which news story actualities were recorded and then played back during newscasts, and a two-way radio in which to communicate with KBOX Mobile News Units which were in the field covering live, developing news stories.  Teletype machines delivering the latest in national and world news were nearby and could be quickly accessed by the newsman on duty.

Remote control buttons on the newsroom desk enabled the newsman to activate the KBOX news intro and outro tapes, particularly the news closing, which he could start at will, thus making the transition from the newsroom back to music from the control room tighter.

The news intro and outro tapes were permanently mounted into the 10-stack MacKenzie repeater and the AM control room, as were the jingles that were played by the DJs.

In addition to the sound effects used to produce the news, along with the sound of the live teletype machines running in the background, KBOX news stories for years were separated by a “beep-beep-beep” sound that was accomplished with a teletype key that was geared to a single frequency oscillation, and activated by the newsman for a bridge and separator as he segued from story to story throughout the newscast.

Gary McBrayer explains some of the intricacies of the KBOX news product:  “One of the most memorable signatures of the station was its ‘Action Central News, alive at :55.’  Every story was read as if the fate of the world was hanging on a thread.  The entire newscast was scored with dramatic sound effects, buzzers and music.  At the end of the newscast, after the “electronic weather,’ a very British-sounding announcer would come on and say, ‘At the tone, KBOX muuuuusic.’”

The KBOX news department operated mobile news units that could be driven to remote locations by newsmen who would report back live on the air about developing house fires, liquor store robberies, murders and assaults.

KBOX newscasts included five-minute news broadcasts and weather reports at 55 minutes past the hour, and one-minute news and weather summaries at 25 past.

The dramatic, highly-produced newscasts that were a signature of KBOX in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, were tempered a bit and brought to a more conservative level (as far as use of sound effects and music in the news were concerned) in to the mid-1960s.

Legendary Dallas radio newsman Joe Long, news director at KLIF, eventually moved to KBOX as news director through the latter part of the 1960s and into the 1970s.

Blessed with a deep, rich voice, Long commanded the respect of colleagues and radio listeners as well, drawn to his news reports with the same enthusiasm that attracted them to KBOX’s unique, Top 40 programming.  Joe recorded KBOX’s news intro and closing that were used at length during the late 1960s.  Recorded over a melodramatic news jingle, when listeners heard the words:  “F-Y-I…For your information…here is KBOX News…” they listened intently.

Another KBOX newsman who was a standard fixture at the station was Glenn Sims, whose radio news voice and delivery style also commanded the attention of listeners.

One of the unforgettable newscasts Sims delivered contained a story about a Dallas house fire and his extended report in the five-minute newscast about a firefighter who returned to the burning structure to retrieve a small boy who had been lost and was trapped in the burning building.  Sims delivered a blow-by-blow account of the firefighter’s dramatic entry into the burning house and his bringing the boy out in his arms, alive and unharmed, to the relief of bystanders and radio listeners who were glued to Sims’ dynamic reporting of the incident.  Sims’ delivery of the newscast in his legendary, trademark tone that was punctuated in just the right places with dramatic pauses, drove home the importance of the news story and the heroic deed of the Dallas firefighter.  KBOX newsmen had a special manner in their delivery that brought listeners closer to the stories they broadcasted.

KBOX SPORTS


The Dallas Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl
Photo credit:  Mike Shannon personal collection

KBOX, unlike most AM stations, didn't clamor to be the flagship of a local high school, college or professional team.  However, for one season in 1960, KBOX was the original flagship station for the NFL's new franchise team, the Dallas Cowboys.  Frank Glieber held announcing duties.  This arrangement only lasted one year, however, as KLIF won the broadcast rights in 1961.  They carried the Cowboys games on 1190 until the 1972 season, when KRLD took them over.  (Thanks to KLIF historian Steve Eberhart for researching this!)

KBOX SCOOPS AREA STATIONS WITH JFK COVERAGE


President Kennedy's limousine just minutes before shots rang out
Photo credit: www.mcadams.posc.mu.edu

On November 22, 1963, KBOX radio news scored one its biggest scoops when it was the first broadcast entity to report that shots had been fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade as it moved through Dealey Plaza en route to the Trade Mart where the Chief Executive was scheduled to make a speech.  KBOX was the only radio station that had a mobile news unit broadcasting live in the motorcade.

Joe Long, later with KBOX but news director at KLIF at that point, was serving as the pool reporter that day for radio stations covering the presidential visit to Dallas.

Newsman Ron Jenkins (McAlister) was in KBOX mobile news unit number 6 at the rear of the motorcade while newsman Sam Pate patiently waited in KBOX unit #4 on Stemmons Freeway, just above the Triple Underpass, through which the presidential motorcade was to pass out of Dealey Plaza on its route to the Trade Mart.

The plan was for Pate to continue with the KBOX live coverage of the motorcade as it emerged from the Triple Underpass and approached Stemmons Freeway, and continue with that live coverage until the President reached the Trade Mart.

KBOX news director Bill Hampton and newsmen Dick Moore and Karl King were staffing the KBOX newsroom at 12:30 PM when all hell broke loose.

In a taped recording, condensed recreation of the reporting that day, Pate described the presidential limousine turning onto Elm Street and proceeding toward the Triple Underpass, en route to the Trade Mart when he suddenly reports:  “it…it…it appears as though something has happened in the motorcade route…something…I repeat has happened in the motorcade…there are numerous people running up the hill alongside Elm Street there by Stemmons…several police officers are rushing up the hill at this time…standby…just a moment please.”

Pate subsequently reports that nearby Parkland Hospital has been advised to stand by for the victim of a severe gunshot wound.  The newsman described the speeding, sleek black Lincoln Continental as it raced over the concrete lanes of Stemmons Freeway, Secret Service agents visible and armed with high-power weapons.

Vivid descriptions of the motorcade and its occupants on the remainder of the high-speed trip to Parkland are described by Pate, who followed the motorcade to the hospital from the point where he joined it on Stemmons Freeway, just above the Triple Underpass, speeding in excess of 100 MPH along the way.

KBOX then reported that there were unconfirmed reports that Governor John Connally and President Kennedy were hit by gunfire in Dealey Plaza.  Pate described the scene of pandemonium after which there were further reports from Jenkins that confirmed that a Catholic priest had been summoned for the fatally-wounded president.

KBOX news director Bill Hampton rushed to Parkland Hospital from the KBOX studios on McCree Road and he was the first voice on the radio station to report that the final rites of the Catholic Church had been administered to the president and that, subsequently, the president was dead…the victim of an assassin’s bullets.  KBOX continued to follow the tragic story as it developed, and newsroom staffers worked around the clock to report the latest events associated with the tragedy.

A recording of KBOX's coverage that tragic day can be found at Steve Eberhart's ReelRadio site at www.reelradio.com/se/.  Although the original recording was confiscated by the government, Steve's recording is possibly a re-creation (and is cited as such on the website.)  But it does contain actual KBOX coverage and makes for an excellent listen that captures the intensity of the moment.

Amidst the tragedy, newsmen Sam Pate and Karl King were fired that afternoon for leaving an open telephone receiver in the control room for United Press International to listen through!  KBOX management decided that UPI's access to KBOX's information was giving a leg up to competitor KLIF.

The KBOX coverage of the assassination was featured in the Capitol Records recording, "The Four Days that Shocked the World."

Jenkins' proximity to the tragedy prompted the Warren Commission to call him in to give testimony about what he saw that day.  His statements can be read here.

THE KBOX TOWER SITE

As mandated by the FCC, AM (amplitude modulation) radio stations broadcast on a band that extends from 540 kilohertz to 1700 kilohertz, or between 540,000 and 1,700,000 waves per second.  Additionally, the Commission set 50,000 watts as the maximum power for an AM station.

AM radio stations at the lower end, of left side of the dial, technically have an advantage over those stations that are at the higher end, because radio waves on the lower end travel further than those on higher frequencies.

Thus, a 5,000 watt radio station broadcasting with a non-directional antenna on 550 kHz will cover a much broader territory that the equivalent located at 1,700 kHz.

KBOX was located at 1480 on the dial, definitely not the most desirable band position.  Additionally, KBOX was required by the FCC to use a directional antennae system during the day, and a directional antennae system at night, with different patterns for each system.

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Daytime (L) and nighttime (R) coverage maps for KGKO/KBOX after the power upgrade in 1956.
Note that the night signal doesn't even reach Fort Worth or the mid-cities!  Upgrades for the nighttime power didn't happen until 1976.

In late 1955, the owners of KGKO were given permission by the FCC to increase the daytime power from 1,000 watts to 5,000 watts, and, in early 1956, the increase was accomplished…but it required a more delicate and complicated directional antenna system with separate broadcast patterns for day and night.  Up until that point, the station had only two towers and the day and nighttime patterns were the same.  The increase in daytime power required installation of two more towers for a total of four.  The newest two were used for daytime power, and all four were used to accomplish the different nighttime directional pattern.

The four-tower array was maintained until 1976, at which time two more towers were installed for a total of six.  The additional towers came with an increase in nighttime power from 500 watts to 1,000 watts (and eventually to 1,900 watts by the early 1980s.)  With the six-tower array, two were used for daytime, and all six were pressed into service to accomplish the complicated nighttime pattern.

The daytime coverage sent hardly any signal to the east and northeast, in order to protect radio stations in the Tyler and Paris areas.  Coverage, instead, was limited to Rockwall to the east and McKinney to the north, and there was a “fair” signal to the south and southwest, reaching almost to Waco.

The nighttime coverage has been termed “terrible” because the signal at night did not reach Grand Prairie or south Oak Cliff to the south and west, or much past Plano to the north and Garland to the east.

The KBOX tower site and transmitter building were located approximately 100 yards up a hill from the studio location at 9900 McCree.  Because the station was directional 24 hours a day, engineers were required to be on duty around the clock, seven days a week.  A mandate from the FCC required this, with fines in the thousands for violators.

Former KBOX PD Bill Ward remembered the complicated antenna patterns and the critical need for perfect alignment.  He recalled attending a class to receive his Radiotelephone Operator’s Permit at the Elkins Institute of Radio in Dallas.  The school was legendary for training men and women of all ages who were pursuing careers in broadcasting, whether on the technical side or programming side or both.  Rusty “Rush” Limbaugh was one of Elkins’ most notable graduates.

One of his instructors was Bill Elkins, whom in one of his classes used the KBOX tower configuration as an example of just how critical broadcast patterns can be.  Elkins said, “If you got into a rowboat and rowed out onto White Rock Lake (the lake adjacent to KBOX) at night, and the directional antennas were not properly tuned in and in phase, the KBOX signal would be lost before you got halfway across the lake.”

THE DECISION TO GO COUNTRY

The winds of change were in the air in the summer of 1966 at KBOX.  It had been mentioned that perhaps a change in format would enhance and increase KBOX’s audience numbers.  Bill Ward was program director at the station at the time and was one of those who came to the conclusion that the Top 40 format was wrong for the station, and that a format change should be considered.  He favored country music.

John Box had left Balaban earlier and Irene Runnels had remained as general manager.  Box was replaced at KBOX by a Balaban investor, Leo Letterer, who took charge of the station.  Letterer came to KBOX from the Atlanta Brewing Company and he brought no broadcasting experience to the position.

Letterer met first with Runnels, who told him she opposed a format change.  She very much wanted the station to remain Top 40.  Consultant Bill Hudson of Nashville, TN was brought in by Balaban to help Runnels with the conversion.  A new program director, Jack Gardiner, came on board to craft a country music format for KBOX.

It was inevitable.  A legendary Top 40 broadcasting era in Dallas radio history was about to come to an end.

Bill Ward today still remembers it being an emotional issue, understandably, especially for Irene.  But he still maintains that he was looking at the issue from a practical standpoint.

“The Top 40 formula just simply was not working for us and I felt that we should try something else,” Ward said, noting at the time the DFW radio market had no full-time country station.  “KPCN in Grand Prairie was a daytime-only operation and was the only station in the market that was playing country music, and I believe we made the right decision then, and I believe today that we made the right decision…it was just simply a matter of practicality.”

Allan Peck describes other aspects of the change in format:  "In 1967, country music was showing nationwide growth, and KBOX changed the format to country.  For many years, KBOX was THE highest-rated country station in the US."

The KBOX news department remained with the same staff following the format change, but virtually all of the DJ staff, except for Bill and Ron Rice, departed immediately.  Nighttime disc jockey Frank Jolle relocated to WKBW in Buffalo, NY, then returned to Dallas soon thereafter to jock at KVIL.  Dave Tucker describes the meeting between Balaban's consultant and the Top 40 jocks, in preparation for the looming format change:  "The consultant told us that our image as disc jockeys under the new format would be that of 'country boy come-to-town.'  I could tell by the expression on the others' faces that few were interested in staying on."

Balaban operated KBOX for eight months after the country music format was adopted.  The station was acquired by Group One Broadcasting of Texas on August 1, 1967.

January 24, 1967 will remain burned into the memories of thousands of diehard KBOX Top 40 listeners.  It was on that day when the pop music ended at KBOX and a legendary era in Dallas broadcasting history came to a close.  For those loyal fans who loved KBOX for its unique, Top 40 sound and its special meaning to them individually, it was a day of emotional culture shock.   There was shock, dismay, sadness.

Gary McBrayer explains about the final hours:  "The final, live on-air jock at K-Box as a Top 40 station was Bill Holley, the same 'Night Creature' from 1959.  I visited Bill at the station that final night.  He handed me my own souvenirs from K-Box as a Top 40 station--practically the entire collection of "Forty from the Top" survey 45 RPM records.  He had to play mostly 'Dusty Discs' during the final hour of the show, as I had walked out of the station with most of the current playlist 10 minutes earlier!  His final record, 'Hillbilly Heaven' by Tex Ritter, was a not-too-subtle editorial of what he thought of the format change to take place the next day.  The final 'on-tape' Top 40 jock was Dan Patrick."

It was shortly before noon that day when prerecorded DJ Dan Patrick played the last Top 40 song ever broadcast on KBOX.  Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” was started at 11:53AM and led into Glenn Sims’ newscast at 11:55.

At high noon came the station ID, “K-B-O-X, Dallas.”

The KBOX country era began when the first song in the genre was played, Buck Owens’ “I’ve Got a Tiger By the Tail.”  It paid obvious homage to KBOX’s longtime “Tiger Radio” nickname and image.

KBOX-FM


KBOX-FM studios at 6211 W. Northwest Highway

KBOX-FM signed on at 100.3 mHz on December 25, 1965.  Balaban had applied for the license in 1962, but didn’t get the station on the air until nearly four years later.  Longtime host of KRLD’s “Music Till Dawn,” Hugh Lampman, helped put the station together and was an original employee.  KBOX-FM was kept separate from KBOX-AM, and had studios located briefly at McCree, then relocated in 1966 to the penthouse of a luxury high-rise condominium complex at 6211 W. Northwest Highway #2906, about 5 miles from the AM studios.  The FM’s transmitter was located atop the high-rise.  It was formatted with “Beautiful Music,” and never simulcasted the AM side’s programming.  It was carefully identified as “K-B-O-X” and never “K-Box.”  The station broadcasted from 6AM to midnight.  In 1969, the AM studios at 9900 McCree were enlarged to accommodate the FM station, and the transmitter was relocated to Cedar Hill.

..

The separation of the AM and FM stations was further enhanced by a call letter change in 1973 to KTLC ("Tender Loving Care,") and then to KMEZ ("EZ-100") in 1976.  By the end of 1982, sister KBOX-AM would assume the FM's call letters and format and become KMEZ-AM.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Bill Ward (Bill Wardlaw) remained at KBOX after Jack Gardiner was brought on board and the new format was adopted.  He remembered it was a Friday night when he went home after work and his wife told him he’d received a phone call earlier from Palm Springs, California.  His first impulse was to ignore making the return call, believing it was probably a record promoter, but, after his wife insisted, thinking it could be a job offer, Bill relented, and sure enough, it was a job offer.  He was on an airplane at 8:00 the next morning for a meeting in California with George Cameron, who wanted him to take over his KBBQ radio operations in Burbank.  Bill accepted the job and moved with his family to California, thus beginning another chapter in his successful career in broadcasting.  When Bill left KBOX, it was the end of his career as a disc jockey.  He subsequently was program director and general manager of KBBQ in Burbank, and in 1971, accepted employment with Metromedia Radio Group’s prestigious KLAC in Los Angeles.  (Other sources say that Ward remained at KBOX through 1971, became PD in 1966, then station manager in 1970.)  While vice president and general manager of KLAC, the station became the most successful country music station in the United States.  It was voted “Station of the Year” by the Academy of Country Music from 1972-79.  After he was promoted to president of Metromedia Radio Group, Bill moved to New York City where he supervised the operation of 13 Metromedia radio stations.  He was reunited with his former boss, KBOX general manager Irene Runnels, when Metromedia purchased the Texas State Network in Fort Worth.  Irene, at the time, was sales manager at the network.  From 1982-96, Bill was back in LA where he was president of Gene Autry’s Golden West Broadcasters.  He subsequently retired, but continued to do consulting work for several radio stations in New Mexico.  He died unexpectedly on July 30, 2004, at his home in Sherman Oaks, CA, at the age of 65.  Bill's sterling career in broadcasting began at age 15 in Waxahachie, TX, at KBEC.  He worked around the country before returning to the area at WRR and then KBOX.  Upon Bill's passing, former KBOX personality Dave Tucker said, "I have never worked with ANYONE like Bill.  He was fair, honest and, most of all, he was genuine.  I only had one aircheck critique meeting with him.  He was very encouraging by the way he handled people.  He pointed out mistakes, but was always so nice about it.  He let me do about anything I wanted to do, but diplomatically reeled me in when I got a little too 'far out,' as is my nature."

Irene Runnels stayed in the DFW radio market.  One of the first women in broadcasting station management, she was a founder of KOAX-FM in Dallas.  Her career in the field began in St. Louis, and she moved to Dallas in the 1950s, where she first was sales manager and then general manager at KBOX before moving to KRLD as sales manager and later, in that same position with Metromedia-owned Texas State Network in Fort Worth.  She also worked as sales manager for WFAA-AM in 1977-78.  Irene died in February, 1989 in San Francisco, following a lengthy illness.  She was 68.

Another familiar voice at KBOX was Tom Matts, who did news during the nighttime Frank Jolle program.  Matts attended school in Pittsburgh, PA, and worked for ABC News in Berlin, Germany before moving to Dallas in 1955.  He had worked at KTEM in Temple, and on to KBOX as news director in 1959.  Tom died after a lengthy illness on April 29, 1990 at age 66.

Newsman Glenn Sims passed away in 1995 of natural causes at the age of 63.

Newsman Ron Jenkins worked under the name "Ron McAlister" for many years at KLIF, KNUS, KRLD, The Texas State Network and the USA Radio Network.  He has suffered a series of strokes since 2001, is now blind and no longer able to broadcast.  He currently lives in a convalescent home in Rockwall County.

Chuck Benson lives in the Denver area and does voiceover work and books on tape.  He worked in Chicago at WIND, WMAQ and others for many years after leaving KBOX.

Danny Preston now lives in Boston and teaches broadcasting.

J. Morgan Van Buren, aka Joe McChesney, stayed at KBOX from March through November, 1965, and later worked for KMAP and its successor, easy listening station KXXK, "The Groovy One."  From 1971-78, McChesney was a personality at WRR-AM.  When the station was sold in April, 1978, McChesney relocated to Longview and continued his radio career there as manager of KLUE.  He passed away April 15, 2003, at the age of 71.  For more on Joe McChesney, click here.

Hal Raymond (Hal Nettleship,) who was PD after Chuck Dunaway, later became the "Morning Mayor" on WSBA-AM in York, PA.  He worked at stations in Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle after leaving KBOX, including 25 years at WSBA.  Hal was stricken with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in August, 2003, and died on August 8, 2005 at the age of 73.

Khan Hamon, PD in 1966 before Bill Ward, lives in San Antonio, TX and works in the advertising business and builds new custom homes (see his website at hamonhomes.com.)

Ken Scott, aka Ken Gaines, KBOX PD in 1965 before Khan Hamon, is a vice president for Salem Communications.

Frank Glieber died of a heart attack at age 51 while jogging at Dallas' Cooper Aerobics Center on May 1, 1985.  Frank was posthumously awarded Best Sportscaster by the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2002.

Hugh Lampman passed away July 15, 2002 from diabetes complications at age 69.  He left KBOX-FM in 1968 and joined KVIL on Christmas Day, 1969, and was instrumental in developing that station's format into the ratings powerhouse of the 1970s and 1980s.  He also helped put Denton stations KWDC and KJZY on the air in 1988.

Sam Pate, after a long battle with cancer and asthma, died August 3, 2009 in McKinney, Texas, at the age of 76.  He will always be remembered for broadcasting the bulletin, "It...it appears something has happened in the motorcade...I repeat, something has happened in the motorcade," on November 22, 1963.

Al Lohman and Roger Barkley spent many years as a successful afternoon radio duo at WABC in New York and KFI in Los Angeles.  They also co-hosted the TV talk show, "The Name Droppers," for NBC in 1969.  Barkley passed away on December 21, 1997 at age 61.

Johnny Borders went to KLIF after KBOX as "Johnny Dark," and later into radio management and ownership, founding Sunburst Media in the 1990s.

Dan Patrick (Dan McCurdy) left KBOX during the format change to country, and ran the in-house advertising agency for the Southland Corporation.  He produced the wonderful "Y. Y. Wicky" spots for 7-11...Wicky was the gravelly-voiced, honest-yet-confused spokesman in the vein of "Ernest Worrell" of later years.  Patrick resides today in San Angelo, TX.

Pat Hughes died of diabetes complications in 1969.

Dan Ingram went on to huge success in the industry, working at many of the top rated stations in the country in management and programming.

Jimmy Kaye went back to his real name, Jim MacKrell, and hosted several game shows for NBC in the 1970s, including "Celebrity Sweepstakes."  He did some acting in the 1980s, appearing as a regular on "General Hospital" and "Capitol," and was a frequent infomercial host.  He now resides near Conroe, Texas.

Bob Whitney left radio in 1974, but stays active in preserving media history.  Visit his site at www.thenowexplosion.com.

Gary Mack, aka Gary McDowell, is doing radio in Florida these days.  This is not the same Gary Mack who worked in Dallas radio in the 1970s and currently with the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas.

Tony deHaro, aka Tony Welch, is a radio station owner in Florida, and cousin to KDMX-Mix 102.9's Anna deHaro.

Charlie Van Dyke, one of the most recognized voices in the radio/TV industry, resides in Arizona and can still be heard doing voiceovers for local KLUV.

Chuck Dunaway spent many successful years in radio in Dallas and across the country.  He has published several books about his radio experiences.

Jack West changed his name back to Jack Schell and spent many great years at KVIL and other local stations.  He does consulting work these days and has a website at www.recallmedia.com.

Karl King, an author, veteran, POW and avid World War II buff, died July 25, 2005, at the age of 80.

Dick Moore was badly burned in a fire and later retired, according to Tony deHaro.

Ken Dowe spent many years with the McLendon Broadcasting group.  In the 1970s and 80s, he could still be heard doing his "Ken and Granny" show on KNUS and KMGC, and was back in the early 1990s on oldies station KODZ.   Thereafter, he was back in management, overseeing KKDA-AM/FM and KRNB-FM in Dallas.  Dowe retired in October, 2009, after 50 years in broadcasting.

Hyman Childs has owned Dallas-Fort Worth station KKDA-FM since 1975, and started KRNB-FM in 1996.

Jerry Knight, aka Jerry Thomas and John D'Azzo, explains:  "I worked at KILT (Houston) from 1967-69, KLIF and KVIL in the 1970s, then in sales and on-air with Satellite Music Network from 1985 and was with them through ABC’s buyout.”  Jerry was most recently on ABC’s Pure Gold oldies format.

Dave Tucker lives in the Fort Worth area and was most recently at local KLTY-FM.  He is proudly retired from the daily grind, and continues to do voiceover work for KTVT-TV.  He recently hosted "On Track," a religious-styled syndicated talk program for FamilyNet Productions.

Frank Jolle left KBOX for Buffalo, NY, and returned to Dallas in April, 1967 to work at KVIL.  He is still active in radio, owns a movie production company, and maintains a radio show and website at www.shboom.com.

Bob Dayton, known as "The Milkman" on KLIF, passed away on August 28, 1995 at age 62.

Ben Laurie, the longtime dean of DFW traffic reporters, came from WFAA-AM's and KLIF's news departments to KBOX in 1965, not long before heading off to KVIL and a long stint as the traffic pro on Ron Chapman's morning show.  Ben died on April 15, 2011 at age 72.

Bobby Brock left KBOX sometime before 1967 to join WFAA-AM/FM as production manager.  He is not the same person as Dallas Times Herald radio/TV writer Bob Brock.


HISTORICAL DATA-1958 TO 1967
From Broadcasting Yearbook

1958-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
Phone:  DIamond 8-3530
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Eastman
Executive Vice-President, Managing Editor:  John F. Box, Jr.
General Sales Manager:  Dick Morrison
Administrative Assistant:  Harriet Baker
Program Director:   Robb Robbins
Promotions Manager:  Charles Boland
Chief Engineer:  Gordon Vaughn
News Director:  Pat Conway
Farm Director:  Bill Jenkins
Women’s Director:  Irene Runnels

1959-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
9900 McCree Road, Zone 18
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Eastman
Executive Vice-President, Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
General Manager:  Edward T. Hunt
Sales Manager:  Lloyd George
Program Director:   Robert Whitney
Promotions Director:  Robb Robbins
Chief Engineer:  Gordon Vaughn
News Director:  Tom Matts
Farm Director:  Dick Moore
Women’s Director:  Irene Runnels

1960-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
9900 McCree Road, Zone 18
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Katz
Executive Vice-President, Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
Sales Manager:  Lloyd George
Sales Coordinator:  Joseph Wolfman
Program Director:   Chuck Benson
News Director:  Ray Carnay
Merchandising, Sales Promotion Coordinator:  Irene Runnels
Chief Engineer:  Earl Bodine
Farm Director:  Dick Moore

1961-62 (combined issue)-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
9900 McCree Road, Zone 18
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Katz
Executive Vice-President, Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
General Manager:  Parker Daggett
Sales Manager:  Stanton Pearson
Program Director:   Chuck Benson
News Director:  Ray Carnay
Director of Marketing:  Irene Runnels
Chief Engineer:  Earl Bodine
Farm Director:  Dick Moore

1963-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
Radio Park, Zone 18
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Robert E. Eastman and Company
Executive Vice-President, Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
General Manager:  Dan Hydrick
Program Director:   Hal Raymond
Promotions Manager:  Irene Runnels
News Director:  Dick Moore
Women’s Director:  Betty Verrell
Farm Director:  Don Buehler

1964-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
Radio Park, Zone 18
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Eastman
Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
General Manager:  Edward G. Sheridan, Jr.
Sales Manager:  Alan Golden
Operations Director:  Tom Murphy
Director of Marketing:  Irene Runnels
News Director:  Dick Moore
Chief Engineer:  Robert Swortwood

1965-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
Radio Park
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Eastman
Executive Vice-President, Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
Assistant to Managing Director:  Irene Runnels
Sales Manager:  Alan Golden
Operations Director:  Tom Murphy
News Director:  Dick Moore
Chief Engineer:  William Wentzell

1966-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired July 14, 1958)
Radio Park
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40
Representative:  Eastman
Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
Assistant to Managing Director:  Irene Runnels
Sales Coordinator:  Robert Hanna
Sales Manager:  Alan Golden
Operations Director:  Ken Scott
News Director:  Ron Jenkins
Technical Superintendent:  Bill Thompson

1967-KBOX
5,000 watts days, 500 watts nights, DA-2
H&E Balaban Group Ownership (acquired 7/14/58)
Group One of Texas (acquired 8/1/67)
Radio Park
Phone:  DIamond 8-3800
Format:  Top 40, went C&W January 24, 1967
Managing Director:  John F. Box, Jr.
Station Manager:  Irene Runnels
Operations Director:  Bill Ward
News Director:  Joe Long
Technical Supervisor:  Bill Thompson


Click here to continue to Part Three: KBOX Country
Click here for KBOX Memories
Click here for KBOX Music Surveys
Click here for KBOX Sounds (coming soon!)


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