Call letter sequence: KFPG - KMTR - KLAC
KLAC began its life as KFPG in March of
1924. It was built by Oliver S. Garretson and his partner B.H. Dennis at 826 West 7th Street in Los
Angeles - next to their Radio Sales Service Store at 820 W. 7th - which sold radio transmitting and
receiving equipment for the amateur radio hobbyist, who were very keen on
hearing the various stations which had begun broadcasting in the early 1920s.
Garretson had been a ham radio operator and was one of many in the LA area
who had conducted radio broadcasting experiments as far back as 1908, before broadcasting licenses
were issued by the government. During the years, 1922 and 1924, he rebuilt equipment for the Hamburger's Department Store
station in Los Angeles, KYJ, and was one if its first operators. He also built
and operated KUY-El Monte, built KWH for the L.A. Examiner, installed KFAC in
Glendale, and made the new KNX transmitter for the California Theater in
downtown Los Angeles.
In early 1925, Garretson and Dennis moved KFPG to 5118 Maywood Avenue in the Eagle Rock
area of Los Angeles. According to a ham radio call book, this was Garretson’s
home address. During the summer, the station boosted
power from 100 to 250 watts, and moved again - to 1517 North Wilton Street in
Hollywood (on the
corner of Sunset Blvd). Oliver S. Garretson remained as owner, with the licensee
now the K. M. Turner Radio Corporation, makers of Turner radios.
In November 1925, the call letters were changed to KMTR, for the company
name, and the power was raised to 500 watts. "Dad" King was the
announcer and Freeman Lang was technical engineer.
In June of 1926, KMTR was sold to the Echophone Manufacturing Company - makers
of Echophone Radios. This only lasted six months, until Echophone sold
KMTR to C.C. Julian on November 13, 1926. (Julian was a former oil speculator and owned the Julian
Petroleum Company.) A January 29, 1927 "Radio Doings" magazine
indicated KMTR ("The Echoes of Hollywood") was owned and
operated by C. C. Julian, with studios at 1025 North Highland Avenue in
Oliver S. Garretson was back as Technical Engineer.
Using the radio station to sell company stock over the air, Julian's company ended up being part of the biggest swindle
during the 1920s oil boom in Southern California and its thousands of investors
lost a total of $150,000,000 - in 1920s money.
Before Julian sold the station, a famous incident occurred - one retold many
times over the years. On June 20, 1927, the con man and now former oil promoter
gave a speech. However, there was someone listening who not only did not like
Julian, but did something about it: immediately, another station powered up and
drowned out KMTR, garbling the entire broadcast. Julian accused his enemy Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles
Times and KHJ of "jamming" KMTR for one hour. (Since KHJ was not
transmitting that on Monday
nights, Julian figured a KHJ engineer could have re-tuned their transmitter down
to 570 kilocycles to interfere with KMTR. Others suggest Julian and his KMTR
engineers caused the jamming noise themselves, so they could blame KHJ and gain
The story was in the newspapers the next day, and on the United Press newswire
across the nation. The Federal Radio Commission announced an investigation of the
incident. However, it was never proved one way or the other exactly what
happened that night, and now, some 80 years later, the truth may never be known. A
few nights later, C.C. Julian rescheduled his speech, and it went out over KMTR clearly,
without any further problems, so everyone who now knew about it was sure to
listen! Julian himself stayed in trouble with the U.S. law, and killed himself in Shanghai in 1934.
After Julian sold out to the KMTR Radio Corp in mid-1927, a new staff of
announcers, engineers and managers was hired. The station affiliated with
the Los Angeles Evening Herald, using studios adjacent to the United Artists
Studio at 915 North Formosa. The building signs said: "United
Artists Radio." Over the next two decades, KMTR's studios and offices were at
1000 Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. The station adopted "The Top of the Dial"
(570 kHz was the highest wavelength on the old dials). The station's flattop wire transmitting
antenna supported by two towers was in front of the Spanish style KMTR building
for many years. During those years, KMTR was known for broadcasts of dance
bands, Gary Dalton's "Hollywood Chatterbox," and many Hollywood movie
In March 1946, New York Post Publisher Dorothy Schiff purchased KMTR and
changed calls to KLAC, standing for Los Angeles, California. At the same time, a
TV construction permit was obtained, resulting in KLAC-TV debuting on September
17, 1948, and featuring many of the radio personalities.
In the mid to late-60s, KLAC decided to drop music and try a telephone talk
format they called "Two-Way Radio", which became quite popular, thanks
to the controversial Joe Pyne, who became KLAC's big star and branched out into
syndicated radio and TV.
After a few years, talk radio was dropped and KLAC went back to playing
Middle of the Road music for another year. Then, in 1970, KLAC began a country
music format, which lasted for 23 years, until mid-December of 1993. Station
owners also got rid of their local news department and news director Dean
Sander; a fixture on AM-570 for 32 years!! KLAC switched to a Big Band/adult
standard format, all via satellite from Westwood One with no local
In the past few years, KLAC has dropped music programming and has changed to
a talk show format. The Clear Channel-owned station airs mostly syndicated talk
shows, but weekday mornings, features Los Angeles talk show veteran Michael
Jackson from 9 to noon. KLAC also features sports broadacsts of the Los Angeles
Lakers and is also the flagship for the baseball games of the Anaheim Angels
The 5,000 watt station shares transmitter towers with KFWB-980, a bit
northeast of downtown L.A. in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood, at the corner of
Indiana Ave. and Multnomah Ave.
At the time I knew Freeman I did not realize what a prominent place he had in
radio in Los Angeles in the twenties. Apparently he was owner of KRLO, which
became KMPC later. He did tell me stories about being the master of ceremonies
at movie openings. He also told me that he had a remote truck for such events.
But at the time I did not realize how famous a personality he was back then.