A Historical Study of Programming Techniques and Practices of Radio Station KWKH, Shreveport, LA, 1922–1950
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226 A Historical Study of Programming Techniques and Practices of Radio Station KWKH, Shreveport, LA, 1922–1950 —Lillian Jones Hall This excerpt is edited from a dissertation chapter titled “The Period of W. K. Henderson, 1925–1933,” where Lillian Jones Hall connects Henderson’s story with the development of federal-level regulations governing radio. She based her description on newspaper articles, congressional records, and a scrapbook of related documents Henderson published with the title “KWKH Fights for a Square Deal.” In addition, Hall conducted interviews with Carter Henderson, son of the radio man; Bill Antony, the engineer who constructed Shreveport’s earliest radio transmitters and kept the Henderson equipment in working order; and Stedman Gunning, a long-time Henderson employee and “disc jockey” before the practice was common or even the term invented. Hall’s excerpt begins with descriptions of employee life at Henderson’s Kennonwood estate, the innovative broadcasting set-up, and the modus operandi for nightly phonograph request shows. She places KWKH’s practice of broadcasting records in the context of its time, when today’s symbiosis between radio and recorded music was far from apparent. In fact, the Federal Radio Commission frowned upon phonograph records as an undesirable alternative to live programming and feared their broadcast was potentially misleading to the public. Henderson and his KWKH occupied a central position in the era’s debates over the right of the government to regulate the airwaves and freedom of on-air content. PROGRAMMING TECHNIQUES, PRACTICES OF KWKH 227 In describing the conflicting opinions in this debate, Hall quotes excerpts of written communication between Henderson and key figures in shaping federal radio policies, including FRC Chair W. H. G. Bullard and Louisiana Senator Joseph E. Ransdell. In his responses, Henderson articulates his populist defense of KWKH operations with his usual audacity, characterizing the commission’s actions as a threat to independent radio stations and the communities they served, particularly in the South. To use words Henderson himself might have chosen, KWKH programming was none of the FRC’s doggone business. [W. K. Henderson was a prominent local businessman in Shreveport, owner of the Henderson Iron Works and Supply Company, who became infamous as owner of station KWKH. During the early 1920s, he purchased a onequarter interest in radio station WGAQ from W. G. Patterson, along with three other investors. The station broadcast from the Youree Hotel in downtown Shreveport until 1924, when Henderson bought out his partners, changed the call letters to match his initials (KWKH), and moved the station to the grounds of his country estate, Kennonwood, eighteen miles outside town. Because a fire destroyed the main buildings of Kennonwood on March 26, 1955, Henderson’s scrapbooks and files were lost. This loss makes Hall’s work a critical piece in understanding early radio in Shreveport and the life of one of radio history’s most colorful mavericks. This excerpt draws from interviews conducted not many years after the fire and research into Henderson’s communication with government officials.] When Henderson moved his station to Kennonwood, he hired almost anyone who asked him for a job. However, those employed were expected to perform any task connected with maintaining the station. The owner was a commanding person who demanded that the staff members be proficient in performing the many and varied duties assigned to them. Those persons who attained his high standards were paid well. The main staff of ten persons moved to Kennonwood, where facilities were provided them. The unmarried men and the unmarried women lived in separate “dormitories” in the main residence. Married personnel were assigned separate cottages on the estate.1 Following the general policy of demanding every member of the staff to perform any and every task connected with the successful operation of the station, Henderson hired no announcers. Persons who operated the control LILLIAN JONES HALL 228 board also announced. According to Antony, the station personnel and staff were expected to remain on call twenty-four hours a day. Stedman Gunning illustrated this demand by his own experience. On Labor Day, 1926, Gunning began his employment. From that time until Henderson disposed of the station in 1932 he worked without a holiday. However, those staff members who remained with Henderson were intensely loyal to him as was evidenced during the years from 1930 through 1932, when the entire staff served without pay.2 Perhaps the foremost staff member of KWKH was William Antony who had served as chief engineer for all radio stations in...


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