WAY BACK WHEN: KEXO Radio
All it takes is a little riffling through a file cabinet labeled “The Daily Sentinel” at the Loyd Files Library in the Museum of Western Colorado to find something interesting.
Having just done a piece on KREX-TV, on account of their 60th anniversary, the KEXO Radio file caught my eye. Every picture tells a story and when I found a stack of glossies in the file, I knew I had to know more.
KEXO went on the air Sunday, Feb. 22, 1948. The studios were located in a house at 2208 North Ave., across from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
They had a frequency of 1230 kilocycles, they were at 1230 on the AM dial, and their phone number was 1230 and later became Chapel 3-1230.
Abbott Tessman, formerly of Los Angeles, was part owner and general manager. He brought in Bob Collins as program director, and Jim Eicher as an engineer/announcer, both from Fremont, Ohio. James Russell Eicher spent 20 years on the air and would spend the next 20 working for The Daily Sentinel.
Bob “Uncle Bob” Collins would broadcast the “Clymer’s Story Hour” and would read the comics on Sunday mornings. Bob became a beloved public figure, hosting the “Uncle Bob Show” and “Letters from Santa” on KREX-TV. KEXO the Dog was the station mascot, and Bob Collins was his low, distinctive “voice.”
In this library file was a stack of unmarked photos. I did some deducing and came to the conclusion that they were taken at Ed Eisenhauer Motors in 1956 during a Tri-State Disc Jockey Marathon.
One of the competing stations, as close as I can tell from the photo, is KEYY-AM in Provo, Utah. The other station started with a KEE and still is a mystery.
Frank Gibbs was the man of the many hours. I don’t know how long it lasted and who won, but I do know Gibbs was a local celebrity by the time the contest was over.
I sent Jim Eisenhauer an email. He remembered the event but couldn’t remember the outcome. Here’s what he shared:
“I was a senior at GJHS, and I recall that in the Dodge showroom at 3rd & Colorado (‘come on down’) we had Frank Gibbs, a DJ from KEXO, do a marathon broadcast. Frank was a big man, very popular, sports minded, and played a lot of jazz music. Late in the marathon, I can’t recall the hours he had been on air, but it was nighttime and it got to the point Frank could hardly keep awake. So he played the well known Benny Goodman ‘Sing, sing, sing’ record ... an unusual long play, so there was time enough that we could take him back to the wash rack and give him a cold shower to get him refreshed and awake. I had the pleasure of handling the garden hose in the wash rack.
“Frank also played in a band and they played for many high school dances. His father was a well-known ship builder in New York.
“Along with being a DJ, he covered a lot of sports events and was an early announcer for JUCO baseball. I believe he became part-owner of a new station in Grand Junction, KWSL.”
Gibbs died in 1995 at the age of 67. His father was the famous naval architect, William Francis Gibbs.
The same year as the marathon, Jim Eisenhauer and Leroy Ashby would broadcast “Tiger Tales” on KEXO and Jim Eicher was their engineer.
Edgar “Ed” Eisenhauer was known for his outrageous promotions and marketing prowess. A promotion he held in 1955 advertised that of the first new 55 Dodge cars he sold, one lucky customer would get theirs free.
His dealership at Third Street and Colorado Avenue ranked number three, right behind Ford and Chevy.
The KEXO station and towers moved to 2508 North Ave. near Der Weinerschnitzel, and burned down in the spring of 1963. They then moved to 557 Main St. where Brown Cycles is now.
While I was attending Grand Junction Junior High and High School, it was a big deal to walk by the KEXO studios because the disc jockey was in the front window and you could stand and stare at him while he was spinning records and broadcasting out into the street.
They printed out a weekly Top 40 Countdown that was available at Woolworths and other record outlets. Many remember their great “Eye in the Sky” — an old World War II searchlight.
KEXO was part of our collective adolescence. Thank you, Museum of Western Colorado, for harboring our keepsakes.