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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bill Josey - The Story of KAZZ

Bill Josey Jr. - The Story of KAZZ

Paul: Would you give me a basic history of KAZZ-FM. Roughly what year it was set up? How old were you and your father in 1966?

Bill Jr.: KAZZ was first licensed by the F.C.C. in 1958 and played only jazz, but by fall 1964, when I joined its DJ staff, it was block programmed, and jazz was relegated to the night shift. The programming ranged from The Grand Ol' Opry in the wee early morning hour to Sinatra and Mantovani pop during the day to folk and jazz at night. I graduated from Wm. B. Travis High School in Austin (where Roky and I were acquaintances) in 1964. I spent the summer of '64 training [as a DJ] at KILE AM in Galveston, where Dad was the sales manager. When I started college at the University of Texas in Fall '64, I began looking for a radio job. I was turned down by KNOW, where I really wanted to work, since it was THE Austin rock station. Dad suggested I make a demo tape and take it to other stations. I did, and Gib Divine, KAZZ's station manager, hired me. I wanted to program a rock show on FM, and Gib agreed. He had only one rule: the station had to be referred to on-air as K-A-Z-Z, not KAZZ (rhyming with JAZZ). I took the 4-8 p.m. slot Monday through Friday and the noon-4 p.m. slot on Saturdays. Dad became sales manager at KAZZ late in '64 and replaced Gib as station manager in '65. KAZZ was owned by Monroe Lopez, who also owned Austin's Big 4 Mexican restaurants. When we began distributing a Top 40 survey through local record stores, the Big 4 Mexican restaurants advertised on the back. [Editor's note: Bill Jr. misremembered that his KAZZ program originally ran from 4 to 8 pm. In fact, it ran from 4 to 6 pm until late 1965.]

It was Dad's idea to do remote broadcasts from local night clubs -- the Eleventh Door, the New Orleans Club, the Club Seville, the Club Saracen -- to attract advertisers. The live broadcasts began in late '65. We began with demure acts, like Ernie Mae Miller at the jazz piano at the New Orleans Club and the Kings IV at the Club Seville, but eventually, we began to broadcast rock bands, like the Sweetarts and the Elevators. Monroe sold the station to KOKE AM in late '67 and KAZZ ceased broadcasting in January '68. When it resumed broadcasting later in '68, it had changed its call letters to KOKE-FM [simulcasting KOKE-AM's signal]. The KAZZ call letters were later taken by a Washington state FM station that has no relationship to the original KAZZ-FM in Austin. In 1966, I was 19 and Dad was 43.

Paul: Why didn't you record the Elevators for Sonobeat? Rumour has it you nearly did.

Bill Jr.: Dad and I asked Roky and Tommy [Hall] whether they were committed to IA [International Artists Records in Houston], and that we wanted to record them. This was in early '67. They were under contract to Leland [Rogers] for some time into the future, and Tommy said, "Maybe when our contract is up". That was the end of it. We were interested in psychedelic music, and many of the groups we later recorded for Sonobeat either skirted the genre or hit it dead on. The Conqueroo often is categorized as a psychedelic band, and they were truly a terrific band, but I'd label the single we released by them as jazz-rock fusion, not psychedelia. The Thingies and Mariani were far more psychedelic than the Conqueroo, but neither approached the sophistication in psychedelic lyrics that the Elevators achieved.

Paul: The Elevators began playing the New Orleans Club 9th February 1966 after their Jan 27th bust. Why did you champion their record when the AM station KNOW banned it?

Bill Jr.: Roky was my classmate at Travis High School. I liked him. He was smart. I'd heard the Spades [Roky's first band] play. They were pretty good for a garage band. The Elevators were even better, and You're Gonna Miss Me was a good rock song. I certainly never thought it was psychedelic, though. We didn't emulate KNOW. We were known as the maverick radio station. When Roky brought the first test pressing of You're Gonna Miss Me, by the Elevators, up to the station, I recall throwing it on the turntable and auditioning it. It was by a local band, it was good, and Roky made the effort to bring it to me personally. There was no way I wasn't going to play it. I still have that test pressing. Later, Roky and Tommy came back up to the station with a DJ copy of the single on the Contact label (which I also still have), and I interviewed them briefly on the air.

Paul: Did you broadcast their first performance and do you recall a story Benny Thurman related to me about and "blue northern" hailing on the roof during the first broadcast and the audience all dancing in an inch of water?

Bill Jr.: The storm during an Elevators broadcast on KAZZ, that Benny called a "blue northern", rings a bell, but I don't recall that it was the first broadcast or that the audience danced in water. However, I seem to recall that the noise from the storm was so great, pounding on the New Orleans Club's metal roof, that it disrupted the broadcast. Now, if only we could find a tape of that broadcast...

Paul: How many shows did you MC for the band?

Bill Jr: Only one. I didn't like MC'ing "events". I was too shy. It's one thing to hide behind a microphone and act out your "radio" persona and quite another thing to be up on stage, more or less as yourself, where a thousand people are staring at you. It was an unsettling experience for me. I think I co-MC'd an Aqua Festival Battle of the Bands with Mike Lucas [of KNOW], but the Elevators didn't play that one.

Paul: How did your father [Bill Josey Sr.] relate to the band? Were they approachable?

Bill Jr.: Dad liked the whole band, particularly Tommy and Clementine [Hall], and, of course, Dad (rather than me) appeared at Roky's drug trial in Austin as a character witness. Dad was trained as a psychologist. But Dad also was a musician and played jazz and big band-style coronet. He had many theories about why rock music "worked"... that the root of music was entirely the beat, which is why rock music touched a nerve. Dad quite liked rock music and, I think, was a pretty hip guy who surprised the groups we worked with at Sonobeat. I think Tommy, in particular and moreso than Roky, related very well to Dad.

I had a good relationship with Roky and Tommy. Tommy and I spent time between sets at one New Orleans Club live broadcast talking about the "lost chord". This predated the Moody Blues album by that name. Tommy explained how the "lost chord" was created by what wasn't played and, therefore, was perceived [much like] a line is perceived by placing a piece of black construction paper across a piece of white construction paper. Tommy had incredible theories and was articulate.

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