KTRU Departs FM Airwaves Defiant, Unique As Ever
Patricia Bacalao at the statue of Rice founder "Willy" Marsh Rice
"I'm so nervous," declared former KTRU station manager Joey Yang as he took over the helm for the final hour of programming that would be broadcast on the FM band. "Since 1971 we've been on FM, and it's all coming down to this. It's a lot of responsibility."
Rocks Off had arrived at the station at approximately 4:30 a.m. to sit in on the final moments of its storied FM history. It was a bittersweet atmosphere, part revelry and part funeral; in part the introspective reflection of a wake and part triumphant march to the finish. The station was abuzz with several DJs, frantically trying to play everything they could.
After 40 years of student-run broadcasting, KTRU's FM signal was cut off promptly at 6 a.m. this morning, leaving a sizable hole in Houston's FM band. The triumphant speech of Jesse Jackson at the 1984 Democratic convention faded into the wall of sound of The Flying Luttenbachers "The Pointed Stick Variations," reaching an almost unbearable harshness before everything ceased.
All that is left at 91.7 FM is the buzz of static until KUHC programming begins on May 16. KTRU is dead, long live K-TRUE. While the station will continue to broadcast online and via 90.1 KPFT's HD-2 stream, even the call letters are gone due to the sale.
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"We're going to have to be even more careful, because we're broadcasting on [KPFT's] license," Patricia Bacalao stated, following our inquiry about the FCC rules still applying to the stream.
The final hour-plus of broadcast we were fortunate enough to attend was packed full of gems, from Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix performing "I've Been Loving You Too Long" to Townes Van Zandt; from The 13th Floor Elevators "You're Gonna Miss Me" to The Replacements "Fuck School."
Rocks Off was even allowed to slip in a track, "Where Ya Goin Man?" by Something Fierce.
Joey Yang, in the pink shirt, winds down KTRU's more than 40-year FM history.
Throughout those last few hours, DJs fought through static-besieged microphones. It was poetic, as if the signal was already fading off in space, dying some light years away. The amount of calls pouring in, even in the wee hours of the morning, is a solid testament to the amount of reach the 50,000-watt transmitter provided the station.
Around 5:25 a.m. they gave away an HD radio to the "91.7th" caller.
"We'll see you on the other side, HD radio, at 6 a.m.," Yang announced after introducing the final track. "But don't send flowers, because we're not dead," he added after an emotional breath.
Approximately two minutes of downtime was scheduled before broadcasting would resume, minus the FM band. As the transmission ceased, everyone present paused with a heavy heart.
With a clap, Yang rubbed his hands together.
"All right, HD-2!" he declared.
The faders slid up, and Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" became the first song in 40 years issued forth from the small control room but not heard on the FM dial. How does it feel, indeed.
Read Rocks Off's complete coverage of the KTRU sale.
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