Tulsa's Top 40 Legend: KAKC - The Big 97
Listen to the documentary, as broadcast on Public Radio 89.5-1
For nearly two decades, KAKC AM 970 was Tulsa's top-rated radio station. From the mid 50s to the mid 70s, KAKC ruled the teen and young adult audience, dominating the local radio scene like no other station has before or since.
It was a time of cruising Tulsa's restless ribbon and Pennington's Restaurant; dance crazes and hula hoops; Seeing the USA in your Chevrolet; the 60's counterculture and Vietnam war protests. Through it all, Rock and Roll was our music and KAKC was the soundtrack of our youth! What made KAKC such a phenomenon?
What led to its ultimate demise? How is it viewed now by the people who worked there? Public Radio Tulsa's Steve Clem tells the story with the voices of the DJs and voices from the past.
Hear interviews with your favorite KAKC deejays - Dick Schmitz, Scooter Segraves, Lee Bayley, Robert W. Walker, Harry Wilson, Beau Weaver, Mike McCarthy and more!
What Would They Sound Like Today?
We asked KAKC's famous jocks to recreate a bit of their airshft and imagine what the station might sound like if they were on the Tulsa airwaves in this century.
I became interested in telling KAKC’s story from growing up listening to “The Big 97” of the late 60’s and early 70’s, and from my friendship with Scooter Segraves. I had the pleasure of working with Segraves in the 1980’s at a Tulsa radio station called “Magic 99,” which is probably best remembered for giving Tulsans the chance to listen to Scooter Segraves “on the drive home” one more time.
Another catalyst for me was the fact that the KAKC I grew up with was the sister station of the biggest radio stations in the country through its association with radio consultant Bill Drake. Drake was the dynamic southern California programmer who revolutionized the way Top 40 radio stations sounded in the late 60’s. He personally oversaw only a handful of stations in the entire country, most of them in huge markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, but yet he agreed to consult KAKC, in the much smaller Tulsa, as well. That association supercharged the careers of KAKC’s DJs - Segraves, Lee Bayley, Robert W. Walker, Beau Weaver to name a few - and put Tulsa radio on par with the top stations in the entire industry.
But that was the KAKC I was already familiar with. There is so much more to KAKC’s story. I uncovered what I felt were fascinating stories at every turn, and as much as possible, tried to get out of the way and let these amazing people tell their stories.
KAKC was so much a part of our lives then. Having the chance now to spend time with the people who created that magic, at least for me, is very special!
The KAKC Solid Gold Album with Lee Bayley
"Not so long ago" - Tulsa People article
In the making of this documentary, we gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Casey Morgan, John Durkee, Brad Newman, Judith Nole and the entire Public Radio Tulsa staff. McFarlin Library, Tulsa Central Library, The Tulsa World, and The Tulsa TV Memories website.
Original interviews: Scooter Segraves, Dick Schmitz, Harry Wilson, Clayton Vaughn, Bob Brown, John Wooley, Sharon King Davis and Eric Rothenbuhler. Also, Robert W. Walker, Beau Weaver, Jim Peters, Don Wallace, Lee Bayley, Henry Mark, Mike McCarthy, Denver Fox, Gary Reynolds, and Richard Dowdell.
Thanks to Sonny Hollingshead, Wayne McCombs, Micheal Dean and Oklahoma History Center, Randy Brown, Steve Goddard, and Frank Morrow. Student researchers Marisa Nelson, Beth Geatches, Marla Blum, John Eason, Hannah Newman. A special “thank you” to Rich Fisher and Frank Christel!
Tulsa’s Top 40 Legend, KAKC, Parts 1 and 2, were written and produced by Steve Clem, copyright 2010. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Public Radio Tulsa or its licensee, The University of Tulsa.