The Improbable, But True,
History of Radio Station KHJ
KHJ was built 1n 1922 by Charles. R. Kierulff who owned and operated the station for the Los Angeles Times. Kierulff was in the "electronics" business of the day. Charlie's older brother started B. F. Kierulff and Co. in 1903 selling telephone and telegraph equipment in Los Angeles.
The station, known as "The Times Radiophone" was the second radio station in Los Angeles and went on the air on the night of April 13, 1922.
The entire station was housed on a 10' X 12' room atop the original Los Angeles Times building. And yes, KHJ really stood for
"Kindness, Happiness and Joy".
Back in those days everything was live. Tape recorders hadn't been invented yet. Singers came to the studios to perform live. If they didn't show up, the announcer had to sing! In the evenings they read stories and had radio
plays for children to listen to. It was a much simpler time. Before sign-off each night, the announcer would recite this poem:
May kindness, happiness and joy
be with you all the day.
And may the God who loves us all
Forget not KHJ!
God will not fail to watch thy sleep
And wake thee with his light.
And now dear friends of KHJ
I wish you all goodnight.
Most early newspapers regarded radio as competition, but KHJ was promoted since it was owned by the Los Angeles Times and became very popular. The Los Angeles Times even formed "The Times Radio Club" for it's radio fans stating, "Members
of the Times Radio Club are urged to keep a complete file of the daily Radio News columns of The Times, as it will be the aim of this department to give as complete history as possible of the establishment and development of the Times Radio Station."
In the early days radio was very different from today: KHJ, as did all stations of the day, had to sign off for three minutes out of every 15 so that any "distress" calls might be heard.
Kierulff sold the station to the Los Angeles Times, and the newspaper sold it to Don Lee, the Cadillac dealer, who eventually sold it to General Tire/RKO Pictures.
During the big band era, KHJ had its own 50-piece orchestra and in the mid-1940's, Steve Allen lead the morning team with his show called, "Smile Time." In 1931, Bing Crosby made nightly trips to KHJ where he sang over the air for 15 minutes six nights per week.
The station employed many famous entertainers whose careers began at KHJ: Eddie Canter, and, Burns and Allen, for example. The legendary Pat Weaver (father of Segourney Weaver, later president of NBC, and inventor of The Today Show and The Tonight Show) was an announcer at KHJ in 1934.
The so-called Drake-Chenault programming on KHJ ran from Boss Radio in 1965 until RKO ended its relationship with the programming team in 1973. However, the KHJ call letters lived on until the end of January 1986. At that point, RKO made the decision to change KHJ to KRTH-AM (since their FM station was KRTH-FM). The KRTH-AM call letters lasted through the Smokin' Oldies format after which RKO sold both stations to Beasley, which sold the AM to Liberman Broadcasting, operators of Spanish language stations KWIZ in Santa Ana, and KBUA and KBUE known collectively as "Que Buena"). They turned the former KHJ into KKHJ, which became known as "La Ranchera."
The reason for the call letters? When the Libermans purchased the station, the closest call letters they could obtain from the FCC was KKHJ. KHJJ was already in use by a station in the San Joaquin Valley calling itself KHJ.
But, one problem was that KKHJ could not mention its call letters in the air in Spanish, since to say "KK" in Spanish is an obscenity. As a result, dating back to its inception, the station was only identified in English and referred to on the air as "La Ranchera"
In a drive spearheaded by KKHJ Program Director Alfredo Rodriguez and Chief Engineer Jerry Lewine, the station collected letters from listeners and community leaders explaining the problem the station faced. They forwarded
those letters to and spoke with staff at the FCC with the request that they make an exception to their policy
and permit the station to drop one of the "K's" and return to the call sign which the station had for over 65 years--KHJ.
Under the circumstances, the FCC made an exception to the Rules and granted the request. As a result, the call letters KHJ once again returned to Los Angeles effective on March 15, 2000.
[Special thanks to Jerry Lewine for providing historical details.]
You can see the impact which this radio station had by looking at this email: