In the 1960s, there was no Internet, iTunes or Spotify, so it was the radio that shaped musical tastes. The disc jockeys at KBOX, spinning The Shirelles, Chubby Checker or Dee Dee Sharp, influenced many young Dallasites, especially those Lake Highlands kids who walked past the station’s Radio Park each day on the way to school.
KVIL was a big competitor, neighbor Mark Davis recalls, “but all the teenagers and easily influenced younger people listened to KBOX.”
KBOX’s plain red building sat on a sprawling green hilltop at McCree and Audelia. Shrubbery shaped into the letters “K-B-O-X” lined its brick and stone facade.
Young groupies frequently would gather around a shade tree at the back corner of the property, hoping to catch a glimpse of KBOX’s celebrity radio personalities such as Dan Ingram or Frank Jolle.
KBOX aired its last broadcast Nov. 14, 1982, and the Highland Hills subdivision has replaced all traces of the building and its four lofty transmission towers.
But a piece of KBOX radio survived.
Former KBOX newscaster, Jay Ward, who will be inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame Nov. 14, has lived the past 44 years with his wife Linda in a modest abode near Berkner High School.
Past their kitchen, above a door that should lead to a garage, is a retro-looking “On Air” sign.
“It still works,” Jay says.
Instead of a garage, there is a windowless studio outfitted predominantly in equipment that once filled KBOX’s production rooms, including a broadcasting console that, if you look carefully, still bears marks left by KBOX’s old “Peck and Penny” morning show stars.
“You can still see where Alan Peck or Penny (Reeves) would slice the morning newspaper,” Jay says pointing to slashes in the board.
Base and turntable cabinets from the AM control room, the sound mixer, tape machines, Super 55 microphones, newscast reels, towering shelves loaded with vintage vinyl and CDs — Jay bought it all when the station shuttered, and not simply for nostalgic purposes. He still uses most of it.
In his made-for-broadcasting baritone voice, he explains that he works with a friend, John Colwell, who does the Saturday Night Sock Hop show on KAAM 770.
“I do station breaks. We have also worked together on his Friday night Internet radio show — we’ve done a Motown show, folk music and some stuff on the ‘60s, so far,” Jay explains.
In retirement, he still puts his skills to work helping mix sound for the annual musical production at his church, Lake Highlands United Methodist.
Jay was a student at Kimball High School (class of ’66) when he began his radio career at WRR, where he earned his first news-casting gig. His voice and ability to read tricky names eventually landed him a morning shift at KBOX, which, at the time, was a top-40 station with regular news spots. It later changed to a county music format.
“I loved going to work every day,” he says. “I loved doing the news because something was always happening.”
“We were like a family there,” he recalls, citing the day his oldest child was born for example.
“Alan and Penny called me to check in on how the baby and Linda were doing, and they put me live on the air.”
Jay worked fulltime in radio until he was 40.
“I didn’t really leave the business. It left me,” he says, noting the quick and broad changes within the industry in the mid to late 1980s.
He enjoyed a full second career with the Dallas County Sherriff’s Department as a dispatcher and later a constable.
He loved all eras of his life — radio and constable alike. And today he lives the dream, traveling with Linda and tinkering in radio, but he “misses KBOX to this day,” he says.
“If KBOX was still there, I’d probably still work there.”
See a display Some of Jay Ward’s KBOX memorabilia will be on display throughout November at the Audelia Road Branch Library, 10045 Audelia.