Monday, June 1, 2009

Unearthing the radio archives of Joe McChesney

Interview with Mike McChesney conducted February, 2009 and May, 2009.

Back in February I received a nice e-mail from Mike McChesney, the son of Joe McChesney, the disc jockey who spent 15 years at Dallas stations KIXL, KBOX, KMAP, WRR and KXXK. Mike had seen the blog entry I wrote on these KXXK jingle discs.

Read about that blog entry HERE

“I recognize my dad's handwriting on that picture you have of that record and I think I have more of those (as well as carts) in storage. My dad died a few years ago, and I inherited his collection. I've got all of this stuff that I don't know what to do with.”

Mike said he would contact me when he cleaned out the storage area.

The wait was agonizing. What treasures would he unearth? Then last month I received an e-mail:

“Give me a call. I’ve cleared out the storage shed.”

Nothing could prepare me for what I would be invited to view. It was literally a museum’s worth of Dallas radio artifacts. Boxes of carts, reel-to-reel tapes, records, pictures, fan letters, and cigarette lighters.

The history of not only a long-gone era of Dallas radio, but a well-preserved archive of one man—Joe McChesney.

Joe McChesney grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. After graduating from Central High School, he joined the Army in 1952. Just shy of a radio degree from Baylor, he landed his first radio job, in 1956, at KWTX in Waco.

Joe McChesney
KWTX Waco, 1957

After three years he headed west to KSET in El Paso.

In 1963 he would make his move to Dallas radio and the Greer Garson, William Holden, Tyrone Power-owned KIXL, where he would stay for two years.

McChesney would briefly man the boards at KBOX—as J. Morgan Van Buren—taking requests from March-November, 1965.

Click on picture to read fan letter.

After a brief stint at classical station KMAP, and then KXXK, he landed at oldies format WRR-AM – his radio home, for the next seven years. “I remember as a kid he would bring me up to the station because he had to work and I didn't have anywhere to go and he would set me up in the production room with a blank reel to reel and I would play DJ and record myself like I was on the air and do commercials. I still have some of those tapes. I knew how to run a board before I was 10-years-old," Mike McChesney said.

In 1978, the city of Dallas decided to dump the AM station, and focus on its FM holding. McChesney, along with numerous other staffers were asked to leave. 1310 became known as KAAM. In 1994, the station became sports-talk.

Click on picture to read termination letter.

Joe McChesney would later move to East Texas to manage KLUE in Longview.

He died in 2003.

Mike McChesney intends to keep most of the collection for his children, and hopes to give the rest to a university or Dallas historical society so others may learn about this era of Metroplex radio, and his father’s contribution to it.

“I gained a new appreciation for all of it and there was so much I wish I had asked him. My dad was so humble that I had no idea how big of a deal all of it was and what a golden age of radio that he was involved with. I wish I had appreciated it more.”