KXLO HISTORY & FRED LARK
KXLO AM was a creation of the brothers George and Russell Bennitt, owners of the Lewistown Democrat News Newspaper and the Argus Farmer Newspaper. The Bennitts sold the newspaper interests to Ken Byerly in 1947, but retained the radio construction permit. They are credited with bringing radio to Central Montana under the banner of Capitol Broadcast Company.
KXLO at 1230 kHz started broadcasting with 250 watts of power with a Western Electric Transmitter. Designated a local channel by the Federal Communications Commission, KXLO's power was increased, with FCC permission, in approximately 1961. A power increase allowed the station to serve Central Montana with 1000 daytime watts. FCC rules required it be reduced at night to 250 watts. A few years later, most local stations were allowed to broadcast with 1000 watts full time.
Several ownerships have guided KXLO over the years. In 1950, the Bennitts sold the station to William G. Kelly under the corporation name of Montana Broadcasting Company. Three years later, Marlin G. Obie of North Dakota joined Kelly, and incorporated as Central Montana Broadcasting Incorporated. The station's license and corporation was sold in 1958 to Asger Mikkelsen. Obie, along with Leroy Tappe and David L. Sather purchased the station, changing its corporate name to KXLO Broadcast, Incorporated. Obie and Tappe sold their interests in 1960 to Sather, William Yeager and Lewis G. Boucher. Seven years later, Sather and Boucher bought out Yeager's interest.
Fred Lark, Beulah G. Lark, and Luann T. Lark, all of Boone, Iowa, purchased controlling interest in KXLO Broadcast, Incorporated in 1973. Beulah Lark's interest reverted to the corporation following her death a year later. Boucher sold his interest to Fred Lark and Luann Lark in 1982. In February 2007, Bethany Lark and Melody Lark were brought into ownership by Luann (Lark) Fortenbery. Fred, Luann, Bethany and Melody continue their ownership and operation at the time of this writing.
The early 1970s saw a fast growing interest in FM radio. This medium won an increasing approval by investors and potential listeners
because of its stereo capabilities. KLCM-FM Radio was introduced to Central Montana at 7:00 pm, April 1, 1975 by Montana Broadcast Communications, Incorporated. KLCM-FM Radio was forced into the unusual 7:00pm sign-on time, April 1, 1975 because its music reels were tied-up by a spring blizzard in Great Falls. Joe Zahler retrieved the music tapes in time for the April 1st commitment, allowing Mayor Bob Dissley and Fred Lark to dedicate and introduce the new 3000 watt (IRP) facility to a small but interested audience.
This corporation consisted of Fred D. Lark, President; Lewis Boucher, Vice President; Joe Zahler, Secretary/Treasure; and Mary Nelson of Kayesville, Utah. A few years later, Nelson sold her interest to Lark and Zahler. Zahler sold his interest to M.D. Rapkoch in 1981. In 1982, the fourth corporate group of owners consisted of Fred Lark, Luann Lark, and M.D. Rapkoch. In 2003 Bethany Lark (Brzezinski) purchased the KLCM stock from the M. D. Rapkoch Estate.
Originally its Classical and Beautiful Music format included the Saturday Afternoon Texaco Metropolitan Opera and various national and international serious music programs. The initial programming was changed to contemporary music in 1981. News and High School sports have always been part of KLCM.
KXLO has broadcast country music since its start date in 1947. KXLO's special music has been actively sought by the various owners including a weekly classical concert hall program, which lasted for more than twenty years. In the 1970s the concert hall was changed to a Beautiful Music format Sunday mornings.
KXLO has always had a strong agricultural profile. For many years the major agriculture programming was done with in-station talent. In 1973, Denver based farm broadcaster and Inter-Mountain Network (IMN) affiliate, Evan Slack, provided early morning farm and ranch coverage. The station has enjoyed a strong friendship and faithful relationship with Slack ever since.
Later in 1973, the Northern Ag Network, headquartered out of Billings, established a reel-to-reel taped network, and eventually a land line network with Conrad Burns. During the 1980's, Taylor Brown stepped into control of the NAG when Burns was elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. A few years after Brown became owner/manager, the network changed its land-line format to satellite. The NAG has constantly improved its facilities and programming while remaining an important segment of our daily commitment to the agriculture and standard radio audiences.
Looking back over the years, KXLO, in particular, has subscribed to several other network and wire services - Mutual, ABC, ABC - Information, Inter-Mountain Network, United Press International News Service, and the Associated Press. KXLO and KLCM both utilize specialty programs form ABC, CBS, Westwood One, and ESPN. Lark joined the National Board of Directors for the Associated Press in 1992 and has served for several consecutive terms.
A basic computer installation in 1991 initiated the stations use of the C.P.U. One of the first computers was installed to accommodate the Associated Press. The computer was installed in the transmitter room and also served as a work station for Joe Zahler and preparation for local news. The other computer was installed in Fred Lark's office. Four years later, computers were installed for the use of traffic, bookkeeping, and general secretarial work.
A major step into the use of computers was taken in 1998 when the Audiovault/AVair system automated 98% of KLCM and 60 % of KXLO. Technician and programmer, John Jensen, worked with broadcast engineer, Ron Huckeby to install the systems.
The management was advised in the spring of 2001 to cease streaming for an indefinite period of time due to legal matters brought on internationally by performers and their licensing organizations.
Both KXLO and KLCM endeavor to serve the broadcasting needs of Central Montana with current local, state and national programming. The adage "to serve the community in the public interest, convenience and necessity" will remain to be the goal of the broadcast system, management and staff.
In September 2004, The BE Automation System was replaced with a Smartcaster/SMART Pro automation system. This upgrade made extensive use of the Linux OS with the Production Computers using Windows XP OS and networked with an interface program. The Smartcaster system allowed for Voice Tracking, better production abilities, and 24/7 operation.
At this same time KLCM received more music product, and regular updates. A slight modification to the format was made to include modern rock hits, and The Ultimate Morning Show debuted. Joe Zahler retired, and Nik Scebba took the morning co-host position left by Zahler's absence. Morning Show host Ken Bergren and Nik Scebba took the mornings live on both stations, freshening KXLO's morning programming, and creating a very popular morning vehicle on KLCM. All of this continues at the time of this writing (June 2007), and KLCM now has a library of more than 2500 songs, rivaling KXLO, and has seen its popularity increase exponentially.
In October 2005, KXLO and KLCM began to broadcast 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. Several upgrades were made to the transmit equipment to facilitate notification of on-air silence or power failure using the Sine System product. This system notifies the in-house engineer 24/7 including unmanned hours.
In October 2006, KLCM added The Not-Morning Not-Show with host Jesse Jensen, a successful live-hosted request program weekdays, and 80s Cheeze on Fridays at noon.
In February 2007 KXLO and KLCM partnered with Abacast Streaming Solutions and began to stream their broadcast signals once again.