|Broadcast area||Southern Arizona|
|Branding||990am ESPN Deportes Radio|
|Translator(s)||94.3 K232FD (Tortolita)|
|First air date||1948 (at 1490)|
|Power||10,000 watts day
490 watts night
|Former frequencies||1490 kHz (1948-1956)|
|Affiliations||ESPN Deportes Radio|
|Owner||Lotus Communications Corporation
(Arizona Lotus Corp.)
|Sister stations||KFMA-FM, KLPX-FM, KCMT-FM|
|Website||ESPN Deportes Radio website|
KTKT (990 AM) is a radio station broadcasting a Spanish sports radio format. Licensed to Tucson, Arizona, United States, the station serves the Tucson area. The station is currently owned by Lotus Communications Corporation and features programing from ESPN Deportes Radio. Its studios and transmitter are located separately in Northwest Tucson.
At the end of the 1940s KTKT began its broadcasting history at 1490 AM. Originally owned by Thomas J. Wallace, Sr; Tom Breneman, Sr.';and Art Linkletter in 1948. (The two "T's" in KTKT were for the two Toms)
After Mr. Brenemen’s untimely death Mr. Wallace came to Tucson from Los Angeles to run the station. Tom Wallace, Sr. started his radio career in Chicago where he was Uncle Walter in the 1940s radio classic 'Uncle Walter's Dog House". He went on to produce other classic radio shows including ‘Blind Date’ with Arlene Francis, ‘Kukla, Fran, and Ollie” with Fran Allison, and The Red Skelton Show.
Because all the existing national radio networks were taken, KTKT became an independent, and its programming was mostly music. For a short time they were an affiliate of the short-lived Liberty Broadcasting System formed around the play-by-play sportscasts of "The Old Scotsman", Gordon McLendon.
With the advent of TV a few years later KTKT was positioned to provide the growing music and news service which still characterizes radio. Wallace built his station on Elm, just west of Miracle Mile, in two war surplus military buildings which were moved onto the site. In the early '50s Chuck Blore (spelled Blower then) became one of Tucson's most popular personalities on KTKT, with his six-hour afternoon program called, "Let's Play Records." Blore was a very creative radio personality, and went on to become one of radio's top programmers, starting Los Angeles' first "Top 40" station, the legendary KFWB in 1958. He later owned one of the top commercial production companies in Hollywood.
KTKT was doing well, but by the mid-1950s Tom Wallace thought they could do better and, like KCNA, reach more Southern Arizona listeners. They filed to move to 990 kHz, with 10,000 watts of power and a directional antenna system, operating only from sunrise to sunset. Engineer Nat Talpis supervised construction of two towers, located off West Grant Road near Silverbell where the KTKT/KLPX studios were located for many years. Within minutes after KTKT signed off 1490, KAIR signed on and continued playing the music which the audience was used to hearing. Hal Peary, known to network radio audiences as the "Great Gildersleeve" was one of the KAIR owners, and he taped voice tracks for a daily program in Hollywood which was mailed to Tucson for broadcast (voice tracking isn't a new idea!).
By 1956 the Wallace family had moved KTKT to 990 where it was nicknamed "Color Channel 99". [color TV was the rage in the early 1960s]. KTKT was a family run station at that time. Tom Sr was the boss, Tom Jr. handled all of the engineering challenges, and George did everything else. Soon the Wallaces added Tucson's first FM station, KTKT-FM (at 99.5) Tom Wallace put the station on the air because classical music was not being heard in Tucson, and he hired Jack Frakes, the Rincon High School drama teacher as his first announcer and classical music programmer.
In 1959 KTKT AM and the FM (changed to KFMM -"FM on the Mountain", in 1958, to commemorate a move to Mt. Bigelow that was never made), combined on Sundays to demonstrate something new stereophonic sound. Before multiplex stereo as we know it today the only way radio could transmit two simultaneous channels of sound was to put one channel on the AM station and the other channel simultaneously on the FM, which resulted in the audience having to have two radios to hear it. The first stereo program in Tucson was on KTKT and KTKT-FM from 2 to 3 PM Sundays, played from the FM studio.
To turn KTKT around, Wallace hired young Frank Kalil to do the programming, and a legend was born. The energetic Kalil programmed the new "rock and roll" "Color Radio" "Top 40" style music and news format which quickly moved daytime-only KTKT into Tucson's number one spot where it remained into the early 1980s.
The Color Channel 99 bumper sticker was notorious, 'Don't honk, listening to KTKT Color Channel 99'
After hiring Kalil in 1956, KTKT became by far the number one radio station in Tucson and Southern Arizona. From 1956 to 1966 Frankie Kalil was considered the "voice" of Tucson Radio. KTKT In the 1960s and the early 70s played a Top 40 format.
In 1960 the Wallaces sold KTKT to the Leland Bisbee group, and a new manager, Phil Richardson, took over and led the station to full-time operation with l,000 watts at night, and financially the station began to prosper. The FM was purchased by KTUC's owner, Lee Little.
In late 1985 the decision was made by owners Lotus Communications to drop the live Top 40 format and carry the Transtar Adult Contemporary satellite feed from Los Angeles. In the spring of 1989, KTKT dropped music altogether and became an affiliate of CNN's Headline Radio News format. Eventually KTKT adopted the Spanish language sports format, ESPN Deportes.
George Wallace later became the Sales Manager of KCUB Radio and General Manager of KGUN TV channel 9. In the 1980s and 1990s George worked for KAIR as sales manager and served as President of the University of Arizona Wildcat boosters. George died in 2006.
Tom Jr. moved to Los Angeles County to sell radio broadcasting equipment for Gates Electronics. He managed a few Radio Stations in California including KNEZ in Lompoc where he hired on air talent Tom Breneman, Jr., the son of KTKT ownership partner Tom Brenemen, Sr. In 1961 Tom Jr. returned to Tucson to manage KAIR 1490 AM-the very frequency where KTKT got its start.