KMJX FM [Radio Station]
aka: Magic 105
aka: The Wolf 105.1
KMJX is one of Arkansas’s longest-running radio stations. KMJX started its life as KKLF-FM in Conway (Faulkner County). From August 1980 until February 2008, KMJX was known as “Magic 105,” an independent classic rock station with popular DJs such as Tom Wood, “The Outlaw” Tommy Smith, Sandy O’Connor, Sharpe Dunaway, David Allen Ross, Danny Joe Crofford, Jeff Allen, Carole Kramer, Casey Jones, Trent “Treetop” Tyler, and Clyde Clifford. In February 2008, KMJX changed its format from “Arkansas’s classic rock,” under Magic 105, to “All Things Country,” as The Wolf 105.1 FM.
In 1973, radiomen Richard “Dick” Booth and Gordon Heiges were fired from a station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A week later, Heiges suggested that he and Booth start their own radio enterprise together. In October 1979, with help from a group of investors from Coastal Communications, Ltd., Booth and Heiges purchased KKLF-FM in Conway, and the station was renamed KMJX. According to Heiges, the facility in Conway was a small cement-block building with a new transmitter and a 200-foot tower that was leaning to one side. A few weeks after Heiges moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), he was joined by Tom Wood, who had worked with Dick Booth in Peoria, Illinois. Booth eventually joined Wood and Heiges, and over the next eight months, the three worked together to make their new facility ready for broadcasting from Civil Defense Hill in Conway. The tower was relocated to Round Mountain in Mayflower (Faulkner County), where the studio was later moved to deter vandals.
On August 1, 1980, construction of the new station was completed; however, the transmitter had to be repaired after it blew up on its first test run. Engineer Bill McKinney fixed the transmitter, which was turned on and allowed to “cook” for a few days before it was turned to 100,000 watts at 3:00 p.m. on August 8, 1980, for the station’s first successful broadcast. Sandy O’Connor, who had worked previously with KKYK FM in Little Rock, hosted the inaugural broadcast.
Heiges, as sales manager, had to be creative about promoting Magic 105 to new listeners in Arkansas. From August 8 until October 21, 1980, the station ran no commercials. Heiges acquired a Pontiac Firebird from Jodie Brown Motors in Conway to give away to the first caller who heard their first commercial. By then, the company offices had been moved to 11300 Rodney Parham Road in west Little Rock. Reportedly, the contest earned Magic 105 some attention from the Arkansas State Police because it caused the phone lines in central Arkansas to shut down.
The original DJs were joined by Scott Charton as news director and “The Pontiff of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Michael P. Langley, David Allen Ross, LaDawn Fuhr, and the “Blonde Invasion” of Carole Kramer and Casey Jones. Magic 105 was first taken seriously in Little Rock’s business world in 1983 when the band Styx was promoting its album Kilroy Was Here. Little Rock did not appear on the band’s tour list, so Magic 105 conducted a petition drive that reached 10,000 signatures, which was turned in to the companies representing Styx, who promptly added a show at Barton Coliseum to the tour that year. The show sold out in a few hours. From then on, Magic 105 was able to attract enough advertising dollars to make it a powerhouse in Arkansas radio. Also in 1983, British rock band Def Leppard came to Magic 105’s studio in Mayflower to promote its third album, Pyromania. Singer Joe Elliott hosted alongside Tom Wood for an hour.
By the mid-1980s, “The Outlaw” Tommy Smith had become one of KMJX’s most popular personalities, known for his “Groundhog Day” promotions, during which he would climb into a Little Rock sewer and come out to see if he saw his shadow. Another popular segment was the “Secret Sound,” in which listeners would win money for correctly identifying a particular sound. After ten years on the radio, KMJX changed its logo from the original blue oval and white dots spelling out “Magic 105” to a slanted red and yellow design by Todd Phillips, who had worked with LaDawn Fuhr at Southern Magazine. New talent during the station’s second decade included DJ Sharpe Dunaway (who was hired part-time in 1988), Reade Mitchell, Danny Joe Crofford, Roger Scott, Jeff Allen, and “Big Dave” Medford, who joined Tommy Smith on his morning show in 1994.
In 1990, Coastal Communications divested themselves of their broadcasting interests, and Booth had applied to the FCC for ownership of KMJX. The station was to be sold for $3.15 million. By 1990, KMJX ranked third in Arkansas in Arbitron ratings behind country station KSSN FM and KIPR Power 92. The same year, Celia Storey of the Arkansas Democrat noted that KMJX had become one of “the most valuable stations in Central Arkansas.” In 1994, Tom Wood broadcast from the Hard Rock Café in New York City during the thirty-sixth annual Grammy Awards at Radio City Music Hall, and David Allen Ross was one of four local radio personalities to be honored by Billboard magazine, winning for “small market music director of the year.”
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act, making it possible for the consolidation of American media under a handful of large corporations, which began buying smaller companies in other states. In March 1996, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that KMJX-FM and KDDK-FM were being sold to Clear Channel Communications Inc. by their parent company, Philadelphia-based US Radio Inc., for $140 million.
By 2007, Arbitron ratings for Magic 105 had dropped to sixteenth place in the Little Rock market. The following year, it was announced that Magic 105 was going off the air. The Clear Channel–owned station swapped signals with a country station called “The Wolf,” which was previously at 106.7 FM, which had become home to a new channel featuring Tom Wood and Jeff Cage called “Tom-FM.” During its last week broadcasting as Magic 105, KMJX played nothing but the Beatles, Wood’s favorite band. Wood’s new channel Tom-FM went on the air the same week in 2008.
In March 2018, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), which owned 850 radio stations by then, filed for bankruptcy, and Tom Wood was let go from his position there as public affairs director; in this role, he had produced weekly programs for Hot 94.9, KSSN 96, 105.1 The Wolf, and 100.3 The Edge. The next year, Wood joined Arkansas native Jay Brentlinger and Bob Terrell to help launch Arkansas Rocks, a network of fifteen radio stations (ten FM and five AM), broadcasting deep cuts classic rock featuring fellow Magic 105 alumnae David Allen Ross and Clyde Clifford. In February 2020, the Central Arkansas Library System held a forty-year reunion for Magic 105’s former on-air talent, staff, and management at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater, consisting of two panel discussions recorded by KMJX alum Dunaway.
For additional information:
Bass, Kelley. “Turns Out, Radio Killed the Radio Star: Arkansas Rocks Returning Airwaves to Good Ole Days.” Arkansas Money & Politics, March 9, 2020. https://armoneyandpolitics.com/radio-killed-the-radio-star-arkansas-rocks-returning-airwaves-to-good-ole-days/ (accessed July 30, 2021).
“CALS Hosts Magic 105 Reunion.” The Angle, February 25, 2020. https://thelrangle.com/2020/02/25/cals-hosts-magic-105-reunion/ (accessed July 30, 2021).
Clancy, Sean. “Radio Voice Wood Now off the Air.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 21, 2019, p. 13.
Donald, Leroy. “Rock’s ‘Magic 105’ Rolls Past KSSN as Top Station.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 30, 1997, p. 1D.
Dunaway, Sharpe. “Magic 105 Reunion (Part 1).” CALS Ron Robinson Theater, Little Rock, Arkansas, January 25, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxX6ekpEFOU&ab_channel=SharpeDunaway (accessed July 30, 2021).
Francis, Eric. “Thomas Duane Wood.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 27, 2013.
Hill, Jack W. “The Magic Touch.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 21, 1996, p 1F.
———. “Music Directors Win Honors for Radio STA,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 25, 1994, 1E.
Johnson, Paul. “Magic 105 to Offer Alternative Music.” Arkansas Gazette, April 14, 1990, p. 47.
———. “Magic 105 to Have New Owner.” Arkansas Gazette, July 25, 1990, p. 1C–2C.
“Little Rock Radio Legend Tom Wood Let Go By Corporate Radio Giant.” HibblenRadio.com. http://hibblenradio.com/radio/arkansas-radio-history/little-rock-radio-legend-tom-wood-let-go-by-corporate-radio-giant/ (accessed July 30, 2021).
“Local DJ Headed to Grammy Awards.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 25, 1994, p. 16.
Meins, Jan. “New Station KMJX Will Give Car for Listening to Commercial.” Arkansas Democrat, August 31, 1980, p. 39.
Stewart, Shea. “Goodbye Magic 105.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 27, 2008. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2008/feb/27/goodbye-magic-105/ (accessed July 30, 2021)
Storey, Celia. “Goodwill Games Carry Hefty Charge for Cable Companies.” Arkansas Democrat, July 29, 1990, p. 59.
———. “KMJX General Manager Planning to Buy Station.” Arkansas Democrat, July 25, 1990, p. 35.
Weil, Jonathan. “2 LR Stations Sold.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 6, 1996, p. 1D.
Cody Lynn Berry
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