KACJ was an AM daytime-only commercial broadcast station licensed to Greenwood, Arkansas in Sebastian County of extreme western Arkansas. It, and its FM companion station, KAJJ, were in the planning and FCC application stages starting in 1974. They became the 5th AM and 5th FM in Sebastian County, the only in-county stations not licensed to Fort Smith, and the first new stations in the county in 20 years. The AM went on the air first, July 1, 1978, operating with 1,000 watts on 1510 Khz. Finding a frequency for the new station was not easy, but consultant Bob Miers of Rolla, Missouri came up with 1510 as the sole possibility in a congested AM band (later the band would be expanded from 1600 khz to 1700 khz). A previous applicant had gotten a construction permit for this frequency at Sallisaw, Oklahoma, but never put it on the air. The AM station always carried mono programming, as this was prior to any stereo AM system being developed. There was a power cutback to 500 watts required for the first two hours in the morning, and the last two evening pre-sunset hours in the evening. Daytime-only stations hours of broadcast varied with the season and the month, and were shorter in winter.
The studio and office were co-located with the Bob Edwards MFA Insurance agency (later Shelter Insurance) on state highway 10, and the transmitter site was located west of town on the Excelsior Road near US Highway 71. The studio building location today is in the path of a new highway bypass proposed for Greenwood. At the time KACJ came on the air, there was no internet, very little satellite, and audio was still analog, with digital technology yet to become routinely available. The local phone company, ConTel, still had overhead wires and party lines in the 996 Greenwood exchange, but it came up with two dedicated wireline pairs to link the studio and transmitter. The station went on the air with a brand new McMartin BA-1K transmitter and a home-made remote control system created by George Whittaker, the station's contract engineer from Ozark, Arkansas. One of the wirelines handled telemetry for the remote control, and the other carried the programming audio. The ground system was installed by Elvis Moody of Bentonville, then the owner of an AM station at Bentonville, KJEM. The layout was simple, but it worked.
Programming for the station was "live" from vinyl records played on two turntables, mostly in a country music format, which was extremely popular in the 1970's and 1980's. The owners did most of the air shifts until midafternoon, when high school students could come in. A media teacher at Greenwood High School, Jno. Moorman, usually came up with the candidates. He also did play-by-play sports for KACJ and other nearby Fort Smith stations as a moonlight job. Late afternoon and evening programming was a popular music blend. Over the years, some interesting characters came through the station on a part time basis, one being Art Robertson, who had retired from KWHN, and was still interested in doing occasional gospel music programming on weekends. Another was "Diamond" Don Barnes, who had made a regional reputation for himself from on a mountaintop powerhouse FM station out of Poteau, Oklahoma. At least one of the high school students "Erik Lane" went on to a full career in broadcasting and media. Eventually the station went to a partial syndicated format, with reel-to-reel tapes featuring "Mike Rogers," a nationally known voice from California. A small automation system was used to run the tapes and insert local announcements.
The original plan for the FM was to locate its transmitter on ridge east of Greenwood, just off of the state highway to Booneville. An option was purchased to obtain the needed property, but before it came time to build, the tower owned by Greenwood TV Cable company became available. The local TV cable company had been purchased by the Fort Smith cable company, and it in turn, was absorbed into an international media conglomerate. They were moving from terrestrial reception to microwave and even satellite for their programming, and the tower was surplus property. The FM used 106.3, initially with 3,000 watts.
The AM frequency, 1510, was required to protect a 50,000 watt clear channel station at night, that being WLAC at Nashville, Tennessee. A ring of local AM stations had developed over the yeaars, just outside of the ground wave coverage zone for WLAC, the new KACJ being one of many. All of them, in different states, either had to go off the air at night, or change their directional antenna patterns to beam their signal away from Nashville. Within the few hours preceeding sunset, and following sunrise, WLAC's skywave signal came and went, making the coverage areas of the co-channel daytimers somewhat sketchy. Yet, that same "skip" that brought WLAC into most of the nation's midsection at night, gave dedicated AM listeners (DX'ers) an opportunity to pickup far-away small stations, fading in an out, around sundown. KACJ was heard as far away as Chicago during 1980. During the middle part of the day, if one really tried and desired to, it could be picked up as far away as Russellville, Arkansas, and Muskogee, Oklahoma. Coverage was better in winter than in summer, but the broadcast days were also shorter in winter.
The FCC regulated the hours of operation of daytime stations by publishing a table of sunrise and sunset times in the Federal Register. Local stations were allowed to round off to the nearest 15 minute period, based upon their geographic location within the applicable time zone. Later on, daytime stations were given very low power levels which enabled them to stay on the air all night if they so desired. Often these power levels were so low as to not give the station coverage of their targeted population.
The little local station was well-accepted in Greenwood. At that time, Wal-Mart had not yet come to town, and the population was around 2,500. There was a small, but dedicated core of commercial businesses in town. Today the population is around 10,000, and like most small towns, Greenwood has had a lot of its retail air sucked out of the room by Wal-Mart and the internet. Sales people in the early years included Debbie Meeker and Becky Yandell.
After operating for a few years under the original ownership, the stations were sold to a group owned by then-state-Senator Travis Miles and state representative Carolyn Pollen of Fort Smith. The two politicians hired new fulltime employees to run the stations, and the studio was moved to a location on the north side of the town square in Greenwood. The AM and FM stations were simulcasted, still with a basic country format. They, in turn, resold the stations to Bill and Karen Pharis, who were broadcast veterans in Fort Smith and Van Buren. The station call letters were changed in 1989, with the FM to be known known as KZKZ. The AM station went to an all-talk format. Studios were moved to Fort Smith.
The Pharis' already owned another local daytime AM station, and they eventually decided to let Greenwood's 1510 station go dark. The McMartin transmitter was used to replace a failing one elsewhere. KACJ's call letters were picked up by other stations over the years, including one at Fayette, Missouri as late as1993. Eventually the call sign went dormant again, and the Federal Aviation Administration now uses KACJ to identify the former Souther Field, an airport at Americus, Georgia. That airport was renamed Jimmy Carter Regional, to honor the 39th President.
KZKZ became a full-time Christian format station on 106.3, known as "Spirit 106." It continues today, some 40+ years after the debut of the "Little Greenwood Station." At last report, the old KAJJ call sign for the FM station at Greenwood was in use by a television station at Kalispell, Montana.