Dave Stone, innovative radio executive and popular on-air personality, was born David Proctor Pinkston in Post, Texas, on November 11, 1913, the son of James and Bessie (Proctor) Pinkston. When he was still in grade school, the family moved to Slaton, Texas, some fifteen miles from Lubbock. After graduating from Slaton High School, Pinkston enrolled at Texas Technological College (later Texas Tech University) in Lubbock as a journalism major but soon found that journalism was not his field. He transferred to Draughon’s Business College in Brownfield, Texas, thirty miles away. After graduation, he was hired as office manager and accountant for the Arizona Chemical Company in Brownfield and held that position throughout World War II. In 1933 Pinkston married Violet Marie Martin, and they became the parents of Carolyn Pinkston (now Graves) and James Pinkston.
In late 1946 Dave Pinkston and his family moved back to Lubbock, where he joined the staff of KSEL, a new radio station, as traffic manager and bookkeeper. Like most other independent radio stations in those days, KSEL followed the usual practice of block programming, offering a variety of shows throughout the day that appealed to a broad range of listeners—an early morning farm program; followed by a “breakfast club” and cooking shows for women; Wayne Allen’s 950 Club, which featured pop and big band records; soap operas; news; sports; even Sepia Parade, a daily afternoon show devoted to records by black artists. At that time, country music on KSEL was limited to the thirty-minute Western Roundup, heard each day from 3:00 to 3:30.
As it happened, the deejay who hosted Western Roundup harbored a great dislike for country music. Passing Pinkston in the hall one day, he said, “Dave, I happen to know you got a lot of country records and you like country music and you can take that program.” Despite Pinkston’s protests that he knew nothing about broadcasting, the station manager insisted on the change. Thus “Dave Pinkston” became “Dave Stone,” proved himself a natural on the air, and the program was soon so popular that it was expanded to a full hour. Stone became known to his listeners as “the man with the smile in his voice,” and he began getting offers from other area stations. To keep him at KSEL, executives made him station manager in late 1948. The time-slot was again extended, and Stone initiated a live Saturday night show, known as the Western Jamboree. Audiences quickly outgrew the limited space at KSEL studios, and the show moved several times to larger venues, finally broadcasting from an old wartime hanger near the Lubbock Airport. The show featured such prominent Nashville acts as Little Jimmy Dickens, the Maddox Brothers and Rose, the Delmore Brothers, and Hank Locklin. With equal enthusiasm, Stone also promoted local and regional artists. Billy Walker, Tommy Hancock, and Sonny Curtis, among other up-and-coming acts, were given exposure on the Western Jamboree stage and in front of KSEL’s microphones. A bit later, Stone was the first to put Lubbock’s Buddy Holly on the air, as part of the Sunday Party, over KDAV. Stone was also highly instrumental in getting a demo tape of Buddy Holly to Decca executives, who promptly signed him to his first recording contract.
The overwhelming success of the Western Roundup and the Western Jamboree on KSEL gave Stone the idea for a highly original business model: a radio station that played only country music. He formed a partnership with a local realtor, Leroy Elmore, and applied to the FCC for a license. A station that played only one type of music was practically unheard of at the time, especially in small markets like Lubbock, and the FCC was reluctant to grant the license. They eventually relented, however, and the license became official in the late summer of 1953. Construction began on studios and a transmitter tower at what had been a cotton patch on the southern outskirts of Lubbock, and KDAV went on the air on September 19, 1953. Today, it is generally agreed that KDAV was the first station anywhere to program, as Stone put it, “one hundred percent country music.” With one partner or another, Stone (now often referred to as “Pappy” Stone), established KPEP, San Angelo (1954); KZIP, Amarillo (1955); and KPIK in Colorado Springs, Colorado (1957), each adhering to the all-country format. One of his partners in the San Angelo station was Slim Willet, famous as the composer of “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.”
A fair share of later-famous deejays and musicians also passed through the “Pappy” Stone studios, including Roger Miller (KZIP); Bill Mack (KDAV, before his long career at WBAP, Fort Worth); Charlie Phillips (KZIP, co-author of “Sugartime”); Arlie Duff (KPIK, KDAV, composer of “Y’all Come”); and a somewhat disheveled young Waylon Jennings (KDAV), who always looked as if he slept on a park bench and owned only two shirts, one laundered every second week.
In addition to his regular on-air schedule, Stone also co-hosted, with station manager Hi Pockets Duncan, KDAV’s weekly Sunday Party, two or three hours primarily devoted to local talent. Buddy Holly, still in high school, appeared on the show with fellow student Bob Montgomery (billed as “Buddy and Bob”). Sonny Curtis, who later wrote the theme for the Mary Tyler Moore program, performed on Sunday Party, along with Weldon Myrick, eventually a top session man in Nashville on steel guitar, plus the still struggling, undeveloped Waylon Jennings, and a host of other youthful aspirants who faded away and were never heard from again.
Soon Dave Stone was booking numerous national touring acts into Lubbock’s Fair Park Coliseum, the Cotton Club, Jones Stadium on the Texas Tech Campus, and area cities where he owned radio stations, promoting their live appearances over those stations. In early January 1955, he brought Elvis Presley to Lubbock for the first of several performances the King made that year in the city (see ELVIS IN TEXAS). Other headliners in country music shows produced by Stone were Ernest Tubb, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Snow, Ray Price—in fact, almost every Nashville star of the time. A true devotee of country music, he formed fast friendships with most of them, and even as their fame grew, they remembered him as the man who had given their careers a welcome boost. His son, James Pinkston, tells of the time the family was vacationing in Los Angeles in the late 1950s. At the time, Elvis was filming Jailhouse Rock. When he got wind that Pappy Dave Stone was in town, he suspended production and brought Stone to the studio, then took him to lunch.
In 1955 Stone and his first wife divorced. Later that year, he married Neola Belle Bass Williams (whom he nicknamed “Pat”), who brought her two children, Vergil Williams and Darlene Williams (now Youts) to the union. After the death of Neola Belle in 1980, Stone remarried his first wife. In the early 1960s he had moved his family to Colorado Springs, Colorado, having established KPIK, where he continued to serve as general manager and also worked a shift on the air. When he retired in the late 1970s, he sold all of his radio properties.
Stone was inducted into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1999. The following year he was also honored by inclusion in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame’s Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in Carthage, Texas. He died on February 18, 2004, at the age of ninety.
After being dormant for many years, the Lubbock call letters KDAV were revived in 1998 by a different company, airing rock-and-roll “oldies” from the 1950s and 1960s.