Radio station WRR began broadcasting out of Dallas in the fall of 1920. On August 4, 1921, it became the first licensed station in Texas and the second in the United States. WRR initially began as a public service station intended to serve as a communications and dispatch system for the Dallas Fire Department. The origin of the call letters is unclear, two suggestions being “Where Radio Radiates” and “White Rock Radio,” referring to a broadcasting tower at White Rock Lake. The station was first located on the second floor of the central fire station on Main Street, before moving to the Jefferson Hotel in 1923 and then to the Adolphus Hotel in 1925.
WRR’s early years were devoted to a public service and talk format, and broadcaster John Stone was touted as the Southwest’s first disc jockey in 1920. WRR was also on a timeshare plan with San Antonio’s WOAI station in the late 1920s. The Dallas Fire Department relinquished control of the station to the City of Dallas in 1931, and since 1936 the studios have been located in Fair Park.
The station made significant contributions to the musical history of the area. During the mid-1920s western swing musician Roy Newman worked as a staff guitarist and pianist. During the early 1930s he led his popular band the Wanderers in regular lunchtime broadcasts on the air, and he later fronted Roy Newman and His Boys. WRR’s Noon Hour Varieties show also featured Bill Boyd & His Cowboy Ramblers. Listeners could also tune in to the singing of a very young Kay Starr on WRR during the early 1930s. After winning several talent competitions on the station, the girl had her own fifteen-minute program.
From 1953 to 1967 WRR broadcast Kat’s Karavan, an influential rhythm-and-blues program that promoted local music and also featured black artists for a targeted white audience. Listeners enjoyed popular co-hosts Jim Lowe, Jr., and Bill Carroll; a young John Peel, who went on to become a prominent and cutting-edge deejay in England, had some of his earliest broadcasting experience on Kat’s Karavan.
WRR has boasted a number of firsts in its history. It was the first municipally-owned radio station in the United States. It was the first news/talk station in Dallas, as well as the first to feature traffic reports. It served as the flagship station for the Dallas Texans football team. Among some of WRR’s notable alumni was legendary sports broadcaster Frank Glieber.
WRR received an FM license in 1948; the FM station played classical music. The City of Dallas sold WRR-AM, located at 1310 on the dial, to Bonneville Broadcasting in 1978. The city retained the call letters WRR for its FM classical station, however. WRR-AM became KAAM, and after its sale to Susquehanna Radio Corporation in 1994, the call letters were changed to KTCK, and the station converted to an all-sports format. In 2015 WRR Classical 101.1 FM, still owned by the City of Dallas, remained a classical music station. It was broadcast in an all-digital format and was the oldest same-owner radio station in the United States.