KBRX began as KVHC when it first went on the air in November of 1955. It was a 250 watt AM station that broadcast from 6 AM to midnight. The station was started by Bob LaRue, who was the owner, manager and engineer. In 1957, Bob sold the station to Sun Broadcasting Company, Inc. of Holdredge, Nebraska. In 1958, they increased the station to 1000 watts and changed the call letters from KVHC to KBRX AM. The voice of the ranch country was now on the air from sunrise to sunset.
In 1959, Gil Poese, who had worked for the president of Sun Broadcasting (Bill Whitlock), for several years, was offered the purchase of the station. The offer was to operate the station for a year, pay off the debts and then purchasethe station with no money down. Buying a radio station with no money down may sound good, but it’s not easy to do if you have no money, which Gil didn’t have. The station owed everyone for everything.
Gil recalled visiting with a local banker about financing for the station. The banker suggested that perhaps Gil should simply operate the station out of the basement of his home. Gil said that this wasn’t really the solution to his problem, as he had neither a home or a basement at the time. Instead, he wrote to all they owed money and promised to pay each $5.00 a month until all debts were paid. With patience, hard work and perseverance all debts were paid off, and 7 years later so was Sun Broadcasting. In April of 1961, papers were drawn up for Ranch Land Broadcasting, Inc.
KBRX - FM officially went on the air January 22, 1974 located at 92.7 on the radio dial with 3000 watts of power. Both transmitters were housed at 251 N. Jefferson, and the FM antenna was on the 150 foot AM tower. On March 10, 1981, KBRX - FM began broadcasting with 100 thousand watts of ranch land music, news and information from their new 497 foot tower located 5 miles southeast of O’Neill.
One of the longest running programs on KBRX is "Party Line". Announcer Willie Thomas began "Party Line" in late 1958 and it continues yet today, Monday through Friday. Willie had a theme song of "Keep your promise Willie Thomas" which many remember well.
During the Vietnam War, KBRX broadcast all military funerals over the air. "We wanted to make people aware that we were in a war," said Gil, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War.
The Outlaw Grocery Store with its "Bingo" program was one of the first to use daily direct phone line for live "off station" broadcasts. One of the few live shows from KBRX was the "Sandhills Jack Show", which was on Monday through Friday from 12:30 PM to 1 PM and was sponsored by Purina Feeds. Sandhills Jack was our own Jack Everett. One day during the show, Johnny Cash came through O’Neill and stopped to visit with Jack on the show.
Many people have been associated with KBRX throughout the years. Gil Poese came to O’Neill in March of 1959. Larry Rice started with Gil in Missouri in 1956 and came to O’Neill in 1959. In January 1968, Larry went to Ainsworth as manager and majority owner of a sister station, KBRB. Charlie Mathis came to O’Neill in August of 1961 and was announcer and station engineer until March 1983. Scott Poese arrived in O’Neill in 1963. We didn’t hear much from Scott until 1976, when at the age of 13 he first came on the radio. Today, Scott has a commanding voice that many of us awaken to at 6 AM or tune in to for today’s "Party Line" show. And when it comes to sportscasting, Scott is to KBRX fans what Harry Carey is to the Chicago Cubs fans.
Over the years, KBRX worked hard to inform and entertain us. One incident was the contest to see how long it would take to melt 4000 lbs. of ice in downtown O’Neill. Well, it took longer than we thought... 4 days! The ice had to be watched all night, as some of the locals might help the melting of the ice. Then, there was the time a former game warden watered all of the stations rain gauges up to about 2 1/4 inches of rain when no one else in a 7 state area had over 25/100. That got the phones ringing at KBRX!
KBRX has grown considerably from the 250 watt AM station located in the Quonset hut where we broadcast from 1955 to 1963. We have never really moved, just extended the building 3 times to its present size. The Quonset hut is still in use inside the new structure as it stores all the Golden Oldies.
KBRX continues to keep you entertained and informed with our AM/FM broadcasts. We hope you stay tuned in to the "Top Dog in Country" for many years to come.