Gordon McLendon is considered the creator of format radio and one of the most innovative programmers in the medium’s history.
McLendon was born on June 8, 1921, in Paris, Texas and purchased station KNET/Palestine in 1946. The following year, McLendon moved to Dallas and launched KLIF. Unable to afford live baseball broadcasts, McLendon adopted an on-air personality known as “The Old Scotchman” and aired re-creations of games with the help of sound effects and wire service reports. These re-creations were later heard on over 400 stations via the short-lived Liberty Broadcasting System.
In the early 1950s, McLendon made KLIF one of America’s first “Top 40” stations. The polished format, along with fast-paced news and “personality” disc jockeys, quickly made KLIF Dallas’ top-rated station. McLendon maintained KLIF’s high profile by spending thousands of dollars every month on headline-grabbing stunts and contests.
KLIF’s success led McLendon to explore other radio formats. In 1959, he created the “beautiful music” format for KABL/San Francisco. In the early 1960s, he started the first “all-news” radio station at WNUS/Chicago. One of WNUS’ reporters was future CNN anchor Bernard Shaw.
Gordon McLendon died on September 14, 1986.
He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1994.