Born in 1975, KJHK has broadcast good (and sometimes ugly) sounds for 45 years, to the University of Kansas and the Lawrence area. Read a year-by-year account of the station and the music that made an impact.
KJHK is born, and goes on air October 15 at precisely 12:25 p.m. Five weeks earlier, a helicopter and the Kansas National Guard placed KJHK’s radio antenna behind Marvin Hall. KJHK was the first student-run radio station on campus, but not the first radio station. KFKU, KANU and KUOK preceded KJHK.
A serious incident with the FCC. On October 5, a bored KJHK staffer wrote a fake wire report claiming Waterloo, Iowa, had been destroyed by a nuclear reactor explosion, killing around 15,000 people. The practical joke was tossed into a wastebasket around 3:30 p.m. However, another staffer found it and, believing it was authentic, read it on the 4:50 p.m. newscast. When several other stations picked up the story, Kansas City FCC investigators came to Lawrence the next morning, suspecting the bogus news item was the work of anti-nuclear activists.
DJ Steven Greenwood contributes to the format change from old rock to new wave. In a tribute of Greenwood, the music director and DJ is credited at the reason KJHK was one of the first stations in the Mid-west to play groups like the Buzzcocks.
On April Fool’s Day, KJHK announces it is changing its format to “all disco,” playing the latest hits from Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor. April Fool jokes similar to this persist through KJHK’s history, most recently in 2020 when the station played the hottest hits of the decade.
KJHK plays more Top 40 tunes to broaden its audience after an independent study suggests the change in format. However, this results in a campus protest and many angry letters to the Kansan. The format change along with FCC violations, leads to a brief stint of non-student management. KJHK members protested heavily. (Be on the lookout for a mini-doc about this in the coming weeks).
Journalism faculty takes control of KJHK to improve the station’s compliance with federal regulations, briefly ending student-led operations in June of that year. At student outrage and protests, control was finally given back to the students, where it has stayed since.
A debate between anti-gay activist Fred Phelps and gay leaders is aired, KJHK never shied away from controversy.
KJHK did not help sponsor the infamous Pearl Jam concert on the Hill on May 2, but it was a big event in Lawrence music history.
On December 3, the station became the first in the nation to broadcast a live, 24-hour signal on the internet. This was also the first year KJHK hosted Farmer’s Ball, a now decades long battle of the bands competition.
Programs for Fall 2003 include SuperDisco Galactica, Lawnchair Review, Heart of Asia, Obscured by Beats, Endless Raga and more. Through the years KJHK DJs have both revived old shows and created brand new special programming. This creativity is in part what makes the "Sound Alternative" so unique.
KU Memorial Unions takes on responsibility for KJHK from the School of Journalism. Without its funding and support, KJHK likely would have faded away.
KJHK removes the School of Journalism from its website and replaces it with the KU Memorial Unions.
KJHK staff members win 11 awards, including seven first-place honors, at the annual Kansas Association of Broadcasters ceremony. KJHK has received awards at the state almost every year. Just look at that table; it's about to fold under the weight of all those plaques!
The station moves from the Shack to the Union on May 6, and the City of Lawrence declares May 7 KJHK Day. Many feared this move would be the death of free spirit and creation at KJHK, but the past 10 years speak otherwise.
A Princeton Review release ranks KJHK as the 15th-best college radio station in the nation in August. And the Washington Post recognizes KJHK in their listing of “10 Great College Radio Stations” on Oct. 13.
KJHK's YouTube channel is born. KJHK still posts in-studios and other videos to the channel.
Frank Ocean released Channel Orange, a deeply personal album that was the coronation for one of the decade’s most vital queer voices.
KJHK and SUA present Bad Rabbits (May 10), HAIM (October 13), and Chance the Rapper (November 10) in concert.
The station also launched its iPhone app which even today allows users to stream KJHK in real time and view logged tracks.
In a poll, KJHK listeners voted Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly the best album of 2015. Other albums on the top 10 include: Tame Impala's Currents, Carrie and Lowel from Sufjan Stevens, Depression Cherry from Beach House and Courtney Barnett's Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit.
KJHK continued to broadcast remotely 24/7, 365 through a global pandemic, a software change, and campus closures. This little station has made it through a lot, and thanks its devoted listeners, fans and alumni for keeping the records spinning. Oh, and KJHK turned 45 this year. Here’s to (almost) half a century of awesomeness.