In 1933, the Federal Radio Commission, forerunner of today’s Federal Communications Commission, authorized three new channels on the AM band. Stations on 1530 kHz, 1550 kHz and 1570 kHz could experiment with high-fidelity broadcasting.
These stations could be heard on standard radios at the time. Instead of a standard 10 kHz frequency, these stations were permitted a wider 20 kHz to improve the audio quality.
Experimental station W9XBY in Kansas City, Mo., began broadcasting on December 31, 1934, at 1550 kHz. The station built a reputation for novel programming, including parodies of other Kansas City radio shows, a “swap shop” program, programming geared toward African-American listeners and local baseball games.
A W9XBY broadcast of Count Basie’s Orchestra in 1936 captured the attention of a record producer who helped launch Basie’s career in New York City.
At some point, the station became known as KXBY. By 1938, it was listed as KITE-AM. The high-fidelity experiment ended in 1941 when KITE moved to a standard AM broadcast signal at 1590 kHz. In 1941, Kansas City’s first commercial FM station, KOZY, signed on the air.
In this era, KITE’s owner, First National Television, Inc., became involved in a lawsuit. One of the company’s founders was KMBC Radio president Arthur Church, who withdrew from First National and sued the company.
First National tried to sell KITE in 1941, but the deal fell through. It became KXKX in 1942 and aired a variety of music and news. KXKX also carried Mutual programs after Kansas City’s regular Mutual affiliate, WHB, signed off at sunset.
The FCC scheduled renewal hearings for KITE’s license through the summer and fall of 1942, but no one from First National appeared. The company was out of money and signed off KXKX in October 1942.
The 1590 AM signal came back to life as KPRS in 1949. Former Kansas Governor Alf Landon owned the full-service station. In 1950, Landon hired two men, Andrew Carter and Ed Pate, to run KPRS. They purchased it in 1952, Black-owned radio station west of the Mississippi River.
Carter moved the format to FM in 1971 as KPRS-FM. The AM station became KPRT and adopted its current Urban Gospel format.
As of 2014, Carter Broadcast Group still owns KPRS-FM and KPRT-AM. According to BroadcastKC.com, KPRT-AM is the oldest continuously operating Black-owned radio station in the United States.
Sources: Wikipedia (KPRT-AM), History of W9XBY, BroadcastKC.com