X96 is turning 30 this year, and I joined the alternative music caravan at an old station called KJQ in 1988. Alternative music has been around in Utah since the 80s on stations like Super 107, KCGL, KRP, and finally at KJQ. I was fresh out of high school when I was hired by Bill Allred to be an overnight technician for KJQ AM and KJQ FM. Both stations were automated overnights, and my job consisted of babysitting the tape machines and satellite feeds, emptying the trash, and feeding Farnsworth, the station cat. I always aspired to be on the air, playing alternative music in Utah.
KJQ was based in Ogden at 95.5 FM and served Salt Lake County on a low-power translator at 92.7 FM and another low-power translator at 104.9 FM in Utah County. The building was old, the equipment was … well … worthy of being displayed in a museum instead of being used for broadcasting. It was KJQ, though, that really launched a successful and sustainable alternative music format that took shape between 1988 and 1991. I was lucky to land the evening shift in the fall of 1989, and I’ve been part of the family ever since. Like most things in our history, X96 happened kind of by accident. KJQ’s ownership changed hands in an unfriendly bit of litigation.
The new owner promised the world but stopped paying bills. I recall arriving for work with a notice from Ogden City taped to the door informing us they were going to shut off the water because of lack of payment. This prompted us to leave the station, following former KJQ sales manager James Facer until he could find a home for us. And thus, X96 was born in February of 1992. KJQ changed ownership and has since vacated the old building.
Gina Barberi went there last week and saw that it was about to be demolished, so I had to pay one last visit to where my radio career started. It looks like apartment buildings are going to be built on the property. I hope they are haunted by the sounds of old Cure songs, the ghost of Farnsworth the cat, and the eerie howl of our former owner shouting, “But what about the AM?!”