Mar 4, 2024 - News

Houston rock radio station documentary premieres

Musicians Alvin Lee and Gary Wright at KLOL studios in this undated photo

Musicians Alvin Lee and Gary Wright at KLOL studios in an undated photo. Photo: Courtesy of Prodigy PR

A documentary 14 years in the making detailing KLOL-FM's rise and fall as one of Houston's premier rock radio stations is finally here.

Why it matters: "Runaway Radio" simultaneously brings a trip of nostalgia for native Houston rockers and a fresh look at one of the Bayou City's culture powerhouses of yesteryear for newcomers.

  • The documentary features interviews with former DJs, several executives, and well-known musicians who were fans of the station, like Dusty Hill, Lyle Lovett, Sammy Hagar, Melissa Etheridge and others.

Driving the news: The film premiered on streaming platforms last week and made its Houston-area debut over the weekend at Katy's Alamo Drafthouse.

What they're saying: "It's like a rite of passage," filmmaker and native Houstonian Mike McGuff tells Axios. "There's that one time that you could stumble onto KLOL down the dial, and you're like, 'Wow, this is very different from what I've heard before.'"

Catch up fast: KLOL first hit the airwaves as a freeform station in 1970, brought to fruition by the folks who owned KTRH-AM, one of Houston's only news radio stations at the time.

  • KLOL quickly became Houston's go-to for rockers. It survived for decades until its demise in 2004 after years of revolving corporate owners and shifting priorities in leadership.
  • Since then, the station has become Mega 101.1 FM, playing Latin pop.

The intrigue: McGuff spent 14 years researching, conducting interviews and directing the film. He grew up listening to KLOL and wanted to bottle the magic for future generations.

  • He also used filmmaking as a way to relieve grief from personal hardships, including the death of his mother from early-onset Alzheimer's.
  • "I needed an outlet, and that's what this documentary gave me," McGuff said. "I'm glad I saw it through, and I do think it benefited me personally and gave me a focus that was more positive.

💭 Jay's thought bubble: The documentary was a fascinating look into Houston's recent past, with archival footage and radio clips that put you inside the studios.

  • My favorite piece of the film is when DJ Levi Booker explains how he got George Harrison to sit down in the studio for an interview in 1974.
  • I also wanted to give a shameless shoutout to McGuff himself, whose blog keeps everyone apprised of the goings on in Houston's media landscape (he even wrote about the time a car came crashing into my living room).

How to watch: The movie is available to buy or rent on Apple TV, Amazon and Google Play.

  • Plus, McGuff said it will be playing at Houston-area Star Cinema Grill locations starting sometime this month.
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