The radio station’s concerts brought country stars to the San Antonio stage


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I remember seeing country stars perform at the Municipal Auditorium in the late 1960s. If I remember correctly, they used to bring in about five acts that would put on a morning show the Sunday after- noon and another that night. I saw Roy Orbison and a 17-year-old, dressed in a suit with a thin tie. His name was Hank Williams Jr., and he sang all of his father’s hit songs. Can any of your readers remember any other acts that were performed there? For how long has KBER radio sponsored these shows? I have fond memories of seeing several performances, but I can’t remember some of the stars that I got to see. It was great to see these acts, and I think it could bring back many memories of seeing stars become superstars. These shows influenced my desire to become a country singer.

For more than a decade, a local radio station sponsored a concert series that featured some of the biggest names in country music at the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium. Some of the performers were members of the Grand Ole Opry, an honor that at the time meant they made at least 20 appearances a year on stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and others may or may not have played the country show. and the longtime radio show.

They ranged from veteran traditionalists to crossover rockers and future outlaws. Some were going up, others were fainting.

A spokeswoman for Opry said the research did not support these shows as actual Opry’s performance. Rather, artists who were on a tour that was billed as having ‘Grand Ole Opry Stars X, Y and Z’ on the poster instead of an Opry sponsored tour. These tours were likely offered to local stations that aired the weekly Opry show or at least played country music.

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Although Opry’s stars have been calling San Antonio since the 1940s, this format – at least five acts, two shows (matinee and evening), on a weekend day, several times a year – began in 1961 with what was then KENS radio, a country – the Western station at 11:50 a.m. that belonged with its sister television station to the then publisher of the San Antonio Express-News. After KENS was bought by Houston Astros owner Judge Roy Hofheinz – not a country music fan – it switched to contemporary adult music and local sports broadcasts.

KBER radio – pronounced “K-Bear” for its cowboy hat mascot – – took on sponsorship of the live broadcasts at the auditorium. The radio station, which broadcast country-western music at 11:50 a.m. (daytime) and 100.3 FM (3:00 p.m. to midnight) from 1966, promoted on-air shows in daily newspapers. , on television, and in local record and music stores. stores, where tickets were sold for $ 1.50 each. Later, general admission tickets to popular shows rose to $ 2.50 and they were available at all HEB and Montgomery Ward stores and Sigmor-Shamrock gas stations.

There was a thriving live entertainment scene here in the 1960s. Over the weekend of February 5-6, 1966, the San Antonians had a choice between the Harlem Globetrotters, Frank Sinatra Jr., the country star. Rex Allen and no less than eight acts in the Opry show in the auditorium.

Typically there were a few shows in the spring, at least one in the fall and another in the middle of winter. They were so well attended – “packing the municipal auditorium,” according to columnist Paul Thompson in the San Antonio Express, Jan. 18, 1964 – that they sparked a rival tour. KBER director AV Bamford told Thompson he would take the competing promoter’s money for promotional spots “if Nashville confirms it uses real Opry stars.”

It’s no wonder that locals wanted to be part of the KBER show: for the first few years, radio sponsored shows began with the presentation of the winners of a Grand Ole Opry talent discovery competition “for non-professionals only ”, organized on the morning of the show for the first to the eighth prize (guitars and radios).

There was no doubt about the KBER headliners. While some lesser-known names filled the bill, San Antonio audiences got to see the greats and the futures – Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, Bobby Bare, Skeeter Davis, Jimmy Dickens, Lefty Frizzell, Ferlin Huskey, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton with Porter Wagoner, Minnie Pearl, Webb Pierce, Ray Price, Charlie Pride, Boots Randolph, Tex Ritter, Connie Smith, Hank Snow, Slim Whitman, Tammy Wynette and Faron Young.

You may have seen Hank Williams, then still a teenager, on October 13, 1968, performing with his father’s group Drifting Cowboys in the auditorium, with Merle Haggard, recently awarded the Academy of Country Music for the most popular male singer. promising. Roy Orbison was here with the KBER show on several occasions from 1963 to 1965, climbing but never topping the bills he shared with more or less conventional country stars including Pierce and Nelson.

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After the sale of KBER in 1974, its call signs and formats changed frequently. Sponsorship of live country music shows was dropped, and many rising stars who played them had become famous enough to lead their own tours, while others gravitated to television or stayed close to the Opry in its short story. house, the Grand Ole Maison d’Opry.

Anyone who remembers other performers or details related to shows adjacent to Opry in the auditorium can contact this column. Responses will be shared and may be published in a future column.

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