May 20, 2016 at 9:39 am

Campus radio has been dear to Carleton for nearly 100 years, ever since the physics department took to the airwaves in 1921 to communicate with other colleges. From the advent of the KARL station in 1948 to KRLX today, however, student-run stations have been the radio mainstay.

KRLX, which reaches 27, 000 people within 20 miles of Northfield, once ran like a typical college radio station—that is to say, in a state of glorious disarray. Independent and student-run since its beginnings in 1948, KRLX has allowed students full artistic freedom to experiment as radio DJs.

Today KRLX is Carleton’s only station, located in lower Sayles and providing programming on campus and beyond. Tune in to 88.1 or listen live at!


  • May 20 2016 at 5:39 pm
    James Stiles '74

    I was the Station Manager in 1973/74, and helped guide the process of Carleton's radio station gaining an FCC license to broadcast on FM -- allowing it to be heard off-campus.

    There were two significant issues to be dealt with, along with the typical regulatory requirements for which we had the help of a Carl in DC (Larry Cohn '65) who just happened to be a communications attorney working for the firm of Cohen and Dippel. The first issue had to do with how the new station would be governed -- in a sense, who would own it: the administration or the students. Naturally, the Carleton Student Association (CSA) wanted ownership and control. You see, they did not trust the administration and wanted a free voice. But our attorney pointed out that the FCC rarely granted licenses (at the time) to student associations, and that our chances for approval would be much improved if the application were made, and the license held, in the name of the College. So I went to Dean of Students Jean Phillips (aka Dean Jean), and requested that the College support the new station application. She asked if the students would agree to the College holding the license, and exerting some level of control over the station -- to which I replied they would be quite happy with such an arrangement, as they knew this was the only way they were likely to gain approval. So after a brief pause, for consideration, she agreed. A modified application, signed by the College, instead of the student association, was then filed with the FCC.

    Now, by some oversight at the time, I forgot to advise the student association (and my own staff) of this change. They continued to believe that the license would be granted in the name of the students, who would have virtually full control. Months later, the application was approved. The College was granted a construction permit to begin the process of putting the new station on the air. I then happily brought this news to Dean Jean, who with a smile, asked me again how the students felt about the College holding the license. Sensing that it was time for the truth, I told her that they actually didn't know about that part. Again, with a smile, she advised me that she had assumed that was the case at our first meeting, and that the College would exercise only the most minimal control required by FCC regulations. She stated quite simply that the College would trust the students to do what was right, and grant all the freedom they needed to ensure this was truly a student radio station -- so long as they did not get caught violating any federal laws. Yes, Dean Jean was cool.

    Armed with this, I went back to my staff and the CSA, and showed them the FCC permit -- with the College's name on it, not the CSA. After the protests died down, I pointed out that Dean Jean had placed her full trust in the students when agreeing to this arrangement, and fully intended for them to have virtually full management control. Besides, I asked, what were we going to do -- give it back? After about two minutes of careful consideration, it was agreed by the students that we could all work with this arrangement, and they came to appreciate that they were in fact trusted by the College to do what was right.

    Now on to the second important issue. What to call this new station? The requested call letters had to be submitted on the next filing due at the FCC, in preparation for actual licensing. The unofficial call letters of KARL (our AM carrier current station which was never heard off campus, unless someone illegally connected a wire to our transmitter and stuck it out the window of Willis) was already taken by another broadcast station, and hence not available to us. Likewise, our second choice of KRLS was also unavailable. Our third choice had been KFMX, because this had been the name for the experimental FM broadcast station that the College had in Laird Hall in the 1920's. Alas, this one was also already in use, and not available. So we ran a fair and honest contest, inviting everyone to submit entries -- suggestions for a new call sign for the station. The call sign specified on the most entries would be declared the winner, and adopted -- so it was implied. The possibility of valuable prizes was also alluded to, vaguely.

    At the end of this two week process, KMOO was the clear leader. There was even a logo with a seemingly contented cow, overlayed with an image of the College, submitted in support. This call sign was actually available, and most folks found the new name highly satisfactory. But not me. So utilizing my dictatorial powers as Station Manager (which were soon thereafter somewhat curtailed), I selected the call sign KRLX. It had been my own choice in the contest, and no one else had suggested it. It paid homage to the College's first FM station (KFMX) in the 1920's, while incorporating the first three letters of a call we really wanted (KRLS). When the station finally went on the air, our DJ's would complain that KRLX was hard to pronounce. And over the years, those comments may have continued. But it's been over 40 years now. The passage of time brings acceptance.

    The years of 1973 and 1974 were the most memorable of my Carleton career -- fundamentally due to my major in Philosophy and my minor in KRLX. Although, frequently, the priority of those subjects was reversed...

  • March 13 2017 at 9:18 pm
    Andrew Korsak ’69

    My most memorable KARL experience occurred during winter term 1968, when I tagged along with my proctor, John Jacobson, and his roommate, Jim Kiehne, when they had a country and western show at midnight on KARL. Country and western music was not considered to be “cool” by most college students at that time.

    The show’s theme song was “Truck Drivin’ Man” by Marty Robbins, which John Jacobson selected as a tip of the hat to his past summer job, as a driver of a grain-hauling truck. Jim Kiehne and I sang a duet of the famous country classic, “Down in the Valley.” After completing the duet, everything else was a haze for me. I do recall that John and Jim played other country and western records, but I do not recall their names. If I recall correctly, the show ended at 1:00 a.m.

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