KHMX (96.5 FM, "Mix 96-5"), is an Adult Top 40 (Hot AC) music formatted radio station in Houston, Texas, United States. Its transmitter is located in nearby Missouri City, Texas, and the studios are in Greenway Plaza. The station was acquired by CBS Radio from Clear Channel Communications on April 1, 2009.
KXYZ-FM first signed on February 1, 1948. It would stay on the air for 5 1/2 years before being silent for about eight years. As typical of FM radio stations in the mid-20th century, the FM station usually was a simulcast of its AM parent. During the 1960s, it simulcasted its AM parent KXYZ, which played beautiful music. In the late 1960s, the format changed to automated progressive rock, branded as "Love 96 1/2 FM". "Love" was formulated by then-owner ABC Radio, and was syndicated to other sister stations around the country, including WABC-FM in New York City, KABC-FM in Los Angeles, WLS-FM in Chicago, KGO-FM in San Francisco, WXYZ-FM in Detroit and WDVE in Pittsburgh, with the calls changing to KAUM in January 1971. When the "Love" format ceased later in 1971, KXYZ-FM continued in the progressive rock format, but with a local focus, and changed monikers to "KAUM 96 1/2". In the late 1970s, KAUM had drifted to a more generic Top 40 format to compete against KRBE and the long established AM top 40 leader, KILT (AM).
From 1980 through late 1986, the station operated as "KSRR", first as "Star 97", and then "97 Rock" with an album rock format, with the slogan "Kick Ass Rock 'n' Roll", and a logo similar to WABB in Mobile. The new station featured morning radio host and KEGL alum James Paul "Moby" Carney and Matthew, with Hannah Storm as the sports announcer. The station competed against the album rock format of KLOL (and for a short period, KILT-FM, and KZFX).
On October 15, 1986, the station changed call letters to KKHT, and the album rock format was replaced by a CHR format known as "Hit 96.5 KKHT". By mid-1987, heavy competition from top 40 powerhouses KKBQ-FM and KRBE prompted the station to morph to adult contemporary. The station rebranded as 96.5 KKHT.
On September 1, 1989, the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the station flipped to the then-new Rhythmic CHR format, with a focus on dance-oriented music, branded as "Energy 96.5". The station adopted the new KNRJ call letters on September 4. This format was a competitive response to two other local stations, 93Q KKBQ-FM and Power 104 KRBE, whose Top 40 formats reflected the increasing presence of dance club-oriented tracks (catering to a then-lucrative target audience drawn to the flourishing night club scenes along Richmond Avenue and inner Westheimer Road). These competitors featured late-night, weekend live-to-air broadcasts from local dance clubs (e.g., Club 6400, The Ocean Club), where in-house DJs drew heavily from libraries of imported and small-label, extended-length modern tracks (which otherwise were seldom, if ever, heard on most commercial stations); by early 1990, KNRJ had partnered with the Tower Theater's Decadance to host its own weekend, late-night live broadcast. The station was initially owned by Emmis Broadcasting before being sold to Nationwide Communications in mid-1990. The station's ratings during this time were low. In the station's latter months, KNRJ began adding more new wave tracks to improve ratings.
On June 15, 1990, at 7:15 AM, after playing "Please Don't Go Girl" by New Kids on the Block, and a bit featuring DJ Jeff Scott announcing his discontent for the format, KNRJ flipped to an alternative rock format, which started with "I Eat Cannibals" by Toto Coelo and a "Top 100 Best Alternative Songs of All Time" countdown. The Alternative 96.5 re-brand was a transitional format, lasting roughly 5 weeks, and was promoted while a forthcoming format—under a strategic decision by the station's new owners, Nationwide Communications, Inc.—was under preparation. A weekly playlist, under an Alternative 96.5 makeshift letterhead, was distributed to local retail and media outlets, culminating on July 17, 1990.
Transition to KHMX-FM
At 7 AM on July 18, 1990, KNRJ began stunting with a 48-hour ticking clock countdown sequence; a heavily processed, pre-recorded masculine studio voice announced the time remaining at 15-minute intervals. For the final 12 hours of this transitional sequence, a series of disjointed song samples (largely unrelated to KNRJ's format) were interspersed—notably the repeated playback (forward and backward) for the opening eight seconds of the Dazz Band's "Let It Whip".
At 7 AM on July 20, the countdown concluded, and a "roll call" by a fictitious "teacher" called out the names of program directors from other Houston radio stations. This "teacher" asked the class to start their tape recorders and take notes as this "lecture" was to begin, which led to the debut of "Mix 96.5" and new call letters KHMX-FM. The first two songs on "Mix" were Steve Winwood's "Roll With It" and Taylor Dayne's "I'll Be Your Shelter". Both tracks confirmed the sharp departure from preceding station formats.
The "Mix" format
For Nationwide Communications, GM Clancy Woods & National PD Guy Zapoleon launched a new Hot AC format (branded as the "Mix" format), and was the first Pop/Rock Hot AC and a forerunner of most Hot ACs today. The Mix brand tagline, "More Music, More Variety, A Better Mix", was commercially successful, and the formula for the Mix format was replicated through the 1990s and early 2000s in several other radio markets across North America and in cities as far away as Sydney, Australia by KHMX consultant Alan Burns. Around the same time, research guru John Parikhal, who also worked with KHMX, was helping PD Greg Strassell of Steve Dodge's American Radio Systems in Boston launch another Mix station known as "Mix 98.5", WBMX-FM. This station was more of a Rhythmic AC and an early example of today's MOViN format. The first true Mix station, which was more of a Pop Adult Top 40, was launched a few months earlier in the Summer of 1989 at WOMX/Orlando by Nationwide Communications GM Rick Weinkoff and PD Brian Thomas, with help from Guy Zapoleon.
KHMX was broadcast nationwide on XM Satellite Radio from 2001 to the end of 2003, as a radio superstation similar to television satellite superstations such as Superstation WGN. In 2004, all XM music channels went commercial free, and KHMX was replaced with a unique-to-XM Mix channel, retaining the same format. Since then, Clear Channel has regained the right to air commercials on their XM music channels.
Since the sale of the station to CBS Radio in 2009, KHMX has tweaked its sound to include more Top 40/CHR currents, thus resulting in its sister station, Top 40/CHR KKHH, to shift towards a Rhythmic Top 40 direction and at the same time not cannibalize each other by playing the same music.
KHMX signed on HD Radio operations in 2006. 96.5 HD2 first carried a dance format, known as "Energy 96.5", which was both a format and moniker KHMX used prior to becoming "Mix" in 1990. After the sale of the station to CBS in April 2009, KHMX 96.5 HD2 and KKHH 95.7 HD2 swapped formats, with KHMX-HD2 becoming smooth jazz "The Wave", while KKHH-HD2 would take on the dance format and "Energy 95.7" moniker. "The Wave" would eventually evolve into a Smooth AC (a hybrid of Smooth Jazz and R&B music) format with an emphasis on Smooth Jazz.
Frequency call letters and branding
- KXYZ - 2/1/1948–1970
- KAUM - 1971 (Love 96 & 1/2 FM, KAUM 96 & 1/2)
- KSRR - 1980 (Star 97, The New 97 Rock FM, 97 Rock FM "Kick AsS Rock 'N' Roll!")
- KKHT - 10/15/1986 (Hit 96.5 KKHT, 96.5 KKHT)
- KNRJ - 8/4/1989 (The New Energy 96 FM, Energy 96.5, Alternative 96.5)
- KHMX - 7/20/1990 (Mix 96.5)
- KHMX - 1/1/2003 (The New Mix 96.5)
- KHMX - 1/1/2005 (Mix 96.5)
- KHMX - 4/15/2009 (Mix 96-5)
- 1990 - "More Music, More Variety, A Better Mix"
- 1993 - "The Best Mix of the 70s, 80s, and 90s"
- 1998 - "The Greatest Hits of the 80s, 90s, and 70s", "Your New At-Work Choice", "Mix Means Variety"
- 2000 - "The Best Mix of the 80s, 90s, and Today"
- 2000 - "Today's Best Music"
- 2001 - "Houston's Hit Music Variety", "Houston's Upbeat Listen While You Work Station"
- 2001 - "The Best Mix of the 80s, 90s, and Today"
- 2002 - "More Music, More Variety, A Better Mix"
- 2005 - "Sam Malone in the Morning and Houston's Best Mix All Day"
- 2006 - "Houston's Best Mix"
- 2009 - "Today's Best Mix"
- 2011 - "Houston's Best Mix and Kidd Kraddick in the Morning"
- 2012 - "A Mix of Music You Can't Get Anywhere Else"
- 2014 - "Houston's Best Mix"
- 2015 - "Houston's Best Music Mix", "Today's Best Music Mix for Houston"