Top Menu

KRLX sticker at the Carleton college radio station. Photo: J. Waits

Touring College Radio Station KRLX at Carleton College

When I journeyed to Minneapolis for the College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) convention last month, I was able to visit three college radio stations and Carleton College station KRLX-FM was on the top of my list. I’d been aware of the long history of radio at Carleton for quite some time and was eager to see the station. Way back in 2009, I featured KRLX on my Spinning Indie 50 State Tour series, in which I attempted to profile a different college radio station in every state (I petered out after 17 states).

Outside the KRLX studio. Photo: J. Waits

Outside the KRLX studio. Photo: J. Waits

Storied College Radio Past at Carleton College

The first college radio station at Carleton College, KFMX (which apparently stood for “FM experimental”), received its AM license in December, 1923 and launched in January, 1924. Over the years, the station’s frequency was moved around the dial and it became a more challenging operation when it was forced to share the same channel with several other local stations. According to S.E. Frost in Education’s Own Stations: The History of Broadcast Licenses Issued to Educational Institutions, “…constant shifting of the frequency had brought the station into a place where its nighttime broadcasts were interfered with by Station WDSU at New Orleans, Louisiana, so as to make impossible any satisfactory operation after sundown. Further, the hours of daytime operation were so restricted as to limit seriously the station’s actual service to its listeners.”

Several colleges in Minnesota were college radio pioneers and that also added to KFMX’s challenges. Frost writes,

A further source of trouble was the fact that Carleton College, St. Olaf College, and the State University of Minnesota were all assigned to the same channel with the commercial station WRHM, located in Minneapolis. While the educational institutions were able to co-operate with each other amicably, and were anxious to work in the same way with the commercial station, the latter desired to secure exclusive use of the channel. As a result the educational institutions were involved in long and expensive litigation to maintain their position on the air.”

Cart machine at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

Cart machine at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

Sadly, Carleton ended up letting the KFMX license expire in 1933, allowing WRHM to time-share the frequency with St. Olaf (WCAL) and the State University of Minnesota (WLB, now KUOM). Students revived radio at Carleton in 1948 with the launch of campus-only carrier current station KARL-AM. By the 1970s, interest in FM was growing, with KRLX-FM launching in 1974 (with the call letters phonetically standing for Carleton, if you interpret the “X” as the roman numeral “10”). KRLX now broadcasts at 88.1 FM.

sign outside KRLX describes its past and present

Sign outside KRLX commemorating its long history. Photo: J. Waits

An Autumnal Visit to College Radio Station KRLX

On the afternoon of Wednesday, October 21, 2015, I made my way to KRLX-FM at Carleton College, which was around a 45 minute drive south from the airport through rural countryside. On the way I passed farms, a pumpkin patch and saw a cluster of roaming white chickens on the side of the road. Located near the quaint town of Northfield, Minnesota, Carleton College has a beautiful campus (accentuated by the colorful fall foliage) that made me feel nostalgic about my own college experience.

Carleton College campus. Photo: J. Waits

Carleton College campus. Photo: J. Waits

I met up with KRLX’s Program Director Eli Ruffer and he walked me to the station’s basement digs in the school’s Sayles-Hill Campus Center, filling me in about the state of KRLX. The station occupies a fairly compact space, with an on-air studio, adjacent production studio, a spacious record library that also serves as sort of a lounge/hang out space with chairs and a couch, and an engineering room (which I did not see).

signs leading to KRLX's basement home

Heading to basement home of KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

When I asked Ruffer if he knew much about the station’s history, he told me that he didn’t, but he pointed out a plaque in front of the station entrance as well as a hallway shrine of vintage equipment (including a stack of carts). The station’s walls are also full of stickers and flyers from the past few decades.

old cars and a cart machine at college radio station KRLX

Old carts from KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

I’d been warned in advance that it was mid-terms and that students were pretty busy preparing for exams. When we got to the KRLX record library, it was inhabited by a quiet group of students studying and I felt a bit guilty about looking around, snapping photos, and asking questions while they worked. Ruffer said that he was done with midterms, so he was a bit more relaxed.

KRLX record library

KRLX record library. Photo: J. Waits

Although it was already mid-terms, Ruffer told me that since Carleton is on a quarter system, they’d only been back in school for about a month. The station goes off the air during the summer, resumes in the fall and then comes back with a new schedule every quarter.

Poster for Music Department meeting at KRLX amid station graffiti. Photo: J. Waits

Poster for Music Department meeting at KRLX amid station graffiti. Photo: J. Waits

Despite going off the air during summer break, KRLX has an impressive 24 hour a day schedule of live DJs during the school year. Unlike many of its college radio counterparts, KRLX does not employ any sort of automation system, instead relying on its large roster of around 180 DJs to fill the programming day (and night).


DJ at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

I asked him how they manage to keep the station staffed 24 hours a day and Ruffer told me that it’s his job to keep the station on-air, explaining that there’s a whole protocol set up for who to call when a DJ doesn’t show up for a shift and there are people on the staff who will come in to cover in the event of a no-show.

Sticker-covered cabinet at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

Sticker-covered cabinet at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

I was amazed to hear that on such a small campus (of around 2,000 students), KRLX manages to attract nearly 200 participants. Ruffer said the station is the largest organization at Carleton and that students involved at KRLX (the station is 100% students) have a range of commitments.

CD cabinet at KRLX with genres marked on it

CD cabinet at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

As far as the schedule, it’s quite varied, with a variety of programs throughout the week. Ruffer explained that shows aren’t grouped by genre. Shows are pretty short, ranging from half an hour to two hours in length and newer DJs tend to start out on late night shifts between 1am and 7am. Ruffer said that the most desirable shows are during safe harbor from 10pm to 1am (when DJs can play a wider variety of content, including tracks with dirty words). Most DJs are playing digital music and the KRLX Music Director adds material to the station’s digital library regularly. Everyone on the air is expected to play at least one new song every hour.

description of music recently added to KRLX

Recent music adds at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

In addition to the digital library, KRLX has a nice collection of physical music, including CDs and older vinyl records. Ruffer mentioned that he’d seen some gems in the library, including the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, a lot of Bob Dylan, and a bunch of classical LPs. As we scanned through the library, I noticed a bunch of 1980s punk classics, a classic Stooges record, and even a Sha Na Na album. There’s also a handy USB turntable in the record library which can be used to convert vinyl to mp3. A bin in the library contains some newer CD releases.

new CDs at KRLX

Bin of newer CDs at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

Only station managers, members of the station’s board and KRLX librarians have access to the vinyl library, although other DJs can make a special request if there’s something that they’d like to play. Ruffer guessed that perhaps 10 DJs regularly play vinyl and CDs on their shows. He told me that he’s been playing vinyl almost exclusively “because it’s fun.” Some of the items that have caught his eye have included Mahler symphonies, Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach, and older Dr. Dog records. Ruffer said, “I love the record library.” He also recounted that he likes to experiment on the air and has played two songs at once before.

Looking through the vinyl library at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

Looking through the vinyl library at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

The studio contains two CD players, a cassette deck, and two turntables (although one is missing a needle). There are a few cassettes in the library, but Ruffer said he hasn’t seen people play them.

Old cassette deck in KRLX record library. Photo: J. Waits

Old cassette deck in KRLX record library. Photo: J. Waits

During my visit, a campus stand up comedy group, “The Queens of Comedy” was doing their show on KRLX, utilizing both the on-air studio and the production studio to accommodate all of the participants. Ruffer pointed out that there’s been a big push to get other campus groups involved at the station. Additionally, the station has a close relationship with The Cave, Carleton’s long-time (since 1927!) student-run venue. KRLX airs a weekly “Live at the Cave” program and is set up to broadcast live from the venue. Events that they’ve aired have included music shows as well as lectures.

Poster for an event at The Cave. Photo: J. Waits

Poster for an event at The Cave. Photo: J. Waits

As I wrapped up my visit, Ruffer talked a bit about the variety of shows on KRLX, telling me that it ranges from a Christian music and talk show, to country, rap, and classical music shows. He said that despite the variety and the huge number of DJs, it’s still challenging to get people to listen. Most Carleton students who listen tune in to the webstream and most FM listeners are in their cars (although not many Carleton students have cars). Ruffer said that it’s hard to get people to listen to the radio when they have “infinite access to music” and tend to “not stick around” when an unrecognizable song comes on the air. Despite all that, he told me that it’s “super fun to have a show” and a bonus is being able to “listen to music on really good speakers” in the studio.

door to engineering room at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

Door to engineering room at KRLX. Photo: J. Waits

A short 2014 documentary, KRLX Lives On, provides a nice glimpse of the station and speaks to the ongoing appeal of college radio.

After leaving the station, I tuned in to KRLX on my rental car’s stereo and caught the conclusion of the comedy show. Ruffer (also a member of the group) joined in with the crew and then the program transitioned to the next DJ. I was charmed by some of her vintage selections, including “Please Mr. Postman” (a Carpenters version) and the cheesy “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

KRLX stickers at the radio station

KRLX stickers at the college radio station. Photo: J. Waits

Thanks so much to Eli Ruffer for the great tour of KRLX. This is my 92nd station tour report. Coming up, I have one more tour recap to post from the Minneapolis area, as well as some from Portland (Oregon) and San Francisco. See my most recent field trips on Radio Survivor and see all of my station field trips on Spinning Indie.

Just one dollar a month makes you a patron of Radio Survivor. Help us through our Patreon Campaign!


, , , , , ,

20 Responses to Touring College Radio Station KRLX at Carleton College

  1. laurenebsary February 2, 2017 at 11:27 pm #

    i’m a college professor who can be attending the BEA/NAB convention in a pair weeks (April 17-22). I may be attending the convention with 4 Best UK Assignment Writing Service by Assignment Help Deal college students who’re both graduating in may additionally or can be graduating quickly. there are numerous component taking place during the conference to maintain them occupied but i used to be thinking if there are any events or attractions that would be of hobby to college students in trendy as well as to college students interested by those fields? What are some matters for them to do while we are there? What could you men suggest? thank you earlier for any assist that you may give me.

  2. janifar47 February 16, 2017 at 2:01 am #

    Need assistance in UK based academics get  off  and get your work done. 

  3. RebeccaHamilton March 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm #

    Great post.

  4. florencewillburn March 16, 2017 at 3:31 am #

    College radio station is an excellent idea. It helps the students to get know about the social activities around us. Young generations are the future expectations and they must updates the social activities around us. It is best platfrom and my opinion is every college try to follow it. 

  5. shivasingh April 9, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    This is the cool mathematical games for kids because this is the time to make things happen in this cool maths and make the mathematical junction for  kids  and giving maths games and cool maths for kids

  6. Rubydraper April 25, 2017 at 3:47 am #

    Quite impressive idea and the college radio will help students to be updated with the recent happenings of the surroundings and be alert with these issues. I hope this should be implemented within all the college so that students could be more aware and alert of things around them

  7. essayreviews April 26, 2017 at 9:45 pm #

    the students give happiness to the radio and they have get more valuable information and beautiful songs etc.thank you for sharing this beautiful information.thanking you 

  8. packingmaterial April 28, 2017 at 3:49 am #

    College students like to hear radio,that is a really good news. I and the team like this wonderful article.College students like hearing radio and that is a rare thing in today.Most of the students watch television.

  9. laundryserviceGhaziabad May 16, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

    The most important quality of a man is cleanliness. We can identify a person’s character from his cloths, he should be well dressed and dress should be clean. So cleanliness of dress has important role in our life. Wearing a washed cloth give us more refreshes and energy

    laundry service in Ghaziabad

  10. EthanKaur June 8, 2017 at 3:08 am #

    Such an informative information you have shared with us, as this is an educational data, so it is quite useful thing,as now a days the many different methods of communication today, faxing is perhaps one of the most popular kinds. Faxing or facsimile, makes use of communication devices (such as a telephone network) to transmit a copy of a document from one place to another. Faxing is popularly used either for personal communication or for business purposes and educational assistance like dissertation help UK at dissertation writing company UK. It’s an easy and reliable method of conveying information over long distances. Storing data online is no longer a thing of the future. It is a technology that we use everyday. Sometimes the act of storing information on another computer can be referred to as cloud computing. So that i really got so many useful information through out it and peoples can get so many useful information for their convenience.

  11. happywheels June 20, 2017 at 12:40 am #

    Great ceativity and the post clarity is awesome! Thanks for your article! I have been looking for quite a long time and fortunately I read this article! I believe there are many other people who are interested in them just like me! Thank you for sharing them with everyone!
    happy wheels

  12. marriagematrimonial June 22, 2017 at 2:04 am #

    Radios are going to extinct in upcoming days.New generation is not interested in listening radio programs.Thank you so much for sharing this type of information about radio.

  13. prepclasses June 28, 2017 at 4:37 am #

    Nice article,new generation are not interested in hearing radio programs.It is a serious matter of concern.

  14. stevelarsc July 17, 2017 at 4:06 am #

    As a college lecturer, I enjoyed reading your Touring College Radio Station KRLX at Carleton College. Having a radio station for colleges is something a wonderful thing. I feel very missing as our college doesn’t have anything like this. Hope your OptiLingo Learn French article would inspire many and think about same.

  15. John Sturrock August 4, 2017 at 12:35 am #

    The following articles cover new historical research.

  16. hellenjos August 17, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

    nice. my world

  17. jenifervanquez August 20, 2017 at 11:52 pm #

    great post

  18. alvinaway August 22, 2017 at 5:38 am #

    As online technology is expanding so you can say that majority of individuals are making the most of this online technology and it is the good and fastest way get your work done through online resources.Those whom are high school drop out and facing an issues in life without having education,so that they can complete their education while doing job,or even you can say that,they can also get Dissertation help uk online for the best dissertation writers.

  19. graceben August 22, 2017 at 6:17 am #

    Students are always fear to approach the writing task independently. Lack of confidence is because of lack of knowledge.Essay Help uk can help students to improve knowledge and skill through continous participation.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes