About WRR 101.1

As one of the first licensed broadcast stations in the United States, WRR has a storied history in not only North Texas, but across the nation. To this day, it is the second-oldest operating radio station in the country with a reputation for pioneering radio as we know it.

WRR studios, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

A History of Innovation

WRR was the brainchild of inventor Henry Garrett, a Police and Fire Signal Superintendent for the City of Dallas who began tinkering with radio in his off-duty hours. Garrett envisioned radio as a way for firefighters to stay in contact in the field, eventually selling city officials on the efficiency of radio as the future of safety communication. Naturally, the station was first housed in the Dallas Fire Department — when firemen had no blazing fires to battle, they blazed the broadcast trail by playing music or telling jokes. Though the job description no longer requires fighting fires, we’d like to think not much has changed in the way of the music and jokes from our hosts.

A few years after the station began operation, the Fire Department needed investments in new equipment to serve the rapidly growing city.  When the city government declined to provide the funds, the Fire Department solicited donations from local businesses, and in return, urged listeners to patronize those businesses over the air.  A year later, in 1926, the station started marketing advertising commercials, thus the radio commercial was born!  

By 1926, WRR had moved to the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas, which still operates today.  The radio station made subsequent moves to the Jefferson Hotel and Hilton Hotel before settling at its present-day home on the Fair Park State Fairgrounds in the late 1930s. The station debuted on the FM spectrum in 1948, and by 1964, WRR-FM became the all-classical station listeners know it as to this day.

Still Celebrating Firsts More Than A Century Later

Though WRR is the oldest same-owner station in the U.S., it has built a legacy revered for making firsts. Despite being conceived in an analog world, the station has excitedly embraced the digital age. In fact, WRR was one of the first radio stations in the nation to offer a streaming signal on the internet. By 2006, WRR became the first station in Texas to broadcast an all-digital format for improved sonic fidelity.

When The City of Dallas began looking for new management for WRR, it set its sights on another North Texas station also known as a trusted pillar in the community. In June of 2022, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to turn the keys over to KERA to usher in a new era for this beloved treasure in North Texas. Under KERA’s community-powered model that relies on listener donations, WRR celebrated yet another first as 2023 marked the first time it became a commercial-free station in more than 100 years on the air.

KERA and The City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture share a steadfast commitment to keeping WRR a beacon for access to arts opportunities for the nearly 8 million residents of North Texas who receive the station’s signal.

Portions of this article were first published in Dallas Visions – 2005. Photos courtesy KERA Staff and Dallas Historical Archives.

Voices on WRR 101.1