KAT'S KARAVAN. Kat's Karavan was a rhythm-and-blues radio program broadcast from Dallas from 1953 to 1967 on WRR-AM. The program aired R&B music to a primarily white teenage audience with burgeoning interests in music previously off-limits to them because of contemporary race relations. In the 1950s, white-owned radio stations across the country were just beginning to dabble in play music made by African Americans. Unsure of the commercial prospects of such a venture, many radio stations were reluctant to cross racial lines in their programming. Kat's Karavan defiantly played early R&B music performed by blacks, even though the show was hosted by and aimed at whites. The show was particularly influential because of its formatting, its personalities, the large region it broadcast to, and the number of famous musicians who came of age while listening to it.
Kat's Karavan showed strong support for local music acts such as the Nightcaps, who recorded their only album (Wine, Wine, Wine) at the WRR studio in 1959; the single of the same name was used as a promotional vehicle for the show. This album, which also included the song "Thunderbird," influenced upcoming local artists including Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and members of ZZ Top. While promoting local music, Kat's Karavan also exposed its listeners to musicians from outside Texas, including such legendary blues figures as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Thus the show intended to expand the horizons of its listeners and inform them of the musical styles being created by black musicians.
The show's disc jockeys also contributed to its success. Kat's Karavan was co-hosted by Jim Lowe, Jr., and Bill Carroll, who provided comedy for the listeners and encyclopedic knowledge of the music and the musicians. Lowe became such a well-loved figure in the Dallas area that, for forty years, he was the voice of the mechanical cowboy, Big Tex, at the State Fair of Texas. Another notable co-host of Kat's Karavan was Englishman John Peel. His work on the show in 1961 marked his early broadcast career before he returned to England to host the BBC radio program Top Gear . (In 2009 a CD set chronicling Peel’s broadcasts later in his career was named Kats Karavan: The History of John Peel on the Radio.)
Kat's Karavan was also successful because of its unique format. Lowe and Carroll divided the show into two parts. The first began at 10:30 each weeknight and centered on R&B vocal groups, while the second began at 11:15 and focused on both electric and acoustic blues. All these blues styles influenced the development of R&B. The show informed listeners of contemporary R&B developments and their historical backgrounds. Two rare segments of a 1961 broadcast of Kat's Karavan have been discovered and donated to WRR by a private collector.
Dallas Observer, November 11, 2004. Robert Wilonsky, “Peeling Back John Peel’s Dallas Daze,” Dallas Observer, May 16, 2007 (http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2007/05/peeling_back_john_peels_dallas.php ), accessed October 23, 2011. Kevin Walters, “Historical 1961 WRR Broadcasts Found” (http://ryono.net/xtra/oldies/1957/jimlowe.htm), accessed October 23, 2011.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Cathy Brigham, "KAT'S KARAVAN," accessed November 16, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ebk03.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 5, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.