A Texas Radio Hall of Fame inductee known for bringing KHFI-FM’s long-running Top 40 format to life in Austin and for running one of America’s legendary R&B stations in Houston has died.
Dick Oppenheimer, who owned nine radio stations across three states in the mid-1980s and more recently headed the Austin-based REO Radio Group, died suddenly on Wednesday (3/21). He was 84.
Oppenheimer’s funeral is planned for Friday (3/23), son Michael Oppenheimer, Local Area Director for Comcast Spotlight in Washington, D.C., tells RBR+TVBR.
Oppenheimer was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2012, and in 2009 was named “Pioneer of the Year” by the Texas Association of Broadcasters (TAB).
Oppenheimer had a long radio industry career, including a stint as manager of the legendary KYOK-AM 1590 in Houston, a highly successful Soul and Black radio station that pre-dated the Urban Contemporary format. He joined the station in 1966, relocating from northern New Jersey following college at Seton Hall University.
In 1977, Oppenheimer said goodbye to KYOK. He started Capitol Cities Broadcasting, and by 1985 (according to Duncan’s American Radio) owned religious KIXL-AM and Top 40 KHFI-FM in Austin; Top 40 KBFM-FM in McAllen-Brownsville; Urban KLAZ-AM & FM in Little Rock; Religious KDVE-AM and Beautiful/EZ KQXY-FM in Beaumont-Port Arthur; and Adult Standards WXAM-AM & AC WQXY-FM in Baton Rouge.
The group of stations was sold, and that saw Oppenheimer start up a new entity named Signature Broadcasting, just two weeks later. This group’s initial 1987 acquisition was an FM station in Columbia, S.C. Signature added stations in Nashville, Pittsburgh and McAllen-Brownsville; signature was sold at the end of 1996.
But, that didn’t mark Oppenheimer’s exit from radio ownership. In 2008, he returned to the broadcast industry with the purchase of religious station KLGO-FM, serving Austin and Central Texas.
Most recently, Oppenheimer owned Christian Talk KOKE-FM in Thorndale, Tex., which was sold in July 2012, and KTSN-AM 1490 in Austin.
That’s the market where, in 1980, Capitol Cities acquired KHFI from LIN Broadcasting. Under Oppenheimer’s direction, the station ditched its “Disco 98” branding just as the genre was dying to become The All New K98 FM, with a Top 40 format directed by PD/afternoon host Chuck Dunaway. The format change proved hugely successful, and continued to see success following its September 1990 move to 96.7 FM from 98.1 MHz, now the home of Country KVET-FM. KHFI remains a Top 40 station today under iHeartMedia ownership.