The station first signed on the air on September 1, 1956 as KILT, broadcasting on VHF channel 13; the station was originally owned by television and radio personality Gordon McLendon. It was the third television station to sign on in the El Paso market, after KROD-TV (channel 4, now KDBC-TV), which signed on in December 1952. KTSM-TV (channel 9) operated a tall tower at a lower elevation in downtown El Paso. After a short period of ownership, the McClendon Investment Corporation sold KILT to Joseph Harris and Norman Alexander in March 1957, after which, the station changed its call letters to KELP-TV. The station was purchased by John B. Walton Jr. in January 1966. The station's original studio facilities were located in central El Paso at 4530 Delta Drive, which also housed sister radio station KELP (920 AM, now KQBU), which was leased from the city of El Paso.