Friday, February 26, 2010
MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH KLOH RADIO
I first heard of KLOH AM 1050 in the summer of 1963. At that time, KLOH had a Saturday afternoon rock request program.
On KLOH I first heard that the ultra-cool Lacemen and the popular Jadesmen were going to play at the Marshmallow Lounge in downtown Sioux Falls. The Marshmallow Lounge was a “teenage nightclub” modeled after the Peppermint Lounge in New York. You had to be 16 to enter. Since I wasn’t 16 yet, I used my first fake ID in the fall of 1963.
In 1964, KLOH AM 1050 added rock music every weekday after school. Every day KLOH brought me a new record or band -- each cooler than the one before.
Doug Wagner was working on the air at KLOH. I wrote him a letter in April 1964 saying I wanted to be a DJ and asking his advice.
He sent me a kind reply letter urging me to check out Brown Institute in Minneapolis, where he had gotten his training. He also invited me to come to KLOH and see his program. Wow!
In August 1964 I had just gotten my drivers license. My parents let me drive my mom’s Corvair to Pipestone to visit KLOH. It was my first out of town trip on my own.
I drove down the gravel driveway into the parking lot in front of the little house on west highway 30 – the home of KLOH. It was the mid afternoon on a Saturday.
Doug Wagner greeted me at the door. He was a prince of a fellow who made me feel at ease right away. He took me into the studio and explained “the board,” “cartridges,” “the log” and how to cue up a record. He even let me cue a couple up.
It was a turning point in my life. My career goal became to be a radio DJ, not to a dentist as my father had advised.
Meanwhile, in November 1964, a new weeknight rock program debuted in Sioux Falls on KELO-AM 1320 – “Night Rock with Lord Douglas.”
There was an unusual tie between KLOH and KELO. KELO had tried to hire Doug Wagner away from KLOH. In their plans, Doug was going to host a new show KELO called “Night Rock With Big Doug.”
But Doug Wagner backed out of the KELO deal at the last minute and stayed at KLOH.
KELO had already purchased singing jingles promoting “Big Doug.” What to do?
The folks at KELO decided to name the replacement DJ “Lord Douglas” so that jingles wouldn’t be wasted.
“Night Rock with Lord Douglas” was heard from 7:00pm to midnight Monday through Friday. “Lordy” played lots of local music including many of the 45 RPM singles that my bands released.
By 1965 many midwest rock bands were advertising their appearances on KOMA AM 1520. They were traveling the ballroom and armory circuit through Kansas, Nebraska, both Dakotas, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Each night on KOMA you’d hear about the Flippers, the Red Dogs, the Blue Things” and “Spider and Crabs.”
[Side note: KOMA continued as the key station for traveling rock bands well into the 1970s with Wire and Baby.]
By 1965 KLOH became the center of the local rock band scene, very similar to KOMA. For me, it was KLOH during the day and KOMA after the sun went down.
KLOH’s 5,000 watt signal blanked southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and most of eastern South Dakota. KLOH was the radio station where I promoted my bands.
Doug Wagner at KLOH created custom “KOMA type” commercials for my bands and many other bands. Thirty second spots were $2.50 at KLOH, more expensive than KELO but totally worth it.
KLOH had a perceptual advantage over other stations at the time. KLOH didn’t talk down to the listeners. Others referred to its listeners as “teenagers” like they were an oddity. In short – KLOH was FAB, not pre-fab!
The first time I risked money on a dance promotion it was with KLOH. In May 1965 at the Pipestone National Guard Armory I presented Dale Gregory and the Shouters for a dance and concert.
Doug Wagner from KLOH emceed the gig. We all made money. My only mistake was forgetting to hire a rent-a-cop. This was quickly remedied by a generous contribution to the Pipestone PD “recreation fund.”
For the rest of 1965 and 1966 my bands – Dale Gregory and the Shouters, The Dynamic Hursmen, Those of Us and The Trippers – were heavily advertised on KLOH.
Lot’s of other bands were on too: The Pilgrims (Doug Wagner’s band), Dee Jay and Runaways, the Sting Rays, the Continental Co-ets, Orlin Hunstad’s Gemini Six and, of course, the untouchable Steve Ellis and the Starfires.
Steve Ellis was a huge area favorite. In 1966, his song “Walking Around” was a regional hit and had lots of airplay on KLOH and KOMA.
KLOH had ads for the most happening places like the Hollyhock Ballroom, Hatfield; the Showboat Ballroom, Lake Benton; the Dells Ballroom, Dell Rapids; Teen Town, DeSmet; Ruskin Park, Forestberg; the Rainbow Ballroom in Lane; the Roller Drome in Mitchell; the Island Park Ballroom in Milltown; the Groveland Park Ballroom in Tyndall and many, many more venues.
Back in Sioux Falls, on September 16, 1966 a new company, Starr Broadcasting, took over KISD and changed it to 24/7 Top 40 rock.
Almost overnight KISD became the number one station in Sioux Falls and pushed KELO out of part time rock music. I immediately moved my Sioux Falls band and promotion advertising from KELO to KISD.
The new KISD had little effect on KLOH. KLOH reached a much larger geographic area than KISD so I kept buying lots of time.
I became a “KISD Good Guy” – a part time weekend DJ – on KISD October 1, 1967. The first song I played was “Get Off My Cloud” by the Stones.
Soon I was full time at KISD doing the 7:00pm to Midnight shift. I was a full time student at Augustana College and a full time “KISD Good Guy” for the rest of 1967, all of 1968 and well into 1969.
At KISD I met Gregory J. Christ. Greg came to KISD from KLOH to do the overnight shift. Since I was on just before him, Greg and I crossed paths almost every night. We frequently talked about KLOH.
In August 1969, I dropped out, so to speak. I quit my job at KISD and joined VISTA – Volunteers In Service to America, a domestic Peace Corps part of LBJ’s “great society.”
VISTA took me to Texas and Oklahoma to help start new noncommercial radio stations that many years later became part of NPR. But, my VISTA project was cut by the Nixon administration after only a few months.
By summer 1970 I was “on the beach” in Sioux Falls, wondering what to do next.
I heard that my old friend Greg Christ had gone back to KLOH, so I called him and asked for a job. Greg said “when can you start.” And I said “tomorrow” – which is what I did.
[Doug Wagner had left KLOH a year or so earlier and Greg was running KLOH with part timers during the long summer AM broadcast hours.]
I immediately fell into my groove at KLOH. There was no “clock” per see and the jocks picked their own tunes. I created a rack of the top 30 songs and mixed in lots of oldies. It was rocking freeform hit radio, exciting freedom and opportunity.
At the time, KLOH was owned by the Ingstad family from North Dakota. KLOH was managed by Glenn Olson – “G O” as he was known.
Wally West [Christensen] did sign on to 10:00am playing “chicken rock” and country. “G O On the Go” went from 10:00am to 11:00am. From 11:00am to Noon KLOH switched to its satellite studio in Luverne where Jerry Hennen hosted a program.
The noon hour was a combination of news, farm info, features such as Earl Nightengale, “A Point of Law” and sports commentary by Howard Cosell.
Dave Lindemeyer started rocking at 1:00pm and I worked from 4:00pm to signoff – after 9:00pm in the summer.
Plus, there was a colorful crew of KLOH part timers: Dan Gregg, Bill Stout, Lee Sundemeyer and a 14 year old kid with an amazing voice – Greg Ausham.
In September 1970 I went back to being a full time student at Augustana. I made an arrangement with G O to work part time at KLOH on Saturday and Sunday.
Around this time that KLOH signed on FM 98.7. The FM aired sleepy elevator music. I was certain that FM rock was the next big thing and I convinced G O to let me host a Sunday album rock program simulcast on KLOH AM and FM.
The program, called “Holding Together” was an instant hit. Though the hippie music probably scared the shit out of G O and others at KLOH, the show brought in new advertisers, particularly from Sioux Falls, a nice business move for Sunday when advertising was traditionally light.
“Holding Together” was similar to other “underground rock” programs across the region and nation. Other shows included “Beaker Street” from KAAY, “Transition” from KELO-FM and blues player Tony Glover on KDWB.
These were great days for me at KLOH. In addition to being on the air, I spoke at high school assemblies, did remote broadcasts and became friends with a bunch of Pipestone kids.
I graduated from Augustana in May 1971. Instead of attending the graduation ceremony, I went to work as usual at KLOH. I worked full time at KLOH until the end of October 1971.
I always treasure my association with KLOH. The station paid me well and gave me the space to grow. They tolerated my excesses and always made me feel at home. I am proud to be an alum of KLOH.
Posted by Ken Mills Agency, LLC at 7:48 PM