Ken Mills with radio and research telephone
In 1959 there were four radio stations in Sioux Falls:
KSOO at 1140am was the mom and dad station. Rosemary Clooney tunes and a morning guy who had conversations with himself in high-pitched nasally voice.
KISD at 1230am was automated, mainly featuring the voice of Jim Ameche, Don Ameche’s brother, playing what was then know as “beautiful music.”
KELO at 1320am had talk shows and hour after hour of NBC Monitor.
And KIHO – my favorite station, the outlaw rock station at 1270am .
KIHO, or KI’-ho, as it was known, played 24/7 rock n roll. KIHO was owned by a company from Chicago. Having watched “The Untouchables” me and my speculated that the mob had something to do with the station, a rumor that made KIHO all the more appealing to me, a 10 year old boy.
KIHO, with jocks Smiling Jack Shafer, Dandy Dan, “The Morning Mayor KIHO Helgie” played the hits without regard for parental sensibilities. I was in love with that skywave, particularly The Coke Show, a Saturday night request show where I had made my first on-air appearance answering a trivia question.
My dad and I had a disagreement about KIHO. He didn’t like station. I claimed KIHO had more listeners than any other Sioux Falls station. He disagreed -- certainly KSOO had the most listeners, he bragged. After all, KSOO was where he bought his political campaign ads.
So, on a Saturday afternoon in May 1959, my parents and my little sister went somewhere, leaving me home alone for a few hours.
I decided that the only way to prove my dad wrong was to do a survey that would prove that KIHO had the most listeners.
I got the phone book. I marked every tenth name and phone number.
Then, I started calling the numbers.
I’d say, “I’m taking a survey to find out what your favorite radio station is.”
Some of the people getting the call would say “who is this” and “who do you work for.” But almost no one hung up on me and most gave me the call letters of their favorite station.
If I reached an older voice, I knew it was probably a KSOO listener. If I reached a kid, they were likely to be a KIHO listener.
I kept a careful tabulation of the responses hoping my beloved KIHO would win. It was close.
After three hours of calls, the final count was
Other (WNAX, Yankton) 2
When my parents and sister got home, I could hardly wait to show my dad the “proof” of KIHO’s superior popularity.
To my surprise, when I told him about the survey he wasn’t pleased.
“You did what?”
I went through my methodology.
There was a quiet conference between my mom and dad.
My telephone privileges were ended until further notice and I was sternly advised not to do this again. But my dad never again said that KIHO wasn’t number one.
The lesson for me was that research works.