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Changes On St. Louis' Radio Dial

A look back through the pages of old newspapers yields some interesting radio “history,” some of which isn’t all that old but still seems worlds away from the present.

The radio listings for St. Louis in 1959 show the programs of two FM stations and 13 AM stations, and there were some call letters which will escape the memory of many people today. KADY is listed at 1460 kHz, and WAMV is at 1490. The names of a few announcers will bring back memories, though. Dick Clayton, Ed Bonner, Jack Carney, Bob Osborne and Reed Farrell were all disc jockeys on WIL, Gil Newsome was the morning man at KWK, followed by Gene Davis and King Richard; KXOK had Jack Elliott, “Gentleman Jim” Bradley, Ken Reed, Buddy MacGregor, Peter Martin and “Art Rice At Night;” KSD featured Bill Crable in the morning, John Roedel news, Ed Wilson and Russ David’s “Playhouse Party,” with Bob Hille providing news in the evenings; and the KMOX lineup consisted of Grant Williams (later known as Grant Horton), Rex Davis news, Bruce Hayward and Jack Buck.

The FM stations listed in 1959 were KSLH and KCFM. By 1964, the radio program listings included KMOX-FM, WIL-FM, KSTL-FM, KFUO-FM, KADI-FM, WAMV-FM, KCFM and KSHE, Other 1964 call letters which may be unfamiliar to today’s listeners are WBBY (590 kHz), KXLW (1320) and WAMV (1490).

Radio soap operas were still popular in the late 1950s. KMOX had an afternoon lineup that included “The Romance of Helen Trent,” “Whispering Streets,” “Ma Perkins,” and “Young Doctor Malone.” WEW’s listeners could hear a morning exercise class at 9 a.m., followed by religious shows, the “Voice of China” at 9:45 and “The Breakfast Club” at 10:05.

As the decade of the 1960s opened, local radio seemed to shift into a different gear, placing heavier emphasis on disc jockeys and less emphasis on pre-produced or network material. Afternoon drive time was highly competitive with the likes of KSD’s Ed Wilson, Bruce Hayward on KMOX, Buddy MacGregor on KXOK, WIL’s Jack Carney, King Richard on KWK and Spider Burks on KSTL. And while music dominated radio programming, announcers during the midday segments made sure to address the listeners on a one-to-one basis, often addressing “mom,” especially during live reads of advertisements.

(Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 9/97)