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Del King - Local to Network and Back

Del King, a radio announcer here for many years, was not content to sit in one place and make money. He’d go wherever there was a gig. Even in St. Louis that meant moving around from station to station as opportunities arose.

Del King at KWK
Del King at KWK

He began his local career in 1930, having spent four years on the radio at KMBC in Kansas City. In radio’s first decade, workers seldom performed single functions, and King followed suit, working as a male vocalist and announcer at the KWK studios in the Chase Hotel here for four years.
But early on it was obvious that he’d have to truncate his given name a bit, so KWK’s owner suggested he shorten Delmer to “Del.” The KWK gig also provided Del King the chance to team up with his wife Dorothy.
The two of them played the parts of “Helen and Henry” on KWK in the early ‘30s. He moved to KMOX in the Mart Building from 1934 to 1936 to perform many of the same vocalist and announcing functions.
He then decided to go the free-lance route, heading to Chicago where several network shows originated.
An opening came at WLW in Cincinnati in 1940, which is where Del King hooked up with a comedian named Red Skelton. His voice was heard as staff announcer for Skelton’s “Avalon Time” and “The Red Skelton Show” which originated from the network’s huge Merchandise Mart studios.
Then it was on to Hollywood with Skelton where King also landed announcing duties on “Captain Flagg and Sergeant Quirt” and “Sherlock Holmes,” both of which were heard on NBC.King’s experience as a network staff announcer was put to good use upon his return to St. Louis in 1942.
His voice was regularly heard on “The Falstaff Hour of Music” on KMOX, and he also hosted “The Del King Show.” This time the KMOX gig lasted four years, after which Del King entered the local free-lance market, picking up staff announcer duties on Pet Milk’s “Mary Lee Taylor” program which originated here and was broadcast on the NBC network.

Del King at KSD, 1962
Del King at KSD, 1962

KSD radio hired him in 1948 as his 40th birthday approached, and when the Laclede Gas Company moved its award-winning production of “The Land We Live In” from KMOX to KSD, King was given the announcer’s slot. This was a huge weekly production, complete with the full KSD orchestra directed by Russ David and voiced by local actors and KSD staffers in character. It was performed before a live studio audience.
His tenure with the Pulitzer station lasted seven years, the longest of his career. Then it was off to KBBM in Branson, Missouri, but Del King bounced back to KSD in 1962.
Working as a staff announcer at KSD carried an extra benefit in those days. KSD-TV had signed on in 1948, and announcers were expected to perform similar duties for both of the company’s electronic media.
Del King was a newscaster on both stations. King looked the part of a sonorous-voiced announcer, dapper with full moustache. But his health had begun to fail. After a two month illness, Del King died of a heart condition at the age of 56. His last stint at KSD had lasted two years.
(Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 10/04)