A Major Inspiration

Scott –

Your site has kicked a mighty hole into my 6 hour lunch!  That perk (or curse, take your pick) is courtesy of my current gig reporting traffic in the Mighty Metro of Des Moines! As you can imagine, there’s traffic here in Des Moines, just not as much and not as long. Formats may come and go, but there will always be traffic. It’s not the career path I envisioned in my rather humble, off and on radio career, but it’s serving me well.  Just as I would have never envisioned that a legend like WLS would drop music for talk. And a generation or so prior it dropped country and farm for the Rock and roll phase that I knew. It’s nice to see some things stay the same … but it’s also good to have them change. And to be able to roll with the changes and still maintain such a long term identity is very rare indeed, which is what WLS has done. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a talk listener, but they do pay homage to their heritage well while executing the talk format.  I have to say I’ve learned A LOT about the history of WLS, particularly the Prairie Farmer era, from this web site.  And I didn’t realize that WLS was a shared time station for many, many years until reading about it here.

Radio was a major inspiration for me growing up. Like many distant listeners, in southeast Iowa WLS was mostly a nighttime habit, although we were close enough that a WLS daytime signal was there, but barely. Just about everyone in this section went to their daytime home, KIOA. (another station with great sing-able calls…KIOA, minor key – 940, major key) Earliest recollection was my oldest brother listening to some Biondi cat. I was all of 4 years old.

Later I would learn that Dick Biondi was a Buffalo but more importantly a Chicago radio legend. My generation was full tilt Landecker….”Boogie Check” and the whole bit. I think the program “That 70’s Show” is rather stupid, but their opening shot of the characters in a somewhat decrepit land yacht, with WLS on the radio, would hit my high school cruising days exactly on the mark. Just a group of friends hangin’ loose.

Things do change, though. Soon my radio would spend less and less time on the AM side, with a new, solidly produced local FM from Iowa City boosting its power. I’d still check on WLS from time to time, but even in the early 80’s, one could sense the times and technology was changing. So, it made good sense for the shift to all talk on 890.  Phil Duncan, who played the last song on WLS, said it well when he said that by the time you realize your dream, “your dream is out of date and the world has decided to move on.”  So many more “entertainments” available today … it’s hard for any one of them today to have the impact that 60’s and70’s, even 80’s music radio had on their times.

Thanks again for a great site….

-Russell Johnson
Des Moines, Iowa


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