In the early days of radio, most of the music was done by live musicians in the studio. Only a few records were played. In the late forties and early fifties, a new type of radio personality emerged, the "disc jockey." One of the earliest and also one of the most successful Des Moines disc jockeys, was Don Carlos Bell. Back in the early and mid fifties, Don captured somewhere around 50% of the morning radio audience with his wake up program on KRNT. Don was at KRNT from 1947 until May 1957.
Many of those early disc jockeys had sidekicks and they usually provided the voices for them. Don Bell had "Handy Sam." In this day in age, Sam's presence would not be considered politically correct, but in those days, it wasn't an issue. In fact, many people thought that Sam was a real person and he had both black and white fans.
Don was well accepted by Des Moines teenagers and also did a Dick Clark type Saturday afternoon dance show on KRNT-TV (now KCCI), when it went on the air in 1955. Channel 8 history from the KCCI website.
Don left KRNT and became one of the first personalities on the "New KIOA." which was switched to the new format on May 2, 1957 and enjoyed instant success. Don did two shows per day, in both the morning and afternoon drive slots. The legend is that Don had an agreement with the station that surpassed any compensation any local radio personality had received up to that time.
In subsequent years, Don Bell worked at KSO in 1958 when they first switched to Top 40, KWKY in 1959 (their first of two attempts at Top 40), back to KIOA in 1961, then later in 61, he moved to KSO where he stayed until sometime in 1964 when he left to work at WHO for a short time. We don't have exact dates but it is believed that Don worked for Dick Vance at KDMI around 1967 and also helped Dick with other promotions. KDMI was the first Des Moines FM station to run a Top 40 format.
Don Carlos Bell passed away in March of 1998.
Early 50's on KRNT 1350
Rare early 50s cut of Don and Sam singing and introducing a Kay Starr song
Don introduces newsman Paul Rhoads
1964 on KSO 1460
Good morning from Don and Sam with theme song
Don giving the weather and Sam adding the "Bloopers" (degrees)
Don and Sam indroduce The Beatles
Don Bell closing theme song
Pictures from KRNT-TV 8 Don Bell Teen Dance Show
Audio cuts courtesy of Bob Ogburn
DesMoinesBroadcasting.com home page