KCBC - 1390Khz
KC-14 "The Album Station"
Michael Meacham Remembering
My history with the station goes back a lot further than KC-14. I had started my career part-time in my hometown of Grinnell at Frosty Mitchell's KGRN in 1968 while I was in college. I was a disc jockey at KCBC in my first full-time job on the air from 1970-1974 mostly working evening and overnight shifts. When Steve Shannon was hired to do the Iowa Oaks games I happened to be working the evening shift and ended up engineering the games from the studio and eventually did color and scores with Steve at the home games in old Sec Taylor Stadium. I got to work with Loren Brown in that capacity, too. When Steve Shannon recreated those away games, I was the engineer who put the sound effects into the broadcasts. We had a big reel of background crowd noise running at all times. That was punctuated with crack-of-the-bat effects, organ music, cheers and other effects to enhance the broadcasts. Since we knew what was happening in the game about fifteen minutes before we aired the actual innings, it was easy to take the cues from Steve and drop the effects where appropriate. All we had was the batter's name and what he did during the at-bat. No strikes, balls, hits, just struck out, flied out, single, double, etc. Steve made up all the calls and the color. He would even describe a delay of game with a dog running on the field or some such nonsense, just to add some flavor into what could have been a pretty dull broadcast with a lesser sportscaster. Although Steve would have preferred doing the games live in Denver or Indianapolis or Oklahoma City, he made the most of it and we had great fun working together.
I could tell a book's worth of stories about those days, but I'll move on toward KC-14. I left KCBC in 1974 and went to Mt. Pleasant with a couple of friends to build a radio station from scratch there. We took two gutted store fronts on the square, put up walls, covered floors, dropped ceilings, ran wires and finally put it on the air in late '74. It was a grand experience and I learned a lot, not only about broadcasting, but about carpentry. I missed the city, though and in 1976 I returned to Des Moines to find a radio job. Oddly enough I ended up at KCBC again. Bob Bunce had sold the station to Blackhawk by then and the format was updated. Still easy listening, but much more structured and contemporary. In the early '70s at KCBC you could play anything you wanted...as long as it wasn't rock and roll.
Jim Stewart was the PD at that time, now doing TV weather in Tucson, Arizona. He and I hit it off right away and I moved from overnights to evenings to afternoons in a few months. Sometime in the fall of '76 Jim invited me over to his house one evening. He didn't beat around the bush. He said the station was changing from easy listening to album rock, they were firing the entire air staff except me and did I want to be Program Director. While I was sad to see my friends leave the station, I was thrilled at the opportunity. We started airing the new format in January of 1977.
I remember a big band show on Sunday nights on KCBC that ran from six to midnight. The name escapes me. But it was traditional '30s and '40s swing music with all the stars of that era. We signed off at midnight Sunday nights for maintenance in those days. Next morning at six I signed on with, This is KC-14, The Album Station and went right into the full album cut of Peter Frampton's Do You Feel Like We Do! Wow! The phones went wild! We'd betrayed the middle-aged people of Des Moines and did we ever hear about it! But during the course of the next few days, the phone calls gradually changed from threatening to embracing by the 18-35 year olds of the city and we were on our way.
Jim Stewart as General Manager and I as PD, along with Mark Vos as Music Director, Christy Lucas, Larry Cotlar, Brad Olsen and Andre Mosqueda rocked the town for a couple of good years. It was the only station in the area playing album rock so we got all the good music, the good concerts, the good promotions and all the attention from the record companies. Unlike the story intimated in the previous history of KCBC on this site, it DID work...for a while.
In 1978 KGGO came to the realization that they could be doing album rock in FM stereo with some actual power behind it. Our little thousand watt directional signal didn't stand a chance. They killed us in that last Arbitron of 1978. And so, over the next six months, we all went to work for KGGO and many of us stayed at that station for years. I went to Stoner Broadcasting in the spring of '79 as Production Manager and wrote and produced commercials for both KGGO and KSO from '79 to '82. In 1982 I left the stations to open Avatar Productions Recording Studio with my friend Jeff Martin and I haven't done a day's work since. Avatar and Radio Garage Productions merged in 1999. Jeff Martin and I had worked together at KC-14 and at Stoner before starting Avatar and are still working together at Radio Garage along with Steve Mathews, Jay Weiss and various extended family members.
I can't say that I miss radio. It's not like it used to be. And after 30 years off the air, I'm sure I've lost any chops I may have had. But those two years at KC-14 were the most fun and fulfilling years I ever spent in radio. I could write a book, as I'm sure most old radio guys could. So many great stories. But that's for another time.
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