The Original Sensational Showmen

The Original Sensational Showmen
National Guard Armory-Concordia - 1965

Friday, February 27, 2015

History of KOMA radio

KOMA was born on Christmas Eve 1922 in Oklahoma City. The southwestern giant was only 15 watts of power under the original call letters KFJF. The station’s original purpose was to rebroadcast the programming of larger eastern stations. In 1932 the call letters were changed to the now internationally known KOMA. The studios were moved at this time, filling the 24th floor of the Oklahoma City Biltmore Hotel; an area they would occupy for over 30 years. KOMA then took on its familiar frequency when the FCC moved all AM radios stations 40 kilocycles up the dial. KOMA-1480 became KOMA-1520 and was operating at 50,000 watts. During the 50’s, television was forcing radio into a period of change. The old radio shows were quickly fading into the past. Something called “Top 40” with “Rock ‘N Roll” music was the latest trend in radio. KOMA became a true ‘rock’ radio station in 1958 when it was purchased by the legendary Storz Broadcasting Co. Storz, owned by Todd Storz and Gordon McClendon, developed the “Top 40” concept of radio and the format system employed by most successful radio stations in the country. The Storz chain of stations also include WDGY-Minneapolis as well as stations in Kansas City, New Orleans, St. Louis and Miami. Throughout the 60s and 70s, KOMA was the favorite of teens all across the western U.S. With the big signal and relatively few rocknroll radio stations across The Plains, it was the main station for the hits. KOMA could be heard on car radios, in homes and everywhere a kid could tune in.Often teens in New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa as well as other western states would eager await sunset when the mighty 1520 would come booming through with the newest hits of the day. They would sit in their cars on hilltops, turn it up at parties or fall asleep with the radio next to their beds as they listened to Chuck Berry, the Supremes, Paul Revere & the Raiders, and the Beatles. Soldiers in Viet Nam even reported tuning in KOMA to give them a little feeling of being back home. Led through the 60s by program directors Dean Johnson, Dale Wehba and Perry Murphy, some of the best-remembered deejays spun the hits each day and night. Charlie Tuna, Dale Wehba, Don McGregor, Paul Miller, John David, Chuck Dann, J. Michael Wilson, Johnny Dark, Buddy Scott, John Ravencroft and many others were among those who played the hits from the studios in Moore, Okla. Everyone remembers “Yours Truly KOMA” and the “kissing tone.” This was an era where radio was fun. It was more than just the music. It was a magical blend of personality, jungles, contests and fun mixed with the greatest music that defined the era. These were considered by many to be the best years of radio. And for baby boomers across the Midwest and Western US, KOMA was king. On Sept. 22, 1988, after a few years airing country and big band formats, KOMA returned to the Oldies format under the direction of Program Director Kent Jones. Through the 90s, KOMA hosted the Rock and Roll Reunion events that brought many local bands of the 60s back together for live concerts in front of thousands of fans. In 2004 the station hosted the “KOMA Fan Jam.” Many former deejays returned for the event and the weekend programming was full of memorable recordings from the 60s, serving as a tribute to the KOMA staff and listeners who made the AM station such a legend. The Fan Jam drew a capacity crowd of over 1000 fans to the Westin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. In recent years KOMA has twice been a finalist for the prestigious Marconi Radio Award for Oldies Station of the Year and Medium Market Station of the Year. Today KOMA continues to draw a loyal audience as listeners tune in for fun and memories of those great years when the station was an integral part of their lives while growing up.

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