Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Building empires upon the ether

In 1954, there was no brighter star on the Omaha broadcasting scene than Todd Storz' KOWH.

Back then, it was pioneering -- right here in the middle of the Middle West -- a revolutionary music format that we'd come, eventually, to know as Top-40. And everybody (or so it seemed back then) had his radio tuned to 660 on the AM dial.

KOWH was it. One KOWH contest back then had listeners searching for prize money hidden in a book at an Omaha Public Library branch. Station devotees ripped the branches -- and their books -- apart looking for the cash.

The compensation the station paid to the unamused librarians was a small price to pay for a big, big PR buzz.

Amazing stuff for a little AM station that had to sign off at sundown every day.

STORZ SOLD the little station that could in 1957. He, by now, had much bigger radio fish to fry -- 24-hour radio fish to fry -- in much bigger radio markets.

KOWH was never the same. In Omaha, the Mighty 1290 KOIL became the home of Top-40 goodness. Twenty-four hours a day.

And KOWH became KMEO. And then KOWH again. Before it was KOZN. And now it's KCRO, talking about Jesus all day long to a minuscule audience.

Jesus never gets the good formats . . . or the ratings.

Neither does 660 on your AM dial in Omaha. Because nothing lasts forever, and we're all tap dancing on thin ice.

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