KUOI History | Uncondensed | Page Two

Photo by Kathi Wagner

Steve Riskin in the KUOI Master Control Booth | Photo By Kathi Wagner

By the fall semester of 1946, things were on a roll. A constitution for the Radio Club had been adopted, which included a clause indicative of the standards and competition of the 1940s. In order to join the club, a prospective initiate had to do 15 hours of service to the organization and attend each weekly meeting. The service would be to work on any of the seven departments of KUOI: announcing, business administration, technical operating, continuity writing, drama, program scheduling and public relations. Furthermore, if a place on the air was open it meant competitive auditioning for the spot.

Playlists for the campus hit parade were gathered by polling each living group. A sample of the popular songs of the times, in order of popularity is in the following list: “To Each His Own”, “In A Shanty Town”. “Five Minutes To More,” “The Girl That I Marry,” “The House of Blue Lights,” “Stardust,” “Ole Buttermilk Sky,” “Rumors are Flying,” “Surrender” and “If You Were My Girl.” These are the results, in order of popularity, of the first of many KUOI listener polls. These hits of the day were played every Friday on Campus Hit Parade. A comparison with the national polls found that many songs were the same on both lists and that often songs that were popular on the Hit Parade had been popular weeks or months before on the KUOI lists. Later, KUOI and other college stations would be utilized by the record companies to determine which artists should be promoted. Although the hits favored by Idaho students may not have jived with national polls, the station, as indicated by program names, was not trying to innovate any radical changes in radio formatting — who better to spin those crazy platters than Sam Butterfield? Sam took his music seriously — so seriously that he had a musical critique column in the Argonaut. “Panacea . . . features some terrific vibe work,” is what he had to say about a tune by the Thundering Herd. On the Nat King Cole trio he said, “just now the big boys of the small groups are those three chocolate gentlemen who comprise the King Cole Trio. . . They’re very slick and listenable and occasionally produce some fine music”.

KUOI had, by its first anniversary, developed into quite the station. It had sports with Jack Culbertson, fashion and style hints with Betty Lou Lamon, “Western Jamboree” with Norman McChann, home-grown comedy with Charles Owen and last but not least, a new electric sign that flashed “KUOI” at the studio audience. The second year also saw an expansion to programming through the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Company (IBC). The IBC was a loose-knit coalition of college stations that KUOI joined to become its 50th member. Members could exchange programs and use administrative and technical ideas developed at other campuses. College radio started at Brown University in 1936 and by 1940, 12 more stations were on the air.
Considering the impact of WWII, KUOI was not far behind the rest of the country when it started in 1946. Glenn Southworth, KUOI’s founder, became an adviser to the IBC. IBC members pioneered the method of broadcasting used at KUOI in the 1940s and 50s. Rather than broadcasting over the airways from a large central antenna, the signal was sent through the electrical wiring system of the university — this was sort of a poor man’s cable. The wiring system acted like a giant antenna that produced a signal that could be heard only a few hundred feet from the wire. Most college stations, before the advent of FM, were delegated from the 550 to 700 kilocycle range on the AM band. Although this limited the size of the listening audience to the immediate campus area, it freed the editorial policy greatly. The only blue noses that could be offended were those on campus and since more of the stations operated on a non-profit basis, no advertisers could control editorial content. Controversial

 

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