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K-State Today

July 11, 2011

Great Plains Radio History Symposium to be Oct. 14

Submitted by Tyler Sharp

The sixth annual Great Plains Radio History Symposium will be Friday, Oct. 14, in the Big 12 Room of the K-State Student Union. The A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media are pleased to sponsor the symposium as a means of preserving important regional radio history. This year’s event will feature a plenary panel session on radio’s live music era, a time when radio stations featured local live entertainers to fill up blocks of airtime instead of playing music recordings.

Radio stations were highly discouraged from playing phonograph records in the early days, since recordings in that era were not of very good quality. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission was hesitant to allow broadcasters to play phonograph records; instead, stations were urged to air programs of higher cultural and technical quality since radio operated on publicly owned channels. Most rural radio stations employed large staffs of local musicians who had daily programs of music to fill time periods between network and local information programs. Stations such as WHB in Kansas City; KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa; KFEQ in St. Joseph, Mo.; WIBW in Topeka; KSAL in Salina; KOAM Radio in Pittsburg and KFH in Wichita, were stalwarts of live entertainment until the FCC finally relaxed its opposition to phonograph records after World War II as electromagnetic recording enhanced recorded music’s fidelity and ushered in the era of the long-playing 33 1/3 rpm record, and later the 45.

The morning session will present a panel discussion about the live music days, featuring Herb Hoeflicker, a former radio live music entertainer and a Kansas broadcaster, who owned and operated KNDY-AM/FM in Marysville from 1969-1988. A vocalist and guitar player, Hoeflicker starred weekly on KIMO in Independence, Mo., as “Little Herb” in 1953 at the age of 14, and he was later on the staff of musicians at Kansas City’s WHB and KMBC. The other panelist will be Marvin Bredemier of Kansas City, a fiddler and vocalist for the “Cowtown Jubilee” and other programs on WHB, and at other Kansas City stations. As a broadcast engineer, Bredemier served as chief operator at KCKN, Kansas City’s legendary county music station, where he supervised construction of the station’s companion FM facility.

The annual Richard Ward Fatherley luncheon will feature an update on the writing of "Radio’s Top 40 Revolution," a history of the Storz Company's involvement in the Top 40 music format, which was being written by Fatherley at the time of his death in 2010. Media historians, including Dave MacFarland, professor emeritus of journalism and mass communications, have been involved in the task of finishing Fatherley's book, and they will report on the project's completion, present some never-before-seen documents and talk about some funny observations and unexpected twists in Storz Broadcasting history.

As in past years, the symposium is also seeking scholarly papers and presentation from a mix of academic scholars and broadcast professionals, sharing their research about the history of radio in the Great Plains region. While the focus of the special plenary is live entertainment, topics relating to all aspects of Midwestern radio station programming, station operations or community involvement are welcome. We will have four to six presentations, augmented by spirited, informal discussions about radio history and current radio practices. This year the submission deadline for proposed presentations and papers will be Sept. 1. Each presentation should run about 25 minutes, allowing a few minutes for questions and comments. Selected presenters must furnish copies of their papers and/or presentations for archiving at Kansas State University’s Hale Library.

The cost to attend the symposium presentations is $10; students will be admitted free. The cost for the Fatherley luncheon is $15. Reservations for the symposium and the luncheon can be made at the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications website after Sept. 1.

Address presentation proposals, questions and comments to: J. Steven Smethers, associate director for graduate studies or administrative assistant Kristin Copeland, A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications, 105 Kedzie Hall. Call 532-6890 for more information.