History

A capsulized version of the book
“Someplace Special – KSTT”  by Dave Coopman

Chapter 1

WHERE IT ALL STARTED

KSTT first took to the air on July 7, 1946, as a 250 watt daytime-only station (sunrise to sunset). Its location on the radio dial was at 750 kilocycles. The offices were located in the Davenport Hotel and its studio was the mezzanine of the hotel’s ballroom. Popular music of the day, news, and local sports was aired. Within a year, KSTT became an affiliate of the Mutual Network and could offer its programs as well.

During 1949, the FCC allowed KSTT to increase its power to 1000 watts and it could now stay on the air 24 hours a day. Its new location on the dial was 1170.

The station was sold to Fred Epstein in 1955. He continued with the mix of programs that KSTT had been airing at that time. One of his early hires was a young announcer straight out of announcing school – Lou Gutenberger.

KSTT maintained a schedule of local and network programing, while still searching for a format that would capture listeners. In 1958, the right mix of people and the right choice of format came together.

 

Chapter 2

THE KNIGHTS OF THE TURNTABLE

Early in 1958, Fred Epstein hired Ken Draper as the station’s program director. Draper convinced Epstein that the direction the station should take was rock-and-roll. It was the music of choice of a younger audience and no other station in the Quint Cities was exclusively programming that music. The announcing staff became “the Knights of the Turntable” and included Tom Elkins, Ruth Epstein, Draper, Dale Holt, and Mark Stevens.

Draper arranged for the station to host weekly dances and appearances by the deejays at restaurants, drive-in theaters, and dance halls, with many of them partially broadcast. Heavy newspaper and on-air advertising helped bring the teens out to meet their favorite announcer.

Another Draper innovation was the local pop music chart. KSTT was the first station in the area to track local record sales and compile a weekly “survey” of the 30 top-selling pop songs. The survey sheet was called the King’s Court Record Survey.

On January 29, 1959, the station booked the Winter Dance Party show, which starred Dion and the Belmonts, Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens. It was billed as the KSTT Concert of Stars, with two shows at the Capitol Theater. Stevens and Draper emceed the concerts, and although an ice storm hit the area that evening, both shows were sold out. Just a few days later, Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens would die in a plane crash.

As the year continued, it was highlighted by station-sponsored dances, personal appearances, remote broadcasts, promotions, and contests. KSTT’s popularity was growing and it was becoming a force to be reckoned with among Quint Cities radio stations.

Chapter 3

BIG K COLOR RADIO

Year 1960 began with a branding change. KSTT was now Big K Color Radio and the announcers were no longer the “Knights of the Turntable.” Now known as the “Big 6,” three new deejays were added: Pat Patterson, Pat Downey, and Gordon Vann. The station was heard 20 hours per day and the sound was just a little different.

One of the trends emerging in Top-40 radio was reverberation, and KSTT picked up on this trend. Chief Engineer George Stephenson added a slight echo delay on the microphone outputs, which gave the announcers a little more depth and sparkle and enhanced the term Color Radio.

The Kings Court Record Survey became the KSTT Top 30 Survey, and it changed from a large mimeographed sheet to a smaller, offset printed, bi-fold sheet. It featured photos of the on-air staff, the list of hits, and pick hit and album choices by each of the announcers.

The station was still heavily involved with appearances, promotions and contests. One of the more notable contests was the appearance of the “B.K. Booty Bottle” (perhaps the forerunner of the Hidden Key contests that would appear in the later 60s). Booty Bottles were actually pill bottles that were hidden in various Quint Cities locations, and contained forms which would allow the finder to claim a prize. Location clues were given over the air and, with some imagination and cunning, listeners would be able to discover the bottle and its prize. It was not uncommon to see crowds of people foraging around a particular location searching for a bottle.

Color Radio was certainly a hit with the listeners. But it wasn’t just the music, contests, and promotions that helped build listenership. The news department was given a greater presence, too.

Chapter 4

BIG RED ARRIVES

What was Big Red? The KSTT mobile news cruiser. Several red station wagons were obtained, equipped with two-way radios. The station’s call letters were emblazoned on the sides, along with the name Big Red. There were only two, but unit numbers were painted on the front fenders. On one side, for instance, it said “Unit 2,” and on the opposite side, “Unit 5.” Depending on which side someone saw the car, it appeared there was an entire fleet of news cruisers.

The cars were used by the news staff in news-gathering and for live-from-the-scene reports. They were also used at many promotional events, as they functioned as rolling billboards.

In addition to the cars, a red boat was used during warm weather months for stories on the river, and an airplane was also at the disposal of the news department.

Bob Moore was hired as news director. He brought an authoritative voice and organizational skills that represented the kind of news coverage Epstein desired the station to air. That direction included national news that tied in with the local or regional slant on the story. Moore was probably the person most responsible for creating the direction KSTT took in its presentation of the news, even long after he had departed the station.

Chapter 5

MORE NEWS and The PHONE SHOW

Bob Moore’s organizational skills helped create alliances with many of the Quint Cities’ business and political leaders. Stories pertaining to them were treated with balance and fairness. But the news department didn’t avoid the controversial either.

Digressing for a moment… When Ken Draper joined KSTT, the station was airing a phone-in program called Listen Ladies. It aired recipes and shared subjects related to the homemaker. Draper felt it didn’t fit the new rock format and he changed the program to a more adult, issues-oriented call-in discussion called The Phone Show.

When stories with great local impact arose, Moore’s news department would team with Draper’s Phone Show to inform listeners with additional coverage and analysis other area stations weren’t able to provide. Civil rights, segregations, federal mandates, and large-scale zoning changes were a few of the subjects covered by the team effort.

To involve listeners and perhaps get a jump on the local competition for a news story, KSTT began paying for news tips. Anyone who phoned in a tip would be eligible for a payment of from $1 to $5 if their lead provided information on an item that could be broadcast. And although it doesn’t sound like much money, remember that $5 would fill one’s gas tank back in 1960-61. (photo of actual check at top left dated 9/22/1959, states “This check makes you an honorary member of the KSTT News Staff,” and is signed by station owner, Fred Epstein.

Chapter 6

PUBLIC SERVICE

Up until more recent years, the FCC required stations to provide a certain amount of broadcast time to the public at no charge. This was usually done through religious programming on Sunday mornings, or some sort of public service programming relegated to overnight hours.

KSTT looked at public service in a different manner. Draper felt that public service and charitable causes could be used to an advantage if they were given entertainment and promotional value. Many of the causes were tied to and publicized by appearances of the announcers. The station promoted free air time for social, safety, health, and job opportunity announcements. And the announcements weren’t buried late at night, but aired during prime listening time.

One of the longest-running examples of this idea was the Trading Stamps for Needy Children promotion. Listeners would send in their trade premium stamps (S&H, King Korn, Plaid, etc.) to the station or take them to appearances by the deejays. The Disabled American Veterans would redeem the stamps for toys at Christmas. Station personnel would be present when the toys were distributed to the area’s less fortunate children. Draper often stated that radio was a powerful medium and should help those to whom the radio airwaves belong.

Chapter 7

ACCENT RADIO

In the early 50s, KSTT moved from the Davenport Hotel to new offices and a studio on Harrison Street above Griggs Music Co. In early 1961, more space was needed, especially for a growing news department and for production capabilities. The new home would be on the fourth floor at 736 Federal Street, in the Eagle Signal Building. Besides business offices, there were now three studios, and each was equipped to allow the operation of every piece of equipment from any one of the other studios.

Along with that move came a branding change. With listenership up, it would seem a new “direction” for the station wasn’t needed. After all, Mark Stevens had over 15,000 members in his fan club. But the change was responding to its gathering force in the media marketplace and to emphasize each segment of its broadcast day.

KSTT was no longer Color Radio; it was now known as the Sound of Accent. There was Accent on News, Accent on Information, Accent on Public Service, and, of course, Accent on Music. And with the change, KSTT became a primary network affiliate of the ABC Radio Network and could offer the resources of that operation, including ABC news reporting.

Personnel changes included the return of Jim Watt from the general manager’s chair at another station Fred Epstein owned in Algona, Iowa. Watt not only called the action on University of Iowa football broadcasts, but became the station’s sales promotion director. Lou Gutenberger returned as the morning drive announcer and Bill Vancil was hired to take Pat Downey’s place. The announcing lineup was now Lou Gutenberger, Ruth Epstein, Ken Draper, Bill Vancil, Mark Stevens, and Gordon Vann.

And even though the brand and some of the personnel changed, KSTT’s emphasis was still on the younger audience, the promotions, the contests, and the personal appearances.

Chapter 8

More Changes and “Conversation”

In early 1962, KSTT lost the services of Ken Draper. He had accepted an offer from Westinghouse Broadcasting to become program director at several of their larger market stations. Draper wasn’t really looking leave Davenport, but the offer was one he couldn’t refuse. Draper said of the other Quint Cities outlets (WHBF – of all stations) had sent a tape of Draper to Westinghouse, basically to get him hired away from the station.

With Draper’s departure, the Phone Show received a new name and new hosts. Fred Epstein and Draper had discussed who would host the show if Draper ever left. Draper told Epstein, “Why don’t you do it. You don’t have anything to do anyway.” They decided that the show would work with two people, and the Phone Show became Conversation with Ruth and Fred. The Epsteins made the show a little more controversial, concentrating on politics, race relations, and later, the Vietnam conflict.

A few months later, Mark Stevens took his irreverent humor and sharp wit to Texas, where he spent many years as half of Houston’s top deejay duo. Jim Watt took over as program director, and Jim Austin (on-air as J.A.) and Larry Cooper were added to the deejay staff.

In early 1963, Jim Watt was appointed station manager and Bill Vancil became the program director. Lee Shannon, Lyle Wood, and Clark Anthony joined the announcing staff.

The news department distinguished itself with coverage of the loss of the nuclear submarine “Thresher” and all aboard. Bob Moore found and interviewed a local resident’s relative who had served aboard the submarine earlier. The crewman felt that a flaw in a forward compartment caused the sinking, and death of the 129 crewmen. Moore fed the interview to United Press International which sent his report to other stations across the country.

Chapter 9

The Good Guys

In late 1963, the station was one the move again. A one-time street car barn at 1111 East River Drive was leased and turned into the new home – some would say the iconic home – of KSTT.

One unique feature of the building was the on-air studio’s large picture windows. People driving east on River Drive, or parked in the lot west of the building, could watch the deejay at work and see what a radio studio really looked like.

With the actual move to the River Drive studios at the close of the year, Bill Vancil changed the focus of the station’s self-promotional efforts. Gone was the Sound of Accent. Lee Shannon, Lou Gutenberger, Bill Vancil, Larry Cooper, J.A., and Clark Anthony were now known as the Good Guys, and KSTT was now The Home of the Good Guys.

January 1964 was a watershed moment for the music industry – the Beatles broke their first song on the US pop charts and began the British Invasion of artists and songs onto the airwaves. These groups did nothing but fan the flames of KSTT’s popularity. While other Quint Cities stations played some Beatles songs, KSTT played every Beatle release. During May, survey show host Larry Cooper had a highly-promoted phone interview with the Beatles.

KSTT was well-known for its contests. One of the major contests that year ran for 15 weeks and consisted of guessing mystery sounds. A new sound was heard each week and prizes included men’s and women’s wardrobes, jewelry, and even a mink stole. The grand prize was a Volkswagen Micro Bus, dubbed the KSTT Picnic Wagon.

Bi-weekly weekend live broadcasts and dances from the Bel-Aire Drive-In Theater and Lake Canyada brought hundreds of teens out to see their favorite announcers, win prizes, and dance. And KSTT would be heard blaring from car radios as guys and gals drove “the ones” – the one way streets in Davenport and Rock Island – to show off their cars and themselves. The station was on a roll that just wouldn’t stop.

News director Bob Moore left in the fall, destined for bigger and better venues that included WCFL in Chicago, VP of News and chief White House correspondent for Mutual Broadcasting, and special assistant at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington.

Chapter 10

TWO GREAT PROMOTIONS

In late 1964, Bill Vancil created a great promotional vehicle for the station, as well as a way for non-profit groups to raise money for their organizations – Good Guy Basketball.

Several times each week, the Good Guys would play various teams like high school faculties, Jaycees, the DeMolay, even the Chicago Bears, and allow them to charge admission and raise money for charity. That first year team consisted of general manager Jim Watt; Vancil; announcers Lou Gutenberger, Larry Cooper, and Gordon Vann; news director Gene Lewis; and salesmen Dan Olson, Pete Hronek, and Steve Borota. While there were elements of comedy and fun, the Good Guys did play to win, and sometimes did.

Another promotion from 1965 was a concept that Fred Epstein would name “the most popular station promotion ever at KSTT.” An NBC television program called “Hullabaloo” began airing that spring. The show featured top recording stars, backed by elaborate production and mini-skirted dancers. One of those dancers was in a “cage” surrounded by hundreds of flashing lights.

Bill Vancil’s play on this was simple: provide promotion for the station and give teens an attraction for the summer. KSTT would sponsor a weekly dance at the Col Ballroom, provide a live band, have a deejay emcee, and have go-go girls dance in cages surrounded with flashing lights. The cages were built in the basement of KSTT by station engineers, and Vancil flew to San Francisco to have the Go-Go Girls’ costumes designed and produced.

Auditions were held for dancers. Hundreds showed up hoping to be one of the chosen few, but Cyndi Saldivar, Debbie Foley, and Linda Hollister were selected as the first KSTT Go-Go Girls.

Every Tuesday night during the summer of ’65, the Col was home to Good Guy A-Go-Go. The station did a half-hour live remote prior to the start of the dance to help build the audience. Contests, prize giveaways, appearances by the Good Guys, a local band, and of course, the go-go girls attracted huge audiences each week. (During the several-year run of Good Guy A-Go-Go, the dance set an attendance record for the Col that to this day is still unbroken. 3,000+) Good Guy A-Go-Go was a definite hit – for both the teens and the station!

Chapter 11

Gridiron and More Go-Go

As the summer of ’65 wound down, it was time for high school football. KSTT would differ from the other local stations in its coverage of those games. The other stations would broadcast a Moline, Rock Island, or Davenport game from start to finish. KSTT would broadcast them all with “Gridiron.”

KSTT Gridiron would send correspondents to all the area’s games. Those reporters would call in reports at every score change and do a live report on the current action of the particular game they were covering. If no scoring took place for awhile, the reporter would recap what had happened since the last score had taken place. At the end of each game, the reporter would five a total scoring recap of the entire contest. By the end of the program, the listeners would have information on all the games played and would not really miss hearing any one game.

This two-and-half-hour program was able to broadcast seven or eight games every Friday. Bill Vancil or Larry Cooper anchored the show at the studio, and the correspondents were other Good Guys, newsmen, and station ad salesmen.

Listeners embraced Gridiron, as it allowed them to follow several games at once, especially when two teams were vying for a top football conference spot. Advertisers loved the program, as they were getting much more coverage for their advertising dollar.

As 1966 started, there were some changes in deejays and news personnel. Larry Cooper, who had been splitting his time between news and the Survey Show, became the news director. Bob Henry took over the Survey Show, and Jeff Blake became the newest Good Guy heard in the 10:30-midnight airshift.

Good Guy A-Go-Go returned during the summer of ’66 for another hit season. The Go-Go girls now consisted of Cyndi Saldivar, Debbie Foley, Jan Ramsay, and Caryl Seiberling. The X-Ls became the featured live band. Once again, the Col Ballroom was the place to be on Tuesday nights.

Chapter 12

More Promotion Just Keeps Coming
…and Chickenman Arrives

During the summer of 1966, KSTT, added a feature which played off the popularity of airing golden oldies hits – theInstant Flashback. The concept was simple: the audience would hear a listener request an oldie, and the song was played immediately after the request. The mechanics of this were just a little more involved. When the Instant Flashback phone line was opened for calls, the deejay would record thelistener requesting the song. He would then have time to look for the record and pull it from the record library, cue it up, then play back the recorded request followed immediately by the song. Since the request might have been recorded the previous half-hour, it wasn’t always instant, but the whole feature was very popular with KSTT’s listeners.

In early 1967, Bob Henry began recording weekly hour-long shows to send to the Armed Forces Radio Network for playback to the troops in Southeast Asia. Relatives, wives, and friends would call, and Henry would include their greetings within the program content. It proved very popular and brought a bit of home to the young Quint Cities men serving overseas.

A feature no one has forgotten began airing… “Chickenman.” Originally produced by Chicago’s WCFL, the series featured two-to-three-minute comedy adventures. The station aired itin conjunction with several sponsors, with Chickenman creating local tie-ins. KSTT was the second station in the country to air the series, which ended up being heard on over 1,500 stations and is the longest running radio series in history.

This year’s local soap box derby races were celebrated with a grand parade. The Derby Day’s parade wound through the downtowns lead by Big Red and followed by the Good Guys and a band riding on a flatbed truck. Throughout the day, KSTT would do live updates from the derby, announcing the winners of the various heats right through to the winners in each class. The local derby had never before had that kind of exposure.

Chapter 13

A Bus, Money Balls, and KSTT Gets Rich

Promotion is everything and Fred Epstein came up with an unusual way to keep KSTT in the eyes of the Quint Cities. While on vacation in France, he purchased an addition to the station’s rolling stock – a real French bus. Over 40 years old, it looked similar to an old trolley car. It was used for publicity, was seen in several parades, used as a limousine in a station contest, and occasionally used as a remote studio.

In August of 1967, whenever money was given as a prize, it was awarded by the KSTT Money Men. A rather unique promotion was initiated by the station and McDonald’s restaurants with the purchase of thousands of green, Styrofoam balls dubbed Money Balls. Visitors to McDonald’s would obtain one (or more) and place it on their car’s radio antenna. Deejays and yours truly would drive around in Big Red and follow a vehicle displaying the Money Ball. We’d go on the air via two-way radio, describe the car and its location, and if the driver heard the announcement and pulled over to wait for us, we’d have a cash prize for them.

After an excited young driver ran into Big Red (honest, it wasn’t my fault), an unidentifiable car was used. Listeners on their car radios never knew when or where they might get stopped. With over 30,000 Money Balls given away, it was a great promotion, but one that couldn’t be used in today’s world.

Late that year, Jeff Blake resigned to take a job in finance and Bill Vancil had accepted a program director position at WEAM in Washington, D.C. After a short time, Bill decided he preferred the Quad-Cities to the nation’s capitol and returned to pursue a career path similar to Jeff Blake’s. To fill Vancil’s position of program director, KSTT hired Bobby Rich to his first program director post. Rich tightened up production, created more features, contests, and station promotions to liven the sound and find an even larger audience for the station.

Chapter 14

Full Time Fun

Bobby Rich kept the Home of the Good Guys branding for the station, but also added the concept that KSTT would be the Full Time Fun station. Each week brought a new contest, occasionally with several contests running at the same time. Whenever there was a special holiday coming up on the calendar, a contest relating to that holiday was sure to start.

Rich also began initiating programming targeted specifically for the weekends, called “Wonderful Weekend.” Listeners would call the station all day Saturday with their requests for oldies. On Sunday, they would hear the then-current Top-40 songs played back-to-back with the hits of the previous year. Throughout each weekend, there was a chance to win a prize every hour. The result of this programming rewarded audience loyalty and made sure KSTT’s audience stayed tune to the station all weekend long.

Along with these changes, the playlist of songs used on the various deejays’ programs was lengthened. The KSTT Top 30 Survey was now known as the Super 40 Survey.
By April, some familiar voices had departed KSTT. Gone were Lee Shannon, Bob Henry, and Lou Gutenberger. John Novak was now heard in the mornings, followed by Fred and Ruth, J.P. Lamont, Bobby Rich, Mark Mathew, and Clark Anthony. Spring also brought something new to the station’s fleet of vehicles – the Thing Ray. Rich found an old flatbed truck that he had painted red, lettered, and adorned with many attention-getting accessories. The Thing Ray was used to declare the presence of the Good Guys at various sites and promotions around the Quint Cities, with the personalities passing out giveaways and running contests from the truck.
During Easter break of 1968, the station hosted the final Good Guy A-Go-Go. With the day’s music, fashion, and culture being influenced by the “hippie” movement, it was time to update this venerable promotion. It still holds the attendance record at the Coliseum Ballroom in Davenport (over 3,000)

Chapter 15

Psych Circus and the News Makes News

In updating Good Guy A-Go-Go, Bobby Rich took its best features, built upon the concept, and created the KSTT Psychedelic Circus. He updated the flashing lights, added a San Francisco-style light show, and added a new band. Instead of using just one host, all the Good Guys were the hosts for the night. The new Psych Circus kicked off the summer of ’68 at the Col Ballroom and was again a super hit for area teens.

Over summer, Jeff Blake and Bill Vancil were back at KSTT. Vancil returned to the airwaves from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Blake rejoined the news department. And while the programming department was creating some exciting promotions and contests, the news department wound up creating some of its own excitement.

Earlier in the year, Congress created civil rights legislation and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. That legislation stated no one could discriminate by race, color, or national origin when selling a house or renting an apartment. Action Center News chose to see if landlords were complying with the new law.

Wes Sidney, an African-American member of the news staff, went to an upscale apartment complex in Davenport and tried to rent an apartment. He was told there were no vacancies. News Director Morry Alter then went to the same apartment complex and was shown several units that could be immediately rented. The results of the test, aired in a series of reports during prime newscasts, brought attention to the fact that area landlords weren’t complying with the law.
That test and the news reports also brought attention to the station in another manner. Because of those newscasts, a local savings and loan firm cancelled an advertising contract with the station worth $15,000. In 1968, that was no small sum of money. To his credit, Fred Epstein stood behind the reporting.
Epstein wanted to let it go, but General Manager Jim Watt confronted the bankers and shamed them into reinstating their contract. Within three weeks, the commercials were back on the air.

Chapter 16

Psych Circus and the News Makes News

In updating Good Guy A-Go-Go, Bobby Rich took its best features, built upon the concept, and created the KSTT Psychedelic Circus. He updated the flashing lights, added a San Francisco-style light show, and added a new band. Instead of using just one host, all the Good Guys were the hosts for the night. The new Psych Circus kicked off the summer of ’68 at the Col Ballroom and was again a super hit for area teens.

Over summer, Jeff Blake and Bill Vancil were back at KSTT. Vancil returned to the airwaves from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Blake rejoined the news department. And while the programming department was creating some exciting promotions and contests, the news department wound up creating some of its own excitement.

Earlier in the year, Congress created civil rights legislation and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. That legislation stated no one could discriminate by race, color, or national origin when selling a house or renting an apartment. Action Center News chose to see if landlords were complying with the new law.

Wes Sidney, an African-American member of the news staff, went to an upscale apartment complex in Davenport and tried to rent an apartment. He was told there were no vacancies. News Director Morry Alter then went to the same apartment complex and was shown several units that could be immediately rented. The results of the test, aired in a series of reports during prime newscasts, brought attention to the fact that area landlords weren’t complying with the law.
That test and the news reports also brought attention to the station in another manner. Because of those newscasts, a local savings and loan firm cancelled an advertising contract with the station worth $15,000. In 1968, that was no small sum of money. To his credit, Fred Epstein stood behind the reporting.
Epstein wanted to let it go, but General Manager Jim Watt confronted the bankers and shamed them into reinstating their contract. Within three weeks, the commercials were back on the air.

Chapter 17

Dick Clark and a Superstar

The Miss Teenage Quint-Cities contest was held once again, sponsored by Dr. Pepper and KSTT. This year’s winner was Lori Rhea, and she would advance to the national competition for Miss Teenage America. Prior to leaving for the competition, Bobby Rich had a surprise for her. American Bandstand host Dick Clark was in town to promote a motion picture in which he starred. Rich convinced him to come to the Rhea home to surprise Lori. He did surprise her and her entire gathering when Rich brought Clark down the stairs to the Rhea’s rec room to wish her good luck at the national competition. Rich stated, “Dick was terrific to do that, and he gave me a fabulous hour long co-host that afternoon on my show. It’s still one of my truly great radio moments.

Having Dick Clark show up at her house was probably one of Lori Rhea’s best memories, too. Well, maybe second best, as she won the title of Miss Teenage America that year. Audience participation in contests is a sure ratings winner, and Bobby Rich kept creating contests to keep the audience tuned to KSTT. One of the bigger contests was aimed at creating a “KSTT Superstar.” Listeners were invited to send in their names and the special talent they possessed. The winner of the contest would appear in conjunction with a KSTT-sponsored concert by the Fifth Dimension, do his or her own record show on the station, and receive several weeks’ worth of humorous publicity.

The winner of the contest was Frank Harkin. His talent was singing and this didn’t go unnoticed by Rich. He and Bill Vancil wrote a song using the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” as background, and along with Harkin, recorded it at a Davenport recording studio. The song was given airplay on KSTT to publicize both Harkin and the Fifth Dimension concert. In addition, Harkin was the subject of many gag promotions and, in general, was made into a superstar.

As 1969 came to a close, KSTT rang in the New Year with five days of Flashbacks. All the songs that became popular during the ‘60s were counted down until the most popular song of the decade was reached just before midnight. Locally, that song was “Hey Jude” by the Beatles.

Chapter 18

Sunday-Sunday and the Big Switch

KSTT began 1970 in the same manner it had in many previous years – number one in the ratings among all listeners 18-49 years of age. While many of the programming ideas begun in the ‘60s carried over into the new year, there were a few minor changes. The station dropped its affiliation with the ABC Contemporary Network. Since most of the network offerings were used for news rather than programming, most listeners probably didn’t notice the change. The news department was no longer called Action Center News, but became known as KSTT Metro News. With new sounders and formatted introductions, Metro News emphasized a broader daily coverage throughout the entire listening region and added more evening newscasts.

Bobby Rich continued to use the weekends in the station’s Full Time Fun concept. While other stations used Sunday nights to satisfy the FCC requirements for public service, Rich programmed 10 p.m. to midnight for entertainment. Sunday-Sunday featured something different each week: specific-period oldies, programs devoted to music by one featured artist or group, and an occasional feature where listeners could call and ask questions about broadcasting in general and KSTT in particular.

Over the summer, the music, contests, and Summer Fun Patrol continued as in the past. But in September, Rich created a promotion that caused great commotion. Called the Big Switch, it was set up as if KSTT was going to change its programming format. Production spots had listeners believe that the station was going to switch to country, classical, or even big-band music. Rich even ran promos including listeners’ speculation as to what was going to happen. In reality, the promotion was used to call attention to several minor format changes that included new jingles and an identity adjustment. The identity adjustment was a play on words. KSTT was now the station “KS…TT with Love.” But the Home of the Good Guys didn’t disappear; the Good Guys just “kissed” the listeners with 1170 love. The kissed-with-loveidentity opened up more opportunities for promotions and contests. Listeners applied the KS…TT window sticker to their vehicles and were asked to “spread the love” for chances to win prizes.

Chapter 19

Conversation Ends and Security is Tested

March 1971 brought an end to “Conversation with Ruth and Fred.” The show ran for 13 years; first known as “The Phone Show” hosted by Ken Draper, and since 1962, with Ruth and Fred Epstein. The program had covered a lot of ground over the years, bringing many issues to the forefront. The show got many potholes filled, but did much more than that. The Epstein’s had introduced some liberal points of view into the area’s normally conservative character, which perhaps got people to open their minds and at least consider those ideas. Fred noted, “I was especially proud of the work that I, Ruth, and the station did in the civil rights movement.” The modern-issue talk shows that proliferate on AM stations today are really nothing but extensions of what the Epstein’s began in 1962.

This was also a period of increased military action in Vietnam. Many more demonstrations against the war, the military establishment, and the government in general were taking place in the Quint Cities. The Federal Building in Davenport and the Rock Island Arsenal were the main “targets” of these demonstrations. The Arsenal reported that it had stepped up security on the island to avoid continued demonstrations.

KSTT news decided a test was in order. Newsman Bob Huber wrapped up bundles of old survey sheets in brown paper, then wandered around various “secure” locations at the Arsenal. With recorder in hand, he created reports on where he was and how easy it had been to enter places where the general public was not allowed. He left a bundle wherever he went to note that someone had gotten to those secure areas.

The purpose of Huber’s action was not to embarrass the Arsenal brass, but to let them know that their idea of security was nowhere near effective. Many changes were made at the island on account of KSTT’s reporting.

Chapter 20

Where the Keys Weren’t

Fun contests were a mainstay of Good Guy radio. One of the more popular, originating with the BK Booty Bottles, was the hidden key contest.  If you remember, keys to some big prizes like a motorbike, snowmobile, or an off-road terrain vehicle, were hidden somewhere in the Quint Cities, and clues to the whereabouts of the keys were given over the air. Bobby Rich had one key contest that proved so popular, that KSTT had to caution listeners as to where keys would not be found.

One of the contest keys was hidden at John O’Donnell Stadium and the clue was “a player in black.” The clue referred to one of the baseball team’s uniform colors. However, listeners interpreted the clue as referring to golfer Gary Player, who always dressed in black. KSTT received many calls from golf course managers complaining that hundreds of people were swarming over tees and greens at their golf courses, looking for “some key.”

In response to the complaints, the station had to tell listeners where the keys weren’t. The crowds looking for the key not only illustrated the popularity of the hidden key contests, but it demonstrated the massive power KSTT had with its audience. In future years, whenever the station ran a hidden key contest, it had to do the same thing… tell listeners where the keys wouldn’t be found.

In mid-June of 1972, Bobby Rich decided it was time for new ventures and left the station. Over the years, he brought higher ratings to stations wherever he stopped, and he has become a legend in the broadcast industry. Former KSTT sales manager Dan Olson noted, “During Bobby’s tenure at KSTT, ratings were incredible. Listeners really appreciated his talent, the talent he brought to the station, and what he did on the air.”

Chapter 21

The Changing Face of KSTT

In mid-1972, KSTT was still dominant in the ratings, but some of the familiar began to change. It seems nothing is forever and the station phased out the Good Guy identity. It hadn’t been used much in the previous few months, yet for 10 years KSTT and the Good Guys were synonymous. It had all started with the move to River Drive and the picture-window studio. It wasn’t just a radio studio. It was the Home of the Good Guys.
Every air personality was a Good Guy to whom thousands of listeners related and tuned to every day. The Good Guy Basketball team raised huge dollars, Good Guy A-Go-Go gave thousands of young people a place to go every summer Tuesday night, and the Good Guys gave away thousands of prizes in hundreds of contests.

But “Good Guy” radio was on its way to becoming a bit of nostalgia. Still, the station led the ratings. The news department still made headlines. One of its biggest stories was literally in its back yard; the Robin Hood Flour grain elevator blew up just two blocks away. Reporters ran back and forth all day and evening with reports.

And, a new announcer took KSTT by storm – Spike O’Dell. Hired as the morning personality, he quickly became one of the most popular in KSTT history. Listeners took to his humor, his infectious laughter, and the fact that he really was “one of them.”

Program director Jim O’Hara created a new audio and visual identity for the station, as it would now be known as “Someplace Special.” The new visual identity incorporated the use of a rainbow in the KSTT logo, and rainbow stickers were everywhere. KSTT’s ratings were still at the top with great music and contests. But there was something else on the horizon for radio listeners – the emergence of FM and its better sound in stereo. Over time, more local stations were ramping up their FM frequencies with popular music. New FM stations began to appear as well, and KSTT’s audience began to be siphoned away. Over the course of the next 15 years, FM had succeeded in killing off KSTT as everyone knew it.

By March of 1993, those illustrious call letters disappeared. Soon they were picked up by a station in sunny California and became an adult pop station. The west coast station uses the call letters sparingly, mostly calling itself “Coast FM.”

Perhaps a fitting place for the call letters to “retire,” but the soul of KSTT-1170 will always remain in the “Quint Cities.”

Chapter 22

What KSTT Meant To So Many

With the nature of the radio business today, it would be difficult to imagine any station creating the magical entity that was KSTT, embodied by the “Good Guys.” KSTT 1170 gave listeners many years of great music, personalities, news, sports, events, promotions, and contests. In addition, the Good Guys were helping listeners create memories, timeless recollections of where they were, what they were doing, or whom they were with as they heard a particular song, announcer, news report, contest, or jingle. Booty Bottles, Big Red, the Good Guys, Good Guy A-Go-Go, Remember When, and Someplace Special – all hold unique places in our minds as we reflect on those years.

KSTT not only offered memories; it launched careers. So many talented people sat behind a microphone in the KSTT studios. Former general manager Jerry Dunphy became a highly popular news anchor in LA. John Drury was a long-time anchor in Chicago. Ken Draper, who put KSTT into top-40 music, worked his magic at WCFL and other stations across the country. Mark Stevens became a legend in Texas radio.

Bob Moore went on to cover the White House for Mutual Radio News. Morry Alter capped a long career as the feature reporter at WCBS-TV, in New York.and won more than 20 Emmy awards. Lee Shannon was named Country Music Association’s disc jockey of the year two different times. Clark Anthony became a popular radio and TV personality in San Diego, Larry Cooper became a vice-president of CBS Radio News. Lou Gutenburger’s humor and characters were heard on Reno area radios for over 30 years.

Bill Vancil became the Exec.VP/GM of five Madison radio stations and was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Bobby Rich moved on to several major markets including Seattle, New York, San Diego, and Tucson and was inducted into the Arizona Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Spike O’Dell became the top-rated morning personality at WGN, Chicago. Milo Hamilton, Charlie Steiner, Wayne Larrivee, and Fred Manfra are the voices of major league baseball and professional football and basketball.

Many others became air personalities, program managers, or news directors in large broadcast markets. Some left broadcasting entirely to find success in other fields. Newsman.Jeff Blake (real name Jim Orr) became a vice president of Happy Joe’s Pizza and later franchised a string of successful video stores and tanning salons. Disc jockey Brad Scott (real name Mark Moskowitz) became a successful oncologist.

It is doubtful that KSTT’s owners had any idea of what a legend “their” station would become in the history of local broadcasting. To them, it was a business, earning a living.

To the thousands of listeners, it was entertainment, information, and memories… truly the fabric of their lives.