Frank Absher is a St. Louis radio historian. St. Louis radio history is available online at www.stlradio.com
You've heard it before. The disc jockey gives the very distinct impression that you can call the station with your requests, and they might actually(gasp!) be played.
Most radio listeners are savvy enough to see through this seam today. But request radio actually can be traced back to the earliest days of the industry.
KSD, the first federally licensed station in St. Louis, based one of its earliest broadcasts on a request. In those days, there were few radio receivers. Only a couple dozen stations could be heard in 1921-1922, and radio receiving sets were, for the most part, homemade devices. But there were some amateur radio operators who took great pride in constructing larger, more-sophisticated electronic receivers. This is what led to the first all request broadcast of KSD.
As outlined in the masters thesis of Luther Clark Secrest in 1960, the broadcast was staged on March 11, 1922, in a makeshift studio constructed in Room 301-B of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch building at 12th and Olive Streets. It was just days after KSD was licensed. St. Louis' Round Table Club, whose members were businessmen, had scheduled its regular meeting in the St. Louis Club building at 3663 Lindell, some 25 blocks from the KSD studio, and the night's entertainment was to center around listening to KSD a special receiving set.
A representative of the group contacted KSD management, asking for "a program of entertainment" that the club members might enjoy. …