Radio History

Article excerpt

(Editor's note: Information for this article came from the St. Louis Media Archives at the St. Louis Public Library.)

If anyone ever compiled a list of troubled radio frequencies, 1380 kHz in St. Louis would probably be in the nation's top 10.

The first broadcast license for what was to become 1380 was issued April 3, 1925, for the call letters KFVE. Lester Arthur "Eddie" Benson, who was also responsible for the transmitters at KSD and WIL, built the station's original experimental transmitter. Benson and his brother C.A. Benson operated KFVE for two years before selling the station to Thomas Patrick Convey, the general manager of KMOX, who changed the call letters to KWK and moved the studios from University City to the Chase Hotel.

There were technical problems for all stations in radio's early days. They were forced to share frequencies, which meant fights among the three - KFVE, KFQA and WMAY - over who was on the air at what time. The Federal Radio Commission assigned KWK to 1350 kHz in 1928, which was a frequency to be shared with WIL. WIL was soon moved to 1200, but WIL's owners sued the commission seeking a reversal. The legal action dragged out six years before the radio commission ruled in favor of KWK.

An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in November 1928, reported that the frequency change resulted in poorer reception of all stations moved down the dial.

Owner Convey didn't live to see the victory. He died in 1934, a week after his appendix burst, and his son Robed took over operations of KWK. In 1941 there was another national frequency switch and KWK ended up at 1380. Management wanted a different frequency, (680) and more power, but their request died when a freeze was put on all such actions during World War II.

The station saw a couple of subsequent quiet decades, with an ownership change in 1958. The new owner, Andrew Spheeris' Milwaukee Broadcasting Company, paid Robert Convey more than $1 million with Convey maintaining a 26 percent ownership share. …