Stuff of Dreams. (Radio History)

By Absher, Frank | St. Louis Journalism Review, May 2002 | Go to article overview

Stuff of Dreams. (Radio History)


Absher, Frank, St. Louis Journalism Review


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

The days of free-wheeling rock radio in St. Louis are history, but many of those who participated enjoy looking back and remembering. Peter Skye recently took time to reminisce.

Skye came to St. Louis from the New York area to study applied mathematics at Washington University. On an impulse visit to campus radio station KFRH, he and his roommate John Gilbert decided it might be fun to be disc jockeys. The carrier-current station could only be heard around the campus, but that didn't matter. Station manager Phil Steinberg, himself a student, put them on the air. The pair was bitten by the radio bug.

"Things were really loose in those days," Skye says. "We hopped around and stopped in and saw all the local stations. They'd all let us come in and watch. Nick Charles was the all-night guy at KXOK. John and I used to go over there and bug him. The studio at the time was in an old house. Big studio as far as radio goes.

"Dave Scott was the program director out at KIRL in St. Charles. It was a Top 40 station with three towers with a banana-type signal pattern that got them into St. Louis. I visited it once and was fascinated by his cart machine system. When one tape cartridge finished playing it would automatically trip-start the next one."

Fast forward a few years to a cinder block shack in Crestwood. A guy named Ron Elz is making some changes at a radio station called KSHE, and Gilbert and Skye are disc jockeys on a big time commercial FM station. John Gilbert has become John Roberts, and the atmosphere of the station and chemistry with the listeners are the stuff dreams are made of.

"Elz instinctively knew all about demographics and the business side of radio, and that's what helped make KSHE a success as the market's 'underground' radio station from the beginning. He personally took both KSHE and KADI-FM to rock. When Elz changed KADI to Top 40, he had me generate the play lists by computer. I wrote the computer programs to do this while I was still a student and got a full class credit at Washington University for the effort. Boy, did the announcers complain. They hated having to follow the lists," Skye says.

There had been some sort of disagreement at KSHE that caused EIz to leave for KADI. He suggested to management that John Roberts be named his successor as program director. Ron Lipe was there, variously known as "Ron Brothers" and "Prince Knight." So was Bob Skaggs, whose air name was "Jack Davis." In Skye's words, "The program director had his hands full."

At KADI-FM, owner Richard Miller offered Skye an airshift, which Skye accepted. "This is Peter Skye, your curly headed kid in the third row, on the KADI Original Oldies Show!" He served as chief engineer and did morning drive Tuesday through Friday. …

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