Sunday, June 24, 2012

KSHE 95 - Real Rock Radio for all of St. Louis

KSHE is a mainstream rock radio station licensed to Crestwood, Missouri (its original studio location on Watson Road) which serves the Greater St. Louis area. KSHE is located at 94.7 MHz and uses the slogan "KSHE 95, Real Rock Radio". The station's studios have been located in the Powerhouse building at St. Louis Union Station since the 1990s, while the transmitter is located in Shrewsbury. KSHE is owned by Emmis Communications and has been since 1984.

These specimens are known as "KSHE bumper stickers", circa 1970's. They were often seen on cars, and stuck like graffiti virtually anywhere a clean, flat surface could promote the longest-running classic-rock station in the entire civilized world! They were very common back in the day, and they still surface sometimes in the damnest places... like inside a gatefold double LP cover (and occasionally, accompanied there by some long-lost green leafy substance abandoned after a long night's listening and burn session!) or a book.

Here's some history, by way of Wikipedia. I'm taking literary licence to edit information that is either superfluous, impertinent, or factually incorrect, as is often the case with Wikipedia. So, on with the story!

KSHE started broadcasting in 1961, and were directed to women as they performed duties at home (hence the "SHE" in KSHE). In 1967 KSHE changed its format to Progressive Rock eventually evolving to Album-Oriented Rock as time went on. It's possible (and merely suggested to be true) that their first song after the change was "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. This is often a point of conjecture as the transition, unlike nowadays, was not necessarily overnight. The new rock format, transitioned from classical to easy listening/light programming to progressive rock, was in fact a gradual one, taking place over a period of a couple few months.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, KSHE was influential in the growth of many midwestern bands such as Styx, REO Speedwagon and Head East. KSHE had a wide and varied play list, which popularized such rock artists as Lake from Germany and Stingray from South Africa as well as playing the classics from the more well-known rock legends.

KSHE sometimes played nonstop for up to four hours, until they finally got into trouble with the FCC. KSHE would frequently play concept albums in their entirety, as well as entire album sides from favorites such as Rush. Sunday evenings were dedicated to playing seven albums from seven different artists on a show called The Seventh Day, a long-running program that exists to this day. LP's usually were played from 7:00 pm until after midnight, and currently the show starts at 6, with Aftermath occuring in the time space left over after the final album of the evening. The concept was later used by other stations around the country, most noteably LA rock giant and sister station KLOS, with their long-running feature hosted by on-air personality and author Joe Benson.

Instead of the broadcast convention of reading news ripped from the Associated Press or United Press International wire machine ("rip and read"), early KSHE newscasts introduced news topics by preceding the story with rock music excerpts that had lyrics introducing or commenting on the topic. They transitioned to "KSHE NEWS", which was intro'ed by "One Fine Morning" by Lighthouse, and featured rock news, birthdays and historical tidbits associated with that particular day.

The station mascot is a sunglass-wearing pig named Sweet Meat, a likeness of which originally appeared on the 1969 Blodwyn Pig album Ahead Rings Out. Like the pig pictured on the LP cover, Sweet Meat first appeared with a joint in his mouth. This "controversial" detail disappeared in the early '80s. It has now since returned. The hippies demanded that the joint be reinstated, as it (and weed in general) remains a staple in their repertoire!

Shelly Grafman was the program director in the station's heyday, and he was the one that, taking a cue from Tom Donahue (KSAN, San Francisco legend and father of free-form rock radio, as it was known in the mid-60's when it originated in the Bay Area and became popular worldwide), established an open-ended policy of avoiding the hits and concentrating on the listenable and worthy album cuts to be programmed for airplay. This format device was welcomed by the audience that was tired of the yak yak DJ's of the AM Top 40 stations of the day. Naturally, the longer cuts started surfacing, and this fueled a greater interest in LP's in general. Local stereo stores popped up, initially transitioning from television dealers, and served as the station's first advertisers. KSHE, on FM (still a burgeoning radio concept in itself) was an ideal tool for auditioning audio gear, as its crystal-clear sound quality and eclectic programming sold millions of units for the CMCs, St. Louis Stereos, and mom and pop stores, not to mention the record stores in the area. Every small town in the area had record stores (these were the days before Wallyworld, after all!), and the records played on KSHE got sold as well. Shelly had a knack for picking the song off an album that had that potential to break an artist locally as well as nationally and internatonally, and he would use china marker on promo records to indicate the picks (he'd mark through the others!). Personalities were free to use their own records as well.

This is Paul Stanley performing in 1974's KSHE Kite Fly, an annual station event that took on a life of its own, featuring Rush the following year, and spawned birthday party concerts as well as other events (soccer games, blood drives, and promotional appearances by the jocks). The station continues to be a local force, maintaining a large presence in historic Union Station in downtown. Former first program director Ron Elz (aka Johnny Rabbitt) still holds forth on local AM blowtorch KMOX (Clear Channel) on his Saturday night Route 66 program, featuring 50's/60's AM chart fare.

The station continues to play a unique brand of classic and modern rock music, not as cutting-edge as back in the day, but they continue to rock the music fans of St. Louis nevertheless. This gives them the distinction (and bragging rights as well!) of being the longest-runnung classic rock formatted radio station in the world. John Ulett, on-air personality and stadium PA announcer for the 2011 world champion St. Louis Cardinals major league baseball team (National League, Central Division) still programs the Klassics Show, a slightly-more-than-vague attempt at recalling the glory days of the radio station and its eclectic program material. His current theme? KSHE Klassics A-Z.

More later on KSHE's latest venture, a solid return to the music that made them famous, in the HD (hybrid digital, not high definition) format, KSHE 2, programmed by longtime St.Louis radio personality Radio Rich Dalton.

Tomorrow we'll feature another item of interest in the michaelhigh pantheon, so keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

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