VOICE THAT CARRIES
By Kevin Kipp
Your first clue that it’s a class outfit is the human voice
that answers the telephone: “KMOX Radio.”
“Who handles Karen Carroll’s schedule, please?”
Then, instead of “One moment-click…ring…ring,” the receptionist
clarifies. You have time to ask another question. Then she makes
sure you know where she’s about to send your call. Only then
does she say (politely!), “Hold on please.” Well, what did you
expect? “KMOX is the back fence for people in St. Louis,” says
Tom Langmyer, director of operations and programming. “The station
is not only a source for information. It has essence, personality,
and is a friend.”
And at 75-years-old, perhaps The Voice of St. Louis at AM 1120
has accumulated the institutional wisdom to recognize that human
contact is one way the region’s most powerful radio station
stays on top.
How powerful is this radio station?
Powerful enough says Carroll, KMOX vice president and general
manager, that the station commands 25 percent of every radio
advertising dollar in the market.
Powerful enough that KMOX can be heard in 44 of 48 contiguous
states. (Pity the Redbird fans in Nevada and the left coast.)
Powerful enough that a 60-second spot in morning drive time
costs roughly twice as much as the station with the next largest
And powerful enough that annual revenue in 2000 will likely
come in at $30 million.
This power is matched by credibility, programming and talent
that awes industry observers.
good humor, respect for the opposition, tasteful
exuberance for the home team...why do you love
The baseball Cardinals’ play-by-play man since
1954, he has won awards from the Baseball and
Football Halls of Fame. He was inducted in the
Missouri and National Radio Halls of Fame.
Appropriate in a town that once voted Whitey Herzog
the smartest man in the region (and Professor
Walter Ong, S.J., only second), Buck has also
received honorary degrees from Saint Louis University,
UMSL, Illinois College and Lindenwood University.
Buck is now being recognized by the St. Louis
RCGA, with the Right Arm of St. Louis Award. He
will be saluted at the 164th Annual St. Louis
Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA)
Membership Meeting and Dinner on Thursday evening,
December 14, at America’s Center downtown.
The Right Arm of St. Louis is the RCGA’s most
prestigious award, and is presented annually to
a person or persons who have made outstanding
contributions to the St. Louis region. The 1999
Award was presented to Missouri Botanical Garden
Executive Director Dr. Peter Raven.
“We believe in the 46 years Jack has been broadcasting
Cardinals baseball that his accomplishments and
his reputation as one of the nation’s leading
sports broadcasters clearly show he merits this
Award, one of our community’s highest honors,”
notes Larry Katzen, chairman of the 164th RCGA
Annual Meeting and Dinner, and managing partner
of Arthur Andersen.
“Jack has brought the Cardinals to millions of
fans throughout the nation. Perhaps no other single
St. Louisan is so readily recognizable both on
the radio and on television as is Jack Buck. He
truly is ‘Mr. St. Louis,’” Katzen adds.
Here’s what three other colleagues had to say
about what makes the sports director at KMOX so
Ron Jacober, manager of Sports Operations at KMOX,
gets right to the point: “Jack has a wonderful
sense of history. Our tape library is full of
historic events, and in almost every case, Jack’s
play-by-play call is as historic as the event.
“When I say, ‘Go crazy, folks, go crazy,’ what
comes to mind?,” Jacober asks.
“I savor every moment I spend in his presence.
The man is a treasure.”
Glen Cerny, associate professor of mass communications
and general manager of KCLC FM 89.1 at Lindenwood
University in St. Charles, did play-by-play for
the Toledo Mud Hens’ televised games from 1985
to 1999: “Few teams have been honored to have
the close relationship that Jack Buck has with
St. Louis Cardinals fans. He’s a community asset.”
Cerny continues, “he is a gentleman with a great
respect for the game and for this community. It
doesn’t take baseball fans, particularly smart
ones like here in St. Louis, to pick that up.
We’re a little spoiled, but at the same time we
appreciate that we have it so good.”
Bernie Miklasz, lead sports columnist at the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch, used adjectives like trustworthy
and beloved to talk about Buck.
“He’s almost an historical figure,” Miklasz says.
“He’s been calling Cardinals games and other events
for so long, when you hear his voice you immediately
recall some of the great moments in St. Louis
“When I hear him doing a game, I just get a smile
on my face,” he says. “Listening to Jack Buck
makes you happy because he’s associated with so
many positive, joyful moments...all the homerun
calls and clutch plays over the years. It just
More Miklasz: “Anybody who follows the Cardinals
has a treasure chest of memories and Jack Buck
supplied the sound track.”
Glen Cerny, associate professor of mass communications and general
manager of KCLC FM 89.1 at Lindenwood University in St. Charles,
says, “Everyone wishes he had the community presence KMOX has
developed over the last 75 years. They were one of the first
major players in radio, and they still are. They earned what
Cerny—who describes his 35,000-watt, new adult contemporary
station as a “lab to introduce and train students in radio broadcast”—continues,
“We’re fortunate in this town to also have two other talk stations,
KTRS [AM 550] and KWMU [FM 90.7].”
(He can’t help mentioning that six current employees at KMOX,
and three at KTRS, are KCLC alumni.)
“KMOX,” he notes, “is one of the great traditional stations
in the country along with WLW in Cincinnati, KDKA Pittsburgh,
and WJR Detroit.” Yeah, but how many states do they reach? More
Cerny: “KMOX’s staying power is unheard of, to have been number
one in 1965 and to stay at the top until today.”
Langmyer points out that KMOX is at the top everywhere, boasting
the largest audience share among the 40 largest markets in the
U.S. Moreover, KMOX “holds the record for consecutive number
one Arbitron ratings books at more than 100 [quarters] and counting.”
According to radio consultant and historian, Frank Absher, the
founders of the station envisioned such preeminence from the
beginning: “A group of St. Louis businessmen got together to
build a super-radio station in 1925. They were very comparable
in their day to today’s Civic Progress: executives from the
Globe-Democrat, Blanke Tea & Coffee, Stark’s Nursery, Merchants
Exchange, Brown Shoe and Wagner Electric.”
In their original papers of incorporation, Absher avers, they
named their broadcast company The Voice of St. Louis. They wanted
KVSL for call letters, but were denied these (and subsequently
KMO, too) by the powers that be.
With the station’s original studios at the Mayfair Hotel in
downtown St. Louis, and its first tower and transmitter on Geyer
road in Kirkwood, call letters KMOX were assigned to the Voice
of St. Louis and the station went on the air on December 24,
On the following day, Absher relates, the Globe-Democrat quoted
Kirkwood’s ever-humble mayor, R.L. Jacobsmeyer: “‘KMOX’ means
Kirkwood, Missouri’s, X-mas gift to the world.”
Initially the station carried informative programming, like
lectures and farm reports. For entertainment, management interspersed
Programming began to change with new ownership, Absher says.
CBS, founded two years after KMOX, bought the Globe’s 33 percent
interest in January 1930. They picked up controlling interest
in the next couple of years. By 1936 CBS owned KMOX, period.
The Voice of St. Louis became a sort of farm club. “CBS started
bringing in its own managers, its top prospects to work at KMOX
before it went off to the bigger leagues in Chicago and New
York,” Absher says.
At the same time that most of KMOX’s promising GMs headed either
east or north, most of KMOX’s network programming came from
there. “Sponsors would get the programming they wanted,” Absher
So KMOX played a lot of live hillbilly music—That’s what they
called it then!” Absher assures—like furniture retailer Uncle
Dick Slack’s Barn Dance. That lasted into the ’40s.
By the end of World War II network programming had changed.
Essentially soap operas aired during the day, variety shows
like Jack Benny at night.
And so it went into the ’50s, when everything changed. Bob Hyland
had been a star salesman for KXOK. He took over sales at KMOX.
“Bob Hyland was Mr. KMOX from the time he came on in sales in
1951 until he died in March of 1992, at 71,” Absher says. “He
lived, breathed, slept and ate KMOX.
“And he ran it, not New York.”
He ran it right from the start. Absher, who has a website about
the history of radio in St. Louis, tells how Hyland ignored
his superiors when the station moved to Hampton Avenue at the
beginning of his reign. “New York wanted to control everything,
even wall color in the offices.”
How many details are there to moving an office? That’s how many
memos New York sent to Hyland. The same number Hyland thoughtfully
placed in file 13.
“He hired his own architects and interior designers, totally
ignoring New York,” Absher says. “And when their executives
came out for the grand opening, they were just laudatory over
how everything turned out. That was vintage Hyland.”
Absher cites another, perhaps the ultimate bookend, example
of Hyland’s defiance: “He was 71 when he died. CBS policy called
for mandatory retirement at 65.
“He did what he felt was right,” Absher says, “no matter what
CBS said. St. Louis and KMOX trumped anything that New York
said. KMOX was truly the Voice of St. Louis.”
In his most enduring decision, Hyland introduced the At-Your-Service
talk format on Feb 29, 1960.
The current vice president and general manager at KMOX says
she never knew Hyland personally. Perhaps that’s because she
was too busy running a batch of KMOX competitors.
Like Hyland, Carroll started her radio career in sales. “It
was a great education, and I loved the exposure to all forms
of the business from automotive ads to brand introductions.”
That was the middle ’70s. Her first general manager position
came in 1983 at what is now KYKY FM 98.1. With ownership expanding
its holdings to include KSD FM 93.7, KSD AM 550, KEZK FM 102.5,
and KFNS AM 590, her responsibilities expanded.
CBS/Infinity acquired the group in 1998. Carroll explained their
identity: “CBS is a brand name.”
…a brand name owned by Viacom, which trades on the New York
Stock Exchange, and which also owns television stations, Paramount
Pictures, even a piece of Oprah…by way of King Productions.
Viacom also owns 80 percent of Infinity, she explains, itself
listed on the NYSE.
Although Federal Communications Commission regulations allow
an owner to have as many as eight stations in a market, the
Department of Justice allows an owner to gain only 40 percent
of a market’s advertising revenue through acquisition.
“CBS/Infinity kept KEZK and KYKY [both adult contemporary formats],
and sold off the other stations,” Carroll says. And they moved
her to the top at their top property, News/Talk 1120.
The vision of the station, according to a KMOX brochure, is
“to be the dominant information and entertainment source for
the St. Louis region.”
Carroll adds a human voice to that vision: “And to serve the
community. We use the public airwaves, so we take it very seriously
whether it’s collecting money for the Oklahoma tornado victims
or a senatorial debate or announcing the desperate need to fill
the blood bank. And we’re America’s Sports Voice.”
Here she cites the clear channel signal to 44 states. Go Redbirds.
Go Mizzou. Go Bills.
Looking forward, Carroll says, “When you’ve been on top as long
as KMOX has been, it’s an incredible challenge to make sure
you overserve the market and compete to keep people’s dials
set on 1120.
“For the future, we’ll continue to challenge ourselves that,
number one, we’re on the issues people care about,” she says.
“That’s why we expanded our stock coverage, for example.
“We also need to continue to be the best we can be…responding
to our listeners to ensure that we address their needs, questions
and issues, fulfilling that role as the leader, as the Voice
of St. Louis.”
Langmyer agrees that the Voice needs to do better than hand
down content from on high: “Listener interaction is vital, and
the communication comes on all fronts, whether it’s play-by-play
sports, or personalities like Charles Brennan, McGraw Milhaven,
Carol Daniel and John Carney, or our morning team of Nan Wyatt
and Doug McElvein.”
If you think Langmyer, the ops guy, talks like a marketing guy,
ask him about how “product”—news, sports, talk, entertainment,
suchlike—contributes to the station’s airwave dominance.
“Most of all, it has a personality,” Langmyer answers.
Yeah, yeah. But let’s talk programming.
He relents…sort of
“KMOX is a lot of things,” Langmyer says. “It’s the place for
news—breaking news—and to get a handle on what other people
think about topics and events in our own backyard and around
the world. That also means that it can be something fun, sports
or whatever people are talking about at the water cooler. KMOX
is the place to meet and hear about things, discuss things.”
Pressing hard, now: OK, Tom, tell us about, say…sports.
“Play-by-play sports brings in a lot of people,” he says sports
programming represents about 20 to 25 percent of the lineup,
“including the Budweiser Sports Open Line (6 to 8 p.m.) with
Randy Karraker, Jack Buck and Bernie Miklasz.”
Stookey, long-time farm
director of KMOX, was tapped by
CBS to provide a weekly series
on life in rural America.
On the other hand, Langmyer continues, news is the focus of
Total Information AM (from 5 to 9 a.m.), as well as News Makers
and Total Information PM (2 to 6 p.m., combined). Plus, KMOX
airs 10 minutes of news at the top of each hour and the traffic-reports
that sneak up on you.
The talk component features the Morning Meeting from 9 to 11
a.m., John Carney from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and John Grayson on
the overnight and Rush Limbaugh, airing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Langmyer says, “Rush helped propel that slot into the number
one position in 25 to 54 [age group], up from seventh or eighth
Just as Absher points out that Bob Hyland’s predecessors were
as important to building KMOX as he was, Langmyer points out
that Rush is likewise but a piece of the puzzle.
As with most any medium, however, what puts the jig in the jigsaw
.And in the last couple of years, it has soared 50 percent at
Carroll has been vice president
and general manager of KMOX since
April 1998. She brings more than 20
years of radio know-how and renewed
energy to KMOX.
Growth like that, Carroll says, “comes from looking at the business
a little differently, including helping clients with strategic
marketing plans that sometimes involve special programming,
sometimes outside events, and [of course] advertising.”
Personality, programming, positioning. It adds up. A high compliment
is paid KMOX by radio veteran Robert R. Lynn, by way of Cerny:
“Robert told me once, and I think only half jokingly, that if
KMOX went off the air for two weeks, they’d still be number
one when they came back.”
Staying power, indeed.
Kevin Kipp runs Bubble Communications, a creative services and
community relations firm in St. Charles.
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