A Day's Work

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Mar 2002 / a day's work :: email this story to a friend

Radio Glory Years
By Frank Absher

It's been said that a bad day working in radio is far better than a good day working anywhere else. While I can't personally speak for people who are in the business now, radio was once a lot of fun, and St. Louis was a fantastic market in which to work.

St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame Now there's a website that details brief histories of many people who made their mark on radio in St. Louis. Clicking on the Hall of Fame icon at www.stlradio.com will gain you access to their stories.

Virginia Jones (alternately known as "Miss Jones" or "V.A.L. Jones") was literally the first lady of St. Louis radio. She ran the city's second radio station, KSD, performing announcing and programming duties. Ed Ceries could arguably be called the father of "real rock radio" here, because he and his wife literally built KSHE in the basement of their home. Trouble was, he was playing classical music.

Nationally known news commentator Paul Harvey worked here in 1938, when he was a newsman for KXOK, using his given name, Paul Aurandt. Harry Eidelman was an FM pioneer who signed his station on in the early 1950s, often working with his chief engineer Ed Bench to rebuild a transmitter or climb the tower on DeBaliviere to make antenna adjustments.

There are other pioneers whose names are recognized by some of our older Boomers: Spider Burks was literally the voice of jazz in St. Louis. (He once left a radio gig after management insisted he play some rhythm and blues on this show.) Gracy was the first African-American woman to have a program on a St. Louis station. Don Pietromonaco became an icon here when he came to KXOK and took on the nom-d'air of Johnny Rabbitt.

There were the booming voices of news on the radio: Bob Hardy, Gene Hirsch, Robert R. Lynn, Bob Shea and Rex Davis.

And if you think Bob Costas is the market's only nationally known sportscaster, think again. In his day, France Laux was all over the network airwaves. Buddy Blattner was the voice of our town's pro basketball team, the Hawks, but he also did baseball for the network. And the sound of the play-by-play team of Harry Caray and Jack Buck is etched in the fond memories of many a young boy who grew up around here in the early 1960s. There are others, 37 in all, who made the first "class" of the radio hall of fame here. You'll find the story of 16 year-old Roy Queen, who hopped a freight train from Pilot Knob, Missouri, to audition at KMOX in 1929. He ended up holding down a hillbilly-singing slot at the station over a 15-year span.

To many people in broadcasting today, a job in St. Louis is just another gig. To those who are members of the St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame, their St. Louis effort represented a high point in their illustrious careers. And it's doubtful they ever looked upon their time here as "work."

Frank Absher is a St. Louis radio historian, radio consultant and junior college instructor.

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