THE BIG 16
At one time you could not go beyond the 1600 position on the AM dial. That was it, the tuner or dial would turn no more. A static-filled weak station at the end of the dial was KWOW. It was actually located off famous Route 66 in Pomona, but you could hear it in Los Angeles on a clear smogless day.
The station actually started out as KPMO, broadcasting from a trailer home in the middle of an orange grove. From this humble beginning came KWOW. In the early 1960's it played country music with a full news department. Songs like There's a Fool Born Every Minute (Skeeter Davis); Unicorn Song (Irish Rovers); Lord Mr. Ford (Jerry Reed); Happy Tracks (Kenny Price) and Walking On New Grass (Kenny Price) would be the staple of country KWOW. There was some evidence the people who owned country KIEV might have had some ownership of 1600 KWOW.
Sometime in the late 1970s or 1980s the station changed its format and went oldies but goodies. The news department was no longer and it operated three in a row hits of 50's and 60's rock 'n' roll.
A company song would come on with four or five singers singing in unison--"K-WOW!". At the top of the hour before the news you would hear an announcer say, "This is the Big 16- KWOW-Pomona!"
Where most stations in crowded Southern California used directional antennas, 5,000 KWOW was something of an oddity in that it was non- directional. As best as I can recall it was 5,000 watts 24/7. I don't recall there was any static and, in fact, KWOW had a better night signal than 50,000 watt KNX at the time.
A marketing scheme employed by KWOW used any song that had "sixteen" in the title. "Sixteen" was a main referral slogan for "The Big 16" on the radio dial. Some songs were Sixteen Candles (The Crests); Sixteen Tons (Tennessee Ernie Ford); Only 16 (Sam Cooke) and especially Sixteen Reasons by Connie Stevens.
Toward the end of KWOW, they played several songs over and over on a loop tape urging listeners to tune over to 99.9 FM KOLA radio if they wanted to hear the best in Oldies. One of the last songs on the loop tape that was played was "Lazy Days".
Around the late 1980s KWOW was sold and reemerged as KMNY "Money Radio", a financial and news station about real estate and the stock market.
Some of the radio hosts on KWOW Pomona-Los Angeles were Bob Bosche, Warren Deacon and Larry Grannis. Some of the songs played on "Oldies KWOW" were Willow Weep for Me (Chad and Jeremy); Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers); Summer Song (Chad and Jeremy); Summer Wine (Nancy Sinatra/ Lee Hazelwood); Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey), and many others.
Some recollections from Bob Bosche:
The Co-owner ship with KIEV probably never happened, to my knowledge, it was wholly owned by the Wickstrom family.
KWOW was country when it was still called “Country & Western” for many years dating back to the 50’s. Ernie Ford did morning drive on the station in (I believe) the early 50’s. Wikipedia lists him as working in San Bernardino , but (according to Dean Wickstrom Sr.) , the stations long time owner, Ernie worked for him @ KWOW in Pomona . I think the confusion came from the fact that Pomona & San Bernardino were thought of in those days as pretty much the same radio market.
It was there he developed his “Tennessee Ernie” persona. He was hired away with a sweeter offer (& more $$) from a more powerful L.A. signal, KXLA in Pasadena . This is the story that Dean told me in his office one day while discussing the history of the station. I believe he was telling the truth, he was a very ethical and forthright guy.
I was hired by his son, Jon Wickstrom in the spring of 1972, (I seem to remember March or April), to help re-brand the station into an Oldies format. I started on a Monday doing Country & by Friday we were playing Oldies, up against KWIZ in Santa Ana and then, the legendary KRLA & Art LaBoe. KRTH came along later, but that’s yet another story.
The building (now long-gone) was a trip, a little almost-windowless cinderblock structure just off the Pomona freeway, at Reservoir St. & East Olive, almost to Chino . We used to call it the ‘bunker’. I remember there was no heat in the little restroom, you got in and out quickly in the winter months because of the cold and just as quickly in the summer because it was like a sauna.
Weekday morning drive was handled (live) by Don Welsh, we did do morning news live, it was anchored by Bill Jaeger (Sr.!). I did mid-days and Bill (Williams) Jaeger (Jr) did afternoon drive. Evenings, over nights and weekends were automated.
That automation is an interesting story unto itself. Jon was our Chief Engineer in addition to his program director title and had developed the station’s ‘Schafer’ automation into a pretty sophisticated system. Because we didn’t have a big announce staff (just the 3 of us), we were also responsible for the commercial production load. So, while Don came in at 5:00 or so, Bill & I came in at 9:00. I would then tape voice tracks for my show that day, to begin at 10. Bill later taped his tracks for 3-7. The rest of our day was spent working on writing & producing spots and ‘prep-ing’ for the next days show. It was my first exposure to automation and surprisingly, worked almost flawlessly. The Schafer system (we dubbed ‘Otto’) allowed the 3 of us to be on the air 7 days a week. Weekend weather forecasts were interesting. Because SoCal weather is so predictable, we had about a half dozen or so on cart & the weekend board op/ babysitter would plug in the most appropriate for the day. Friends used to ask if I ever had a day off or were quite surprised to run into me at the home & garden center or elsewhere while I was on the air. The three of us were like the ‘three amigo’s... we worked closely, got along well and had some great times. We were the “little 5kw station that could”, which showed up in the L.A. book!
Don left the station for KLOK ( San Jose ) in ’74, I followed him in ’75. KLOK was owned by the same folks who owned KWIZ so “getting us out of town” was beneficial to KWIZ.
Bill Jaeger now owns Cameron Broadcasting in Arizona , a group of radio & TV stations.
Don Welsh went into the Ministry and I believe is in Florida .
After KLOK I moved to a smaller market in Oregon ( Eugene ) to raise my kids and stayed almost 30 very happy years doing Country radio and Managing stations. I moved back to my home turf in Colorado 5 years ago and worked for Jones Network out of Denver on their “Good Time Oldies” format until they relocated to California . After that, I thought 40+ years is probably enough, semi-retired and started an On-hold messaging business to keep busy. It was a great run!
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