(Jefferson City)—They were the voices in the morning who told us the overnight news, the morning weather, and the sports scores. They entertained us and informed us throughout the day and into the night. They have been the unseen companions of Missourians for almost a century.
The State Historical Society of Missouri has catalogued and archived hundreds of recordings gathered by The Missouri Broadcasters Association under the auspices of the Library of Congress Radio Preservation Task Force. Some of the recordings from Missouri radio stations are more than fifty years old. The recordings include hundreds of hours of voices long-familiar to listeners in Missouri communities—news reports, music shows, homemaker and other call-in programs, and special events coverage. The MBA is working with its members to build the collection substantially larger.
“Many of these recordings are not just broadcasting history, they are broader Missouri history,” says Terry Harper, Director of Member Services for the Missouri Broadcasters Association. “We’re hoping many current and former radio station staff members have recordings and other material in closets and attics that they will want to contribute.”
The MBA plans to ask its member stations to submit examples of their programming each year to reflect the ongoing role of radio in Missouri.
The project’s godfather is St. Louis media historian Frank Absher, whose St. Louis Media History Foundation has collected and archived examples of area radio and television broadcasts as well as advertising and print media for several years. The Library of Congress asked Absher to help establish a statewide audio archive of radio history as a prototype for a national radio archive.
“This is exactly what we had in mind when the Library of Congress proposed the Radio Preservation Task Force,” says Dr. Josh Shepperd, the Director of the task force. “It wouldn’t be possible without the strong local commitment from the Missouri Broadcasters Association and the State Historical Society of Missouri. Their efforts will serve as a model for similar programs we are proposing in other states.”
The recordings are being preserved in a digital format and are archived by the State Historical Society at its Center for Missouri Studies in Columbia. Examples of programming from almost thirty radio stations already are in the collection and more will be added. The Broadcasters Association and the Historical Society are still accepting and cataloging contributions from individuals and from radio stations.
“Missourians should be proud of what the State Historical Society and the Missouri Broadcasters Association have accomplished. Now anyone who is interested can listen to the state’s radio history the way it sounded when it was first broadcast. And as more people donate recordings of Missouri radio stations, the collection will gain national importance,” says Absher.
The first donation to the collection was made by the family of Fulton radio legend Ron Lutz, who was the voice of early-morning bluegrass music on KFAL from the 1950s until the first decade of the new century. The collection includes Ron’s popular live Saturday program, The Rooster Creek Show, from September, 1964.
The collection includes contributions from about thirty stations, including a 1954 recording of a half-hour program featuring the Ozark Playboys broadcast on KGBX, Springfield, and broadcasts by the Johnny Boys at the Cavalier Club in Kingdom City, aired on KWOS, Jefferson City that same year.
Missouri’s oldest radio station, WEW in St. Louis, began broadcasting twice-daily weather reports for Missouri and Illinois on April 26, 1921. None of the material gathered so far goes that far back. While many national broadcasts exist because of transcriptions for later broadcasts, practical recording of local radio programming is rarely available earlier than the 1950s with the advent of affordable tape recording machines.
“This growing collection adds to the State Historical Society’s massive collection of materials that will help generations yet unborn understand the personalities and events that have shaped and will continue to shape Missouri,” says Bob Priddy, retired broadcast news reporter and President of the Society. “We hope broadcasters, retired broadcasters, and the families of those whose voices are now silent forever will search through their closets and attics, contact the Missouri Broadcasters Association, and add to this important collection of the voices of Missouri.”
Have some audio files to add to our collection? Contact Terry Harper, email@example.com to make your contribution.