The precursor to KDWB was founded in 1951 by Nick, Vic and Al Tedesco, sons of Italian immigrants from the province of Calabria. They were born in St. Paul’s Swede Hollow. From the early 1940s to the early ’70s the brothers owned and operated 11 radio stations throughout the Upper Midwest.
Reinhard Steinley became the first General Manager of WCOW on July 1, 1951. The station was located at 8th and Wabasha in South St. Paul, conveniently adjacent to the stockyards. Brother Al Tedesco wanted to call it WPIG or WHOG, but Vic protested the barnyard connotation. Nick came up with WCOW, which was deemed somehow “more dignified.” It was also appropriate: their records were labeled either O for Old Time or W for Western. Guy Lombardo records were used as a transition between the hillbilly songs and religious programs, reported Will Jones in the Trib on August 18, 1952. The station signed on with a cowbell.
In 1952 everyone on the staff had a corny western name:
- Rodeo Ralf Smith
- Arizona Al Tedesco
- Valley City Vic Tedesco
- Nevada Nick Tedesco
- Denver Don Doty
- Buffalo Bob Montgomery
- Sidesaddle Sore Sam Sabean
- Packhorse/Pecos Paul Denault
There was also a Packhorse Paul and/or a Pecos Paul – same guy?
Sam Sabean (aka Sam Sherwood) started out with the Sam Sabean Show in 1954, which became Hobo Sam and His Bum Program from about November 1954-March 1955. From there he went on to be Milkman Sam until about 1956.
The early shows were pretty clearly just country/western affairs:
- Remotes from Schlief’s Little City
- A daily show dedicated to Whoopie John records
- Rhythm Roundup
- Radio Ranch
- Western Hit Parade
- Frankie Yankovic
- Cow’s Tail (wonder what that was?)
In 1955 there were some new shows:
- Grove Nite Club
- Serenade in Blue
- Beach Party
- Disc Derby
Most importantly, in March/April 1955 there appeared “Mr. Rhythm,” a/k/a Joe Zingale, who played an honest-to-goodness Rhythm & Blues show, according to Sam Sherwood. Read more about the show in 1955, and about Zingale under Twin Cities Disc Jockeys.
WCOW became WISK