WMIN / WMNS – 1400

The station began as WMIN in the summer of 1936, when St. Paul furniture retailer Edward Hoffman began broadcasting at 1370 kHz. In 1937 the station had a 15-minute program on Sundays featuring black singers that was advertised in the Minneapolis Spokesman.  On December 9, 1938, Tom Coleman’s Famous Swing Trio, with Florence Ward, appeared at a dance at Pioneer Hall, 588 Rondo, advertised as being broadcast on WMIN’s Down Beat Program.  WMIN was reassigned to the 1400 kHz in 1941.  Around that time, a young Leigh Kamman and his friend Sev Widman hosted “Studio Party Wham,” named after a Jimmie Lunceford tune, showcasing big bands, small combos, and jazz.  Kamman produced live broadcasts from Mitch’s Roadhouse in Mendota and hung out at the Club Casino in the Hotel St. Paul where the big bands played.  After the war, Kamman produced “We Call it Jazz” concerts at the Calhoun Beach Hotel and hosted “The Swing Club” on WLOL.  Kamman left for New York in 1950.

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Matchbook images courtesy Pavek Museum of Broadcasting

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Courtesy Pavek Museum of Broadcasting

In July 1948, Chuck Mulkern had a fifteen-minute show called “Hillbilly Hits.”

From late 1953 to mid 1955 WMIN had tons of shows that might have included some jump tunes.  While there were clearly some country/western shows – “Saturday Hoedown,” “Western Favorites” – and perhaps some old time songs – “Tin Pan Allan” was on a lot – there were others with intriguing names:

  • Ralph (Smith) and His Records
  • House of Records
  • Top Tunes
  • (Judy’s) Juke Box
  • Your Rhythm Review

Most importantly, WMIN had three powerhouse disk jockeys:

  • Bill Diehl worked at WMIN from 1948-49 and from 1951-55.  His shows were variously called “Diehl ‘n Music,” “Diehl’s Caravan,” and “It’s Your Diehl.”

  • Steve Cannon was at WMIN from 1949-54.  Presumably the shows “Cannonball Express” and “Cannon Fodder” were his.   In a column dated January 24, 1954, Will Jones of the Trib called Cannon a “Hep Talking radio disk jockey.”

  • Merle Edwards was at WMIN from 1949-55 and had shows like “Merle Edwards’ Caravan” and “Merle’s Mad House.”  Bill Diehl tells the story that a car dealer called Slawik Motors wanted to sponsor a show, but it insisted that the DJ call himself “Hub Cap.”  The station approached Diehl, but he thought the idea was ridiculous – he was a columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, after all, and had a recognizable name.  So they convinced Edwards to do it and he became Merle “Hub Cap” Edwards.  David Hersk remembers that Edwards had a late night show where he called himself “Uncle Merle” and played plenty of rock ‘n’ roll in 1954-55.  “I remember recording “Rock Around the Clock” from a WMIN broadcast on my Wilcox Gay recorder. Merle announced me when I called in, and gave me five seconds of dead air to start my home recorder at 78 rpm.” “Rock Around the Clock” was recorded in 1954 and became big news in 1955 (see 1955 above).

WMNS

In 1954 the call sign for 1400 AM briefly changed to WMNS, reflecting a change to a full service format of music, news and sports.  The call letters were changed back to WMIN later that year.

Back to WMIN

On November 8, 1954, WMIN hosted a four-hour remote from the new Melodee Record Shop at 704 Hennepin Ave., advertised in the Minneapolis Spokesman.

In September 1956 a Will Jones item in the Trib referred to WMIN as the anti-Presley station, with a DJ called “Alice Presley” playing Benny Goodman records.  See story above under 1956.

By the end of 1956 WMIN was participating in the contest craze and calling itself “Music City.”

WMIN was still resisting the rock ‘n’ roll bandwagon in January 1957, when it was playing Easy Listening.

In April 1957 the station was owned by the Franklin Broadcasting Co., William F. Johns, Jr., Vice President and General Manager.  Jack Hazlett was Station and Sales Manager, and Ralph R. Smith was Program Director.  Studio and Transmitter were at 611 Frontenac Place, St. Paul.  It had only 250 watts.

In 1957-58 WMIN put weekly ads in the Minneapolis Spokesman, the city’s black-owned newspaper, urging readers to listen to Lou House, possibly the only black DJ in the market. The “Lucky Lou” program was on Sundays and was described as “Jazz and Bits and Pieces of Music.”

We do know that the station was playing rock ‘n’ roll from the WMIN Top 40 dated August 4, 1958. The number 1 song that week was “When” by the Kalin Twins; Elvis had two songs, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Darin, and Duane Eddy were represented as well.  But also Doris Day, Dean Martin, and Patti Page.  The September 22, 1958 survey advertised “Down Beat,” the “Longest radio show in the Twin Cities.”  It was also the “Twin Cities’ ONLY station with Future-Phonic Sound.”  The disk jockeys were Ralf Smith, Jere Smith, Dan Allan, Jack Douglas, and Lou House.

WMIN adopted an all news format in mid-July 1962. In September 1962 it was advertised as the only all news station in the country.  In November 1962 the call letters were changed to KWTN. They were changed back the following August 1963 and the format went to country/western, folk and ethnic music.

Airchecks from 1964 indicate an emphasis on “news and prophesy.”   Old Joe Clark played country music.  “Yonny Yonson” played old time (polkas, waltzes and shoddiches) from 9 am to noon and 3-6 pm.  The station’s address was 611 Frontenac Place in St. Paul. In 1967 it went to full-time country.

The station changed their call sign again in January 1972 to KEEY, to match that of their FM sister station, and installed a soft rock format separate of the FM, which aired Beautiful Music.  At that point the call letters WMIN were off the air.

In 1982 the call letters were changed once again, to KLBB.  See http://twincitiesradioairchecks.com/wmin.html

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Stuart A. Lindman with photos of Steve Cannon, Merle “Hub Cap” Edwards, and Bill Diehl, 1949. Photo courtesy Pavek Museum of Broadcasting

WMIN-FM

The owners of WMIN (1400 AM) launched WMIN-FM on October 1, 1967. It became KEEY-FM (“Key”) in 1968, programming Drake-Chenault’s automated “Hit Parade ’68.” Drake’s promotional materials indicate it was targeted to the 18-49 age group, for “those people who may not like Top 40 as a steady diet, and those who are not particularly fond of some of the outdated MOR stations”.

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