Minneapolis Star Tribune
April 10, 1999


Noel Holston

If Minnesota Public Radio changed KLBB's big band/nostalgia format, the station's fans would come out swinging - and I don't mean doing fancy dance steps.

Our request for reader response, asking what Twin Cities radio listeners would like MPR to do with KLBB (1400 AM) and WLOL (1470), which recently were acquired as a gift, had an emphatic outcome. More than 65 percent of the 500-plus people who wrote letters, e-mailed or phoned the Star Tribune said they wanted KLBB's format left exactly as it is or modified only slightly.

Some urged more (or less) of the new swing bands, others a quick end to the station's "super saver" shows for bargain-hunters. Quite a few noted they also were MPR listeners and would never give the statewide system another nickel if KLBB were altered. One guy even had unkind words for the "bonehead TV critic" who had the nerve to solicit suggestions.

The KLBB endorsements bore out the Arbitron take on the station's odd demographics: About 75 percent of the "leave well enough alone" votes came from seniors who often cited the limited choices for them in a rock-dominated radio market; the rest were young swing lovers.

Running a distant second in the voting, with about 5 percent each, were smooth jazz, the music played on 104.1 FM before its management switched that station to the alternative rock/pop "Point" last year, and yours truly's scenario in which KLBB would embrace a larger sample of 20th Century American music. Here again, however, the mere suggestion of change irked some folks. One caller said that if I want an "audio museum," I should order some Smithsonian boxed sets.

Many voters didn't mention WLOL, which currently simulcasts KLBB's signal. Those who did tended to be less protective and more open to something different, though a few noted that the station's signal broadens KLBB's reach significantly and would be missed.

Other formats that got some votes include:

  • Alan Freed's "Beat Radio" or some sort of dance-trance-techno music.

  • Folk and blues, or an expansion of MPR's eclectic "Morning Show."

  • International or world music.

  • Classical music more varied and adventurous than what MPR's classical stations now play.

  • Three defunct rock formats -- REV 105, "The Edge" and "the old Cities 97" -- also got some votes.

    Here's what some of the respondents had to say:

    I vote for keeping KLBB as it is. I am in my 30s and have listened for only the last couple of years. It is refreshing, wonderful music and programming. It is an institution that is being discovered by a whole new generation. Changing KLBB would be like tearing down a beautiful old building to put up another generic high rise. We have enough of those.

    -- Donna L. Fox, Minneapolis.

    KLBB has been a mainstay on my radio dial for longer than I remember. I'm the one who told my parents about it. I love your first suggestion -- keep it golden oldies from the '30s, '40s and '50s. Heck, I even wish they'd throw in a few from the '20s, too. Lately they have gotten a little swing happy. But hey, it's hard not to go with the trend when you've been out of it for so long. They have got to keep Joyce Lamont. Hearing her voice brings back childhood memories of sitting in the kitchen with my Mom listening to WCCO-AM.

    WLOL would be wonderful with a format like the KSJN morning show. It is such a unique eclectic forum for everything from old Crosby, Stills & Nash to Ukulele Ike. Personally I love this kind of mixture. Not every song is one I'd have picked to play, but that's why I listen. I want to hear things I don't already know.

    -- Leslie Haney, Plymouth.

    I would be ecstatic if we got a dance/techno station. I'm not talking about bad ''Dance Mix 1999'' stuff, I'm talking about Beat Radio. Beat Radio was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. Being a DJ and a producer, I found Beat Radio to be one of the best stations I'd ever heard, and Alan Freed is definitely the man with the plan. I'm tired of hearing two alt-rock stations (alt-rock is dead anyway) and two '80s rock stations. No one is playing new pop/rock music except KDWB, and I don't think they even play rock.

    -- Matt Brady, White Bear Lake.

    Every time I get in the car, I search for a radio station playing the smooth jazz music that used to be on 104.1 [FM]. It doesn't seem to be out there. Count me among those who would love to see MPR use one of their new stations for a smooth jazz format.

    -- Pat Daily, Plymouth.

    Please, please, please -- leave the KLBB format alone. It is very hard to find a great station like this one. If anything should be done, it should be to up the signal strength.

    -- Tom Doyle, Brooklyn Park.

    It would be nice to have a good talk radio station in the Twin Cities -- one that has nationally broadcast personalities so there is more of a variety of callers. I have to go to New York City or Las Vegas to hear people like Bruce Williams. KSTP-AM used to have programs like that but they don't anymore. And I mean someone rational and intelligent -- not Dr. Laura or Art Bell.

    It would be nice to have a station like WAYL. There is no easy-listening station in the Twin Cities, or music like WCCO used to play before they went so sports crazy. Broadway show tunes or music from the movies would fit into an easy-listening theme.

    -- Linda Waite, Columbia Heights.

    The AM frequencies will probably be leased for profit to further enrich the coffers of Megatronic Public Radio. However, if MPR elected to do something bold, they could devote one of the frequencies to THOUGHT RADIO. AM is a lousy place for music because of the poor fidelity and lack of quality receivers. THOUGHT RADIO would be an opportunity to create a haven for people who are tired of KSTP, KFAN formats and want something more than ''music chosen by others.'' Current programs like ''Car Talk,'' ''To the Best of Our Knowledge'' and ''Symphony Space'' and past programs like ''Duck's Breath Mystery Theater,'' coupled with documentaries, interviews (''Fresh Air''), old-time radio dramas, historic news and locally produced issues programming, and you would have a diverse mixture of historic, topical, entertaining, thought-provoking stuff. Why waste another frequency on more background music?

    -- John Drewitz, Minnetonka.

    My parents (now ages 67 and 72) started listening to KLBB when WCCO abandoned that demographic. They still listen faithfully, and in the last few years their 43-year-old daughter tunes in, too, now seeing the point in swing, big band and classic pop which she shunned during her growing up years when only rock ruled. That station should definitely keep the format -- there is no other like it in the area.

    -- Laura Weber, Minneapolis.

    Over 51 percent of Minnesotans are female, yet it is widely acknowledged that radio is a very ''male-dominated'' medium. As a frequent listener of MPR I find that it is more male-dominated than commercial radio. We now have a wonderful opportunity to change this situation. We need a station that plays the classical music of Fanny (not Felix) Mendelssohn and Clara (not Robert) Schumann, as well as more contemporary female artists. We need a station that reports the news from a woman's perspective. It is past time that women's voices and women's accomplishments be given a central platform.

    -- Rodelia (Rudie) Tooley, St. Paul.

    I'd like to see one of those two stations become an ''alternative classical'' station. A station, commercial or not, which would play complete works as written, the longer works, operas. Not as now, where MPR plays bits and pieces of works, with only a few complete works during the day.

    -- E.E. Lassek, Columbia Heights.

    What I want is pretty simple. I want Rev105 back. Now, barring any bizarre resurrections, the REV won't be back in its full glory, but I would like a radio station that is progressive and non-repetitive. I want a station where I hear new songs that I otherwise have to hear about from friends, or maybe hear on Radio K (which doesn't come in all that well for me). I don't care if I don't like half the songs the station plays. It would be nice to hear something that's not just a playlist that's recycled every two hours (or one hour, like some stations).

    -- Ryan Bolduan, Eden Prairie.

    Minnesota Public Radio should leave KLBB-AM with the format it has now. It is perfect.

    -- Mary Sandstrom, Minneapolis.

    Copyright 1999 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

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