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590 AM, Omaha

City of License: Omaha, NE

First Air Date: April 2, 1923

Original Call Letters: WOAW

General Manager: Orson Stiles

Program Director: Lester Palmer

Chief Engineer: Lou Chansky, Ronald Rockwell

Date of FCC Issue: 1923

Issued To: Woodmen of the World

Through the Years

  • 1923

    April 2, 1923-  Signs on as WOAW AM, 570 kHz with 500 watts of power.   Owners:  Woodmen of the World, located in the Woodmen of the World Building, 1323 Farnam, 19th floor, with towers on the top of the building.  Announcer- Gene Rouse; Program Director- Lester Palmer; Operations Manager- Orson Stiles;  Engineers- Lou Chansky, assisted by Ronald Rockwell.

  • 1924

    Power increase from 500 watts to 1,000 watts.

  • 1925

    Frank McIntosh joins engineering staff, and is known later for developing high-end McIntosh Hi Fi amplifiers revered by audiophiles in the 1950’s.

  • 1926

    Call letter change to WOW.

  • 1927

    June 15, 1927- frequency moved from 570 kHz to 590 kHz.

    September 15, 1927- Joins NBC Red network , first Omaha network affiliation.

  • 1928

    FCC assigned station to share 590 AM with WCAJ, Lincoln (Wesleyan College), 3 hours per day.

  • 1931

    Tom Chase joins staff.  Stays for entire career that later includes WOW TV.

  • 1932

    James Gillin Jr. joins staff, soon to be General Manager.  President of WOW, Inc by 1943.

  • 1933

    Station buys out WCAJ to gain full time channel.

  • 1934

    Station power increase to 5,000 watts daytime, remain at 1,000 watts at night.

  • 1935

    Builds new studios and offices at Insurance Building, 17th & Farnam, Omaha, for $170,000.

    Station purchases a new transmitter and builds new 454-foot tower at 56th & Kansas, Omaha.  Authorized to go 5,000 watts full time by the time it’s placed in service.

    Newsman Foster May joins staff.   Comes over from Central States Broadcasting (KFOR-KFAB) in Lincoln.  “Take it Away, Foster May.”

  • 1936

    Lyle DeMoss joins station, coming from KFAB, Lincoln.

  • 1937

    Ray Olson joins staff, later becomes news director in the 1960’s.

    William O. Wiseman comes over from Omaha Bee News.  Works promotions, and is general manager by 1960.

  • 1938

    Martha Bohlsen’s first show, home economist sponsored by the Nebraska Power Company.

  • 1940

    Station adds mobile news unit with shortwave link to the station.

    June 6, 1940-  Woodmen’s Golden Anniversary program at the Omaha Civic Auditorium is carried live nationally on NBC Blue network.  The program is produced by Lyle DeMoss with Harry Burke, the announcer.

  • 1939

    Woodmen’s ownership is challenged by state legislation prohibiting insurance companies from radio interests.  Station seeks a buyer.

  • 1941

    December 7, 1941- James McGaffin is the lone staffer in the newsroom when Pearl Harbor bulletin crosses the wires.  After returning from the war, he becomes news director until 1968.

  • 1942

    No buyer.  Woodmen forms a new company to which it can lease WOW.

  • 1943

    Announcers Quartet formed:  Lyle DeMoss, Tom Chase, Ray Olson and WOW’s newest addition to the staff, Thompson Holtz.   William O. Wiseman is an occasional fill-in.

    December, 1943-  Adds sister station KODY, North Platte, NE.  Divests it in 1950.

  • 1944

    Lease sought in 1942 is voided by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

    January 8, 1944-  WOW produces Your America,  a patriotic music and variety show, carried live on NBC from the Masonic Temple, 19th & Dodge, Omaha.  Produced and hosted by Lyle DeMoss.

    Your America switches to Mutual Broadcasting System in October;  WOW continues as producer.

  • 1945

    New lease plan like the one sought in 1942 is approved for a new company with higher capitalization to operate WOW.  Woodmen retains ownership.

    WOW newsman Ray Clark broadcasts live from a B-29 bombing run over Tokyo, carried on NBC.

    Merle Workhoven joins staff, and stays until retirement in the 1970’s.

  • 1947

    Slim Everhart, the “Singing Cowboy from Texas,” joins the talent roster from KFAB.

  • 1949

    Johnny Carson joins the staff for morning show plus other segments including on WOW TV.

  • 1951

    Carson leaves for the West Coast; replaced by “Jolly” Joe Martin.

    Jack Payne replaces Tip Saggau as sports director.  Jack also calls Husker football, teamed with Merle Workhoven on color.

    Woodmen sells station to Meredith, including WOW TV channel 6, for $2.52 Million.

    Station begins 24-hour schedule.  Arch Andrews is the first overnight talent.

  • 1952

    A new transmitter replaces the 1935 RCA transmitter.

  • 1954

    Frank Allen joins staff, handles multiple record shows.

  • 1955

    June 19, 1955-  Network switch from NBC to CBS due to WOW TV swapping networks with KMTV, Channel 3.

  • 1955

    WOW tower felled by “mini-tornados,”  replaced by year’s end.

  • 1959

    “New Brighter Sound”  promised when CBS cancels remaining afternoon soap operas.  Jolly Joe moves to afternoons, replaced in mornings by Gene Piatt.

  • 1960

    October 17, 1960- Station moves from downtown Omaha Bank Building to the new WOW TV building at 3501 Farnam St.

  • 1961

    New sister station WOW FM 92.3 signs on.

  • 1967

    After years of playing pop standards, adult contemporary songs begin to appear on the playlist.

  • 1969

    Former KOWH and KOIL personality, Sandy Jackson brought aboard to do mornings.

  • 1971

    Drops CBS affiliation for ABC.

  • 1973

    Switches format from Adult Contemporary music to full Top 40.  Begins “WOW has gone Bananas” campaign.

    Program director Tom Barsanti brings in Shindig’s Jimmy O’Neill for mornings. Sandy Jackson moved from morning to oversee the Beautiful Music FM (92.3).

  • 1974

    Former KOIL personality Erik Foxx replaces Program Director Tom Barsanti, who moves to Meredith’s Kansas City station.

  • 1975

    Jimmy O’Neill is pirated away to KOIL.  Injunction and lawsuit fail to prevent it.

    Dave Wingert is hired to replace O’Neill, the beginning of a long run as an Omaha radio personality.

    A new transmitter is installed, replacing the 1952 unit.

  • 1976

    WOW peaks with a 23 share during KOIL’s 3-month FCC mandated blackout. (Burden).

    Station moves studios/offices to 11128 John Galt Blvd when WOW TV is sold, forcing separation of facilities.

  • 1979

    Stations tests Kahn Hazeltine AM Stereo system on air with FCC authorization.  $20,000 is invested in this new gear.

  • 1982

    June 30, 1982-  Due to fading ratings, station flips to a country format.

  • 1983

    July, 1983-  Station is sold to Great Empire Broadcasting (Wichita, KS) for $1.9 million.  Offices leave John Galt Blvd for Great Empire’s KYNN studios, 615 North 90th Street, north of Dodge, changing the operation to WOW.

  • 1991

    Country music renaissance results in the AM/FM combo ratings hitting a 17.2 share, of which about 1/3 of that is from the AM side.  Programming is separate from the FM, except mornings and overnights.

  • 1999

    Great Empire group, including WOW AM and FM is sold to Journal Group (Milwaukee, WI).  General Manager Ken Fearnow is moved to Wichita, replaced by Journal Group Manager, Jim McKernan.

    McKernan trims staff for format flip to Nostalgia/Adult Standards.   Changes long time call letters WOW to KOMJ, for “Omaha’s Magic.”

  • 2002

    Swaps formats with Journal’s sports-formatted station on 1490 AM,  Call letter changes from KOMJ to KXSP.

  • 2015

    Acquires rights to Husker sports including football, beating out longtime Husker station, KFAB.