The year was 1948. GIs returning from the European and Pacific theaters were being assimilated into the nation’s booming economy and the nation’s metropolitan areas were spreading rapidly as new housing units sprang up in the suburbs.
It was in this environment that James L. Grove, president of Grove Laboratories at 2630 Pine, began his quest to build a new radio station for St. Louis. He incorporated Radio St. Louis, Inc., and applied for an AM frequency (690) for a new 1,000 watt radio station. Grove’s medicine manufacturing business was well-established in the community. He made himself chairman the station’s board of directors.
Application for the station was announced February 6, 1948. Grove said he would name the station KBGS. He hired Frank E. Pellegrin to be president and general manager of the company. Pellegrin brought significant background to the job, having served as the director of the broadcast advertising department for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC.
When the station’s inaugural broadcast was heard on June 4, 1948, it was under a different set of call letters, KSTL. Studios were located on the mezzanine level of the American Hotel at Seventh and Market Streets downtown. As for format, a spokesman called the sound “mood sequence programming” of music and news, and it was clear the station was avoiding certain images. One news account noted there was a “wide range of recorded music, but [it] includes no hillbilly numbers or hot jazz…the station, which uses no disc jockeys [and] uses the slogan ‘less yakity yak.’”
Pellegrin announced his intention that the music would accent the melody rather than novelty with no “hot jive programs. On the other hand, we will not be too highbrow or longhair…Our announcers will introduce the programs and musical numbers with a minimum of chatter.” KSTL reportedly showed a profit after four months of operation Employees from other stations in the market were hired: Brad Harrison from KMOX became the KSTL news director and Edward Galloway from WEW was appointed musical director. Edward Haverstick from the investment firm of Smith, Moore and Company, was the corporate secretary-treasurer.
An ad in 1949 bragged that the station had “the 4th strongest signal at the lowest cost per thousand of any St. Louis station. By then, less than a year after it signed on, the station had a new general manager, R.L. Stufflebean. William Ware was next in line as GM, but he died in 1953, so Dick Kasten was appointed to the job in February 1954. It was during his regime that KSTL-FM signed on in April of 1960.
But Pellegrin and Ware had been given ownership positions in the company. In 1955, Haverstick, now chairman of the board, filed for a change of ownership so he could buy out those shares. Eleven years later the Haverstick family bought out Kasten’s shares. KSTL was sold by Radio St. Louis, Inc., to Crawford Communications in 1994.
(Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 8/2000)