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|Repeater(s)||99.1 MHz (KMA-FM)|
|First air date||August 12, 1925 (first license granted)|
|Callsign meaning||named for original owner Earl May|
|Owner||KMA Broadcasting L.P.|
KMA (960 AM) is a radio station licensed to serve Shenandoah, Iowa. With a colorful history, it is one of the few radio stations in the country tracing back to its original 1925 owners.
The station was founded in 1925 by seed salesman Earl May. May and Henry A. Field of Shenandoah were rivals in the seed business. In 1925 Field of Field's Nursery founded radio station KFNF while May founded KMA. While both stations offered farm news; the two were to become most competitive by offering live productions of hillbilly music. According to KMA's website more than a million people traveled to small town Shenandoah to hear the music.
May built the station headquarters and Mayfair Auditorium (demolished in 1964 due to its being declared structurally unsafe by the Iowa State Fire Marshal) across the street from the nursery business. Between music sets, May would pitch his seeds and tell nostalgic stories. In 1926 May won the third annual Radio Digest Gold Cup Award, after being voted the "World's Most Popular Radio Announcer" by over 452,000 people throughout the United States.
The KMA shows which were broadcast in the afternoons were called the "KMA Country School" and according to the format emanated from the fictional KMA District No. 9 school with the shows beginning with the ringing of a school bell.
The most famous celebrities in KMA's history were the Everly Brothers, Don and Phil. In their early teen years, the brothers and their parents would appear on KMA to sing as "The Everly Family", but by 1952, they were discovered by a talent agent, and made their way to fame in Hollywood with such hit songs as "Wake Up, Little Susie".
With the high visibility KMA operated on a slogan of "Keep Millions Advised", which was adopted in early 1926, after sorting through a reported 4,000 suggestions. KFNF was to operate on "Keep Friendly, Never Frown."
In 1949 May Broadcasting company started KMTV-TV in Omaha, Nebraska, the second-oldest television station in Nebraska. It originally wanted to call it KMA-TV. However, the FCC would not permit the name since the cities of Shenandoah and Omaha were too far apart (61 miles (98 km)). In 1968, May acquired KGUN-TV of Tucson, Arizona. May Broadcasting sold both KMTV and KGUN to Lee Enterprises in 1986. Both stations are now owned by the E. W. Scripps Company.
The county school shows were discontinued in the 1950s and the station continued to offer its farm show and farm housewife shows until the late 1990s; the current format revolves around ABC Radio news at the top of each hour, with some agricultural news, regional high school sports and their "Elephant Shop" where listeners can buy, sell, trade or give away personal property on the air.
In March 2010, KMA Broadcasting launched a new 100,000-watt FM station, KMA-FM 99.1, licensed to Clarinda, Iowa, and broadcasting from facilities north of neighboring Hawleyville. KMA Broadcasting also owns Hometown Cable in southwest Iowa.
The Earl May Seed and Nursery Company is still family-owned. Earl May's granddaughter, Betty Jane Shaw, is the current[when?] head of the company. Field eventually sold KFNF and its seed business;[when?] the current holder of the KFNF callsign, an FM station in Oberlin, Kansas, is unrelated to the former KFNF. The 920 AM frequency formerly occupied by KFNF is now KYFR, a Christian radio station owned by Family Radio.
In popular culture
In the book The Bridges of Madison County, which sold more than 60 million copies, the characters listen to KMA. In the 1995 movie directed by Clint Eastwood references to this station were removed and the format of the radio station in the film was switched to jazz.
- "Earl May Wins Gold Cup Award", Radio Digest, First October Number 1926, page 3. May received a total of 452,901 votes, besting Patrick H. Barnes of WHT in Chicago by 11,522 votes.
- "KMA is Heard Across Pacific" by H. P. Brown, Radio Digest, February 20, 1926, page 6.
- "TV Transfers" (PDF). 1972 Broadcasting Yearbook. Retrieved 2009-01-12.[permanent dead link]