Wednesday, April 12, 2006

DJ Mean Gene Okerlund

KOIL-AM is like many other early Midwestern AMs. It's had its ups and down and very arcane "firsts." But it is the only one to have a DJ move on to MC'ing pro-wrestling bouts. Mean Gene Okerlund started his career at 1290 KOIL-AM under his real name, Gary Mack as a disc jockey. Yes that is the same guy from Pro Wrestling.

Originally KOIL was owned by the Mona Motor Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Monarch Manufacturing Company, the "OIL" in KOIL was just a standard marketing tie-in. Its two tower array was in Fairmont Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This is directly across the border from Omaha. Known as KOIL was the second station licensed to the Omaha metro. Initially it broadcast on 1080 AM as a day timer then moved to 1290 AM and began 24/7 service.

The studio was in a building at Park & Huntington Streets, described as the first in the nation built with the expressed purpose of being a radio station. It still exists today as a private residence. But that's not the studio that DJ Mean Gene hung his hat.

When the FCC began to enforce duopoly rules in the early 50s, Central States Broadcasting retained one station KFOR and ditched KOIL and 1110 KFAB-AM. 1240 KFAB went to the May Broadcasting Company, and KOIL was transferred to the Union Holding Company, a cooperative group. KOIL went on to become the first ABC affiliate west of the Mississippi and the second NBC affiliate west of the Mississippi. It was the first radio station to incorporate an electronic Kilgen pipe organ into its studios for whatever that's worth. During its peak in live programming in the 1960's, KOIL had two orchestras and it employed about 100 people. ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WAS MEAN GENE OKERLUND!

Mona Oil began faltering through the Depression and was forced to suspend its radio operation. KOIL became a part of the Central States Broadcasting group, headquartered out of Lincoln and owned by the Charles Stuart family. The core of the group were KOIL, KFOR, and KFAB (originally licensed to Lincoln, now in Omaha). Incidentally, these cities are home to Mean Genes own chain of burger joints, bowling alleys and pizzerias.

Omaha's 1290 AM frequency is now KKAR, a popular conservative-leaning talker.

the KOIL call letters reside on 1020 in Plattsmouth, NE. .. another radio Disney outlet.