KWKO Fm Stereo 102.1 Anchorages home of "Night Flight"

by Joe O'Hearn
(Vernon, BC Canada)


My broadcast career started with Chet and Jo Gordon, owners of KBYR AM/FM in 1965.

Chet tried to sell the FM side. There were no buyers, so he shut it down and sold the AM to Augie Hiebert who owned KTVA TV, KNIK FM and was now owner of KBYR for a tri media.

Seeing as I was Sales Manger at YR I went with the sale.

I worked for Augie at YR for a few months in '65-66. Then Chet suggested I buy his FM station which he had been trying to sell to Alaska Methodist University and actually applied for and received the new call letters KAMU.

I was a 23 year old upstart, married with three daughters, and good at what I did but did not have the revenue to go into business at the time.

The sale to AMU did not happen.

Chet pursued me to buy his FM and said; "I'll make you a deal you can not pass up". He did.

So me and two others, Dick McComb and Ron Frase put together the deal and we launched the new KAMU with studios on Northern Lights Blvd with huge picture windows facing the blvd at street level showing off the studio so the public could come and see the announcer from the parking area.

Later I bought out one of the partners and became President and CEO of KWKO at age 25.

Neil McKay came to me and made a very good offer for us to be the first tenants in the "Earthquake" building.

So I moved the operation from Northern Lights Blvd to the McKay Building.


We moved the antenna from Augie's Spenard tower to his old KTVA base atop the McKay Building much to the chagrin of the FCC.

We moved into the top 14th floor opposite Neil's Penthouse facing south. Our studios overlooked Fourth Ave and Cordova St. looking right down 4th Avenue.

I was the Morning Man from '66-73.

There were a lot of individuals who made the station a success.

The competition was KENI, KFQD, KBYR, KHAR, and KNIK FM at the time. Bill and Patti Harpel introduced their FM during this time. So when the survey numbers were crunched, KWKO led the FM stations and pushed the other four AM's.

Our format was structured around easy listening paying attention to music/artist rotation. For instance, we would not play male, female, choral groups back to back. The announcer could play a male, choral, instrumental, instrumental, female instrumental choral.

If you were a listener you know this. We opened each morning with the National Anthem followed by the Lord's Prayer and then our format. The diamond of the format was "Night Flight".

Seeing as Anchorage is the International Air Cross Roads of the World, I went to each International Airlines and asked Management permission to use their Stewardesses in creating an audio opening to the Night Flight show. Complete with a jet taking off and climbing to altitude while the Captain, Joe O'Hearn, welcomed passengers to Night Flight, our destination and cruising altitude. The Stewardesses recited their airlines safety procedures. Once in their native tongue and once in English.

The announcer slid in when the Captain said: "and tonight your Co-Pilot is (announcer)" who then carried the theme throughout the evening.

I was approached numerous times by Jay Perry who owned Jay Perry and Associates, an advertising consulting firm, who wanted to purchase the station.

Finally in '72 we came to a deal and my last day on air was Jan 31, 1973.

As I noted earlier, my success was because of a lot of people helping along the way.

People like Jerry Wolf, Gerald Nerland, Brideen Crawford, The Shimek Family, Clyde Lewis, Neil and Susie Shelmerdine, Kay and Sharon Guthrie, Lorene Harrison, the Green family and lots of other businesses and a young guy by the name of David Michael and Judy Clapp now David's wife.

David and Judy were two young High School kids; David was on the air and Judy was creative director.

After I sold the station, Augie Hiebert offered me a job.

I moved over to KTVA in sales as well as on air Sports Director along side Ron Moore. David Michael was now the channel 11 weather man.

I stayed with KTVA about 18 months when Roy Robinson's KFQD sales manager David Schmidt made me a better offer.

Now check out Anchorage Radio Days with Jerry Rose right now.

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The Top Floor Years
by: Judy Clapp Michael

Yes, Joe O'Hearn was my first boss.

I started at KAMU (later became KWKO) at the age of 16. My folks only allowed me to take the job if my school grades didn't suffer.

In a tiny office on the top floor of the McKay building, I learned how to write copy, voice and produce commercials, do traffic logs and catalog the vinyl albums. I worked there with Joe, and Ron Fraze, Carl Koniger, Ron Bresser, and of course David Michael.

I went on to get a degree in Communications and worked as a copywriter for several radio/TV stations and ad agencies over the years.

When David Michael and I married in 1971, Joe was his best man, and Frazie and Bresser also stood up with him.

Great memories of those years, and I was very blessed to have had Joe O'Hearn set the standard as a boss with morals, integrity, and a strong work ethic.

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