AN ALL-START TEAM ON THE second floor of Watertown’s first post office is helping to make the Goss successful. Built in 1909 and home to the post office until 1976, Berry bought that building as well. When Bob Faehn created Water town’s newest radio station, the two struck a deal. Berry offered space in the building in exchange for promotions about events at the opera house.
KXLG 99.1 FM went on the air in September 2009 featuring some of the city’s top radio and sales talent. Faehn owned KSDR /KS93 in Watertown and sold it in 2000 at age 42. He dabbled in other ventures, including a stint in the South Dakota legislature, but soon realized that leaving radio created a void he couldn’t fill. “I missed the business,” Faehn says. “I sold out far too young. It became apparent to me that life is a lot more fun when you’re doing what you like to do.”
Faehn searched for a radio station that would provide a strong signal to Watertown and the area. He discovered that KZNC 99.1 FM in Huron, owned by Dakota Communications, could be moved with permission from the Federal Communications Commission. He contacted Duane Butt, owner of Dakota Communications, and the two agreed to pursue moving the station, then entering into a special programming agreement with a company led by Faehn, Butt and Dean Sorenson.
Faehn initially called their company TORG Broadcasting. The acronym stood for “Three Old Radio Guys.” Due to good natured objections from his partners, he changed it slightly to TMRG (Three Mature Radio Guys).
Once he knew that TMRG would be programming the station, Faehn needed talent, and he signed some of Watertown’s best-known voices. He got Jim Aesoph, on the air at KS93 since 1979, David J. Law, newsman at KWAT since 1971, Jan Robson and Curt Herberg. “I knew I had to get some good folks, because I’m one station competing with six,” Faehn says. “If you’re one against six, the only way you can win is to be better. Our product is people.”
Faehn calls KXLG a classic hits station, playing songs from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s mixed with local talk. “We want to be really local,” he says. “You can listen to radio over the Internet, you can get XM or Sirius. But one thing we can do that all those others can’t is be very local and be involved in the community. That’s how radio used to be. But then it got to be so corporate. I’m sure they didn’t do it by design, but they took the local and the fun out of radio.”
Listeners tell Faehn he can’t be working because it sounds like he, Law and Aesoph are just having a lot of fun in the mornings. We listened to KXLG as we drove around Watertown for two days. The station put out a call for a record player to play an LP a listener had brought in. “Can you believe a radio station has to ask for a record player?” Faehn said. “And there isn’t an inch of tape in the building. It’s all digital.” Listeners were also encouraged to tell their best fish stories.
The new station paved the way for Aesoph to resurrect his Dakota Call. Aesoph and Faehn were at KSDR in 1990 when Rand McNally forgot to include Arlington in its South Dakota atlas. The duo decided to call someone at Rand McNally on the air, and it was obvious that the person who answered knew little about South Dakota. So Aesoph began calling people — often other radio personalities around the country — to quiz and teach them about South Dakota. But as radio stations ecame more corporate owned, management was less eager to let their talent talk to Aesoph, so he ended the call. Now there’s a new format. Listeners can e-mail the station with suggestions for people to call.
Aesoph’s Dakota Call received the A.H. Pankow Award from Gov. George S. Mickelson for promoting South Dakota. He surely teaches people about our state, but he also stretches the truth. One morning he convinced a person that Mount Rushmore was the longest active volcano on the planet, and because it erupted so close to the Homestake Mine gold often flowed within its lava. He claimed tourists visited with tin cups, scooped lava and cracked it open after it hardened to see if they got any gold. The next day, Faehn’s mother called and insisted he tune to competing station KWAT and its venerable morning show “What’s Up” where callers were asking about lava spewing from Mount Rushmore.