Way back Wednesday – music

Every Wednesday Taylor Shelfo shares information from past West Side Story articles.


Taylor Shelfo, Broadcast Anchor

Everyone loves some type of music — whether that be rock, mainstream, rap, indie, or classical — but this generation is full of different styles of music. In 1976, you listened to rock, or you listened to disco. Let’s talk about rock. Two radio stations, KRNA (Iowa City based) and KQCR (Cedar Rapids based), are comparable to  this generation’s Z102.9 — a station that EVERYONE listened to.


KQCR took a quarter of a million dollars to create — I can’t imagine how much it costs to make a radio station now — and money remained a large concern for the station throughout its first years in keeping up viewers with the desired music while still maintaining the business itself.


KRNA had always wanted to be more news-based than music, but the money was in the music and they couldn’t afford the loss on their already cost heavy business. Employers at the station weren’t familiar with the area and record dealers took immense convincing to send them records, in hopes they wouldn’t lose money as well (also because the price of plastic was ridiculously high). In order to play everyone’s favorite hits, they’d often have to stop at K-Mart to buy their own tracks and get them on air ASAP.

KQCR, however, paid $1,000 a month to receive pre-recorded tapes from L.A. so they would always have  track lined up for their listeners. Though this was the easy route, it definitely wasn’t cost effective or easy for the station to add their own flare to the programing.

KRNA was the first rock station in the United States to play “Stand Tall” and KQCR couldn’t compete due to their pre-recorded setup.

At this point in time, rock stations were popping up everywhere and Cedar Rapids had only one spot left – where KQCR established its roots. KRNA pictured their Iowa City location to be successful because of the large entertainment hub downtown, but a station in Anamosa topped them in power and ratings.

Music is what makes us – and what brings us together. ’till next week.

Music is a dynamic industry. You have to change or be left behind.”

— Eliot Keller - KRNA Manager