Wayne Eddy Recounts 40 Years of KYMN History

Originally Published in the September 2008 Entertainment Guide

“You’re listening to the new sound in town, KYMN radio. Let’s boogie!” The uplifting strains of “Up, Up and Away,” sung by the Fifth Dimension, soared out over the air waves, as announcer Wayne Eddy initiated the first broadcast of KYMN radio in Northfield on September 27, 1968.

Wayne is a St. Paul native, a graduate of Harding High and the Brown Institute of broadcasting. He started out his career working as chief announcer for WTMB radio in Tomah, Wisconsin, and then worked in both radio and TV at KAUS in Austin, Minn. The station had a slogan for Wayne’s TV weather reports: “Even if the weather isn’t sunny, Wayne is.”

Wayne then accepted a job as a weatherman with a Sioux City, Iowa, television station, replacing a meteorologist who had been called to serve in the Vietnam War. But when Stan Stynicki, with whom Wayne had worked in Austin, became the first station manager of KYMN, he asked Wayne to join him and Wayne could not resist the challenge and opportunity of starting a new station, closer to his hometown.

The original owners of KYMN were Stynicki, John Hunter and Milt Price, who had first applied for a radio license with a 1080 frequency in Edina, Minnesota, but were denied, due to a saturated market, so they turned their attention south to Northfield. Although Wayne likes to say that the call letters mean “Keep Your Money in Northfield,” the real story is that there was a KYMN station in Portland, Oregon, which was switching its format from rock and roll to classical music and changing its call letters. So, “for a song,” in Wayne’s words, the new Northfield station adopted the call letters and a package of jingles touting KYMN, which might otherwise have cost around $20,000. Wayne edited out the references to Portland, the “city of roses.”

Currently KYMN is located on Division Street in downtown Northfield, but the first station was built 31⁄2 miles northeast of town on a dirt road in Waterford township, on 320th Street, with studios directly underneath the 306-foot tower. “We had to wash our cars frequently,” said Wayne.

Feelings were divided about whether KYMN could make it, having to compete with Twin Cities stations and KDHL in Faribault. But most Northfielders liked the idea of having their own identity and local retailers gave their advertising support to the fledgling station. Forty years ago, there were many independent retailers in the community, several men’s and women’s stores, restaurants, and so on, all contributing to a “vibrancy” which Wayne described as “unbelievable, just fantastic.”

Wayne hit the ground running when he arrived in town on Aug. 18, 1968, selling advertising, organizing a music library, then covering sports and news stories after the station went on the air. (His morning show, “The Wayne Eddy Affair,” continues today, from 9-11 a.m., Monday-Friday.) One of the first news directors was Gene Thompson, a respected newsman from KROC radio and TV in Rochester with a very “authoritative voice,” who died unexpectedly of a heart attack one morn-ing. Other early contributors were staff announcer Ron Haynes (who left to go into the hog business), program and music director Johnny Harlow (who came from the Twin Cities stations of WLOL and WIMN), salesman Dick Severson who signed on with a “Music and Memories” Sunday morning show for more than 25 years and office worker Phyllis Knutson from Austin, followed by Patty Jorstad from Kenyon.

In January, 1969, KYMN hired Don McRae for part-time work on the air. Don had been broadcasting “Perman’s News” out of his home for Faribault’s KDHL station. Don was an employee of Perman’s, a downtown anchor store, and he had told Wayne in the fall of 1968 that KYMN would never succeed, so it was quite a coup when he said, “OK, I’ll come with you guys.” Don became the full-time news director and Wayne’s business partner when they formed the Northfield Broadcasting Company and bought the station from Stynicki in 1983. The death of this active community member due to a heart attack in 1996 was a blow to the town.

For 20 years, Bob Matheson was an important part of KYMN, as well, working as the morning weatherman and managing the “inside operation” of the station, including making sure everything was running right while Wayne would be doing tornado watches and warnings outside. His title was vice president of operations and sales manager.

Jeff Johnson has been with KYMN for 20 years, starting as a part-time announcer on nights and weekends and when an opening came in the sports department, Jeff took over. Wayne said, “It turns out he knew more about sports than anybody I ever knew, so that was a good hire.” Jeff is now the program director at KYMN and the early morning voice you hear on the radio. In a reversal of roles, Jeff is now Wayne’s boss.

Dan Freeman has always been “a very great friend of KYMN,” said Wayne, the first one to do sports besides Wayne, including “broadcasting the first and last ever metric football game between Carleton and St. Olaf.” Dan has also been news director and a supportive business owner and is currently the Sunday Morning show host.

The general manager today is Ned Newberg, known as “Ned the Horse Farmer” on the air. The news manager is Dusty Budd, a Northfield native who grew up listening to KYMN radio. Salesmen are Dean Aamodt and Mike Neuman. The current station owner is Ingstad Broadcasting, which bought the station from Wayne in 2002.

Looking back over the years, Wayne has memories of many promotions. The Big Inch was a guessing contest as to when the first inch of snow would accumulate and at Thanksgiving there were gobbling contests and KYMN Talks Turkey, when a turkey was given as a prize to listeners who answered their phone with that phrase. For more than 30 years, starting in 1969, the KYMN Auction show was extremely popular on Saturday mornings, where people called in and “bid on everything from horse semen for breeding to mobile homes, combines and donuts.”

Other innovative programs were “Visit with the Vikings,” where Wayne would call Vikings players at their homes for interviews, and a 1991 segment during the Gulf War called
“Voices from Home,” where KYMN would record greetings from relatives of servicemen and send them in a cassette with a KYMN bumper sticker. Said Wayne: “It brought tears to many eyes. I choked up many times. And then I’d get pictures of a KYMN bumper sticker on a tank in the Gulf desert.”

Wayne has had a Hall of Fame career in broadcasting and in community service. He was named the 1997 Outstanding Radio Broadcast Personality in Non-Metro Radio by the Minnesota Broadcasters Association and was inducted last October into the Hall of Fame at the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting. He has received too many awards to list here, including the Joseph Lee Heywood Award in 1990, the Jaycees Distinguished Service Award and the national Jaycee Ambassador Award, and has presided at fundraisers yielding proceeds totaling over a million dollars. He is justifiably proud of being one of the founders of the Northfield Historical Society and of his participation in the Defeat of Jesse James Days activities (see below).

Wayne is married to Northfield native, Julie Detlie Eddy. They have a daughter, Angel, and granddaughter, Sydnee, with all three generations living in Northfield. Known for his radio voice, Wayne is also a very recognizable figure in the community. He has ridden motorcycles since 1964 and is often seen about town on his impressive Honda Trike 1500.

In 2005, Wayne had the major part of his left leg amputated due to diabetes (though he is happy to make up a more interesting tale) and has a prosthesis which he has decorated with stickers, including the call letters KYMN. He also has a small KYMN tattoo on his shoulder.

“They say that if you like your job, it’s not work. It is hard work, but I love my job, so it didn’t seem like it,” said Wayne, thinking back over the years of time, effort and commitment involved in establishing the station. “The rewards are the fact that Northfield has its own radio station, its own identity and has the ability to learn immediately about things that are going on in our town.” Radio provides many services, such as emergency weather warnings, emergency messages from the government, cover-age of local high school and college athletics, and the “ability to give recognition to individuals for their successes in supporting the community through organizations such as the Jaycees, Lions or Rotarians.”

Wayne admitted he may be “somewhat self-centered and egotistical, so I enjoy the accolades that I receive,” but, “I’m also altruistic and I like to be able to give, and when you give publicity to various organizations like the historical society and that benefits them, that even makes me feel better.”

Last May, Wayne celebrated his 500th Wayne Eddy Affair show since returning to the air in April of 2006. Wayne is donating the tapes of all his shows to the Northfield Historical Society. The list of interview subjects can be accessed online at northfieldhistory.org. On May 23, the tables were turned on Wayne when the Northfield Historical Society made him the subject of a videotaped oral history.

Congratulations to Wayne Eddy and KYMN for 40 wonderful years of broadcasting excellence, a truly Historic Happening, Northfield Style!

The Defeat Days Legacy of Wayne Eddy

September 2009 marks the 60th anniversary of the first reenacting in 1948 of the infamous raid on the First National Bank by the James-Younger Gang in 1876. Wayne celebrated his 40th year on the organizing committee of the Defeat of Jesse James Days and was responsible for having instituted the beer garden which originated in 1969 in the parking lot of the liquor store and was run by the Jaycees.

“There were three kegs of beer,” said Wayne, “and by the late 1980s, there were 300 kegs.” Wayne also spearheaded the idea of bringing the royalty and reenactors of the raid to visit the grade schools in assemblies prior to the event, where the heroism of Joseph Lee Heywood is stressed, rather than glorification of the outlaws. Wayne said some of the children have been influenced to become raiders or royalty after seeing these assemblies.

Wayne was influential in the decision to keep politicians out of the parade, though exceptions were made for Hubert Humphrey and Al Quie in the 1970s.

Wayne’s legacy will also include his riding with the raiders, highlighted in 1991 by his fiery portrayal of outlaw Clell Miller at a 5 p.m. show. Shot dead after the robbery, Wayne fell off his horse onto his stomach on the pavement. As the Northfield News reported, “When townspeople rolled him over, the ham-mer of his gun struck one of the gun’s cartridges, which was filled with black power for blanks. The fire from the blank ignited the gun’s five other cartridges and those ignited the rounds attached to Eddy’s belt. Then his clothing caught fire, but it was quickly put out. Eddy was later treated at Northfield Hospital for second-degree burns to his waist and buttocks.”

Ever the trouper, Wayne showed up at 7 p.m. to announce the Drum and Bugle Corps competition. Wayne said, “The formality of the event went down the tubes” as the painkillers kicked in, rendering him “a little spacey.” The next year Wayne rode in the parade with small fire extinguishers attached to his saddle.

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