Farewell, KLBB

We bid adieu to another vanishing species: the locally-owned and operated small-market AM radio station.

KLBB in Stillwater is giving up and turning off the signal, Mary Divine at the Pioneer Press reports.

It was a classic radio station, the kind that people in the radio business cut their teeth on, back when people in the radio business came from small radio stations.

KLBB broadcast local church services, Stillwater High School football games, took requests and dedications and couldn’t make it with a hyper-local format in a world where people don’t much care about locality that much anymore.

When it first put up a broadcast tower in a field in Stillwater, it was still a rural area. Now it’s surrounding by houses and businesses and property like that is worth a fortune. So the owner is selling the land to a company that’ll put up senior housing, ironic since the station’s programming is aimed at an older demographic.

“If the property is worth this much, and we can’t get that much for the station, then it’s a pretty easy decision,” said Dan Smith, the owner and general manager of the station. “We’ve done OK. I’ve got a great staff, but when I add it up on a calculator, and I look at my options, it’s just a no-brainer right now.”

The station will die at the end of the month. It is survived by an industry where nearly every radio station sounds like every other radio station in cities that are pretty much like every other city.

  • Gary F

    I loved listening to that station when Bob Yates was on the air.

  • ec99

    Is this the station that hired Hobbes after he left CCO and did the old big band stuff hosted by Marshall and others?

    • Gary F

      It became the retirement home for many from the good neighbor. Ruth Kozlac, Joyce Lamont, etc

      • ec99

        Wasn’t it owned by the McNeelys at one time?

  • JonasGrumby

    This is sad news. It is my favorite station.

  • Erik Petersen

    As an analysis of ‘making it’, it’s not as if they weren’t, provided low revenues were in line with low expenses.

    Thing is sitting on that land makes it a business question of highest, best use. The man is not wrong to exit the business given his circumstances and ability to do so.

    The station put out a nice vibe in the valley, it was cute. Tom Jones, etc…

    • Oh, no question he made the right economic decision.

      And nobody wanted to buy is business.

      The licenses of radio stations say they must operate in the public interest. You can’t do that anymore and survive, at least with a typical small market AM signal.

      • High school football is awesome on the radio, btw. That’s never coming back to Stillwater now.

        • Postal Customer

          But who listens to high school football on the radio?

          • People in small towns, mostly.

          • Scott Bailey

            Very Few. If they are, they are people 50+ that know nothing about the internet!

        • Scott Bailey

          That is because we have these on line services like the NFHS Network pushing the local radio stations away, and the games are streamed with audio and video. The Smartphone has killed the pocket AM/FM radio with high school football in many parts of the country. It’s cool with me in my situation because I don’t like the long, hard hours,
          in addition local advertisers have spent their advertising dollars elsewhere, like with the school’s quarterback club, yearbook club, and other outside advertising sources.

      • Erik Petersen

        Does this station actually go dark then? I didnt know that was a thing that happened, hell 630 is still around and my parents listened to that. or does someone assume the channel and the license with a little money changing hands

  • A-man

    My favorite part of KLBB was listening to Packer games when the Packers were losing. Hearing the misery of their local radio perspective gave me such joy.

    • Postal Customer

      KLBB never worked for me. WEVR 106.3 from River Falls is the only station I can get the Packers and Brewers on. Love Wayne & Larry.

      • Wayne is a great guy. Old pal from college. Sensational broadcaster. Worked his A** off in college to be better at it, unlike the rest of us. It’s the one area where the Packers have it all over the Vikings.f

        You know how Wayne first developed his craft? Calling high school games for WSBS in Great Barrington, Mass. 1,000 watts daytime. 3.9 watts at night.


        • JonasGrumby

          I’m a Viking fan who agrees with this. Wayne is a pro. Wish we had him. Love ya PA, but sorry.

        • Postal Customer

          “It’s the one area where the Packers have it all over the Vikings.”

          Well, that and the trophies.

  • Jim in RF

    I have to believe that WEVR here in RF is close. Still has lots of local programming and news (including obits). KWNG in Red Wing went syndicated about a year ago.

  • Jim in RF

    There is a life cycle to a lot of these industries in small towns, I guess, and the local radio station isn’t that different from the local hardware store or pharmacy. I think the only things that are really protected are bars and family dining.

    • I think that’s right. In today’s economy, there’s really nothing that’s going to separate one community from another, at least where business is concerned. Same stores, different towns.

    • Erik Petersen

      Not sure bars / dining can be excluded. Brines closed / is closing on main street in Stillwater. Perfectly good business, we are to understand, ie it makes some money. But the family can’t get anyone in their younger generation to work it, its not appealing as a profession

  • Scott Bailey

    I would love to buy the license of KLBB, but I live too far away. I’m in the same position, but I’m not giving up. I own a 1,000 Watt Daytimer with 3 watts at night. I just go off at night because I am on a “Class A” Channel. I do everything myself, I have nobody working for me. I feel many broadcasters wasted their time and money on FM Translators. Where I live, the FM Band is a total mess. On Line Streaming is the future. Bob, don’t you stream on line? Generation Z, anybody born 1995 and after ignore even the FM Band. They want Pandora, iTunes, and anywhere on line where they can get music and content, clean, clear and fast. I will be 54, disabled and retired. I’m in a position where it doesn’t matter if my AM Station makes money or not. I’ve running it for 26 years now, plenty of volunteers, and one computer!

  • Jack

    I remember when KLBB was in Century Plaza (near Minneapolis Convention Center) and then it moved to Edina. I fondly remember meeting John Lundell. Back in the day, it was part of for profit Greenspring Company – sister to the non profit American Public Media Group.

    Some really cool people worked there.


  • Georgia

    This became my go-to station to listen to during my workdays after Barb Abney was replaced at the Current. I don’t think I fit into the demographic of KLBB (tail end of Gen X, I am), but I’ve discovered such great artists that came before my time. I’ve actually been a fan of the station since I was a teenager falling into the swing era revival music. As I find myself saying too often lately, “Can’t we have any nice (unique, community-driven) things anymore?” Anyway, listen from about 7-10 am and 12-2 pm this last week and you’ll have a ball with the music.