Field Notes

KOPN: The First 50 Years

In 1973, the Doobie, Allman and Isley Brothers all had popular records. Richard Nixon started his second term as America’s president. Also that year, a community radio station in Columbia, Missouri got a license to broadcast at 89.5fm.

In 2022 and 2023 – in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of KOPN, I organized current station volunteers to conduct oral histories with former and long-time station staff and programmers. These full oral histories live here.

For 13 weeks in early 2023, I hosted a live radio show on KOPN that drew from these oral histories, mined the station’s deep and wide archives and queried a live, in-studio guest about the week’s theme. I called the show KOPN: The First 50 Years. That’s a lot of work to put in to a one-hour show, so the shows live on as a predictably title podcast KOPN: The First 50 Years.

My goal with this podcast (and the KOPN Oral History Project broadly) is to preserve the story of our community radio station and give the listener (that’s you!) an idea of what it was like in the early, heady years after KOPN’s 1973 founding.

Episode 5 features oral history form lee Ruth plus poetry from the Chez Coffeehouse and archival recordings from Lee Ruth and Cathy Barton.
Episode 4 is about the ways the folk music found a radio home at KOPN.
Episode 3 features an interview with area fiddler and author Howard Marshall and KOPN programmer Margot McMillan, archival material from the Boone County Fair Fiddle Contest, Dear KOPN letters and more.
Episode 2 features an oral history with former KOPN children’s programmer Christine Gardener and current programmer Jackie Casteel, archival material from Inside Radio featuring Eli Burrell and Brother Blue plus live in-studio guests, including Ann Mehr, Sarah Catlin and Dante Dupuy.
Episode 1 looks at KOPN’s history with prison issues and features oral histories with James Robnett and Jim Austin, an archival feature about Renz Women’s Prison and guests Peggy Placier and December Harmon.