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The Don Burden Story - KISN's Innovative Maverick Founder

(13 posts)
  • Started 5 years ago by Craig_Adams
  • Latest reply from RichJohnson

  1. Craig_Adams
    Radio historian

    Today August 10, 1928 Don Wesley Burden was born in Gilcrest, Colorado to Grace M. (Patton) & Ray Alfred Burden. Don had three brothers: Ray M., Ivan & Eldon. Plus four sisters: Maxine, Una Mae, Esther & Hope. By 1930 the Burden family was living in Garfield, Nebraska. By 1940 the Burden's had moved to Bonneville, County, Idaho. On April 4, 1946 Don W. Burden enlisted in the Navy. He served aboard the Navy Oiler USS Salamonie (AO-26) as a Fireman First Class (F1).

    On June 5, 1947 Don was granted a "dependency discharge" and released from the Navy. He returned to Idaho and landed a job as a salesman at an Idaho Falls newspaper. In 1948, 20 year old Don W. Burden began selling air time as an ad executive for radio station KEIO in Pocatello, Idaho with studios in the "Hotel Bannock." Some of the KEIO personnel and later KWIK that Burden associated with, would follow him through his broadcast career. People like: Steve Shepard, KEIO PD, Chic Crabtree, GM & Scoop Schoonover, SM.

    On August 27, 1948 Don W. Burden married Frieda Dorothy "Dee Dee" Downing in Pocatello, Idaho. In 1949 Don & Dorothy welcomed their first daughter Wendy Lee Burden. On May 31, 1949 Don's dad Ray Alfred Burden died at age 48 in Bonneville, County, Idaho. By November 1949 Don Burden had his first radio title, KEIO Promotions Manager. By November 1950 Don W. Burden was now KEIO Sales Manager. In 1951 Don & Dorothy welcomed their second daughter Theresa Lynn Burden. In June 1951 KEIO changed its call letters to KWIK "Quick Radio."

    December 14, 1953 it was announcement Central States Broadcasting Co. with principals: Don W. Burden, Treasurer (26.20%); Charles S. "Chic" Crabtree, Vice-President (26.20%) & Mal T. Deaton, President (2.38%) would buy KOIL Omaha from Nebraska Rural Radio Association through a purchase of 1,000 shares for $161,500. The farmers cooperative had just purchased KOIL on March 18, 1953 for $200,000 but run into cash flow issues and wanted out.

    On December 30, 1953 the FCC granted the KOIL transfer. Mal T. Deaton, KOIL President was a Pocatello investor and figure head with no broadcast background. The real operators were Don Burden & Chic Crabtree who were Co-Managers of KOIL with Chic as Program Director and Don as Sales Manager. Slogans: "The Mighty 12-90, KOIL" "The Swingin' Koil Deejays." KOIL became the most listened to station in Omaha.

    On February 27, 1957 Don, Chic & Mal as Pocatello Radio, Inc., purchased KWIK from Pocatello TV Corp. (Nicholas G. Ifft, President). This was announced by Mal T. Deaton, President of "the new ownership group" not named at the time. "KWIK would become a subsidiary of KOIL Omaha, which was Co-Managed by Don W. Burden & Charles S. Crabtree." Pocatello Radio, Inc. ownership: Don W. Burden (42.10%); Charles S. Crabtree (29%); Mal T. Deaton (5.26%); L. Fargo Wells (5.26%). By February 1958 the radio group had been named "The Star Stations" with Don W. Burden as President (58.84%). Group investors were: Mal T. Deaton (11.76%); James P. "Joe" Wilkerson (11.76%); L. Fargo Wells (11.76%) & J.D. Buehler (11.76%).

    On March 20, 1958 it was announced Empire Broadcasting, Inc. with Don W. Burden as President, was purchasing KMYR Denver for $400,000 from Dolph-Pettey Broadcasting Co. On May 1, 1958 the FCC approved the KMYR sale and by July 1959 KMYR had become KICN "Kissin" "The Mighty 71-derful" with "The Swingin' 71 Deejays" and "Action Central News live at :55."

    On March 16, 1959 it was announced KVAN Vancouver, Wash., with transmitter in Portland, Ore. was purchased by Star Broadcasting, Inc. The sale was negotiated by Don W. Burden, President of The Star Stations and KVAN, Inc. President, Sheldon F. Sackett of San Francisco. The price was reported to be over $580,000. It was also announced Star Stations would move KVAN studios to downtown Portland before the end of the year. On March 31, 1959 Don & Dorothy welcomed their third daughter Patricia Marie Burden.

    In April 1959 the FCC granted the KVAN sale. On April 29, 1959 Don Burden prepared to give Portland the biggest radio station promotional launching The Rose City had ever witnessed or heard on radio. On this day handbills were distributed everywhere in downtown Portland, on windshields, utility poles, department store show windows, on buildings as well as public buildings, announcing "A Revolution Tomorrow."

    On April 30, 1959 at 6:00am KVAN began playing the Rock & Roll song "Teenage Bill of Rights, Part 1. The Revolution" by Robby John & The Seven-Teens, continuously for 24 hours, only interrupted for commercials and brief newscasts. At 12:00 Midnight, May 1, 1959 control of KVAN was transferred to Star Broadcasting, Inc. and calls changed to KISN. The revolution continued to 6:00am. Burden estimated the song was played 360 times. It was his brainchild.

    "Kisn Radio, 91-derful" began its first contest, giving away $5,000 by telephone. Officials at Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co. reported 1,200 calls an hour crammed into KISN's three phone lines in its Vancouver, Wash. studios, jamming the BUtler telephone exchange serving North Portland and some Vancouver numbers.

    Don W. Burden held an afternoon press conference in Sheldon Sackett's suite on the 11th floor of the Benson Hotel and talked about his plans for Kisn, as well as about the KISN calls "I always wanted those letters," Burden said, "I wanted them so badly we went ahead and cut our tapes and were right down to the day before opening, before we discovered them on a retired tug boat (The Lake Fagundus) in California, negotiated and brought them here." "Kisn Radio" "The Mighty 91-derful" with "The Swingin' 91 Deejays."

    On October 31, 1959 "Trick or Treat for Transistors" was launched at KISN and was most likely done even earlier at KOIL & KICN and later at WIFE. Trick or Treater's were told to ask "Is this a "Koil" trick or treat house?" There were logoed Trick or Treater bags given away at area stores as well. Don Burden was a master at duplicating the successes of any single market - in ALL his markets.

    On December 14, 1959 it was announced "The Star Stations" would purchase KCOM (FM) Omaha for $25,000 from Delta Broadcasting System, Inc., following consummation of the transaction. Burden was an early believer in FM radio. On January 15, 1960 the KCOM application was filed. Later in 1960 the station became KOIL-FM and began simulcasting its new AM sister KOIL. By this time it was noted Don Burden had increased his ownership in KOIL from (42.10%).to (51.10%).

    On January 1, 1961 KWIK Pocatello, Idaho was sold. Later in 1961 KICN Denver was also sold. KICN call letters replaced KOIL-FM Omaha with KICN (FM). On June 12, 1961 the FCC warned KISN about violating the requirements for a proper station identification. On June 23, 1961 KISN assured the FCC "that it had corrected the situation" with its I.D.

    On September 9, 1961 Don Burden began "The KISN Contemporary Communications Scholarship." The first $1,000 scholarship went to the Univ. of Portland. Scholarships were also given at KOIL & WIFE.

    On November 24,1961 "The Koil Carol Tree" & "The Kisn Carol Tree" debuted and later "The Wife Carol Tree." The first several trees used a lighting system leased by Mobilcolor Co., of New York but it was very expensive. In 1965 The Star Stations designed and built their own systems. Adapted Carol Tree Copy: Thousands of multi-colored ever changing lights, pulsing in a true kaleidoscope of Christmas color. The towering beauty of a majestic fir tree. The sights and sound of W-I-F-E at Christmas. This is The "Koil" Carol Tree. Again this year you and your family can enjoy this electronic marvel in shimmering color. The spectacular "Kisn" Carol Tree, translates the actual sound of "Wife" Radio" into waves of dazzling color.

    On September 6, 1962 KISN was fined by the FCC $2,000 for apparent wilful and repeated improper I.D. Not a long enough pause between Vancouver and radar. "KISN Vancouver radar weather scope." The FCC said KISN had failed to pause twice in December 1961 and three times in January 1962.

    On October 3, 1962 KOIL & KICN (FM) of Central States Broadcasting, Inc. and KISN of Star Broadcasting, Inc. were granted transfer of control from Don W. Burden, James P. Wilkerson & Marie P. Downing (Burden's mother-in-law) to Star Stations, Inc. And a transfer of control of KISN from Don W. Burden, James P. Wilkerson, John F. Davis & Gerald E. Weist to Star Stations, Inc., "without prejudice to whatever action the commission may deem necessary to take as a result of problems currently existing with respect to station KISN." Between January 21 & 25, 1963 KISN was fined by the FCC $2,000 for misleading the public into believing KISN was licensed to Portland. In January 1963 Star Stations call letter heart logos were replaced by the new star logos.

    On January 21, 1963 Don Burden, best known for his unique sales, promotional strategies and contests began one of its biggest on KISN. "THE 50,000.00 THANK YOU For Making 91-derful NUMBER 1, Year In and Year Out!" The prizes were a $6,500 Jaguar XKE Coupe; Luxurious-furs; An Apollo Swimming Pool with Jacuzzi, fully equipped and many other prizes. Not to mention all the annual contests: "The Good Guys Have The Turkey's And Are Givin' Them Away."

    On May 28, 1963 Star Station KISN announced it had issued $197,181.60 in fiscal 1962-63 in Public Service free time.

    On June 10, 1963 Star Stations of Indiana, Inc. with Don W. Burden, President purchased WISH AM/FM Indianapolis in excess of $1,250,000 from Indiana Broadcasting Corp. (Corinthian Station Group with Jay Whitney, President). In November 1963 the FCC approved the sale and WISH AM/FM became WIFE AM/FM. Burden changed the AM format to Top 40 music geared to attract a young listening audience. "Lucky 13, Wife" with "The Swingin' Gentleman." Burden launched a promotion campaign unlike any done before in Indianapolis. On Air personalities were featured in large newspaper ads and billboards and "Wife" staged a contest offering $113,000 to lure listeners.

    In November 1963 The Star Stations adopted "The Good Guys" moniker for its DJ's with the distinctive logo face next to the call letters, displayed on sweat shirts for DJ promotions or listener giveaways, as well as being sold a stores. "The Koil Good Guys" were born! As well as "The Kisn Good Guys" & "The Wife Good Guys." Ruth Ann Meyer WMCA Program Director was creator of the signature logo as well as redefining the distinctive name. On February 1, 1964 The Star Stations began using the name "Total Information News", the standard of American radio news. A leadership service of the Star Station.

    Over the years The Star Stations music survey names changed: KOIL Top Fifty Survey; Portland's Fabulous Fifty Silver Dollar Survey; KOIL Fabulous Fifty Hit Parade; KISN Presents The Fabulous Fifty Hit Survey; KOIL Presents The Fabulous Fifty Hit Parade; The Wife Good Guys Super Hit Survey; The kisn Good Guys Super Hit Survey; Koil/Good Guy Survey For Omaha; Kisn/Good Guy Survey For The Northwest; Wife/Good Guy Survey For The Midwest; Koil Good Guys/Hitline; Kisn Good Guys/Hitline; Good Guy/50; Good Guy/30; Kisn 91 Top 30; KOIL, The Rock of The Midwest, Good Guy's Hitline; Wife 13 Plays The Hits; Kisn Big 30.

    On October 14, 1964 Star Stations of North Carolina, Inc. filed an FCC application seeking assignment of license from WIST Inc., Charlotte, N.C. This application was not granted. On October 28, 1964, the FCC granted WIFE AM/FM a one year license renewal until August 1, 1965. "Wife" had "hypoed" its ratings by using an audience rating report based solely on a 1 3/4-day survey made during a period when an intensive giveaway contest was being conducted by the station, without disclosing that was the case. Conduct was found to be irresponsible and inconsistent with the licensee's obligations. WIFE AM/FM would never have a regular three year license period.

    Don Burden was a master of innovative promotional ideas, or maximizing an existing idea. He placed billboard's at his stations next to highways coming from airports that read: "While you've been gone, We've been spending night and day with your WIFE! Wife, Lucky 13." "Welcome Home. We've been Kisn your wife. She's 91-derful!" and later: "While you've been gone, We've been kisn your wife. Catch us on 91-derful."

    On May 17, 1965 WIFE AM/FM filed FCC applications for renewal of licenses. This time, the applications were designated for a hearing on issues seeking a determination whether during the short-term license period, fraudulent contests had been held and whether false invoices and affidavits of performance had been rendered to advertisers and/or agents misrepresenting the times of presentation of commercial spot announcements, resulting in overcharges and overpayments. On June 12, 1965 KISN became the first media member to enter a parade float in the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade.

    On September 14, 1965 the FCC received its first indication that WIFE AM/FM had fraudulently falsified its bills to advertisers in a letter of complaint from the Central Indiana Better Business Bureau. On September 29, 1965 KISN was fined $2,000 by the FCC for creating the impression that KISN was licensed to Portland. On January 1, 1966 The Star Stations began using the moniker "20/20 News."

    On January 14, 1966 KISN presented its first "Kisn Bridal Fair." There were also Koil Bridal Fair's and of course Wife Bridal Fair's. This had been a Don Burden idea. He founded Bridal Fair, Inc., as a national show for brides that goes on today. On May 3, 1966 Star Broadcasting, Inc. filed an FCC application for a new Portland FM broadcast station for KISN on 103.3 Mc. with transmitter at intersection of Burnside and Skyline Blvd. Antenna would be 973 feet above average terrain. This application not granted.

    By June 1966 Star Station officers holding more than (10%) were: Don W. Burden, President; Steve Shepard (aka Shepard Curelop) Vice-President & Dorothy F. Storz (no relation to Storz Broadcasting) Secretary-Treasurer. On October 1, 1966 KISN raised power from 1kw to 5kw directional from its new transmitter site at 4617 N.E. 158th Ave. The KISN transmitter move would later come into question by the FCC.

    On October 17, 1966 in a civil action before Circuit Court, Paul E. Brown aka Paul Oscar Anderson claimed he was fired for refusing to go along with KISN election coverage. Brown told the court that on September 22, 1966 Don Burden, KISN President told him he planned "to put Mark Hatfield in the U.S. Senate." KISN News reports on rival Bob Duncan were to "show Duncan in a bad light." Brown believing this policy to be in violation of the FCC equal time provision, refused to play promotional spots announcing special coverage and was fired by KISN's Program Director.

    On October 18, 1966 the KISN slanted news charge was "not substantiated by the preponderance of evidence." By 1967 Don Burden was living at: 2040 South 85th St. in Omaha. On April 1, 1967 KICN (FM) Omaha was relaunched as KOIL-FM with more power and a Beautiful music format began.

    On May 1, 1967 Don Burden and Gordon McLendon, President of "The McLendon Stations, Inc." were expelled from the "War Crimes Tribunal" in Stockholm, Sweden. Burden & McLendon attempted to cover the tribunal but were thrown out after taking photos of North Vietnamese waving red flags in the audience. They tore up their press cards, refusing to admit them to the meeting. Burden & McLendon protested their expulsion to the Foreign Ministry which could do nothing. This became an international incident with front page coverage in Swedish newspapers. Burden filed half a dozen "on the scene" reports over Star Stations, describing somewhat of a carnival atmosphere and people appearing rather Bohemian. "Beards and mini-skirts were plentiful" said Burden.

    On March 29, 1968 it was announced Don W. Burden (76.36%) was now Star Stations, Chairman of The Board. Taking Don's old position was Star Station investor James P. "Joe" Wilkerson (16.34%) President. The remainder (7.29%) by four other investors. Don Burden was a master of coming up with gimmicks for listeners and advertisers. Star Stations offered a large selection of free promotional giveaways, as well as items you could purchase. Here are just a few: Logo pins, window & bumper stickers, logo cigarette lighters, exclusive 45rpms & albums, logo match boxes, exclusive newspapers & magazines, Good Guy sweat shirts, logo pee-chee folders and ink pens.

    On October 1, 1968 Star Stations home office moved from 511 South 17th St. to the modern $1.5 Million headquarters at 8901 Indian Hills Drive which also housed the broadcast facilities of KOIL & KOIL-FM. On July 6, 1968 it was announced The Star Stations had altered their formats to include Country music, as well as Rhythm & Blues. Steven D. Brown, Star Station National Program Director referred to the new programming as "an All-the-Way format." There is no written policy. Brown said, "but every station is aware of the new policy."

    On May 4, 1969 Star Stations moved to reopen the FCC record to show that, in addition to some $3,306.48 already refunded by WIFE to its overcharged advertisers, $2,794.95 has been refunded since the close of the record for a total refund of $6,101.43. This was granted. Although it cannot be satisfactorily resolved on this record, it appears that Mr. Burden may not actually have been aware of these deceptive billing practices. Nonetheless, it is undisputed that false bills were issued and that the ultimate responsibility for this practice lies with Burden. WIFE license was renewed for one year only.

    On November 4, 1969 the FCC, had a special behind closed doors meeting about missing documents in the WIFE file. On December 2, 1969 it was reported by Jack Anderson, some explosive allegations, accusing Senator, Vance Hartke, and Senate aide Nick Zapple of accepting gifts from Don W. Burden have mysteriously disappeared from the WIFE file of the FCC. The missing documents allege that Hartke received free political advertising on WIFE during his 1964 campaign for the Senate and that Zapple accepted a number of gifts, including an International sterling silver set and Pendleton Mills clothing for his family. At the time Hartke & Zapple wielded great influence on broadcast affairs.

    Burden explained "We have exchanged gifts. I have sent Zapple Christmas gifts, wedding gifts for his daughters, several gifts." The silver set, he said had been a Christmas gift. Apparently, Zapple kept the silver set until FCC officials caught wind of it. Burden's former private secretary Louise Rudol, who told about the gifts to Zapple and the "free" advertising for Hartke. FCC insiders told Anderson that the documents were ordered destroyed on grounds that the FCC had no business investigating Congress.

    On January 29, 1970 it was reported by Jack Anderson that Secret House hearings produced testimony that Senator, Mark Hatfield, collected $1,000 in cash from Don Burden in 1966, whose KISN was having troubles at the time. Hatfield vigorously denied this to Anderson that he had ever accepted money from Burden.

    On December 3, 1970 the FCC refused to renew the five Star Stations licenses, pending a hearing on charges of political favoritism, slanting of the news and misrepresentation of facts to the FCC. Another allegation was centered on Burden's gift of a $444.20 tractor to Frank Stisser, President of C.E. Hooper, Inc., rating service. Burden was also charged with having arranged with a hotel switchboard operator to monitor calls made by witnesses in a 1966 investigation of KISN. Several other charges were: rigging of a contest, harassment of former employees, faulty bookkeeping and was found that Burden was prepared to make a $10,000 "campaign contribution" in exchange for a zoning variance to build KISN transmitter towers.

    On December 4, 1970 Don W. Burden, Chairman of the Board of Star Stations, Inc. denied all chargers. "We are operating our radio stations within the very letter and spirit of FCC regulations and will continue to do so," said Burden. "We will be totally and completely exonerated." Burden owned 76% of Star Station, Inc. stock. On December 11, 1970 it was announced by the FCC indicating that Don Burden had stated, he agreed to give Vance Hartke publicity in WIFE newscasts and that he directed that Hartke be mentioned favorably.

    On January 6, 1971 the FCC denied a petition by Star Stations to stay a hearing on the stations license renewal applications. On September 13, 1971 at a FCC Hearing in Indianapolis, Burden testified that while he personally favored Hatfield, who was then Oregon Governor, as a candidate for Senate, he knew nothing of station records showing a check for $1,000 made out to Hatfield in 1966, or of other records later showing the debt as being transferred to his own account.

    On September 14, 1971 the FCC Hearing in Indianapolis, Burden testified he did not consider it "propitious" to sue Senator, Vance Hartke for a $4,000 unpaid campaign advertising bill from 1964. On February 14, 1973 the FCC recommended license renewals for KOIL & KISN but turned down the renewal request for WIFE. The rulings would go into effect in 50 days, unless there was an appeal and Star Stations did appeal.

    On August 5, 1973 Star Stations announced they would begin a format move away from the younger listeners and now target young adults. "We know we've had that bubblegum image and we're leaving it behind. No longer will we play any Donny Osmond records, sight unheard, or will we jump on any Bobby Sherman record that comes to the station. Of course, if one of those becomes a hit and gets on our playlist, we'll play it, but not automatically anymore." By November 1974 KOIL-FM had become KEFM and continued a separate format from KOIL.

    On January 31, 1975 the FCC denied license renewals for KOIL, KEFM, WIFE AM/FM & KISN. The entire Star Station group. The FCC said it found serious misconduct had occurred in the operation of Star Stations. The commission found that Don Burden was intimately involved in and had knowledge of the misconduct and that the owners must be held responsible. The 5 to 1 decision reversed rulings set in 1973. Star Stations would continue business as usual while the FCC denial was appealed through the courts. The FCC granted Indianapolis Broadcasting, Inc. an application to take over the WIFE channel. Burden owned (92.3%) of Star Stations and said "I am confident that the court will reinstate Administrative Law Judge (Chester F.) Naumowics' decision to renew our licenses," he stated.

    On February 15, 1975 it was reported that FCC Commissioner Robert E. Lee, the vote in favor for renewing Star Stations licenses, called it a "death sentence" to deny Burden his license renewals struck Lee as "an unprecedented example of an overdose of justice." In Lee's view, "we are effectively bankrupting the licensee and probably denying him a livelihood in his field of expertise." On October 25, 1975 William F. Buckley, Jr. touched on the Star Stations denial on his "Firing Line" program on PBS, asking FCC Chairman, Richard Wiley whether the penalty for "tilting the news" in favor of one candidate, hadn't resulted in too great a penalty. Wiley thought the FCC was reasonable and fair.

    On December 11, 1975 the U.S. Appeals Court upheld the FCC license denial of Star Stations. Burden said "We are very surprised and disappointed that the court sustained the commission decision in our case. Our Washington counsel is proceeding to prepare and file an appeal to the courts which will be filed within the next four months. We are still very optimistic about the final outcome in the case. In the meantime, we will continue to operate our stations in the same high standards as we have in the past."

    On May 23, 1976 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the FCC decision on Don Burden's stations. Star Stations now had 90 days to wind up operations. Don Burden said his company would petition the FCC to allow Star to act as interim operator. "This is the greatest injustice ever perpetrated against a broadcast company in the history of the FCC," said Burden. Revoking the licenses meant Burden was unable to sell his stations. Star assets were estimated at $20 Million. On June 3, 1976 the Appeals Court issued a mandate.

    On June 7, 1976 the FCC ordered Star Stations to halt operation on September 2, 1976. The commission said the stations' call signs would be deleted when operations halt. It required, however, that nighttime lighting continue on all transmission towers until they either are dismantled or re-licensed for radio transmission purposes. On June 9, 1976 KISN President & G.M. Sol Rosinsky said "I'd say the mood of our 34 employees is hopeful that the FCC will permit an interim operator to keep the station on the air until the commission chooses a permanent new owner from a list of applicants."

    On August 4, 1976 it was announced last week that the FCC had refused to allow Star Stations to stay on the air until an interim operator could take over. On August 26, 1976 it was reported the FCC was considering a petition by Don W. Burden to delay for another 30 days the silencing of The Star Stations, to ease the way for new owners to take over. At the same time Martin I. Levy, FCC Chief of the Broadcast Bureau's broadcast facilities division, was sorting out for the FCC, numerous applications for interim and permanent authority to operate the stations. Levy said he also had been told informally that KGAR Vancouver intended to file in opposition to interim authority for KISN. It wasn't to be. On September 1, 1976 Star Stations appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals, was rejected.

    Early on September 2, 1976 The Star Stations in Indianapolis, Omaha and Portland, went off the air by order of the FCC, as we rolled through the time zones. First to go was WIFE AM/FM Indianapolis. At KOIL Omaha, Gene Shaw told his audience during the final moments "It's been fun. It's been a good time." The last words on "The Mighty 1290" were recorded by Star Station President, Steve Shepard "KOIL wishes to thank all of the people who have enjoyed and depended on this radio station for the last 51 years. We are now leaving the air for an indefinite period of time by order of the FCC. This is KOIL Omaha." KOIL's last song was "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel. KOIL went silent at 12:01am. They had 30 employees.

    In Portland the FCC forced KISN's last hours to be at Kisn's transmitter site. They didn't want a crowd of listeners and TV news cameras witnessing this from "The Kisn Corner" studios, making the FCC officials nervous as the bad guys. Dave "Record" Stone told his listeners near the end "At this time KISN leaves the air for an indefinite period of time. Good night from the Kisn Good Guys." Then a recorded ID "K-I-S-N Vancouver." Playing for a few seconds was "Someday We'll Be Together" by Diana Ross & The Supremes, then static at 12:02am. KISN had 32 employees. This was the largest group of license denials in FCC history, at the time.

    In 1979 Don Burden moved to California. In 1980 Don W. Burden divorced Dorothy Burden. On August 9, 1980 Don W. Burden married to Kay Kohler in Chicago.

    On January 12, 1981 the FCC refused permission to transfer control of KPEN (FM) Los Altos, Calif. from Los Altos Broadcasting Co. to Signal Enterprises, Inc. owned by Don W. Burden, President and (93.44%) stockholder. The FCC said the application had raised "significant questions" regarding basic qualifications of Don W. Burden. KPEN (100%) owner & President, Frank J. DeSmidt needed to sell KPEN right away for lack of cash.

    In 1982 Don Burden returned to radio, becoming Frank DeSmidt's business partner, purchasing (49%) of KPEN and becoming Vice-President & General Manager. On February 6, 1984 KPEN was sold to Dowe Communications Co. for $2.5 Million, comprising $1.2 Million cash and the remainder in a note. KPEN had sold due to Don Burden's failing health. On June 28, 1984 Don's daughter, Patricia Marie Burden White died at age 26 in Salt Lake City, from injuries suffered in an auto accident on June 24th. On August 22, 1984 the FCC granted the KPEN sale.

    On May 12, 1985 Don W. Burden died at age 56 in San Mateo, Calif. after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. On May 16, 1985 funeral services were held at 2:00pm at Sneider & Sullivan Funeral Home, 77 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo, with burial at Skylawn Memorial Park, San Mateo. Don Burden received praise for financing college scholarships for Boys Club youths and others. In a 1976 Omaha Mayor A.V. Sorensen and former Creighton University President Carl Reinert praised Burden's generosity in providing scholarships for disadvantaged youths, while other people characterized Burden as ruthless.

    His Star Stations had owned and operated some of the top radio stations in the West. Steve Brown said Burden was an "early pioneer in contemporary radio," before the Top 40 format that gained popularity. Several dozen people became top national radio figures after working for Burden, Brown added. Burden had both detractors and admirers. Perhaps best known for his flamboyant, maverick-like broadcasting style, it was this same demeanor which eventually stripped him of all his radio licenses.

    Special Thanks to Joel Miller & Roger W. Morgan who helped make this Radio biography more complete.

    References: Billboard magazine, Broadcasting magazine, Broadcasting Yearbook, Columbus Telegram, Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, FCC, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Kansas City Star, Lima News, Lincoln Evening Journal, Omaha World Herald, Pocatello Idaho State Journal, Portland Oregonian, Sponsor magazine, Tulia Herald, U.S. Radio magazine, Wikipedia.

    Posted on August 10, 2014 - 01:29 PM #
  2. Andy_brown
    Member

    "while other people characterized Burden as ruthless."

    "it was this same demeanor which eventually stripped him of all his radio licenses."

    When I moved west in 1976 and went to work at KUPL I heard about the problems at KISN and passed on a job there I was offered. Then I went to work for Howard Slobodin at KVAN and heard a much more complete story, as Howard knew Don. Howard often said about him "He let it all go to his head." It's too bad he died so young, as I sometimes wonder how he would have reacted to the ruination of radio over the last twenty years. Interestingly enough, one of his understudies, Bill Failing, could not revive 910 into anything like it had been previously. KISN really did die in 1976.

    Posted on August 10, 2014 - 01:39 PM #
  3. Deane Johnson
    Member

    Outstanding as usual Craig. Probably the most detailed and complete history of the Don Burden era ever written.

    Burden was probably best described as the guy the phrase "damn the torpedos, full steam ahead" was invented for.

    His favorite song was Up, Up and Away.

    Posted on August 10, 2014 - 01:58 PM #
  4. Craig_Adams
    Radio historian

    Thanks! I thought about you a lot Deane, during this research, knowing you were their experiencing it first hand. What a time and place to be in radio. You were very fortunate.

    Posted on August 10, 2014 - 02:41 PM #
  5. semoochie
    Member

    I didn't realize until just now that Star Stations actually had an out in 1973. If they hadn't contested the ruling, they'd only have lost WIFE and possibly WIFE-FM but the other stations would have been saved! Not only that but they would own what is now K103!

    Posted on August 10, 2014 - 11:09 PM #
  6. tombrooks
    Member

    Craig...fascinating story..great detail..regarding: ""... jamming the BUtler telephone exchange serving North Portland and some Vancouver numbers.".... That was happening even in the early '70s...I remember numerous calls from the telephone company wanting to know when certain contests were running so the could prepare for the overflow..sometimes they actually told the station NOT to run a contests because of the "phone blowouts" that were happening around town..(I was working the KISN requests lines in the early 70's..we had 4 Portland and 1 Vancouver request line operating - they rang ALL the time - even with NO contests running..)

    Posted on August 11, 2014 - 09:41 AM #
  7. msndrspdx
    Member

    Great stuff, Craig! You should've included some paragraphs on the KKSN (KISN)-FM years and the founding of the current KISN Goodguy Radio online service, which continue Don's legacy. When Goodguy Radio started, Dave Stone, the man who closed down the original Mighty 91, signed online by dedicating it to Don Burden, among a long list of others.

    It should also be noted that Goodguy Radio's ownership is called Star Stations LLC, a reference to Don's original company. Shortly before the online service started, the tower that had carried Dave's last KISN broadcast from the east Multnomah County site was torn down. The event was filmed and posted to YouTube. Don's family, I understand, still owns the land upon which the tower once stood. There should be a historic marker there someday!

    Best, Mike 8)

    Posted on August 11, 2014 - 11:49 AM #
  8. Andy_brown
    Member

    "should've included"

    Personally, I'm glad he didn't. It wasn't part of Burden's legacy, not one bit. KKSN AM was all about Bill Failing. KKSN FM had nothing at all to do with Burden or the original KISN except to try and capitalize on the old call letters and they couldn't even do that because they were still taken by station(s) elsewhere. In addition, Mr. Stone's stream is strictly for nostalgia and vanity reasons. The audience from the the 50's and 60's has mostly moved on, died or moved away. Listening to it is like watching a rerun of a good but old movie, there are only so many times you can watch it before it becomes boring. The original KISN was not boring or it would not have been successful. It may have been top 40, but in those days top 40 was not stagnant, just repetitive. As the hits moved on, the station moved on with them. Much of that music wasn't all that good anyway, what among it that was good still gets an occasional airplay on nostalgia format stations mostly on HD2 or satellite. Don Burden didn't seem to be the type that would be dwelling on nostalgia or solid mold. Unfortunately his legacy died along with his broadcast licenses. What didn't die then died in 1996. He'd be turning in his grave if he knew what the government has done to radio broadcasting.

    Posted on August 11, 2014 - 12:11 PM #
  9. Deane Johnson
    Member

    Andy speaks words of wisdom.

    Posted on August 11, 2014 - 02:06 PM #
  10. RichJohnson
    Member

    The only thing missing from this story is a Greek chorus. It's a classic tale of genius and madness residing in the same body.

    Of course I grew up listening to KISN - even won a radio playing jock in the box (Jimmy Cassidy, aka John Sebastian). And I met Burden once - the summer of '83 when he was running KPEN. All the stereotypes I'd heard about were still evident -- including the raised desk and remote control office door. The guy was 55 but looked like he was pushing 75.

    I always thought that, given Burden's genius for programming and promotion, his company would still be around today if he'd run a clean shop. Star could have been Clear Channel!

    Accuse or defend all you want, but one thing is certain: Don Burden was incapable of playing the long game. The quick score always trumped the forward looking investment.

    Posted on August 11, 2014 - 02:32 PM #