Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Seed Radio! Really! - KFNF and KMA

Just as J. L. Childs realized that mass marketing through large catalog mailings was the way to grow in the late 1800s, some seedsmen of the early 20th century saw radio as a great opportunity to talk directly to their customers.  It seems, also, these men really fell in love with radio in general. 

The slogan of the call letters of Henry Field's radio station was assigned, KFNF, was "Keep Friendly, Never Frown".

"In 1924, he became a pioneer in broadcast radio by building a station (KFNF) on top of his seedhouse.  The programming consisted of country entertainment, information and of course, informing folks about his wares.  To put this into context, this use of the brand new technology of broadcast radio put Field on the cutting edge and one of less than 300 radio stations operating in the country at the time." from SaveSeeds.org

The "Shenandoah Five" radio was made for Henry Field!

From the Earl May Nursery and Garden Center site
Earl E. May founded his company in 1919 in the small southwest Iowa town of Shenandoah.  He was a "natural born” salesman and quickly attracted a number of capable individuals to work with him in building a successful mail-order and retail seed and nursery business.  Though he died in 1946, his legendary expertise lives on today within the garden centers which bear his name.
 In the early 1920's, Earl May was able to foresee the great opportunity of talking to thousands of people by a new means of communication called radio.  He traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to broadcast his program at WOAW.  After two years he decided to build his own radio station in Shenandoah.  In 1925, KMA was opened, at first as a department of the nursery company.  It was one of the most popular stations in the country, broadcasting homespun farming and gardening talks. 
Mr. May won the "Radio Digest" coveted gold cup in 1926, being voted the World's Most Popular Radio Announcer by over 452,000 people throughout the United States.  The Mayfair Auditorium, home of KMA, was visited by thousands of listeners who wanted to meet the legend, and see the live broadcasts. 
As Earl May wrote in one of his spring catalogs, "Be sure to come - bring your whole family. Remember, we do not put on any style here . . . if you are in your working clothes and decide to come, why come ahead, because you’ll find me here in my working clothes, too. Come as soon as you can for I promise you will have a good time and that you will be glad you made the trip."

These seedsmen are certainly extroverts!!  Here is The Earl E. May Song.  Poor image but that's what I could find.

The  first line goes -

If there's any thing you need from clothing on to seed just send your orders down from city farm or town.
and the refrain isThis is K.M.A. at Shenandoah it's Earl EMay you're list'ning to--All we do is try to serve you people of the U.S.A. If you live northsoutheast or westEarl EMay can serve you best. This is K.M.A. at Shenandoahit's Earl E.May you're list'ning to.
The following from University of Iowa Libraries; Rita Benton Music Library.