First, St. Louis sports radio went insane — last year, Insane Broadcasting changed WQQX (1490 AM) to a Fox Sports Radio affiliate.
Now area sports radio has taken another twist thanks to Brad Hildebrand, who owns two stations in the far west St. Louis suburbs. One broadcasts sports and Hildebrand is taking a poke at the format by adopting the call letters KRAP — and that’s not K-RAP, as in the musical sense. Here’s how he describes the operation:
“There are lots of sports stations called The Fan, The Ticket, The Score, and tons of those ESPN stations, but there’s only one station that’s talking sports KRAP 24 hours a day,’’ he writes on the station’s website (sportskrap.com). “It’s Sports KRAP. Yeah, we know what you’re saying. ‘Dude, is this for real? A radio station named KRAP? You’re probably some internet-only station broadcasting from the basement of some guy’s mom’s house.’ No, we’re for real. We’re an FCC licensed radio station broadcasting (1350 AM) pounding out a whopping 500,000 milliwatts. But we do realize that we’re KRAP. In fact, our transmitter is KRAP. Our signal is KRAP. Our studios are KRAP. Our staff is KRAP.
“What makes us different is that we’re not bragging about how great we are. We know we’re KRAP. We’re just working harder to be more than just another sports radio station by being more than just a radio station. … We’re not just talking KRAP, we’re talking SPORTS KRAP!”
It’s a small-time operation based in Washington, Mo., that airs amateur sports of interest in the region it serves — parts of St. Charles, Franklin and Warren counties — and also reaches some extreme western areas of St. Louis County. The station, which was KWMO before recently being renamed, also carries syndicated shows from CBS Sports Radio and is an affiliate of the Blues and Kansas City Chiefs networks.
THE NAME GAME
Hildebrand said he had been interested in having a station called KRAP since he and some buddies were about 12 years old and listening to Johnny Rabbit (Ron Elz) on KXOX.
“We used to kid that some day we would grow up and own KRAP,’’ he said. “We used to pretend we were on KRAP.”
When he finally began exploring the possibility of obtaining those call letters, he discovered they were assigned to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. But it was inactive, so after his inquiry KRAP was released to the FCC and he pounced.
He acknowledged there has been some griping about the name, but said the upside is big.
“When I tell people my call letters are KRAP, nobody forgets that,’’ he said.
Its website mixes live and archived coverage of amateur athletics in that area with St. Louis pro sports, and Hildebrand’s goal is to eventually become a significant factor through the entire market.
He’s been in the broadcasting business in a variety of capacities over the last four decades, since the day after he graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1976.
He was the first TV traffic reporter for Channels 2 and 4 and in 1984 started Computraffic, which produced driving reports for many radio stations. He eventually added an operation that provided news reports for multiple stations before selling those in 1994. He ended up in Washington, where he bought what currently is KRAP as well as KSLQ (104.5 FM) in 1998 and has had them since.
Among those who have worked for him are Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin and MLB Network host Greg Amsinger. But he said he has been unable to get qualified hosts now as he wants to add local sports talk to the lineup.
“I just can’t find people,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said his broad background gives him a perspective that combines old-school values with the modern technology.
“I’m a 42-year veteran of the business but I see the writing on the wall,’’ Hildebrand said.
That writing was illustrated in bold letters by the recent implosion of former sports-talk stalwart KFNS (590 AM) under the guidance of Dan Marshall — whose only previous connection to broadcasting had been in buying ads for his wireless communicationscompany.
“I know the radio business from all sides, unlike some so-called experts,’’ Hildebrand said.
He’s exploring the possibility of buying a St. Louis station, or becoming a partner with someone to do so. And although his focus has gone from being 95 percent oriented to the on-air product five years ago to being 90 percent geared to the online side now, he said it’s necessary to obtain a station that covers the entire market.
“A broadcast signal … adds legitimacy,” he said.
And he’s philosophical.
“I’m 59 and not ready to retire,” he said. “I have ideas that can take me to the next level. I may be crap, but I’m trying hard.”
For more, read Dan Caesar’s column on STL Today where this was originally published