This was Mike's first experience as a DJ. He later worked at KUXL in Golden Valley, KWWL in Waterloo, and at the operations manager at KTCR-FM (now KTCZ) in Minneapolis. Airchecks of Mike on KTCR-FM in the mid-70's can be found on the KTCR Page on this site
Mike also found this article from an unknown source that was posted on the internet:
Another station, WMMR (for "Women's and Men's Minnesota Radio"), was created on campus in 1948, with studios in Coffman Memorial Union. Focused on providing a service for the student body, it originally broadcast via carrier current on campus, using the frequency 730 AM (hence the oft-used tag-line "Radio 73"). Legend had it that the WMMR call sign was actually assigned to the station by the FCC, pre-dating the assignment of those same call letters to the well-known Philadelphia station WMMR. The legend continued that the FCC forgot that it had allowed carrier current stations to use a call sign, and gave away the sign to the Philly station. The Minnesota students stuck to their guns and never changed their call sign, and there were of course no legal repercussions given that carrier current stations do not actually go over the air. By the 1970's, this legend lived merely as a tale passed down from year to year in an oral tradition, and has never been documented enough to confirm.
The station's volunteer engineers famously talked themselves into the campus steam-tunnel system from time to time when they needed to maintain the cables that connected the station's studios to the small transmitters located in each of the dormitory buildings. Tales were told of singed eyebrows from coming too close to the hot steam pipes used to heat the buildings. Eventually the station added an FM signal to the Minneapolis cable television system.
This was an entirely student-run operation, relying on volunteers. By the mid-60's through the end of its life, the station tried to emulate the management structure of a typical AM rocker of the day, with an appointed General Manager, Program Director, Music Director, and other management positions. From time to time, somebody actually sold an advertising slot, but the station more or less maintained itself using a small stipend from the Speech Communications department. Even then, the volunteers managed to put out programming for nearly 18 hours a day most days of the school year, and taught many a student the ins and outs of how to operate a studio. A news and sports operation broadcast daily reports, and the basketball, football and hockey programs were usually broadcast with live play-by-play. A number of live broadcasts from the Whole Music Club and the Great Hall at the union also took place, and the station served to promote other campus events such as the "Campus Carny" held annually in the old field house.
Garrison Keillor, the well-known host of Minnesota Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion, began his radio career broadcasting classical music on WMMR as a student in the early 1960s. He then worked at KUOM from 1963 to 1968.
Photo and article contributed by Mike Cunningham, La Crosse Wisconsin. (posted 11-24-07)
Mike Cunningham writes: "This was a shot over my shoulder of the control board at WMMR, the closed circuit station in Coffman Union at the University of Minnesota..Probably 1967 or so. Mark Durenberger ran and rebuilt the station while he worked the ovenight Hobbs show on WCCO as engineer. (Not my smokes)." CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Mark Durenberger 11/07 Email on WMMR
Mark sent an email with some information on this University of Minnesota carrier current station that was available in the dorms.
"Rick, there were a number of Engineers involved in the (repetitive) rebuild of WMMR. I was the Coffman "Staff" person assigned to the station in 1966 and early 1967. During that time we purchased an old used RCA 250-watt transmitter that originally saw the light of night in 1938, at KFAM in St Cloud. It was installed in the basement of Coffman and we ran coax through the tunnels, to couplers at many of the dorms. Not a very efficient system, but it seemed to work. I also remember we had a broadcast loop from KSTP and were able to air NBC Radio network newscasts.
There was some awesome talent at WMMR in those days, and before and after my brief tenure. One of my favorite 'characters' was Marshall Tanick, who went on to become a terrific lawyer and civil rights advocate.
University of Minnesota's WMMR Station ID from the 1960's
Recordings of WMMR, the U of M's carrier current station fed to the dorms, are difficult to find. Mike Cunningham did on air work at WMMR while attending the U of M. This station ID is the voice of Mark Durenberger, who later went on to work at WCCO as an engineer.
Contributed by Mike Cunningham of Lacrosse Wisconsin, form Operations Manager of KTCR-FM.
The University of Minnesota's WMMR Radio
John Pratt, who got his start at WMMR among others (such as Garrison Keillor) who went on to career in broadcasting, sent the photos below. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
John writes the following descriptions of the photos he contributed:
"1) WMMR, December, 1971....... If you can get over the shock of the Hair From Hell, this is a surprise photo that Larry Davenport took while I was on the air from studio 2, which by then was the main on-air studio, with studio 4 used for production. Not too long after I left in 1977, studio 4 once again became the on-air studio. The control board was an old Altec PA board that I think had been previously used either at Cooke Hall or Memorial stadium. It was rewired for stereo, even though stereo programming could only be heard through the control room monitors. Two QRK turntables sat behind me to the right, controlled by the two pots on the far left, making slip-cueing records a literal stretch. The orange pot in the middle was for the mic. VU metering, left to right: air monitor, left and right channels. Mounted at an angle in the lower left corner is one of the two RCA cart machines. The angled configuration caused excessive wear on the decks' bearings, so when they were rebuilt, they were stacked flat instead. The World War II surplus headphones were both highly uncomfortable and very durable. They were still being used when I left.
2) WMMR MN Daily 'Bandstand' story....... Music Director Mike Wild was interviewed after he came up with the idea of a sock hop rather than the usual band dance. Typical for the Daily, his name was misspelled 'Wilde' throughout the entire article, so I edited the story to correct the spelling. The photo was taken from studio 3, looking into studio 2 and beyond into studio 1. The Telex reel-to-reel was pretty new and worked great. The two RCA cart machines are repostioned behind Mike. I don't have the exact date of the story, but it was from just before the first Bandstand in the Fall of 1972. It was so successful that another one was held on January 5, 1973. I have several photos of that second dance from an issue of WMMR's Off Mike II newsletter, which I'll scan at a later time.
3) WMMR Spring Qtr. sign-on, 3-28-73...... Larry Davenport prepares to cue me to play an actuality during his newscast. The biggest drawback to studio 2 was that the only access was through studio 1... not good if a newscast was airing during shift changes. On the plus side, the record library was right next to the turntables.
(Sometime around 1975, WMMR was given a couple of old cart machines, the ones where you had to manually lock the pinch roller into position after inserting the cart. At the same time, KDWB switched brands of carts, and donated the old Fidelipac ones to WMMR. This enabled us to both cart up currents and do full remote broadcasts with music, on-site from each of the dorms during Welcome Week.)
4. WMMR Pacestter, Feb. 23, 1974...... Mike Wild published the station's chart every other week. It was composed and printed at the University's Central Duplicating, and distributed to the dorms and record promoters.
5. WMMR Pacesetter backside, Feb. 24, 1974...... The only Pacestter with a photo on back featured the AM 74 morning show staff."
Click on the photos to enlarge them. You can see an article on WMMR on the Mike Cunningham Contribution Page and some comments on WMMR from Mark Durenberger. Clicl Here
Pirate Radio at the U of M John Pratt's KIFI-FM (Arround 105.9 MHZ)
John started in pirate radio and at the U of M's carrier current station, WMMR. and then went on to a career in commercial radio, including stints at WDGY and KOMA. John sent the photos of the KIFI studio and an article that appeared in the University's Minnesota Daily newspaper. John also writes:
"I'd first moved my FM basement station from home to my room at Frontier Hall in the Fall of 1969. It was great fun, but not from an academic standpoint, so the setup stayed at home the following school year.
I joined WMMR in the Summer of 1971, and Chi Phi fraternity at the beginning of Fall Quarter. Over the winter, I moved my record collection and station to the frat, and it became KIFI, pronounced just like the name of the fraternity. The transmitter was a $3.50 Cordover model FMP-1 FM phono transmitter module, about three-quarters of an inch thick, and no bigger around than a quarter. It was installed up in the attic, connected to a section of walkie-talkie antenna mounted with clothespins (!) in a flower pot (!!) on a specially-constructed shelf. The flower pot arrangement later gave way to a more stable cigar box mounting. KIFI obviously spared nothing for its state-of-the-art engineering!
The frequency was determined by a combination of the length of the antenna and the precise placement of a penny underneath the bottom of the module. It was not a crystal controlled device (as if anything selling for $3.50 would have been!) so anyone walking within a few feet of the antenna would cause the frequency to change (one more reason it was located in the attic.) The frequency remained stable over the winter, but when the attic would warm up in the springtime sun, the frequency would change with the temperature, hence KIFI's '105.9 or thereabouts' slogan. One disadvantage of the attic antenna location was that nearby KEEY-FM was always audible underneath KIFI's audio.
Wires were strung out from a roof vent, leading down to my room for the audio and power. A DC power supply was used to keep the station on the air around the clock. While KIFI's signal was strongest from its location on 19th Avenue SE (across from Williams Arena) to Dinkytown, requests came from as far away as Alpha Phi sorority, near 10th and University. As much as my budget would allow, I did my best to replicate what was being played on WMMR. The folks at the Muiscland store on 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis would have a stack of special order blanks waiting for me on the counter upon seeing me walk through the door. It was surprisingly difficult to buy many of the 45s that WMMR played. While even the most obscure current singles could be obtained on the biggest labels like Columbia, Capitol and Decca/MCA, those on most other labels could not, and those special orders would be returned as 'not available.' I was able to obtain service from A & M through WMMR's Mike Wild, who was also A & M's campus rep for the area. We also received recorded programs from the US government.
A couple of my fraternity brothers took it upon themselves to build record shelving and the control board for KIFI. We used two turntables, two cassette decks and one of the microphones from my Ampex cassette recorder, using a Panasonic reel-to-reel deck as the mic preamp. My Radio Shack STA-120 receiver (which still works!) was used to simulcast KRSI-FM whenever KIFI wasn't originating its own programming.
While the majority of KIFI's in-house programming came from its radio-obsessed owner, several of my fraternity brothers and a few WMMR staffers took turns as well. I hadn't thought about its impact until one of my fraternity brothers told me that KIFI had given our fellow brothers a chance to be 'on the radio' that they never would have otherwise had. THAT is what pirate radio was really all about. None of us ever used our real names, so KIFI was blessed (?) with such stars (??) as Gary Grooveout, Jolly Roger, Jack Daniels, Cush, and so on.
In the Spring of 1973, I got a call from Gary Jacobson, a reporter for the Minnesota Daily student newspaper. He wanted to do a story on KIFI, so we set up a time for him to visit. At the time, we had a roomer at Chi Phi who also worked at the Daily, so I had assumed that he had told Gary about the station. During the course of Gary's visit, I asked him how he had heard about KIFI, and his answer left me speechless. He indicated that there was a group of blind students over on the West Bank who would take their radios and ride on the bus on weekends, trying to see how far away they could pick up KIFI's signal!
KIFI remained on the air until the end of the summer of 1974, when I moved out of the fraternity, and into an apartment near Ralph & Jerry's Market on SE 4th Street. The new location was not well-suited for broadcasting, and with classes, a job and having become WMMR's Music Director vying for my time, KIFI went off the air for good.
In the late '70s, I stopped in at the Chi Phi house for a visit. They were still receiving the recorded shows from Uncle Sam, and after telling those present about KIFI's history, one of the brothers said, 'we always wondered what that shelf in the attic was for.'
By 1978, I was working at WJON in St. Cloud. While chewing the fat with WWJO PD Dean Spratt one day, the subject turned to pirate radio. I mentioned KIFI and the bus-riding DXers on the bus. Dean said, "That was YOU?!" Dean had been one of those bus-riding KIFI listeners. Small World!"
John Pratt at the KIFI control board in 1969. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Page One of Dalily News Article. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Page Two of Daily News Article. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
WMMR, December, 1971 - John Pratt went on to work at WDGY & KOMA
WMMR Spring Qtr. sign-on, 3-28-73...... Larry Davenport cues John Pratt.
WMMR MN Daily 'Bandstand' story....... Music Director Mike Wild
WMMR Pacestter, Feb. 23, 1974...... Mike Wild published the station's chart every other week.
WMMR Pacesetter backside, Feb. 24, 1974
WMMR News Booth - Mike Cunningham is reading news into a classic RCA 44 microphone in 1970. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
More on the University of Minnesota's WMMR
A number of young U of M students pass through the WMMR studios and went on to career in commercial radio. Mike Cunningham share some more photos in this section. Mike writes:
"I left the U in 1970 so these pics are between fall of 1966 and spring of 1970 and was in Mankato (KYSM) in the Fall of 1970.
There is a picture of Altec control board newly installed at WMMR, ( We didn't need an orange knob!!!) Also came across a picture (dorky) of me with a classic RCA 44 microphone I used at WMMR doing some news looks like. Sorry, the pics are poor quality.
Great Stuff you've posted on the site, maybe we can shake some more out of some of the WMMR alumni if word of your website work gets spread around."
You can see more on WMMR on Mike Cunningham's Contributions Page on this site. Click Here.
Photos contributed by Mike Cunningham, formerly of KTCR-FM and WLCX-AM/WLXR-FM (La Crosse). WMMR ID contributed by John Pratt.
Altec control board newly installed at WMMR in 1970 (Photo provided by Mike Cunningham). CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE
1970 Vintage Photo of WMMR Studio Tape Deck Operation. Photo provided by Mike Cunningham.
The airchecks on this not for profit web site were recorded off the air. The recordings on this site provide historical examples of Twin Cities radio and are intended for purposes of archival preservation and for research. Additionally, the recordings can be used by vision impaired visitors to get an audio perspective of radio history. These recordings are not intended to by used by others for commercial purposes.
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