Wally Nelskog kicks his rock ‘n roll habit

October 15, 1961 – C. J. Skreen (Seattle Times)
If Perry Mason will move over, the court will come to order to consider “The Case of the Reformed Rock and Roller.”
Wally Nelskog, a young radio tycoon who was one of the chief architects in inflicting this musical malignancy on the Seattle area, has decided to go straight.
Nelskog announced last week that his Renton radio station, KUDY, which was a chronic ear-itant in the South End with its monotonous rock ‘n roll beat, has moved to downtown Seattle (University Building) and will operate under the new call letters of KIXI, beginning at noon today.
What makes this news is that Nelskog, one of the most blatant backers of formula Top 40 programming is abandoning this stereotyped operation for a middle-of-the-road musical policy aimed at the 18-to-35-year age group.
Asked why the change, Nelskog said, “I’ve been sick of it (rock ‘n roll) for years… I have a feeling this market has had its stomach full of it, with three stations grinding it out 24 hours a day.”
Nelskog’s disenchantment with the weepers and wailers of the wax world, however, seems to be more financial than a matter of taste. He admitted that it is “real tough to operate a rock ‘n roller… Someone will out promote you by spending a few thousand on some gimmick. You have to be number one in the field or your dead as far as selling radio time.”
Nelskog, a former top rated disc jockey in Seattle, offered some interesting sidelights on the problems of the DJ caught in a rock and roll operation.
“Most of the disc jockeys that I personally know in this field dislike what they are forced to play–at least those with some maturity. The music is controlled by the sub teens– the 13-and-under youngsters. Believe it or not, this is a real powerful lobby. They buy the single records that make up the top 40 programs and it is the sound that counts–not the performer.
“As might be expected, this is a rather fickle crowd–the one-shot hit performer of today is nowhere tomorrow. If a disc jockey goes on vacation for two weeks, he is lost when he returns–a whole new raft of performers has sprung up on wax overnight. In a few weeks. The process repeats itself. You need a Ouija board to keep up with the latest set of recording idols.”
Despite his defection from the ranks, Nelskog sees no appreciable letup nationally in the musical trend that, beginning in 1954, sank popular music to its lowest level in history.
While some stations have pulled out of this patronizing rut, the fact remains that the nations top stations, in terms of audience pull, are the rock ‘n roll operations–a fact which musical historians of the future may well ponder.
Nelskog, 41, has had an unusual career in broadcasting. He started out in the business in Spokane in 1947 and joined KING-AM in 1949 as a disc jockey, where he originated KING’s Open House, a program that still is going strong. Later he moved over to KAYO, and KJR, where his show, Wally’s Music Makers, in the early 1950s was the highest-rated show in Seattle broadcasting history.
A short time later, Nelskog began acquiring a small empire in broadcasting. He constructed KUTI in Yakima, and added stations in Everett (which he still owns), Pasco, Coos Bay, Oregon; Great Falls, Montana; Minot, North Dakota, and Oceanside, California, in addition to Renton.
Nelskog acquired KUDY in Renton from the estate of the late Brother Ralph J. Sanders, in January, 1958, and immediately implemented a music metamorphosis to the earsplitting and everlasting disapproval of sensitive South End listeners who were forced to put up with the rock ‘n roll racket 18 hours a day.
Nelskog frankly admits that the juvenile-program policies he pursued on his station was simply a case of survival in the tough, competitive world of broadcasting.
The broadcasters musical break with the past, however, appears to be complete. “When we get rolling with the new station,” he warned, “maybe we will give our old rock ‘n roll collection as a contest prize.” Listeners should be so lucky.
If nothing else, there is this to be said for Nelskog’s move: One less rock ‘n roll station in the market must be considered progress of a sort in the wild, weird and mystifying business of broadcasting.

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Author: Jason Remington

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1 thought on “Wally Nelskog kicks his rock ‘n roll habit

  1. I left Seattle October 2, 1961 for Alameda CA and six months of Coast Guard boot camp and advanced training. As a big fan of Colorful Cutie Channel 91, I was really disappointed to find it gone when I came home on Christmas break.

    I had also found KEWB Channel 91 Oakland during late night DXing in my car at E. 90th St. and Roosevelt Way, half a block from home, and the second highest hill in Seattle, about 550 feet above sea level. KEWB had the same jingles and music. Then I got to boot camp and discovered that KEWB was the big local rock ‘n roller. Pretty slick!

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