Nebraska’s first radio station, WAAW, signed on from Omaha in 1922. It was a daytime independent station. The Omaha World Herald’s owner, World Publishing Company, purchased the station in 1939. The station became KOWH.
Todd Storz and his father, Robert, purchased KOWH in 1949. Todd became the station’s general manager. He noticed the great response certain songs received from listeners when they were played between the variety of programs KOWH carried. Storz also noticed the way people using jukeboxes would listen to the same songs over and over.
Storz commissioned the University of Omaha to study the concept of a hits-based music format on the radio.
By 1950, Storz had moved KOWH to a format of the most popular music of the moment, along with regular newscasts. According to a 1957 "Television Magazine" article, KOWH showed an $84 profit in 1949. It had an audience share in the low single digits. By the end of 1951, the station was Omaha’s dominant No. 1.
Storz copied the KOWH formula all over the nation. With the improved finances of KOWH, Storz purchased stations in New Orleans, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Miami. Storz flipped them to the Top 40 format and replicated the huge ratings success he’d seen in Omaha.
In the late 1950s, rival Omaha station KOIL adopted to Top 40 format and challenged KOWH. KOWH eventually lost the Top 40 ratings war.
Storz purchased KOWH in 1949 for $75,000. In 1957, Storz sold KOWH to William F. Buckley, publisher of the conservative “National Review” magazine, for $822,000.
Storz died of a stroke in 1964 at age 39. The company began selling its radio stations in 1978. The final station was sold in 1985.
It’s hard to find much about the history of KOWH after Buckley purchased it. Reconciliation, Inc., purchased the station in 1971. KOWH adopted a middle-of-the-road format. At some point, it became KCRO and adopted its current format of Christian programming. Salem Communications owns the station as of 2014.
Read more about KOWH at this link on David Gleason’s American Radio History site.
Sources: Wikipedia (KCRO)