Re: Eugene Radio Happenings


KWAX went to the trouble of changing their RDS to not mention HD, so seems like this could be permanent. I dunno.


KKNX 840 got a nice writeup in today’s Register-Guard:

If you want an apt metaphor for KKNX’s John Mielke, look no further than to one of the many computers that wrap around his DJ setup like a drummer’s drums.

While the computer’s shell dates back to high-tech’s Neanderthal Age — OK, 1996 — the guts of the computer were upgraded just last year to meet

Mielke’s specific needs.

That’s Mielke, a 67-year-old disc jockey who makes his living on oldies but last week won Oregon’s 2013 Broadcaster of the Year award in part because of his new ways of thinking.

Sure, one moment he’s mouthing the words to the 1962 song “Monster Mash” during his morning show but, the next, he’s pointing out to a guest where all of KKNX’s 11,000 Internet listeners live on a Google Earth map, including the actual house of a guy in South Carolina.

His studio along Delta Highway includes duct-taped books and a rat’s nest of plug-in lines — dozens of them. But when Mielke owned the KLSR TV station in the 1980s, he was the first in the Northwest to offer stereo TV.

Mielke is proof that innovation and oldies not only can coexist, but thrive.

“He makes his money with old music,” says Bill Johnstone, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Broadcasters, “but, like with what he did at KLSR, he uses cutting-edge technology. He’s taken a stand-alone radio station and turned it into a very successful radio station in a very competitive market.”

KKNX AM 840 offers news and Beaver sports, but focuses mainly on music from the early days of rock ’n’ roll — and helping listeners understand it.

Mielke’s musical knowledge has earned him the title “The Professor.” He will happily deflect a question about himself to explain how Three Dog Night’s 1972 hit “Black and White” was penned in 1954 — and was about the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision outlawing school segregation.

“He can take you back to when black artists first made the trip across the dial to white stations,” Johnstone says. “He’s a master of the trade who not only knows the book’s title but wrote a few chapters himself.”

If KKNX, which he owns with wife Susan, doesn’t rival most local stations for audience size, the setup works for Mielke. “We own it, our total overhead is only $8,000 a month and we’re billing $30,000 (in advertising),” he says. “Susan runs the place. I can make money, she can keep it.”

The Web has stretched the listening audience far beyond Oregon. “The Internet is where all radio is going,” he says.

He enjoys twining “then” and “now.” “It’s just fun to do,” he says.

Listeners seem to be enjoying the ride, too.

“Makes me feel like a kid again,” writes a listener from Grants Pass on the station’s website (

A retired professor from Chong Qing University in China listens and writes often.

“Absolutely the BEST oldies station I’ve ever listened to,” another writes. “I get more information on the ’60s between 6 and 8 a.m. than any book could give me.” (Mielke’s show goes from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays).

The audience is mainly 45 and older, evenly split between men and women.

A third of his listeners, Mielke says, have at least six years of college education.

Mielke got his start in radio at 13 when he “pulled records” for disk jockey Hunter Hancock in Los Angeles.

Since then, he’s done radio — and a touch of TV — from China to Hollywood to Alaska to Medford to Eugene, accumulating an array of great stories enroute: having lunch with media mogul Rupert Murdoch — “even though I didn’t know who he was until four months later” — and befriending Janis Joplin in 1967 before her breakthrough.

“I still have her master reel for her Pearl album,” he says.

Mielke and Susan came to Eugene in 1986 to buy KLSR TV.

He sold that, spent a couple of decades running Willamette Rapid Print with Susan and, meanwhile, started KKNX in 1996.

Not that he bothered telling Susan that he arranged to borrow $160,000 for it while at a Rotary Club lunch.

Soon he was back doing what he loves: playing oldies and interacting with listeners. In 17 years, the station has given out nearly 16,000 “diplomas” to listeners for the “College of Music Knowledge.”

Next week, he’ll be on a cruise ship doing interviews with Neil Sedaka, Petula Clark and other artists.

He’s up at 4 a.m. and on the air at 6.

You get the idea that Mielke will keep having fun, fun, fun ’til someone takes his microphone away.

Follow Welch on Twitter @bob_welch. He can be reached at 541-338-2354 or