History Lesson: Superpower KUSW

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In honor of Global 24’s recent sign on, we bring you a piece on another commercial shortwave broadcaster from 25 years ago: Superpower KUSW, I happened to be rummaging through my storage unit a while ago when I found this QSL card, an artifact from what is still my all time favorite shortwave station. They’re long gone now, but I still remember them fondly.

Join the KUSW premium club for only $20!
Join the KUSW premium club for only $20!

It’s hard to explain what these guys meant to a 17 year old kid from Central Iowa. While their playlist wasn’t nearly as daring as I seem to remember, they sounded almost revolutionary to these teenage ears. Their format was mostly AOR with an adult contemporary spin to it, but they also played bands like Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians and the Replacements. They were also my first exposure to Bonnie Raitt and John Prine as well, not to mention the first place I’d ever heard the Band’s Up On Cripple Creek. Like I said, they probably weren’t all that different from a lot of major market stations at the time, but they were a huge departure from anything else I could hear. I embraced them with open arms and became a loyal listener.

I soon got to know the on air personalities of John Florence and Faith Martin, who had the sexiest radio voice I’d ever heard. Later on, I got to know Cheryl Schaffer, “Skinny” Johnny Mitchell, and even Utah Jazz Basketball. I listened in while they broadcast listener requests, mine and others, as well as the time their broadcast was blasted by the U.S. Army to drive Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican embassy in Panama. Fun times!

Unfortunately the economic realities of shortwave broadcasting quickly caught up with KUSW. No matter how good the programming was, and it was very good, there just weren’t enough advertisers interested in shortwave to make a go of it. Over time, more and more paid religious broadcasting found its way onto the station, until one day in the fall of 1990, they through in the towel and became just another international Christian broadcaster. Their run may have been brief, but it was a glorious one nonetheless.

The station's information sheet and frequency schedule
The station’s information sheet and frequency schedule

This particular card is dated January 15, 1988, but I remember my report dating back to a few weeks earlier. I had just received my first “real” shortwave radio, a Realistic DX-360, for Christmas of 1987, and discovered KUSW a day or two later. To this day, they’re the only international broadcaster I’ve ever QSLed.

Along with the card, I found a form I was supposed to fill out and return (which I obviously did not), and another for the Superpower KUSW Premium Club. $20 was a lot of money for a 17 year old kid back then, so I didn’t join up. I wonder what you got for your money?

While I was digging around on the net for KUSW-related material, I found this sound check from one of their early broadcasts. I’m not even sure where I found this or who made the recording, but if they ever stumble across this page, let me know and I’ll give you full credit for your efforts.

From the West, to the World. This is Superpower KUSW.

9 thoughts on “History Lesson: Superpower KUSW”

  1. I remember them very well. I still have an old t-shirt and bumper sticker from those days. The t-shirt is in bad shape; but, the bumper sticker is still in pretty good condition. Great memories. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Global24Radio started off with a blast and virtually melted down several weeks later. I joined the Listeners Club, for free with the promises of an open forum, members membership certificate, and contests etc. I also paid $50.00 to be in the Insiders Club with more special offerings and previlages. I sent in three QSL’s and paid for QSL priority, plus I sponsored The Rock Plye for $10.00 gold level.

    Here is what I got so far. I got kicked off the forums for about two weeks because management felt my comments weren’t helpful. I am under the name Broadwing so you can check them out. I finally got back on a few weeks ago after contacting management. I have not received any Insiders Club info or newsletter since it’s inception. The reception at my QTH is bad most of the time. The station constantly changes program scheduling. They still owe me two QSL cards from December. They said recently the newsletters from December would be or were mailed out. I feel like a person who is owed a payment and gets told every week, “the check is in the mail!” Well it isn’t and I am angry.

    Nothing that they promised as come through. The station has the lousiest customer service I have ever come across. I don’t even bother trying to tune them in anymore.

  3. I have that same QSL from KUSW and also have a t-shirt and bumper sticker. I remember they played some great music and I really enjoyed their broadcasts.

  4. John. I share your thoughts. I’ve heard noises that they owe a lot of money to WRMI. What I am most annoyed at is the changing schedule. What I find laughable is they use to do updates all the time, then there was nothing. And finally a few FB updates once and a while. I’m sure there must be people around who can tell them how to run the station. It’s sad.

    1. Lee,
      Thank you for your comment. The station supposedly will be back on the air this month with two 30 minute time slots a week. That’s like going from Manager at a Wal Mart to being a greeter at the Garden Dept entrance to the store.

  5. Did you hear the latest? It’s not just WRMI who they own money to but also Spaceline in Bulgaria. Just heard an interview with someone from Spaceline on this matter.

  6. I also remember KUSW, “From the West to the World”, very well. I was 17 or 18 at the time as well and listened to them faithfully from Hazlet, NJ where I grew up. Their signal in NJ was not as robust as WRNO, but I enjoyed them more than ‘RNO. For some reason, I still remember Johnston Cook introducing and playing Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to Be Kind”, some 25+ years later. First time I ever heard that song, although it had been out 10+ years at the time. In addition to the rock leaning AAA/AC/AOR Format “Skinny” Johnny Mitchell also hosted an oldies show. John Florence hosted an once a week country show called the “Wasatch Skyline.” A few years ago, there was a conversation on a radio board about KUSW and Mr. Florence responded. He ended up getting a job at a public radio station in Upstate NY after KUSW folded.

    I was a freshman in college living in New Hampshire when KUSW folded in December 1990. I remember the station’s signal was poor in NH. (It wasn’t great, but listenable in NJ). The station was sold to the Trinity Broadcasting Network and became KTBN. When TBN took over, they “blew up” a portion of KUSW’s record library in the station’s parking lot to symbolize the end of the rock format. That stunt reminded me of the movie “Footloose”.

    I have the QSL card and information sheet that you posted. I also had several cassette tapes of KUSW recorded off air. If I can find them and they still play, I hope to digitize them and transfer them to CD. Finding them after a few moves is the most challenging part.

  7. I loved this station. I was in high school and my dad had a shortwave radio and I stumbled across this. The music was great, and I was interested in getting into radio and has fantasies of eventually working at this station. Hah! Anyway, I soon asked for my own, more portable, shortwave radio and would listen to this station when I got home from school and while doing homework. I lost touch with it and was saddened to learn it went off the air. I wish there was a way to make a shortwave commercial music station successful. I’d love to tune in again – and not online. I miss the crackle and static and all of it.

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