Keeping Big Band music alive on local radio
I’ve only known him for 10 years, but as Sid Hartman, who turns 100 this week after 80 plus years in the radio and newspaper businesses, would say he’s a close personal friend.
I’m referring to my dear friend Todd Hale. He has been an icon in the Owatonna area for more than 60 years having served as a radio broadcaster on KRFO for many years and in more recent years serving as publicity and entertainment director for the Steele County Free Fair, Minnesota’s largest fair. It’s at the fair where I first met Hale a decade ago.
While Hale, 80, has stepped back from most of his duties at the fair, which I hate to say but won’t ever be the same again, he is still “live and kickin’” doing something he is truly passionate about. Hale is the host of the Big Band Show on KRFO. It’s a weekly radio show featuring Big Band music, mostly from the 1930s.
I’ll be honest I don’t listen to Big Band music. However, I recall as a youngster growing up listening to WCCO-Radio and tuning in to hear Hobbs’ House with late-night radio host Franklin Hobbs sending the big
bands to a nationwide audience. He had such a rich, smooth voice that could put anyone to sleep.
I have a deep appreciation for what Hale is doing at KRFO. He is providing listeners with Big Band music that really can’t be found anywhere else. He spins Golden Oldies from his vast collection of vinyl albums every Sunday at 8:15 a.m. and again at 6 p.m. (See feature story on Hale elsewhere in this edition.)
Shows such as the one Hale is doing seems to be a lost art on radio these days. Sadly, I don’t think the glory years of radio will ever be what they once were. But Hale is doing his part to at least keep a little tradition alive, even if it’s only for 45 minutes each week.
Hale has a voice much
like Franklin Hobbs and other great radio personalities. For 27 years, Hale has been the voice of the fair. He’s in charge of the “barkering” in which he gives announcements over the fair’s PA system. Former fair manager Elmer Rese- land recruited Hale because of his radio voice.
I have a standing joke with Hale about how he handles his announcing chores at the fair. He utilizes an old-fashioned tape recorder to do interviews and record announcements. It’s what he got used to when he started his radio career in 1959.
A few years ago when I interviewed Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall, who grew up in Blooming Prairie, one of the first things she mentioned about the fair was the highlight of being interviewed by Hale during her younger 4-H days. No need to wonder, Hale was equipped with his tape recorder.
You’ll never believe the first thing I saw as I walked into the KRFO studio a few weeks ago to join Hale with the taping of his radio show (it’s not done live). He had
a tape recorder at his side with a cassette tape all cued up and ready to roll with a Big Band song.
Hale will be the first one to tell you that his process of using a tape recorder is “antiquated” at best. “But it works,” he says. “As long as it works and does what we want it to do, there is no reason to stop it.”
Besides the radio business, Hale has given so much to the Owatonna community over the years. He is currently chairman
of the Owatonna Airport Commission. He is one of the greatest community sup- porters I know. He doesn’t hold back in sharing his love for the community.
I believe it’s remarkable for a community to have such legends as Todd Hale.
If you’re ever in the mood for some Big Band sounds, go in hot pursuit of checking out Hale’s weekly radio show on KRFO.