Knapp gives back to hometown during reunion [UPDATED]Published 10:45am Wednesday, October 2, 2013 Updated 12:47pm Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Picking a DJ to lead the 50s and 60s music as part of a FFHS Class of 1961 70th birthday party was an easy choice for classmates. It was a unanimous opinion: Who better than Chuck Knapp?
A 1962 graduate of Fergus Falls High School, Knapp never let making it big time in the broadcasting business lead to big-headedness. In fact, he never forgot his roots in Fergus Falls. Being part of the Friday, Oct. 4, 50s and 60s music fun night at the Eagles Club is a prime example.
He’s happy that all proceeds will go the 544 Education Foundation.
The mission of the foundation is to raise, invest and grant money to support educational programs in Fergus Falls public schools. The foundation also acts as an alumni association for FFHS graduates.
Knapp is an inductee into the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He’s been back in his hometown many times. One of his most memorable appearances here was for the 2009 annual Fergus Falls Kiwanis prayer breakfast.
Many Minnesotans remember Knapp as a talented Twin Cities morning show icon and program director.
He started out in radio in his hometown of Fergus Falls. Knapp later went on to broadcasting success around the country at such legendary stations as WLS in Chicago, WFIL in Philadelphia, WRKO in Boston and KS95 in the Twin Cities.
“By age 8, I was listening to WLS in my basement on Springen Avenue and wanted to do radio,” Knapp said. “How fortunate for me to be hired by WLS many years later.”
In Minnesota he anchored Knapp & Bush on KSTP AM in the 1970s, Knapp & Donuts on KS95 FM, America’s highest-rated major market FM station, in the 1980s and 1990s and Knapper & The Pastor on KTIS FM from 1998 to 2006.
His radio career has included different radio formats, including rock, country and Christian.
As program director at KS95 he guided its transition from automation to live, forever changing the face of Twin Cities radio. During his 15-year run he helped raise $91,000 for the Minnesota Food Bank Network and was executive producer for the Vikings Radio Network.
In 2005 he helped take noncommercial KTIS FM all the way to No. 2 in the morning drive ratings, and raised a national record $5 million in just three days in the station’s listener-supported Share-a-thon.
Knapp’s Fergus Falls radio career started because of one man, Ron Yantz, the program director of KOTE.
“Ron thought I had some talent,” said Knapp. “I was very green. Ron faked his own illness, knowing the station had nobody to replace him for an afternoon show. This gave me the opportunity to go on the air and get some experience. Who would do that today?”
Yantz died several years ago, but not before he got a chance to hear Knapp broadcasting at WLS. He was proud to have been Knapp’s mentor.
“KOTE stood for Otter Tail Empire,” said Knapp. “The new owners were so proud of those call letters, and a new sign was placed at the end of the driveway at what’s now Fleet Farm, on the northwest side of Fergus.”
The new sign announced the station call letter change from KGDE (owned by Roger Dell, a Minnesota Supreme Court judge) to the new call letters of KOTE.
“That very first night,” said Knapp, “some joker added an X to the sign and quite a few remarks flew around about kotex radio. Maybe that’s why the call signs were changed again.”
After working part-time at the radio station in Fergus Falls, Knapp headed to Florida, in 1964, and worked at a radio station in Daytona Beach. Then KQWB, Fargo, hired him. Then, for Knapp, is was on to Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, WLS-Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and back to Minneapolis where he’s lived since 1979.
“I tell many stories about growing up in Fergus,” he said. “I talk about a young lad with a non-stop mouth who got over 100 hours of detention in my senior year of high school. It’s a good thing I had friends who would sign in for me and help me work off the time so I could graduate with the class in 1962.”
Knapp serves on the Museum of Broadcasting board of directors for the non-profit organization (www.museumofbroadcasting.org). In 20 years over 65,000 school children have toured the facility and/or taken classes there.