KOEL Radio

2004 - Radio Station

It was noon on July 23, 1950 that the radio waves transported the first sounds from KOEL-AM in Oelwein. A 500 watt station in its humble beginnings, the station began broadcasting a fundraiser in a format that would set the tone for the station over the next 54 years. Community service was a benchmark for KOEL.

The first entire afternoon of broadcasting was used to raise funds for a fourth floor to be built onto Mercy Hospital in Oelwein. A Lutheran Minister offering a prayer, the mayor saying welcome and a representative of the local Chamber of Commerce were some of the first voices heard, rather than the radio station’s on-air personalities.

Although the first year was rough, as is usual for the infancy of businesses, KOEL began to grow. In 1956, the station began transmitting on 1000 watts of power and remained on the air until 11 p.m. 1956 was also the year KOEL introduced Northeast Iowa to Rock and Roll music. Disc jockey Dale Wood began playing the music that would capture the hearts and minds of everyone before the decade was over. For his outstanding efforts at making rock and roll a household name, Wood was inducted into the Iowa RockNRoll Music Association Hall of Fame in 1998.

The 60’s brought more rock and roll to the station’s airwaves as well as more community service activities KOEL’s employees were even recruited to play benefit basketball games Music continued to draw the listeners in the 1970s and a major step was taken by the owners. In December of 1971 KOEL-FM was born.

The other half of the radio family signed on under 100,000 watts of power and used a country music format, the same as it is today. KOEL-AM, in addition to music, made the move to join the ABC Radio Network. With that alliance came the voice of Paul Harvey to Northeast Iowa listeners. It was now at 5,000 watts of power.

During the 80s, the AM side started to broadcast around the clock. Two different times during that decade, the stations were sold and a new sales office was opened in Cedar Falls.

The 90’s brought a new location for the FM station. . .Waterloo. With the changes in Federal Communications laws allowing one company to own several stations in one market, Cumulus Broadcasting purchased the AM and FM components of KOEL. Cumulus was the second largest radio corporation in the United States at the time of the purchase.

That decade also brought two prestigious awards to KOEL. The Marconi Award was presented by the National Association of Broadcasters and the national Crystal Award was given for the station’s outstanding community service contributions.

For its major role in bringing rock and roll to the listening public and its lead in community service endeavors, KOEL Radio joins the Iowa RockNRoll Music Association in 2004.


The Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame & Museum exists to preserve the legacy of rock and roll music in Iowa by honoring achievements, educating youth and inspiring artists. Established in 1997, we are a501(c)(3) non-profit statewide organization with many areas of service.

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