(1920 – 1992)
Robert Hyland was born in St. Louis. His father was a famous surgeon who worked with the Cardinals as a physician. Bob grew up hanging around the Cardinals’ batting cage and spent a lot of time in the dugout talking with the players. He once said, “I was always a hero worshiper when I was a kid. I grew up talking with Cobb, and Ruth, and Gehrig, and when I found out I couldn’t be a ballplayer myself, I wanted to be a doctor like my father. But, I just didn’t have the right equipment.” Fortunately, he had the “right equipment” for broadcasting. He started in small stations and returned to St. Louis as a salesman for KXOK, then to Chicago at WBBM and back to St. Louis as the sales manager for KMOX. In 1955, he was named General Manager of KMOX.
From the beginning, Bob Hyland wanted KMOX to be something different, something important to the lives of the people in St. Louis. So, he conducted his own informal survey of St. Louis. He talked to the people he interacted with on a daily basis. Shoe shiners, bank presidents, doctors, teachers, housewives, farmers, anyone and everyone was asked the same question – what did they want to hear? The universal answer was – information. He believed “programming with a purpose” was needed. That purpose was to educate, inform and serve as a clearinghouse for ideas, to become the voice of the community.
Hyland called the first programming for this new style of radio “At Your Service”. KMOX found experts ready to give advice on issues people confront daily. But, unlike other call-in programs Hyland decided to only allow a listener to ask one question. There’s no cross-talk and bickering between caller and expert. This kept things moving and entertaining.
KMOX was the first CBS station to editorialize, the first to endorse a candidate (he lost), and the first to broadcast college courses for credit. KMOX was the first broadcaster to be granted live access to the Missouri legislature and in 1965 carried the entire debate on the abolition of capital punishment.
At one point, KMOX reached an incredible 90% audience share. Within five years over 500 radio stations around the country had copied the format, and all seven other CBS stations had adopted Bob Hyland’s idea.
It’s not enough to just have a good idea Bob Hyland understood that you have to work hard every day to make an idea work. As Hyland once said; “The only way to make this kind of thing work is to commit yourself and your stations totally to a community. That’s not just baloney. We really try to do it.”