Dave MacFarland’s 216-page book, “The Birth of Top 40 Radio: The Storz Stations’ Revolution” of the 1950s and 1960s, can tell readers everything they need to know about Todd Storz’s development of Top 40 radio and the Storz Broadcasting Company in Omaha, Neb. The book tells the story of the most successful Top 40 and Storz radio station in St. Louis, Mo. MacFarland, professor emeritus of the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications and author, picked up writng the book after Richard Fatherley, the orginal author, died of a heart attack in 2010.
According to MacFarland, Fatherley, who worked at the Storz stations in Kansas City and St. Louis, presented at the Great Plains Radio Symposium annually, to tell the Storz story.
“(Radio) is something you want to grab you somehow or another, you want to experience an emotion because of it,” MacFarland said. “You want a series of different experiences.”
Fatherley used to write commercial copy. Therefore, when he began writing the history of broadcasting, he wrote it the way he would write commercial copy – by half-pages. When Fatherley passed away, he had only written up to the point in Storz’ company history when it moved to Omaha, Neb.
Fatherley started his radio career in 1949 in Connecticut after graduating from high school. He moved to Kansas in 1957 to take a position as a program director for a Storz radio station.
“They were life-changing experiences for Fatherley,” MacFarland said. “He never got over how much fun he had working at those two stations.”
According to Steve Smethers, professor of journalism and mass communications, MacFarland was well qualified to finish the book.
“Dave was the sole historian for Top 40 radio for a while,” Smethers said. “Others just chimed in.”
MacFarland began teaching at the A.Q. Miller School in 1972 after his doctoral dissertation about Top 40 radio. He taught production courses, programming and radio and television writing. After 35 years, he retired from his teaching career in 2007.
Smethers said MacFarland’s work is admirable not only because he was a groundbreaker in his field, but also because he put the book together and made sure things that needed extra coverage, got it.
“This happened here in the rural U.S.,” Smethers said. “This is what saved radio from extinction in the ‘50s.”
The story takes you from Todd Storz, the son of a banker becoming a brew master, to how he became one of the most important people in the history of Top 40 radio.
While working within the broadcasting sequence, Fatherley was always present at the “Great Plains Radio Symposium,” according to MacFarland.
When he finished writing the book to capture how radio changed, MacFarland determined listeners were listening to the radio to experience certain moods.
According to Smethers, MacFarland’s work gives more value to a K-State degree.
“It puts K-State in a better light,” Smethers said. “It is very much a feather in the cap that he authored this.