On the Town

Time now to bow our heads and shed a tear at the passing of yet another great Portland institution, KISN 91-derful, or Home of the Good Guys, as it was called back when.

And while this is not the first time KISN has died, this time it appears to be final.

KISN burst onto the local scene in May of 1959 as Portland's first Top 40 station at 910 on your AM radio dial.

Within a year, broadcasting from a glassed-in studio on the corner of West Burnside and 10th - KISN Corner, as the disc jockeys called it - it was the top-rated station in town.

Saturday nights it was on the route for cruising teenagers: up Broadway, left on Burnside, right at KISN Corner. Then right again at the next corner, and back to Broadway to do it all over again.

• • •

Except, of course, for those who just kept driving around and around the KISN block, hoping to share in the excitement of it all. Sometimes the guys behind the big window would actually wave back.

Dave 'Records' Stone, better known now as Diamond Dave Rogoway of LaRog Jewelers, actually met his wife while working there as a DJ in the '70s.

After watching her go by a time or two he held up a sign that said 'Stop, I Love You.' And the rest, as they say, is history.

Other DJs whose names baby boomers no doubt still remember, include 'The Real' Don Steele, 'Tiger' Tom Murphy, and Pat Pattee, the midnight-to-morning guy, who sounded a lot like Wolfman Jack of 'American Graffiti' fame.

There was always something going on at KISN. Chain-smoking owner Don Burden, the marketing genius from Pocatello, Idaho, who started it all, wouldn't have had it any other way.

In fact, if he happened to be winging into town and turned on the radio and heard something not to his liking, he'd call ahead and have the office secretary remove the offending DJ's picture from the Wall of Fame outside the studio.

You always knew you'd been fired if there was an empty space where your picture used to be.

• • •

But Burden knew how to run a radio station - and probably a good deal better than those pointy-headed bureaucrats over at the Federal Communications Commission with their nit-picky rules about fairness in political reporting.

In fact, it was probably inevitable that in 1966, a disgruntled ex-employee turned Burden in for allegedly telling his news staff that together they were going to make Mark Hatfield the next senator from Oregon by reporting glowingly on his every utterance and deed.

As for his opponent, U.S. Rep. Bob Duncan, they were to end each dispatch by saying that meanwhile Duncan was in Washington, doing nothing.

In 1970, citing Burden's activities in the Hatfield campaign, the FCC yanked his license for KISN and four other radio stations. It was the harshest penalty ever meted out by the commission at the time. (He hung on through legal wranglings until 1976.)

In 1988 a new owner started playing golden oldies on KKSN-FM, calling it KISN 97.1.

Two years ago, still another owner switched 97.1 to something called 'Charlie Radio' and switched the golden oldies to 910 AM, where it all began.

This month still another owner closed that down and switched to a religious talk format.

If Burden were alive today, he'd probably be figuring out how to buy it back.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone, 503-546-5166, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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