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Orin Friesen’s Bluegrass Program Marks Its 40th Year

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Orin FriesenWichita, Kan. -- Though there are numerous syndicated Bluegrass music shows on the air today, Orin Friesen’s “Bluegrass Country” was the first. Now the show is poised to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The program, now known as “Bluegrass from the Rockin’ Banjo Ranch with Orin Friesen,” is heard every Sunday morning from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. on Today’s KFDI-FM 101.3 out of Wichita. It’s also available via live streaming at www.kfdi.com

The program began on another station in 1973 as “Bluegrass Country” and moved to KFDI AM & FM in 1977 at the request of then-owner and General Manager Mike Oatman. In 1981, KFDI’s parent company at the time, Great Empire Broadcasting, purchased KBRQ in Denver, Colo., and the station included “Bluegrass Country” in their programming. The show was also added to other Great Empire stations, including KTTS in Springfield, Mo., and KWKH in Shreveport, La.

Due to the program’s increasing popularity, Friesen began receiving requests from radio stations around the country, and it was placed into syndication. At its height, “Bluegrass Country” aired on 37 radio stations across the nation, including such powerhouses as WPOC in Baltimore and KOMA in Oklahoma City.

“With the Internet and digital audio, it’s a lot easier to syndicate a program these days,” Friesen said. “Back then, I did it by mailing out two seven-inch reels of tape to every station each week. It took a tremendous amount of time.”

In 1999, Friesen began performing cowboy music at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper. “I got too busy to keep syndicating the show,” explained Friesen, who continued to do the show on KFDI, where it remains today.

Friesen has received numerous accolades for his decades-long promotion of Bluegrass Music. In 1990, he was named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s first Broadcaster of the Year. The Kansas Bluegrass Association honored Friesen by granting him a lifetime membership.

“Bluegrass has such a rich history in Kansas and we are honored to have Orin share his knowledge, passion and musical abilities with our listeners every week,” said Eric McCart, vice president and general manager of Journal Broadcast Group-Wichita Operations. “Very few radio hosts reach this milestone in their careers – 40 years is an amazing achievement. We're happy to celebrate this achievement and look forward to many more years of Orin bringing bluegrass music to Kansans.”
Today’s KFDI FM 101.3 — along with Classic Country 92.3 FM (KFTI-FM), Radio Lobo KYQQ 106.5, T95 (KICT-FM), True Oldies 1070 AM (KLIO-AM) and KFXJ-FM 104.5 The Fox — have been owned by Journal Broadcast Group since 1999.

Journal Broadcast Group owns and operates 35 radio stations and 15 television stations in 12 states. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it is the broadcast business of Journal Communications Inc., a diversified media company with operations in publishing, radio and television broadcasting, and interactive media.

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