Posted Online: May 14, 2013, 5:50 pm

KFMH returns as Internet radio station

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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com

Forty years ago next month, KFMH (99 Plus) began broadcasting at 99.7 FM in the Quad-Cities, with a mix of progressive rock, blues and jazz. After a 19-year absence from the dial, the original station has been resurrected online by one of its founders.

Steve Bridges, an original disc jockey, is the 64-year-old owner of99pluskfmh.com. Since KFMH went off the air March 1, 1994 -- first replaced by country station KBOB and currently the home of rock station B100 -- Mr. Bridges has been the morning-show co-host atKCJJ 1630 AM in Iowa City. That station has been based in Coralville for the last five years.

"People have been coming up to me for 19 years, missing KFMH," he said Monday afternoon, nearly two months after the online station launched. "People knew Plus very lovingly. It had this very loyal following. It meant something to me."

Mr. Bridges and his partners needed to raise $20,000 to establish the Internet radio presence. In one week, they raised $25,000 in the Iowa City and Quad-Cities areas, including support from Co-Op Records and Ragged Records, he said.

"I really can't believe it," Mr. Bridges said. "We started building the station, putting the library back together. It's been really good -- so far, we've had over 30,000 hits."

"It's really cool. They've been emailing us," he said. "One thing that holds most of them together, at one time, they lived in the Quad-City area, or Iowa City, and listened to the station."

The expense and time it took to get the station up online was far less than what it would take to re-establish it on the broadcast dial, he noted. "It's going to be extremely similar to what we did on transmitter," Mr. Bridges said of the music format, which is unlike most anything on commercial radio.

"It's rock, blues and jazz -- the stuff nobody else plays," he said. The tunes date from the '60s through today, but the station avoids Top 40 songs and "the overplayed stuff." "There are lots of different stations on the Internet, blues and jazz, but nobody does it all. 99 Plus, that name here is so strong."

The KFMH disc jockeys include some familiar names -- Jim Albracht, Jim Hunter, Tom Maicke and Roberto Nache. Mr. Bridges is continuing on mornings on KCJJ, which last weekend simulcast KFMH. KCJJ doesintensive local news, local sports and entertainment; it's mostly talk radio during the day and Top 40 at night.

KFMH also broadcasts on ustream.tv and the mobileTuneIn radio app, and through his smartphone, Mr. Bridges can play it in his car. "It sounds great. It's CD quality," he said.

"It's good music that has not been exposed in the area," Mr. Bridges said. "The Internet is amazing. Everybody's on it. It's growing all the time.I feel that this is the future for niche stations."

Local blues musician Ellis Kell is glad to have KFMH back, considering its history. "Not only did they play the artists' music of the concerts they promoted, but they played local and regional artists' music on a regular basis, as well as producing local compilation album releases," he said.

"If it weren't for KFMH 99 Plus, I doubt our band would ever have received a fraction of the airplay or exposure we did in this river valley," Mr. Kell said. "They were also truly a listener's station, played requests, served up a diverse playlist and genre format, and subsequently gained a very loyal fan base."

Mr. Bridges plans to hire a new sales person to sell ads, but noted KFMH is not going to carry more than three to five minutes per hour of commercials.

KFMH takes song requests from its Facebook and Twitter pages. Its Facebook has over 1,400 likes. Mr. Bridges also plansagain to broadcast the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport in July, as the station did for many years.

He said thetarget demographic is people ages35 to 64, but he doesn't want it to be "an old folks' station."

On Facebook, the station is at facebook.com/ThePlusPirateRadio?fref=ts.