DEADWOOD — KDSJ 980 radio station owner Al Decker got a lot of calls from listeners this week, wondering how in the world he got to work.
That’s because, while the rest of the Northern Black Hills was still sleeping, Decker was navigating his way through icy, unplowed roads at 4 a.m., so he could be the friendly voice greeting his hometown on the air.
Decker’s KDSJ 980-AM radio station is a local, family-owned radio station that covers five states. The station prides itself on providing local news, weather, sports, and everything that residents need to know to get through the day.
And in between it all, Decker keeps his audience entertained with a bit of classic rock. Which is why this Saturday, KDSJ980 will be recognized when it is inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great honor,” Decker said as he sat down to talk about his station in between announcing the “Super Listener of the Day” and giving the daily weather update, while the phone rang with even more news updates.
“We try to do everything for the local people,” said Decker, whose small staff includes bookkeeper Jeanne Decker, sales manager Dwight Wagner, program director Ryan Reider, and news director Cody Oliver. “We are the hometown radio station, and we try to cover anything and everything that is going on in the Northern Black Hills, especially a lot of the sports. Anything that is local, we try to do.”
In fact, local coverage has been the mission of KDSJ since it hit the airwaves in 1947, when Harry and Eli Daniels came from Sheridan, Wyo., to start the station. They operated it until 1982, when Decker and his wife, Jeanne, purchased the station.
“We have been through fires and blizzards and everything else,” Decker said. In fact, for the first 35 years it was on the air fires in Deadwood forced KDSJ to move several times. Starting with broadcasting from the Franklin Hotel, the station moved to the former Deadwood City Hall, which is now the Franklin Hotel parking lot. After a fire destroyed that building, KDSJ moved to a location behind Deadwood City Hall. After two months the station suffered another fire, and had to relocate to a place near its radio tower in Boulder Canyon. Later on, the station moved to a building on Lee Street, and in 1952 the station moved to its present location on Deadwood’s Main Street.
In addition to the radio station, the Daniels brothers also operated small television stations in the area — KRSD-TV in Rapid City, and a satellite station in Lead. But they sold those ventures in 1976 in order to focus more on KDSJ radio in Deadwood. When they eventually sold KDSJ to Decker, the Daniels’ were very clear on one requirement — keep the local news information format that includes interviews with local officials, political figures, coaches, and other local organization representatives.
Decker loves that format, he said, because it allows him to get out and interact with the people.
After more than 30 years of playing solid gold “oldies” and keeping listeners informed over the airwaves, Decker said he feels very honored to be one of only five radio stations inducted into the S.D. Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame. But he gave the credit to his staff who works hard, and the local businesses that have supported his station through the years.
“I just want to thank all of the business owners who have supported KDSJ since 1947, keeping us on the air,” he said. “Without them we couldn’t do what we do.”
The induction will occur at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls Saturday, and will begin with a free autograph session from 2-4 p.m. The doors for the concert, which will feature various bands that are being inducted this year including Lead’s own Roselles Bros., will open at 4 p.m. KDSJ will be honored at 5:30 p.m.