(1917 – 1998)
Jerrell A. Shepherd was thrusted into the national spotlight on April 2, 1968, at the annual NAB Convention in Chicago. “How I Do $300,000 a Year in a Town of 13,000” was packed with operators. The walls were completely lined by those standing. All seats were long taken.
In the early days of FM, Shepherd encouraged station owners in the nearby towns to apply for an upgrade to Class C FM frequencies. In the FCC’s original allocations, low powered Class A frequencies were assigned to rural communities. The Class Bs and Cs with their high power were assigned to cities. Jerrell’s belief that because of population densities, the As should be in the cities with the Cs outstate where the signal had to travel many more miles to accumulate enough audience to give the station economic viability. He led the way, getting the FCC to move Class Cs to Moberly and Hannibal. However, he didn’t try to use this as a competitive advantage. He asked all owners around to join him on the lofty peak of high power. He also encouraged the owners to program something more than beautiful music. His station in Farmington became the first FM affiliate of St. Louis Cardinals Baseball.
Jerrell put programming exclusively on the FM to create a demand for receivers. All of this took place at a time when Cadillac was the only automobile that offered an FM radio as an option. To get FM in cars and pickups, Jerrell started selling converters that mounted under the dash. This device brought the FM sound to the existing AM radio in the vehicle.
Involvement in far away communities required a means of getting audio back to the studios. Shepherd prevailed on George Marti to build the first multi-channel “Marti Unit.” This allowed one channel to be assigned to the FM, one to the AM with still a third frequency to use for communicating between the remotes and the studio.
Shepherd knew the value of radar in aircraft for storm identification. He installed weather radar at the stations around 1969. The NWS reported at the time that this was the first weather radar operated by a radio or TV station in Missouri.
Another legacy of Jerrell Shepherd, is the present day structure of the Missouri Broadcasters Association. He served as President in 1971-72. Shepherd insisted that the Association not only have a full time Executive Director, but the individual should be a respected broadcaster. Jerrell recruited Ted Griffin, as the first full-time Executive Director. Ted served in that position until 1993, just over 20 years. Shepherd also insisted that the Association have a method of funding so it could pay this person a salary plus provide services to the members far beyond what dues alone could support.
His vision lives on today in the form of MO-PEP, the Association’s major source of revenue. The striving for a high level of service to the members as envisioned by Jerrell Shepherd some 40 years ago remains unchanged.
Jerrell Shepherd was centered in the faith that goal setting, concentration of purpose, hard work and perseverance would produce accomplishment. He believed in himself and those working near him.
He was a champion of our medium. He impacted many small and medium market radio operations across the county.