KPAT-FM 97.3, now KMXC-FM, began broadcasting in June 1975. The station was owned and operated by the Henkin family, which also owned KSOO-AM; started KSOO-TV, now KSFY, in 1960; and later purchased KKAA-AM and KQAA-FM in Aberdeen.
KPAT had planned to launch in January 1975, but an ice storm toppled the 2,000-foot broadcast tower near Rowena, South Dakota. KPAT-FM found a temporary antenna location on a tower just off the Brandon Road.
The station began with an automated format produced by TM Productions of Texas. Weekly music tapes were mailed to Sioux Falls to keep the format current with the latest adult contemporary hits. The quarter hour rotation consisted of two current hits played back to back followed by a recurrent selection, one from six months to one year ago, then a gold standard or two determined by how many commercials aired. After a while, loyal listeners knew what the next song would be, but since it was the first FM-quality rock station, KPAT got plenty of latitude from listeners.
KPAT-FM was advertised as being “Bubblegumless,” a dig on the popular music of the day. Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” and Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You” were the first two songs played on KPAT. The average cost of advertising ranged from $1.50 to $2.50 per ad. In 1980 KPAT-FM introduced the first live format on FM, featuring the first announcers: Austin Harris, Sam Rose, Scott Larson and Julie Nelson.
The Henkin family sold their radio stations in 1990 and are grateful to the staff and their families, listeners, advertisers and the competition for the wonderful and fun privilege of broadcasting in Sioux Falls.