The Tabernacle Choir Blog

Heber J. Grant, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks as part of Utah’s first KSL radio broadcast on May 6, 1922 on top of the Deseret News Building.

Congratulations to KSL on 100 Years of Broadcasting

Editor’s Recommendation: Watch the “KSL Radio 100 Years” Video Tribute.

KSL, the Choir’s long-time broadcasting partner, turns 100 this year. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square pays tribute to the station for its century of service beginning in 1922, for the ingenuity and tenacity of early radio engineers, for the work ethic of all those that followed, and for the vision of leaders in shaping and sustaining such a venture.

President Heber J. Grant, then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, inaugurated the first radio broadcast on May 6, 1922, at 8:00 p.m. when the station, then dubbed KZN—later renamed later KSL—went on the air. At the time, the station was housed in a shed on the roof of the Deseret News building in downtown Salt Lake.

A few short years later, The Tabernacle Choir began broadcasting a featured program from what was called “the crossroads of the West.” On July 15, 1929, the 30-minute program debuted on the air and soon became what we now know as Music & the Spoken Word. Today it is recognized as the longest continuous running weekly program in broadcast history.

By today’s standards the early broadcast scene was primitive at best. The KZN radio station temporarily went off the air while its only microphone was shuttled one block to Temple Square. A technician sat on the stairs so he could see both the Choir and the radio operator as he signaled when to begin. The audio engineers a block away at the station, received the cue from NBC headquarters and the show went live.

Perched on the top of a ladder, nineteen-year-old Ted Kimball held the microphone over the 300-member choir as it opened the program with the song “Gently Raise the Sacred Strain.” The hymn continues today as the introduction to Music & the Spoken Word. Kimball also doubled as the announcer speaking into the microphone to introduce the program and then aiming it at the different choir sections as they sang. His father, Tabernacle organist Ed Kimball, played the venerable organ right below him.

Thirty radio stations received that first NBC transmission. The rest is history.

When the Choir performed during World War II, KSL was there to broadcast the messages and music of hope. When the Choir toured Europe in 1955, KSL broadcast a Sunday morning show as it did when the Choir visited Japan, Russia, Israel, Australia, and Mexico in the years that followed. When the Choir program welcomed the world for the Olympics, when it created and continues to sponsor specials for holidays, when the Choir had to shut down live performances because of COVID, KSL was there to continue to spread the peace and love, kindness, and goodness of God.

The decades of partnership between the two has been one of respect, admiration, expectations, and innovations. The Choir heralds this remarkable milestone for this pioneer in its industry, its 100 years of service, hard work, and high standards. KSL is a dear and trusted friend.

Congratulations KSL. And in the tradition of the Choir, “God be with you” as you march on into the next century.