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Notes on the Meteor Guitar Gallery of Arkansas’ low power radio future

Old Plaza Theater

The old Plaza Theater;

Here is some backstory on how a community radio station will soon be broadcasting from a guitar store.

In the beginning there was the Meteor Theater of Bentonville, Arkansas. One Mr. Harry Kelly, a lover of movies, built it for around $30,000. The Meteor, as it came to be called, opened in 1927, premiering Venus of Venice to 12,000 people. Another $6,000 paid for an elaborate pipe organ. In 1940 the venue was renamed the Plaza Theater, and continued to show movies through the 1980s.

Then the operation went into some kind of hiatus, that is, until 2014, when Leslie and Alanna Key and their two sons took over the place. Now the Meteor Guitar Gallery primarily functions as a kind of guitar/accessories store and museum. There is also a live music event hall as of several months ago (plus an art center; you get the idea).

Meteor Guitar Gallery logoIn addition, soon (or soonish) the Gallery will host a low power FM radio station. This was brought to my attention by Radio Survivor reader Danny Shameer, who went so far as to send us an actual snailmail letter about 103.3 KOBV, aka Bentonville Local Radio. The broadcaster’s non-profit owner Bentonville Information received an LPFM construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission in April.

“I was blown away. I couldn’t believe it,” KOBV founder Garrett Brewer told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette in July. “We essentially won the lottery.” KOBV has been in fundraising mode ever since. The non-profit has raised about $3,500 of the $15,000 it needs to get up and running.

But perhaps the nicest part of the story is that the station will broadcast out of the new revived Meteor. Les Key told The Gazette that he’s wanted to air some concerts, but was put off by the price tag. Now the solution has presented itself.

The Keys and their Meteor;

The Keys and their Meteor;

“Garrett came along, I thought it would be a perfect fit,” Key explained.

Looks like KOBV is poised to become a great music station. I love this quote in the article from another KOBV organizer, local deejay Mike Abb: “We also think that in a town that’s soaked in nostalgia and with [all] that’s going on in the revamp of the town square, if we really turned back the clock to 50 years ago, the radio would be a major player in the community, why can’t it still be?”

PS: If someone wants to explain the origins of the meteor reference that would be grand. PPS: A local Protestant church now has the pipe organ.


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