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WAKY Newspaper Articles

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Thomas Jefferson High School The Declaration Article - December 17, 1965

DJs or Deejays: Both Are WAKY
By Locke and Key

"How would you like to go out with a boy whose hair was longer than yours?" asked Jack Daniels during a recent "question and answer" session with two Declaration reporters.

Fickle Fads

In regard to the radical changes in fads, WAKY DJs George Williams and Jack Daniels voiced their views on songs, clothes and hair.

"The protest songs are almost gone now. The new 'raved up' sound of Paul Revere and the Raiders has taken over," commented the tall, polite and intelligent George Williams. He then added, "How can teenagers have such a broad interest in music?" By this he mean how could teens today listen to James Brown one minute and the Righteous Brothers the next?

With a flare for being profound, Jack Daniels expressed puzzlement over the drastic drop in hem lines. They went from severely short skirts to the floor dustin' "granny dresses."

Concerning hair he commented, "Singing groups use long hair for publicity purposes. Can't you just picture a football star, class officers or even your principal in shoulder length locks?"

Women In Radio

Some wonder why they never hear women DJs. This is because basically it is a "man's job"; by that it is mainly for men who "fill the bill" or can contend with the obstacles they are required to face.

How many women would like to ride a bicycle in a store window for twelve consecutive hours; go around the country side on a little Honda; or go up in the flying saucer XL-790?

Icknay Amesnay & Uehsay

When asked to expound on the name he dubbed his audience, Jack Daniels replied in his normally good natured way, "The name 'Scooter' just kicked around the station, so I picked it up specifically for my listeners."

George Williams has unofficially been tagged as a "mouse" because he rarely speaks unless spoken to.

As everyone has his own little idiosyncrasies, Jack Daniels has his too. "My left eye twitches when I sleep," he informed his interviewers, wondering why they smiled.

Pastimes and Times Passers

Besides being one of Louisville's more popular disc jockeys, George Williams is hep on the literary scene. Also he reflects a quiet nature, but don't think he doesn't know what's happenin'.

George's main interest is in the jet set, and he is frequently clued in on all the latest goings on.

After receiving his private pilot's license six weeks ago, Jack Daniels is usually literally "up in the air"; but he doesn't ignore his pipeline to the teen scene either. After all - if it weren't for him what device could present-day automation devise to make homework hours bearable?

Throughout the entire interview, Tim Tyler made numerous entrances and exits. His fellow DJs in the spotlight repeatedly told him to retreat back into his control room. The finale to end finales occurred as Tim Tyler tripped into WAKY's "blue room," his wall-to-wall record lined office, and nonchalantly intellectually contributed, "Uh, my favorite food is, uh, t-bone steak and, uh, Mountain Dew."

The Chit-Chat Article - Date Unknown

Tim Tyler, WAKY Disc Jockey, Talks About Louisville Teens
By Sally Siegfriedt

Who is Tim Tyler to you? Is he only a disembodied voice on WAKY radio who adds spice to your homework hours, or do you know the person behind the voice?

In person, Tim is a young-looking, likable man whose speaking voice bears little resemblance to the high-pressure patter heard on the air. He is perhaps more Don Schwartz, who went to Kubaski High School in Naha, Okinawa, than he is Timothy L. Tyler, popular DJ.

The Tyler name is a fairly long-standing tradition. In Tyler, Texas, where he worked at one time, there were two schools: Robert E. Lee and John Tyler. His name was a combination: Lee Tyler. When he moved to Peoria, Illinois, there was another DJ named Lee so someone called him Tim. He would slip up at times and say, "This is Lee Tyler." To correct the mistake he asserted that the name was actually Timothy Lee Tyler, hence Timothy L.

Variety of Work

Tim does a variety of work besides straight announcing. He cuts commercials, hosts various hops on weekends, books bands, and is part owner of the Sambo Agency and a recording studio. He got into booking bands by putting on a couple of dances. One followed another and he saved his first thousand dollars. With it, he booked the Beach Boys and later the Four Seasons. The first thousand has multiplied several times since, but prices of groups have inflated tremendously. "Now you're taking more of a chance," Tim points out. "They've really kind of run the promoter out of business."

Asked about the Beatles, Tim commented, "The Beatles themselves were in the beginning really very corny. I mean, they were very straight. They're just beginning to express themselves."

Tim has a great deal to say about teenagers. "Kids are a lot more aware of what's going on. They're much more interested in world affairs. When you become 16 now, you can speak up, whereas, traditionally you had to be well-educated before you'd say anything."

From his many opportunities to be with youth, Tim observes, "Kids are maturing earlier, even earlier than when I went to school. It's frightening in some ways. Teenage drinking is much more wide-spread than it was then."

Expected to Play Role

"Kids worry sometimes too much about what they look like and what other people think of them. But this is rebellious world we live in. Either that, or you're on the other side of the fence when you wear dirty clothes, you don't shave, and you don't comb your hair."

On being a public figure, Tim says, "I've changed. I'm more Tim Tyler than I am Don Schwartz. People won't actually let you be yourself. You're expected to play the role. People expect you to be something you really aren't."

Louisville Times Article - Late 1960s

A Disc Jockey Needs 3 Hands
By David McGinty
Louisville Times Staff Writer

Disc Jockey Jim Fletcher had drawn a cup of coffee and was nursing it like precious medicine. His noontime show on WAKY radio was a few minutes away.

Fletcher had agreed to let an observer sit in on his three-hour shift last Tuesday, and was graciously controlling a small attack of nerves. As showtime was imminent, he squeezed out a warning.

"When I go on, I'll do a lot of freaky things - talk to myself and so on. We all have little things we do on the air. I just want you to know that I'm not really as freaky as I may seem."

Then, with the flick of a switch, Fletcher was on. Really on. Until the sign-off at 3 p.m., his short figure, looking portly in a shaggy sweater, was a constant burst of energy.

Before him stretched 180 minutes of time, every second of it to be filled with sound. The sound could come from the 35 or so records stacked beside him, from 48 pre-taped commercials and promotion spots stacked two feet high, from the news announcer in the adjoining booth, and, last and least, from Jim Fletcher.

A Strange Electronic Symphony

With little flexibility, each sound had to come in certain order, and occupy just so much time. Flanked by turntables and facing a control panel with an impressive array of switches and dials, Fletcher was the conductor of a strange, electronic symphony.

He gave an awesome performance. Consider a typical "passage." Fletcher is about to play a hit song from past years, something he does five times a show.

His right hand shoots up with pinpoint accuracy and trips a switch which activates a taped jingle. The jingle alerts the listener than an old song is coming next, and will last perhaps two seconds.

As the jingle fades, Fletcher's left hand trips the switch that starts the record. He has previously positioned the needle so that as soon as the record starts turning, music pours from the grooves. DJs call this "cueing in."

He has also timed how long the music introduction will last before the lyrics begin. This record has a 15-second introduction. Fletcher's right hand sets a timer for 15 seconds at the moment the record starts turning. As the timer hand ticks down, his left hand jumps to another switch.

The switch puts his voice on-air with the record. Manipulating it, Fletcher announces the song title, the artist's name and the year the song was a hit, timing the announcement to end just as the lyrics begin.

This has been less than 20 seconds' work, and Fletcher is not finished. While the song plays, he must remove the tapes he has just used and insert the ones he will use next. He must cue in the next record, note on his log the commercials he has aired, and make a quick check of the time and temperature.

Now he has time, rarely more than a minute, to himself before the song ends. He turns around, a packet of candy in his hand.

"I quit smoking Monday and I'm losing my mind. I'm eating candy all the time - especially on the air. Would you like some butterscotch?"

In the moments he has to himself, Fletcher stays alert. He dashes out for more coffee, drums his fingers, hums or sings along with records, curses at the obnoxious commercials and laughs at the funny ones.

He readjusts the air-conditioner, and the temperature in the control booth is soon low enough to preserve raw hamburger for a week.

What a Way to Live

And he chews candy. Suddenly a commercial is due that Fletcher will have to read, and his voice starts with a strained, gasping laugh. He reads through with a peculiar, urgent delivery.

Off-air again, he spins around with an alarming glare in his eyes. "I knew it! A bite of butterscotch in my mouth just before I have to do a 30-scond spot."

Then he laughs. "Isn't this an absurd way for an adult to make a living?"

Finally, the madness was done. Fletcher stepped numbly from the control room. "Right now, I'm very tired," he said. Fletcher, 34, has been in radio since 1952. He has been here eight years, announcing for WKLO before he recently joined WAKY.

"I had the ambition to be a radio announcer in grade school," he said. "I don't know why, I just did." He's a native of Oklahoma, attended Oklahoma State University, and spent so much time working at radio stations he flunked out.

Two years ago, Fletcher decided "to get out of radio." Now he's attending the University of Louisville, and hoping to teach in the humanities some day.

His post-show slump eased a little, and he started talking shop. "I did a good show today, a professional show. It was more subdued than usual though, because I had somebody watching me."

Fletcher spends two hours at home lining up each show, planning the records he will play. He may pick his own records, as long as they're in the top 30 listings.

How does he like the music he plays? "It's an acquired taste," Fletcher admitted. But he has sincere admiration for some of the more creative rock 'n' roll groups - the Beatles especially.

As for the raucous, hard-line rock music, "Think how nice it makes Tony Bennett sound," Fletcher said with a smile. And as for commercials, "It helps when they're good. Oh! It helps when they're good," he sighed.


DJ Jim Fletcher spins songs, sweats out seconds and works switches
madly from 12-3 p.m. each weekday. It's "absurd" work, he says.

Louisville Times Scene Article - April 18, 1970

Louisville's Midnight Cowboys
While the city sleeps, disc jockeys play to a small but loyal audience

By John Christensen
Louisville Times Staff Writer

In the quiet darkness beyond, the city slumbers. The downtown streets are empty, but the neon still flashes, the traffic lights click and hum, and the city belongs to the all-night zombies.

At WKLO, it's 6-foot-9-inch Joe London. The music fades, and he cuts in with "It's The Big Joe London All-Night Show for the all-night people. Good morning."

A few blocks away, the zombie is a New Englander who cuts in deftly as the last notes die with "Dave McCree here on WHAS, Radio 84, with 50,000 clear-channel watts of electric love."


The ending of Bobby Goldsboro's latest is severed by a WAKY jingle and, "Bob Jansen playing 20 non-stop hits in a row!"

At Second and Broadway, under the huge revolving WINN sign, Danny King plays country music for the night owls.

An as birds twitter in the trees at Jacob and Floyd, the music at WAVE ends. Jim Rueff dignifies it with a pause, then "Good to have you with us - the three of you. Hope you stay around 'til 5:30 this morning."

Take your pick, insomniacs; these are your midnight cowboys. These are the men on the AM stations (excepting Jansen, who was a vacation fill-in for Mason Lee Dixon) that keep the third shift, nocturnal drifters and early risers company.

While Civilization Rests….

Civilization is resting; but its sentries are posted.

"Let me organized first," says London, sliding into his chair, "then I will rap with you." To his audience: "It's one-oh-three, and this is Gladys Knight and the Pips."

He shuffles cartridges containing commercials into decks, puts others up, selects a record, cues it on a turntable and looks up to see three groggy citizens peering at him from the sidewalk on Walnut Street. "Oh, yeah, that's part of the all-night show."

London summons a pleasant baritone from a physique that promises an early paunch. He sounds, and looks, like someone's big brother.

"I worked midday shifts for three years before I took this in September. Now that I'm used to it, I dig it. Most shifts aim at a certain group of people. But right now, people are going home after a night on the town.

"From about 2 to 4 a.m., these are  the people that stay up all night, mom with the kid that's sick and third shift. About 4, people start getting up, sort of 'What, what, what am I doing?" It's tough to get through to them, and you can't yell 'Hey, get up!'"

To accommodate the different audiences, London varies his approach. Until 2, he uses his "up" style: The records come fast and lively. The middle hours involve fewer commercials, and London keys down and plays some of the longer pieces, album cuts and oldies. After 4, he's got to step up the information: News, weather, time, etc.


The street is deserted...but behind the pate glass, things are lively
 as a (WKLO) disc jockey entertains the night owls and insomniacs

Know Who's Listening

He continues: "The whole trick of the ballgame is to know who the people are. You can't just say there are people out there. If you know your audience, your audience will know you."

He groped for the right words for the thought. "You try for some personal contact. If your personality comes out, they'll know you're not just a voice in a box -- they know there's a person there."

A fellow drives up, gets out and holds a note against the window; his bare stomach out-reaches his shirttail. London makes note of the request, nods and the guy leaves.

"About 3 a.m.," he says, "you wonder if there's anybody out there listening. Then I'll say I'll take a request, give the number and the phone rings."

It's a few minutes before 2, and McCree is preparing his newscast in the recesses of the WHAS building. The room is large and bright and awash with racks-on-wheels and tables.

On the hour, McCree's rich and soothing voice tells a woman in Alabama, a cop in Virginia Beach and others that there has been sporadic violence at Ithaca, N.Y., and gently guides them around the latest unpleasantness at Columbia. Easy listening.

A Loyal Audience

He slips Joan Baez gently onto the air -- oil on the waters -- and discusses the late-night audience.

"I dig this audience. This is the type that's most loyal. During the day, housewives and other people are doing their duties -- ironing, driving and so forth -- and the music is just background. Listeners at this hour are more loyal."

To the listeners: "To Canada, to Mexico and to Freeport in the Bahamas, this is Donovan!" Callers? Yes, he gets them. "I've gotten about five calls from a cop in Virginia Beach, Va., who cut his toe off. He requests Sinatra or Marilyn May. I try to squeeze it in.

"And there's an old gal from Alabama who called to say she enjoys the show as much as John McCormick's at KMOX (in St. Louis). She asked if I was try to imitate him. I said, 'No, I'm trying to be own own personality.'"

Fourth Street is predictably vacant at 3:28 but Bob Jansen doesn't seem to notice. Wearing a pair of sunglasses, Jansen is bobbing rhythmically to vibrations that threaten to burst the glass walls of the studio. "'Scuse me," he says and turns the volume way up. He bounces and taps his feet as he talks on the air: "…20 nonstop hits. From Chicago: I've got (guitar chords crash) CHICAGO!!"

He talks about a girl who called him and said she was on drugs, that he persuaded her to go to the hospital and how he hadn't heard about what else had happened. Outside, a car with three guys in it pulls up: "They're always looking for girls or girls looking for boys." He calls to them, although they can't hear: "All right, you want three, right? Three?" They cheer and drive off.

Lonely People…Want to Rap

His phones are all on hold: "If I release them, I'd never get anything done. Mostly I get calls from lonely people. They just want to rap."

Jansen, as does London, reduces his tempo around 4 a.m. "Mom and Dad are getting up, and this carries the show for the rest of the day. I've got to set the stage for Bill Bailey and Chris Lundy."

On the air: "From five years ago - THIS! Is TOM JONES!!" He turns down the volume and a car pulls up in front; a girl, alone. "There's one of your lonely people." The record nears the end; he turns it up, way up, and begins his high-paced ritual. Got to keep things...moving!

Callers can't reach Jim Reuff. The switchboard diverts them with a recording, and it gets lonely without even a window to look out. Andy Williams is on, and Rueff sits back and signs. He is a pleasant, bespectacled 32-year old who brings a low-key, relaxed approach to the air. "I am shot," he says. "I've been pruning trees. We have an orchard over where we live."

Another record - a love song - goes off, and Rueff repeats his respectful pause.

Then in an almost hushed voice: "Sinatra. I would be in love anyway; wouldn't we all." He gives the weather forecast. "Get out and work in the yard, find some muscles you didn't know you had….Here's a group called the Fifth Dimension -- biggies."

Cut off as he seems to be, Rueff chats with "the three of you," his audience. "That's called 'The Girl's Song.' Eh, who knows? A girl sang the song, they didn't know what to call it, so they called it 'The Girl Song.' That's creative?"

Later, after unintentionally rhyming some words, he frets aloud to his listeners that they would "have me on one of those Top 40 stations." And, after an uninspiring effort by a female vocalist: "That's Linda Bennett, for what it's worth."

Six o'clock and the Bill Baileys and Wayne Perkeys sidle up to the microphone and the zombies slide out, Civilization secured for another night.

Courier-Journal Article - Mid 1970s

Louisville DJ gave impetus to Rich
By Billy Reed
Courier-Journal Columnist

The impetus that carried Charlie Rich from the obscurity of the honky-tonk circuit to the top of the country-music field didn't begin in the Grand Ol' Opry or anywhere else in Nashville, for that matter.

Instead, it started in the mid of disc jockey John Randolph - and the studios of Louisville radio station WAKY - on a cold winter morning in 1973.

At that time Rich, named Monday night as country music's entertainer of the year for 1974, was hardly the famed "Silver Fox" of today. Rather, he was a journeyman singer whose main claims to fame were a couple of semi-popular records - "Lonely Weekends" in 1959 and "Mohair Sam" in 1965.

He didn't have many fans, but John Randolph was one.

"I had been a Charlie Rich freak for several years." Randolph said yesterday, "and I used to tell Julie that if she ever got the right record for him, he would be a superstar."

"Julie" is Julie Godsey, a promoter for Rich's record company. Early in 1973 she sent Randolph and advance copy of a new Rich recording and asked him to play it.

"I don't remember the exact day we first played it," said Randolph. "All I remember is that it was really cold. But I thought the record was really good, so I started playing it."

The record was "Behind Closed Doors," and Randolph was the first disc jockey in the country to play it on the air. Randolph's taste soon was vindicated. The song appeared in WAKY's top 40 charts. From Louisville, its popularity spread rapidly, selling more than 1 million copies and turning Charlie Rich into a superstar.

As soon as the record passed the million mark in sales, Randolph got telegrams from both Rich ("You were responsible for helping me get my first gold record, and I appreciate it very much") and Julie Godsey ("Congratulations…you started the whole ball of wax").


Johnny Randolph and Charlie Rich

Randolph also was the first disc jockey in the country to play - and push - Rich's second million seller, "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World." For his efforts, Epic sent him gold copies of both records. The gold records now hang on Randolph's office wall, flanking a cartoon of another of his top heroes, Mickey Mouse.

Rich personally has thanked Randolph on several occasions, the most recent being Rich's performance at this year's Kentucky State Fair. Randolph says he sees Rich "about every three months or so," and sometimes Charlie telephones him just to chat.

"He remembers," said Randolph, "and that's kinda surprising."

At the risk of ruining his credibility with WAKY's hard-rock audience, Randolph admits that he's always been a little bit partial to country. In his role as director of music, Randolph is responsible for selecting what songs are played on the air.

According to Randolph, the infamous practice of "payloa" - in which record companies bribe disc jockeys to push their songs - is nonexistent at WAKY.

"I'm sure with 4,000 radio stations in the country, there's some of it going on somewhere," he said, "but it never hits down here. Nobody has offered me any money, merchandise or anything to play a record. And even if they did, it would be silly for me to consider it. I'd be blackballed out of the industry."
 

Courier-Journal Accent Article - Late 1970s

Back From The Big Time
Three disc jockeys who moved on returned to Louisville
Author unknown

TV news people may come and go in Louisville like hits on the Top 40, but three of the town's best-known disc jockeys aren't playing anything but "My Old Kentucky Home."

They're here because they couldn't stand the gray Michigan skies, the endless roster of Chicago vice presidents giving orders, and because New York experts wouldn't let them do anything for themselves.

Now they sound like a Chamber of Commerce cheerleading squad. The three former expatriates are Lee Gray at WKLO, Gary Burbank with WHAS and Bill Bailey at WAKY.

The trio began the climb to the top in other towns and passed through Louisville on the way up to the big money and the big time.

Now they're back.

Not because they couldn't make it, or because they got fired, but because this is where they want to live and work.

"We can make two to three times as much money in the big cities," Gray said, "But the living and working conditions are so much better here."

"Living conditions" in New York means an apartment with a couple of rooms that costs $600.

"For less than half of that I'm buying a whole house here with a huge yard on a quiet street," Gray said.


Lee Gray at WKLO in 1971

Gray started in radio 17 years ago in Milwaukee. He came to KLO in 1967 and was doing well. But not well enough, he thought. When the chance came to go with WMCA in New York, Gray decided he wanted a taste of The Big Apple. It was sour.

"Sure I made a lot of money," he says, "But I hated it."

The station wrote every line he said on the air. There was none of the soft, easy chatter of Louisville radio. He was back in Louisville is less than a year.

Bailey began exercising his raspy baritone on a small North Carolina radio station back in the late '50s. Since then he's spun records and punched tapes at a string of stations from Anchorage, Alaska to Salt Lake City. He was big on KLO between 1965 and 1969. That got him an offer to go with ABC-owned WLS in Chicago.

That would be the top of the charts for any disc jockey, but for Bailey "it was the basis of torment. When you're working for ABC, you're taking orders from 50 vice presidents and 50 sub-vice presidents. The advertising agencies tell them how to run the stations. It was demeaning," he says.

But the money was great: "I made $70,000 being a disc jockey and I could have made that much more again doing commercials," he says.

Not by bread alone does Bailey live, though. The ABC execs completely suppressed his free-wheeling style. Like Gray, he found everything was written for him. No deviations.

"In Chicago you just show up for work and do it by the numbers. They could get somebody for $150 a week to read the junk I was doing." In six months he was back in Louisville.


Gary Burbank at WAKY in 1971

Burbank, however, says he had complete freedom at CKLW, a Canadian radio station broadcasting into Detroit.

It was the weather (before this winter, anyway) and the crime that drove him back.

"Man, I mean there just isn't any sun once you cross the Michigan state line. Just cold, cold, cold all the time."

He had an apartment in the city, which turned out to more like a jail.

"One of the worst things is to sit around at night and say, "What am I gonna do? I can't go out on the street, I'll get killed."

He made $50,000 and, like Bailey and Gray, he says he could have easily doubled it with commercial work.

"I took a nice pay cut to come back. I'm not poor, you know but I'd rather be happy than rich." He pulls down $30,000 plus commercials in Louisville.

He says he went to Detroit because he had to prove to himself that he could make it in a big city.

"I'm home now," he adds.

Home's really in Memphis, but his friends are all the ones he made at WAKY back in 1969.

People often ask the three if they miss the excitement of a big city. Not one of them does.

"There's plenty to do here in Louisville if people would just get out and do it," Bailey says. "I love the people and the town. You can relax here."

Add ditto marks for Burbank and Gray on that subject. They both talk about boating and an easier way of life.

Another myth, they say, is that music played in Louisville is in the Stone Age compared to the big time.

"Louisville is actually way ahead of the big cities," Gray says. "Songs that have been played and are on their way out here are just coming up in bigger towns."

Burbank thinks that towns smaller than Louisville are even more progressive.

"There are no rating books there. The jocks just play what they want," he says.

Bailey has no desire to move on anymore, but there's a little wanderlust left in Burbank. He's heard about a disc jockey in Honolulu who makes $400.000 a year. "If a guy calls me from L.A. and says he's got a million bucks, man, yeah I'd go."

Not Gray. He's here to stay and can't understand people who haven't learned his lesson.

Published in 1980

WAKY: The Wild Kid Grows Up

The crazy kid of the Sixties has become an adult, a solid citizen. Now, you can take him anywhere.

By Patrick Berry

1. Before Bill Bailey, back when all this was farmland…

In the beginning, there was WGRC. Before the Mall, back when Fourth Street had a yellow stripe down its back all the way to the Ohio, before Bill Bailey went to Chicago, even before he was at WKLO, back when radio had programs, of all things, (a bunch of people got together in a studio every morning and drank coffee and talked about their weekend and made music; it was -- are you ready for this -- live!) yes, way back then, a hundred feet above the piece of land at the Northeast corner of Fifth and Jefferson, before -- now here comes a fib -- before even the Kentucky Home Life Building was there, there was WGRC.

(Radio was so different then. The studio, which was buried in the windowless catacombs, was full of people doing the sorts of the things that were more fun to watch than to listen to. Today, all those people have been replaced by one guy at a board full of switches and blinking lights, and the whole thing sits out on the sidewalk in a glass booth so you get a good look at absolutely nothing happening.)

Nobody much remembers what they did at WGRC. They played records, of course, and the disc jokey talked. This was before disc jockeys became "jocks" and "morning men." If there was a sound that characterized WGRC back then, the recollection of it is as lost as the air it floated on.

The records, the recollections, and all the rest were swept away in the Revolution of 1958. Gordon McLendon swooped in from Texas, bought WGRC lock, stock, and barrel, fired them all, shut the station down for two days, and then came back on the air playing "The Purple People Eater" consecutively, continuously, and without commercial interruption for three days and three nights. WGRC was dead and our memories of it were lobotomized. WAKY was upon us; rock rocked around the clock; radio was changed forever; the Revolutionaries had seized the Capitol.

Program Director Mike McVay (left) and General Manager George Francis (right) analyze audience preference reports on music as one way of keeping WAKY's music right on target.

2. Beyond the Purple People Eater.

Punch Fast Forward for twenty years. Go zooming past the Kennedys and King and Khrushchev and Nam and the Mets, Woodstock and Watergate, Sony and Cher and Harvey and Kathy and screech to a halt in 1980.

Things have changed.

Rock has fallen on hard times. The "business" that made billions for thousands has come apart like an amoeba on a warm day and there as many species now as there are numbers on the FM dial.

We changed. We grew up with the discovery that one consequence of loving our soulmate was an orthodontist bill. The intrusion of reality in the tranquil world of the young adults stuns with an impact only slightly less than running headlong into a lamppost. After gettin' down to the sounds of the piper we have to get up and pay him. And, on that day, we are children no more.

Rip Van Winkle could find WAKY on the dial in 1980 but he wouldn't know it when he did. They call it "W, A, K, Y" now and draw a soft question out of the "Y". In McLendon's day, it always sounded like Daffy Duck cracking a whip in an empty room: "Whackky!" (Things have changed for McLendon, too. Today, he is considered a father of contemporary radio. Twenty years ago, he was a son…)

The changes at WAKY haven't been the gut-wrenching, overnight kind. They haven't changed their call letters and the rock format of back then evolved gradually and imperceptibly, into the responsible, full-service, all-purpose radio station it is today. They don't hide from the Purple People Eater anymore than you'd deny the nights you spent cruising through Frisch's hoping your Clearasil wouldn't show up under the arc lights.

News Director Glen Bastin and the WAKY News Team. (left to right) George Gillis, Gloria Buchanan, Betsy Lewis, Marty Reising, Bill McQuage, Reed Yadon, and Aaron Notar (not pictured)

3. Malibu Mike and the Somerset Kid meet The Red-Headed Stranger.

Though the change has been gradual, it all came into focus as a plan when George Francis gave up the life of a Programming/Management consultant to come to Louisville as Manager of WAKY. Francis is a country boy, from Panther Branch, North Carolina, an ex-marine, and a career professional in the radio business. As a consultant he traveled the country telling others how to run their stations, what kind of music to play and when, how much news was just enough, and how to make a profit. As General Manager at WAKY, he has himself for a client and no option to head for the airport. He likes it better this way.

"Making things work is a lot more difficult than giving advice. It's also more challenging and ultimately more fun. I just wish it paid as well," Francis says. He has a thick mop of red hair and the boyish face that always comes with it. (Has there ever been an old-looking redhead?) His physique has gone beyond Parris Island, but the Marine intensity remains.

Within months of landing at WAKY, Francis found the man who shared his notion of how a grown-up radio station ought to sound. Mike McVay was Program Director at KTNQ in Los Angeles when WAKY beckoned. "I miss the sunshine and the beaches, but what's going on here is too exciting to pass up. Our market, our audience, is the post-war baby, the tripped-out kids of the Sixties who became family heads and solid citizens in the Seventies. They are mature. Their radio needs are diverse. The changes in their tastes and lifestyles are coming more gradually now" McVay theorizes in an open-collar, laid-back manner that is pure Malibu.

"The nature of AM radio is very different these days," he continues. "Our success is dependent on a great many things: a deep involvement with Louisville life, participating in and support of the kinds of events that make this a cohesive community. The Derby Festival is the best example of that. Our listeners don't want fads from us; they want comfortable, believable entertainment. They want us to be a reliable part of their daily living pattern."

And they want news. Not that much of it is ever very good, but its impact seems so close now that only ostriches and the comatose can escape it.

Francis' quest for the best brought him to Glen Bastin, who for ten years had built WHAS' radio news department into one of the region's finest. Bastin is a native of Somerset, Ky. And a current resident of Fern Creek who age (34) and slight frame belie the heavy burden of reporting experience he acquired in his decade with WHAS. At WAKY, he finds himself with a broadcast journalist's dream: a station committed to providing fresh, honest, instantaneous news as it breaks, and the staff and resources to back it up.

"I value my credibility," says Bastin. "It took ten years to build and from here on I intend to see that it keeps getting better. WAKY's credibility as a news source is dependent on events. Day in and day out we deliver the news, but when the unexpected hits, as with the tornado in '73, that's when we can be fully appreciated.

"Our weather reposting -- Accuweather -- is the most reliable. Certifiably. We cover sports with a full-time professional (Bill McQuage). We are mobile: we are well-staffed. And we know how to pronounce Buechel."

The Duke of Louisville, Bill Bailey, and his morning sidekick Reed Yadon break for coffee delivered by Executive Secretary Marie Rogers.

4. You get an open-collar three-piece pinstripe with chaps and spurts.
It creeps up on you.

It's coming up on sunup on the River City Mall and Bill Bailey is on the air, one step ahead of alimony and one step behind apoplexy.

Bailey mounts up in the morning in the same kind of fogged-out haze that afflicts the rest of us at that hour. This is clearly not the kind of man who rises two-hours early for a hearty breakfast and a brisk jog in the park: he just spits and gets in the saddle. And just about the time you're bumping your way to the morning paper and coffee, he's doing exactly the same thing. And just like you, the news he finds makes his blood boil and his bile bubble.

"Look at this, Reed," he growls to Reed Yadon with whom he's happily reunited. "A store owner shot a thief that was trying to rob him, shot him in the south end as the bum was headin' north, didn't hurt him real bad I'm sorry to say, and now the cops have got the store owner under arrest for using excessive force 'cause the bum came after him with a club instead of a gun.

"Get the police on the phone and get me an explanation for this. I guess I'll just start carrying two guns, one to shoot him with and one to put in his hand while he's lying there. What in the world is the world comin' to if you can't defend your property from scum like this? Reed, you on the phone? We can't lie down on this one, Reed."

**************

It's an odd broth; closer to Mulligan's Stew than bouillabaisse: no recipe was followed here, just some of this and a little of that. The difference between this and formula radio goes back to that world of the fifties: this is live: there is always a chance a surprise will blurt out of Bailey or one of the other men in the glass booth and float free on the air. This may be grown-up radio, but it ain't perfect. But, on the other hand, it's not bad now and it keeps getting better. Just like you and me.


WAKY 790 Weekly Program Guide: Highlights

Monday-Friday

5:30 am - 10:00 am - 790: BILL BAILEY. "The Duke of Louisville" meets the dawn with irreverence, outrage, and music. News and Traffic with Reed Yadon and Sports with Bill McQuage.

10:00 am - 1:00 pm - 790: MIKE McVAY. Malibu Mile slows the pace at middays with mellow music and celebrity interviews. News with Bill McQuage.

1:00 pm - 4:00 pm - 790: BOBBY HATFIELD. The music is up-beat and the wit sparkling. The slow time of the day picks up. News with Aaron Notar.

4:00 pm - 7:00 pm - 790: BOB MOODY. Moody eases you home with his friendly, funny style and music to match. News and Traffic Reports with Glen Bastin.

6:30 pm - 790: LOU BODA. Award-winning ABC Sports with one of the nation's most respected sports broadcasters.

7:00 pm - 12 Midnight - 790: HARRY LYLES. Party Time On The Air. Lyles lets the good times roll with music, sports, and News with Betsy Lewis.

12 Midnight - 5:30 am - 790: CHUCK JACKSON. It's the next best thing to sleep. Music, trivia, and comedy albums make the night go away.

Saturday

5:30 am - 10:00 am - 790: BILL BAILEY. It may be Saturday to you, but to Bailey it's one more day in the barrel. News and Sports with Bill McQuage.

10:00 am - 3:00 pm - 790: Bobby Hatfield. Hatfield and his music are joined by Bill McQuage for news and sports through noon, and Marty Reising until 3:00.

3:00 pm - 7:00 pm - 790: HARRY LYLES. The sound is familiar and fine. Marty Reising keeps abreast of late-breaking news and sports scores.

7:00 pm - 12 Midnight - 790: BOB DRIES. A new voice brings Saturday night alive with music to ease you through the evening.

Sunday

12 Midnight - 5:45 am - 790: MIKE MILLS. The "loneliest night of the week" passes smoothly by with Mike Mills and his music.

10:00 am - 2:00 pm - 790: AMERICAN TOP 40 with CASEY KASEM. This is it! The best of the week is reviewed and replayed.

2:00 pm - 4:00 pm - 790: JOHN ASHTON: Ashton cruises through Sunday afternoon with Marty Reising providing news and sports.

4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. 790: CHUCK JACKSON. The weeknight man brings his style and his music to Sunday early evening. Marty Reising with news and sports.

8:00 pm - 12 Midnight - 790: FOURTH STREET SUNDAY NIGHT with BOB MOODY. Moody is in the mood for nostalgia and the result is one-of-a-kind radio.

Courier-Journal Accent Column - September 24, 1981


Tim and Evelyn Kelly are operating regularly as a husband-and-wife deejay team at WAKY Radio in Louisville

New Louisville deejay has two voices
Tim and Ev chime in on WAKY Radio daily
and then go home to their baby daughter
By Tom Dorsey, TV-Radio Critic


The deejay glances at the clock and says, "It's 19 after…"

"…nine o'clock" his wife chimes in, finishing his sentence.

"Right here on W-A…" he says

"…K-Y" she adds, completing the station identification.

It's the Tim and Ev show, Louisville's first and one of the nation's few, husband-and-wife radio disc-jockey teams. Tim and Evelyn are the Kellys. The fiercely competitive radio business is always looking for new wrinkles. Every station wants to be unique. The Kellys make the difference at WAKY.

"A high of 70 today. It's cloudy now," Tim says in the typical deep-baritone deejay voice.

"…and 64 degrees right now," Ev adds in a friendly Imogene Coca-like voice.

She reads on line of a commercial. He reads the next. Cute. Maybe too cute for some. It sounds better than it reads. They carry on a kidding contest, cutting in on each other with put-downs. He interrupts her about two to one, maintaining that male prerogative that belies the myth that women talk too much.

She's the straight lady in this Burns-and-Allen radio routine. They kicked off their radio act at 790 on the dial September 14. The exiles from Los Angles haven't been in Kentucky much longer that that. In a TV ad introducing the Kellys, they ramble through a laundry list of towns they've been through. They seem surprised to find themselves in Louisville. They are.

"We were doing well in L.A.," says 33-yeard old Tim. They were on station KFI at middays. That's quiet time on radio - not the place to get a radio-personality act going. Besides, the Kellys had gone about as far as they could go polishing their act in L.A. They needed to get on the air somewhere in radio's prime time, which is the morning rush hour.

"Then, right out of the blue these people (WAKY) called us. They made it very attractive for us to come here," Tim says. That's his professional logic for the change of scenery. "Ev," as he calls her on and off the air, sees the move to Louisville a little differently.

"I could stand the thought of raising our child (2-year old Elizabeth) in Los Angles." Tim agrees. "We were fed up with three years of traffic jams, mind-blowing smog with a few earthquakes thrown in for good measure." So they left the Promised Land and headed East toward an uncertain future in a place they had never even visited. That was nothing new.

The Kellys were born in Detroit, but they never knew each other there. Her parents were from Switzerland. Her dad moved the family to Denver when she was a child. She worked as a waitress in a steak house when she was in high school. One day she overheard a customer say a job was open at a local radio station. She hopped into her car, drove down there and was hired as a receptionist. In 1972 Tim arrived at the station from Buffalo, where he'd been doing a deejay shift.

Then her parents decided to send her off to school in Switzerland.

"They wanted me to spend some time in their homeland," she says. "They wanted to get her away from me," he quips. "They did just buy me a one-way ticket," she adds.

That did it. He sold his motorcycle ("the ultimate measure of my true love at that stage of my life") and chased her to the foot of the Alps. Six weeks later he had his bride back in the USA. Since then their married life sounds like a Flying Dutchman's nightmare or a continuous trip on a Greyhound.

Denver, San Antonio, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles and now Louisville are the stops they've made in less than nine years. She worked at a different station from him in Chicago, but all she got to announce was the time on an automated station. It was in Washington that Ev got her first break.

Tim talked the program director into letting her do little features. The idea of an on-the-air act had never been far from their minds. Their car turned out to be the rehearsal hall. "We used to practice one-liners back and forth on the way to and from work," he recalls.

Boston was a step closer to realizing their dream. They were at least on the same show, even if she did have a different name. "They named me Beverly Hudson because you couldn't have a guy's wife doing news features on the same program," she explains.

The explanation wasn't good enough. "Besides, Tim kept calling me Ev on the air," she says. Time to take the show on the road again. This time it was L.A., that kinky town, where nobody cared if a man or a woman confessed on the air if they were married.

The idea of spending all your working hours with your husband or wife wouldn't be everybody's idea of wedded bliss, though. "I guess we're the kind of people that can handle large does of each other," she says. "It's nothing really new," Tim adds. "Husbands and wives have worked together for most of history. It's only recently that they haven't."

"We enjoy it," Ev adds. "We do all our talking on the air. At home we never say a word to each other," she says with a giggle. They're sold on side-by-side jobs.

But lots of radio stations have doubts about duets. What if the audience loves them and they decide to get divorced? "I can't imagine that happening to us," Ev says with confident finality. They lead a quiet life. Johnny Carson is somebody they've only heard about. "I like being in bed by 8:30," she says. "I stay up clear 'til 9," he says. "We don't go out much or anything," he explains. "We just work and play with our girl," Ev says.

Babysitters are a bit of a problem, though, when you leave for work at 5 a.m. "We're paying $30 a day to an agency lady -- $600 a month," Ev gasps. "The agency lady has gotta go," Tim groans. "Do you know any pre-dawn babysitters?" Ev asks. "Can we bring her to your house?"

Their life together is more than a radio routine to Tim, too. "This is definitely an act. We're sticking with it. We're either going to stay in Louisville or go elsewhere if we have to, but we're staying together now that we're taken seriously as a husband/wife team."

There's a split on that score however.

"I don't want to keep on moving for our daughter's sake," Ev says. "I'd rather get in a new line of business." She thinks she's found a home. She's got her fingers crossed that it's a hospitable one. "I hope Louisville likes us because it seems like an awfully nice place to raise a daughter."

February 27, 1982 Louisville Scene Article

The all-new WAKY will be all-oldies,
and that could be good.
By Vince Staten, Times TV-Radio Critic

Some say that intelligent disc jockey is a contradiction in terms.

Those who'd say that have never met Bob Moody.

Bob Moody is the thinking man's disc jockey.

Now he will attempt to become the thinking man's radio program director.

On Monday, radio station WAKY-AM (790), his bomping grounds for the last six years, will become an all-oldies station.

An "all-oldies" station could mean anything. Both WINN and WXVW are all-oldies stations, but their oldies are big-band songs. You might even consider our classical stations all-oldies stations.

But WAKY will play oldies from the rock era, about 1957 to 1973, according to Moody. "We may play a few from '54 or '55, but nothing after '73." So WAKY will resemble, in some ways, its successful oldies show, "Fourth Street Sunday Night."

"Fourth Street Sunday Night" was Moody's creation, and it has been more than just an oldies show, it has been a thoughtful oldies show.

I have a tape I made of "Fourth Street" sometime back in the summer.

The tape begins with "I'm Into Something Good," sung by Earl-Jean, followed by a different version of the same song by Herman's Hermits. Moody then came on, identified the two songs and noted that Earl-Jean was in realty Earl-Jean McCree, who later became the lead singer for the Cookies. "Do you remember the Cookies?" he asked. "If you remember this song, you do." Then he played "Don't Say Nothing (Bad About My Baby)."

That's what I mean by a thoughtful oldies show. Moody didn't just thumb through the "stacks of golden wax" and pull out a few that struck his fancy. He put together a few minutes of delight. It required some thought and a little research to tie those three songs together.

But I think it paid off for the listener.

Moody says he doesn't think it will be possible to do a full-time "Fourth Street" on the new all-old WAKY. Maybe not.


The crew that will help WAKY change formats on Monday includes (background, from left)
Bill Purdom, Mark Strauss, Liz Curtis, Bob Moody, B.J. Koltee and (foreground) Tim and Ev Kelly

My hope is that WAKY will fill the void left by the stations that play occassional oldies. I have heard Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" so many times I can name that tune in three notes.

Some stations play oldies, but they play the same oldies - and particularly oldies by big names.

I don't think of Elvis and the Beatles as oldies. They are classics. They almost qualify as current artists. Both still sell plenty of albums.

Many of my favorite songs (and probably many of yours) never made it onto the Billboard Top 10.

Take, for example, those three songs I mentioned above.

Earl-Jean's version of "I'm Into Something Good" peaked at Number 38 on the charts. That's a footnote in top-40 radio. The Herman's Hermits version made it to Number 13. Only the Cookies' "Don't Say Nothing" hit the Top 10. It made it to Number 7.

These songs were followed on that particular "Fourth Street Sunday" by the Fleetwoods' "Mr. Blue," a bona-fide Number 1, but one from 1959, just over the line for stations that play oldies from the '60s and '70s only.

Moody then played Scott McKenzie singing "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," a song you don't hear very often because it was McKenzie's only big hit, and a lesser hit by Simon and Garfunkel, "At the Zoo," which only made it Number 16 in 1967.

Rock 'n' roll has a rich heritage. And a fun heritage. It began as, and still is, fun music.

When WAKY went wacky in 1958 when the station changed to rock music, it played "Purple People Eater" all day along. It was a fun day in radio. Moody promises a big splash for the format change this time.

With WAKY becoming a full-time "Fourth Street," the old "Fourth Street" slot on Sunday nights (8 to 11) will be filled by Leonard Yates' "Countdown." Yates, a local music historian, has WAKY and WKLO surveys dating back to the 1950s. Each Sunday he will pick a year and count down the songs from that week in rock 'n' roll history.

The format change occurs Sunday at midnight. Bob Moody will be the disc jockey for the first hour.

Most radio format changes just mean one station is going to quit playing their records and start playing the same ones as someone else. The innovations in Louisville radio in the last three years have been few.

WINN and WXVW brought big-band music back on a full-time basis. WFPL gave jazz fans a few hours a day of their favorites. And WJYL gave us an improved version of elevator music.

I appreciate and applaud innovation and diversity in local radio.

And because I have listened to Bob Moody and "Fourth Street," I have high hopes for the new WAKY.

I think it may transcend the "all-oldies" stereotype. I hope it will be like having a jukebox in your radio.

I don't want my children growing up and think Shaun Cassidy was the real singer behind "Da Doo Ron Ron," or that Rachel Sweet has the definitive version of "Then He Kissed Me." The Crystals did them both first (in 1963) and did them better.

And I'm counting on the new WAKY to prove it.

Our critic has a WAKY dream...

Here are some special events I'd like to hear on the all-new all-old WAKY. These are my ideas for some dream hours and dream weekends.

How about a Synthetic Fabrics Weekend? You'd have only songs sung by groups named after synthetic fabrics:

  • The Orlons, the Hollywood Argyles, the Chiffons and the Velours.

And then there could be Vvrrooom Shaboom Hour, composed only of stuff by groups named after cars:

  • The Cadillacs, the Edsels, the Impalas, the Mark IV, the Sevilles and the Skyliners. (The Fleetwoods were named after a phone exchange, not a car.)

How about a Haircuts Hour? You'd play only songs by groups named after haircuts:

  • The Crew-Cuts, the Marcels and the Poni-Tails.

Then you might program "All Maudlin, All the Time" with songs like:

  • "Teen Angel," "Patches," "Tell Laura I Love Her" and "Three Stars."

You could have Repetitive Redundancy Hour, featuring one-note artists who couldn't get enough of a good thing:

  • Bobby Lewis who had hits with "Tossin' and Turnin'" in 1961 and "I'm Tossin' and Turnin' Again" in 1962.

  • Bobby "Boris" Pickett, whose big hits were the "Monster Mash" (twice, in 1962 and 1973) and "Monsters' Holiday."

Then, why not One-Shot Heaven, a weekend of hits by people who never had a follow-up hit:

  • Marcy Blaine ("Bobby's Girl"), Claudine Clark ("Party Lights"), Tommy Dee ("Three Stars"), Charlie Drake "My Boomerang Won't Come Back"), Laurie London ("He's Got the Whole World in His Hands") , Ernie Maresca "(Shout! Shout! Knock Yourself Out"), the Monotones ("Book of Love"), the Murmaids ("Popsicles and Icicles"), the Teen Queens ("Eddie My Love"), the Trashmen ("Surfin' Bird") and Doris Troy ("Just One Look").

Or what about Abacus Weekend, with all numerical songs:

  • "One Fine Day," "Two Faces Have I, " "Three Bells," "Four Walls," "Five O'Clock World," "Six Days on the Road," "Seven Little Girls Sitting in the Back Seat," "Eight Days a Week," "Love Potion Number Nine," "Ten Commandments of Love," "11th Hour Medley," "Twelfth of Never," "Thirteen Questions," "1432 Franklin Pike Circle Hero," "Fifteen Years Ago." "Sixteen Candles," "Seventeen," 18 Yellow Roses," "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "20-75." I'm stumped on 21.

Then there's always Tim and Ev Play Music for Young Lovers, sung by the Great Boy-Girl Groups of the Past. There'd be songs by:

  • Dale and Grace, Dean and Jean, Dick and Deedee, Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford, Gene and Eunice, Mickey and Sylvia, Nino Tempo and April Stevens, Paul and Paula, Shirley and Lee, Sonny and Cher, Steve and Eydie, Steve and Eydie!

And that's when I woke up.
 

November 1983 Courier-Journal Article

A little help from friends launches party at Cristy's
By Michael Quinlan
Courier-Journal Staff Writer

It was twenty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They've been going in and out of style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile.

      -- From "Sgt/ Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"

I attended the wedding of an old friend last weekend. A school chum. A friend from the '60s. Cliff and I have stayed in touch over the years, but at his wedding reception I found myself surrounded by many familiar faces I hadn't seen in nearly 15 years.

A disc jockey from a local radio station manned a turntable in one corner of the grade-school cafeteria, playing tunes by The Police and Fleetwood Mac – background music for long-ago friends, who were now near-strangers, conversing tentatively, awkwardly, with mundane pleasantries.

Then the disc jockey cued up "Hey Jude," and several of the old faces began to sing along. "Love Me Do" brought several more voices into the chorus. "I Feel Fine," "Yesterday" and "All You Need Is Love" followed.

Suddenly the years that had separated us disappeared. The dance floor was filled as two dozen old friends formed a circle – arms locked, bodies swaying, voices singing in unison the songs we grew up with. "With A Little Help From My Friends," indeed.

It has been nearly two decades since the Beatles released their first American single, "I Want To Hold Your Hand," in January 1964, and 13 years since their last Number 1 single, "The Long And Winding Road," fell off the charts. But their legacy remains and their music still infuses its listener with a happiness that begs for sharing.

Beatles fans will be able to share that happiness with each other this Sunday at 3 p.m. at Cristy's, 9700 Bluegrass Parkway in the Ramada Inn-Hurstbourne Lane. WAKY-790 radio plans to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the birth of John Lennon with a special broadcast of Beatle songs and a birthday party/Beatlefest.

"We began planning the party when we heard the advance tape for 'Soundtrack of the '60s,' a weekly syndicated show from Los Angeles that we broadcast every Sunday at 3 p.m.," said Bob Moody, WAKY program director.

"The show is a countdown of the top 40 Beatles songs taken from a national poll of over 100,000 entries.

"We decided to re-program our own locally produced show, 'Fourth-Street Countdown,' which regularly follows 'Soundtrack' at 6 p.m. We dug up an old local poll that WAKY conducted in 1969 of the top 30 Beatles songs. We'll play those songs, along with another old program we aired in 1969, a tongue-in-cheek, locally produced news special entitled 'Is Paul Really Dead?'"

Moody has been tossing around the possibility of a local Beatles party since he attended a Beatlefest in London this summer.

"The Abbey Road Studios are undergoing renovation," he said, "and the old studio was opened up to Beatle fans. I believe the organizers thought that only kids would show up. They weren't prepared for the huge outpouring of older Beatle fans. After a look at the studio the tour group I was with was led into small room where we served Kool-Aid and cookies.

"We want to emulate that same type of innocence with our Beatle party. We plan to do a lot of silly things."

Silliness will be the order of the day. Moody will be decked out in full Sgt. Pepper regalia as he plays host of the free part at Cristy's. The WAKY radio broadcast will be piped into the lounge.

A wide assortment of drinks, priced at just 79 cents, have been dubbed with Beatlesque names – the Here Comes the Sunrise, Sgt. Pepper's Hot Shot, a Strawberry Fields, a Liverpool and a Yellow Submarine. Regular drinks will offered at their usual prices, starting at $2.25.

There will be a Ringo Romp dance contest, a Magical Mystery Tour scavenger hunt, a Lennon look-alike contest, a name-that-tune McCartney medley, plenty of trivia and free sketches of Lennon by a local artist.

A birthday cake in honor of Lennon will be served, as will free hors d'oeurves.

Courier-Journal Cityscape Column - June 15, 1986

City's airwaves went WAKY in the old days of rock 'n' roll
By Glen Rutherford

Cityscape is a weekly column in which members of the news staff ruminate on intriguing aspects of the life in the Louisville area.

In the days before rock 'n' roll became an entry in the dictionary, a youngster had two choices if he wanted to hear the likes of Chuck Berry, Laverne Baker or Betty Everett.

He listened to the black radio stations - WLOU in town until sundown, then WLAC in Nashville at night, with "the Hoss Man, layin' it down for Royal Crown." Not the cola; the hairdressing cream.

'LAC had a midnight show, too, sponsored by "Randy's Record Shop. If it's ever been recorded, you can get it at Randy's."

That was it. That was before your mother knew what rock 'n' roll meant, before Elvis or Bill Haley, and yeah, before WAKY radio.

WGRC radio - the "George Rogers Clark radio station" - was playing who-knows-what kind of music before 1958; nobody I've talked to can remember. But they know what happened when a Texan named Gordon McLendon bought the station and changed its name to WAKY -- say that wacky.

The airwaves around Louisville haven't been the same since.

WAKY radio took to the air with 24 straight hours of one song, the immortal "Flying Purple People Eater."

Oh, they'd introduce other songs - "Hey, here's Louis Prima and Keely Smith," or "We know you're rarin' to hear Bobby Darin," but the song they'd play was Purple People Eater.

That was just the start of the craziness, of a decade or so of off-the-wall radio. It was radio that brought Louisville face to face, or ear to ear, with music that changed the way young people thought about practically everything.

WAKY has mollified over the years. The craziness gave way to less radical radio, which gave way to oldies -- in recent years they came play the same stuff that had made the station famous.

Now the oldies have given way to computers.

WAKY has switched to an electronic format; all the music is pre-programmed, played automatically without the aid of a disc jockey.

It's probably making Jumpin' Jack Sanders turn over in his grave.

Jumpin' Jack was perhaps the best known on-air personality WAKY ever had.

Probably the wackiest, too.

Thomas Shelby "Bob" Watson works for the Associated Press now, but back in the crazy days of WAKY radio, he was the station's news director. Like everyone who recalls Jumpin' Jack, Watson does so with a smile.

"I started at WAKY when I was still a student at UK," Watson recalled, "and all my teachers in Lexington thought I was crazy. They did not view WAKY as legitimate radio."

Little wonder.

Would a legitimate station air a "news report" about the alleged sighting of a giant alligator in the Ohio River near the foot of Fourth Street?

Would an on-air personality at a legitimate radio station set fire to the bottom of the news wire the real newsman was reading?

Would a legitimate station seriously promote such events as a man spending a weekend in a coffin with 40 poisonous snakes?

WAKY did all those things, and Jumpin' Jack Sanders was behind much of it.

"At one time, we had a three-man news department with Tom Perryman, Gerry Wood and me," Watson said, "Wood came to become one of Sanders' favorite people, and when that happened, look out. He couldn't wait 'til Wood got on the air to harass him."

On occasion, said Watson, Wood would still be typing his newscast right up to the second he was to go on the air, and occasionally he'd rip copy from the Associated Press wire machine and lay it on his lap.

Sanders would delight in seeing that," said Watson, "He'd sneak behind the turntables, make his way to the newsroom door and he'd light the copy. Just set it on fire."

It made for an interesting newscast.

So did the WAKY promotion centering on a guy who called him Wacheetanokai, the snake man.
Perryman, now general manager of WCII radio in Louisville, remembers that WAKY staged that promotion with the old Rambler City auto dealership in Jeffersonville, Ind.

"The guy'd read a book or something, lying with 40 or 50 poisonous snakes - least I guess they were poisonous," said Perryman. "This time he did it in the dealer's showroom, and they had about 40,000 people come in that weekend. Didn't sell a single car, that I know of, because it was too crowded for anybody to get any work done."

An incredible amount of talent came and went from WAKY radio, Perryman said. Not just DJs, either, but talented newscasters, program directors and station managers.

"It was, no kidding, a tremendous station," he said.

Sanders, who died in Nashville four years ago, wasn't WAKY's only famous crazy. Those who followed him were sometimes just as crazy -- jocks such as Bill Bailey, Jim Brand, Gary Burbank, Weird Beard and Coyote Calhoun.

And especially Skinny Bobby Harper.

Harper was at WAKY just a year or so, but he left an impression. He was one of the first in town to write comedy bits for his show ahead of time -- he did routines such as "The Itty-Bitty News," and phony commercials for non-existent products or movies.

Who can forget his famous promotion of a bogus film called "The Monster That Ate Pleasure Ridge Park."

"Pleasure Ridge Park," went Harper's ad. "Where men are men, women are men, and the children are confused."

He was also the guy who started the "Ties for Columbus" project, an effort to get people to send neckties to Louisville Police Chief C.J. (Columbus James) Hyde.

I think he inundated poor C.J. with ties," said Watson. "Tell you what, it (WAKY) was the kind of place where work wasn't work. You looked forward to coming in every day 'cause you never knew what was going to happen."

It was also the kind of station you loved to listen to. To this day, it's easy to recall the station's Sunday night jingle -- one of the last things my radio played before I drifted into sleep and into another week of school.

"The weekend's over," the jingle singers sang, "it's Sunday night, time to dream a dream or two. With WAKY, seven-nine-oh, Sunday night radioooo…"

Courier-Journal Article - 1988

Rocked by the present, WAKY will roll into the past for good
By Tom Dorsey, TV-Radio Critic

When the clock strikes midnight Sunday night, WAKY radio will be no more.

The radio station, which traces those call letters to 1958, will become WVEZ-AM, a twin of its sister station, WVEZ-FM. WVEZ-79, as it will be known, will then plug into the same satellite feed as the FM station, duplicating the same light and easy music around the clock.

"It's time to say goodbye to radio history," says WAKY-WVEZ General Manager Jack Hogan. "I know how meaningful the call letters were to Louisville history. WAKY was a nice memory, but as a business we can't live in the past."

Bill Bailey
One of the WAKY crew

Bob Moody
Working a WAKY afternoon

Hogan feels there's a better chance for WVEZ-AM to make it with a format that's proved itself on FM. The station will keep Cincinnati Reds baseball, Indiana University football and basketball, and Western Kentucky University basketball. It will drop "The Larry King Show," which probably will be picked up by another station. WCII would be a likely candidate.

The name change is one more in a series of setbacks for the once-famous rock station of the 1960s and early 1970s. After 15 years of success when Coyote Calhoun, Gary Burbank and Bill Bailey worked there, WAKY began slipping into steady decline in the 1980s.

One music format changed followed another. The owners tried everything from beautiful music to country blues. Two years ago the station became mostly automated.

The final insult to its former teen-age fans, now in their 40s, will be dumping the call letters that personified the wild and crazy days when rock radio was king. The name WAKY still commands nostalgic respect in the annals of the industry.

Stations switch call letters like socks these days, looking for some clever combination that might attract attention. "I tried to hold onto the WAKY call letters, and I think I waited a bit too long," Hogan says. There will a scramble to grab those letters. So WAKY radio will probably continue to be heard somewhere, but probably not in Louisville.

When WAKY shifted to an automated operation in June 1986, the station staged a big nostalgic revival in its final hours and capitalized on the negative publicity. This time someone will just quietly throw the switch and officially end an era.


 

Lexington Herald-Leader Column - October 6, 1989

Louisville radio station was one wacky place to work
Don Edwards
Herald-Leader columnist

"It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater…"

It was also the summer of 1958, and that was how Louisville radio station WAKY went on the air its first day -- playing a hit novelty song called "The Purple People Eater."

Playing it over and over and over and over and over.

It was the only song the station played during the entire broadcast day.

Listeners were amused, baffled and outraged. But they didn't touch that dial.

Nobody called it WAKY as in "double-you-a-k-y."

Everybody pronounced it "wacky" and wacky it was -- 5,000 watts of freewheeling lunacy.

"The idea," said Johnny Randolph, "was to be zany, to live up to that wacky image. It was a crazy adventure where you never knew what to expect."

Randolph, former WAKY program director and disc jockey, along with two other ex-WAKY DJs -- Bill Bailey and Gary Burbank -- will reunite on the airwaves next week.

But not in Louisville. In Lexington.

On Monday, WVLK radio personality Jack Pattie will devote the 9 to 10 a.m. slot of his regular morning show to the WAKY reunion.

"Listening to WAKY was such a big deal when I was growing up in Lexington," said Pattie. "These guys were my radio heroes."

Pattie wasn't alone. A couple of generations of Central Kentucky kids grew up with WAKY.

"We had incredible demographics," said Randolph, who worked at the station from 1967-77, and now is part-owner of WKLO in Danville."

"At one time we were the No. 1 station in Lexington in the 12-24 age group."

"I never had more fun in radio than I did at WAKY," said Burbank, who did an afternoon show at WAKY from 1968-72, and is now a DJ at WLW in Cincinnati.

"WAKY once had a national reputation as one of the best -- maybe THE best -- rock 'n' roll stations in the country. And that's no exaggeration. It's a fact."

As Randolph noted, the only thing to expect from the irreverent WAKY was the unexpected.

Once when he was doing his midday show, said Randolph, Burbank "came through the door and squirted me with a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher while I was on the air.

"Then he couldn't get it turned off and the whole studio filled up with foam."

WAKY had a showcase studio on Fourth Street in Louisville. Listeners could drive by, look through the big window and watch their favorite DJs at work.

"People mooned us all the time," said Burbank. "And sometimes we mooned them back."

Burbank closed the wind drapes for his last show at the station. "We were doing a taped bit where it sounded like this guy runs into the studio and shoots me on the air because he's fed up with my left-wing point of view."

A lot of listeners fell for the gag. It set off an Orson Welles-type panic with police and newspaper reporters rushing to the studio, thinking Burbank had been murdered.

"WAKY was the most wonderful place I ever worked," said Bailey, who was famous for his growling voice and his ad-libbed, controversial morning show that generated bomb threats.

Bailey once made obscene gestures though the studio window and on-the-air insulting remarks toward police who were towing his illegally parked car from the station.

"I'm 58 and out of radio," he said. "Nobody gives a damn about the listeners anymore. Opportunists called 'entrepreneurs' just want to buy stations, run up the revenue, sell them and make money."

Times-Mail Article - January 21, 2006

There will never be another WAKY
By Roger Moon, Times-Mail (Bedford, Indiana)


There it was on the front page of the Paoli newspaper.

A photograph of a 1967 Chevy Nova.

And there on the front of the car was a license plate with four letters on it.

WAKY.

Those letters have a way of capturing the attention of virtually any baby boomer who grew up anywhere from Bedford, Ind., to Lexington, Ky. Just hearing the word (or the call letters, if you prefer) will put a smile on their faces faster than you can say Bill Bailey. Or Dude Walker. Or Weird Beard. Or Gary Burbank.

I asked Bedford's Nancy Limp what she remembered about the days when those disc jockeys and many others would broadcast from what Burbank called a "showcase control room" on a happening Fourth Street in Louisville, Ky.

Limp's first words in response to the question: "Coyote Calhoun."

Oh yeah.

He was the nighttime guy back in the mid-1970s. My memory takes me to a Halloween night, and I'm thinking it was Coyote who gave the Eagles' "Witchy Woman" its first local airplay. Over and over and over. Much of it was static; WAKY faded out in the evening hours. But the static was worth it.

I'm thinking it was around 1973 or so. That was a good year. As Coyote was delivering his frequent, trademark howls, Steely Dan was "Reeling in the Years" and Brownsville Station was "Smoking in the Boys Room." Carly Simon was telling somebody (we still don't know who) "You're So Vain," and, thanks to some "Paper Roses," I was falling in love with Marie Osmond. And I would have welcomed Olivia Newton-John into my world any time she said, "Let Me Be There."

Teenagers were taking Coyote with them when they went "riding around" their respective towns. It was Coyote and me on the main drag in Marengo or circling Paoli's Chat 'n Snak. One time, those zany WAKY disc jockeys brought their basketball team, the WAKY Warthogs, to play some sort of charity game in the Marengo High School gymnasium. I probably arrived early and wouldn't have traded the experience for a premium seat at the NCAA championships.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in that.

Limp said riding around in Bedford meant going back and forth between Burger Chef on 16th Street and the Dairy Queen on what now is Mitchell Road. "It was the thing," Limp told me. "You listened to WAKY. That was THE station."

I sent an e-mail to Jim Turpin, a 1974 Oolitic High School graduate and now the news director for an ABC television station in Memphis, Tenn. I asked him if he was a WAKY listener.

"Are you kidding me? AM-79 WAKY radio? That's all I listened to...," he wrote. "It came in crystal clear until sundown."

Jim, who thought the disc jockeys were "gods, real stars," added, "I'll always remember, as a 16-year-old, going to Louisville with a friend to see an ABA basketball game and driving across the river into Louisville, listening to WAKY. The Spinners came on with ‘I'll Be Around.' The lights of the big city (as he thought of Louisville at the time) reflecting off the water. The first chords from that song sounding. It was one of those musical moments you just remember."

WAKY preceded the World Wide Web by many years, but now a Web site (www.79waky.com) immortalizes the broadcasting icon's place in history. Among the WAKY personalities who are profiled there is Chuck Jackson.

Chuck shares some words that speak volumes. He says online, "There will never be another WAKY."

I asked some people to react to that statement.

Among them was Johnny Henderson of Paoli, who wrote in an e-mail, "There will never be another WAKY is right. I remember walking down Fourth Street in Louisville and being able to watch the guys on the air while listening over the outdoor speakers. They often spoke with people on the street, but I never got that opportunity."

Burbank, a former disc jockey now heard on WLW in Cincinnati, said WAKY was the kind of progressive Top 40 success that stations in much bigger cities wanted to be.

"They put together some very good personalities that meshed," Burbank told me in a phone interview. "There was no jealousy. We were all friends. We just got up in the morning and looked forward to going to work and having a great time. ... We were going after the teen audience and they would drag Fourth Street in Louisville. ... The whole deal was to come by WAKY. They would come by and would hold up requests for songs."

As a former newsman at WAKY, Bob Moody also reacted to Jackson's statement. "Chuck is right," Moody wrote in an e-mail. "During the '60s and '70s, WAKY had a national reputation inside the industry as a great place for creative talent to work."

Moody, Burbank and Calhoun credit the station's success during their time there to Program Director Johnny Randolph.

"He was the guy that really held us together," Burbank said.

Calhoun, now with Louisville's WAMZ radio, told me, "That was the heyday for Top 40 radio, the format that included the best of rock, the best of pop, the best of easy listening and the best of country crossover. That kind of format, with all the personality that we were able to interject into it, and on the AM dial, you could not replicate that today."

As for the Chevy Nova and the WAKY license plate, well, they belong to Paoli's Randy Chastain. He told me he had wanted one of those classic plates for a long time. He wasn't sure he would ever find one, but he stumbled onto it at a junkyard near Corydon.

It gets attention at car shows.

"They'll look at it," Randy said, "and say, 'I remember these.'"

Times-Mail Article - February 2006

More About WAKY
By Roger Moon, Times-Mail (Bedford, Indiana)

When I wrote recently about WAKY as the radio station many of us grew up listening to, I sensed the column would stir memories for a lot of folks.

Here's some of the feedback I received:

Dude Walker, a WAKY disc jockey I remember from the early 70s, wrote: "WAKY was the greatest experience in my life, next to having my children. Everyone who worked there was a joy to work with. My memories of WAKY flood my mind quite often ...I was once the grand marshal in a parade in Bedford."

George Francis, who managed WAKY from 1978 to 1981, wrote, "It was always interesting to hear various people in the area explain their best memories of WAKY ...Many people would tell of WAKY playing "Purple People Eater. Some would say for 24 hours. Others would say for a week. I actually never did learn what the real truth was about that."

Donna Harris, who has lived most of her life in the Orleans area, wrote: "The DJs at WAKY would come to the Mitchell skating rink on Saturday nights, occasionally. After the skating was over for the night, the DJs would set up and we'd dance to the Beatles and Jan and Dean."

Donna Wininger of French Lick wrote: "The memories came rushing back ...Barry (Wininger, Donna's husband) and I enjoyed remembering back to those carefree days of high school, riding around as you cruised from French Lick to West Baden and seeing who was parked at the Villager drive-in."

Amelia (Missy) Weaver Goffinet, now of Clark County, but a former classmate of mine at Paoli, wrote: "I instantly started grinning and reminiscing about 'the good old days.' My mom would take us to Louisville and we would go to the station and watch the DJ from outside the window. I work at Providence High School in Clarksville. I see, and have, teenagers and I wonder what they will have to smile about in 30 years ... There was nothing like cranking up the radio and checking out the Chat 'n Snak, going around the square to the Shakeburger, then backing in on the square and watching everyone else do the same thing."

For WAKY enthusiasts, Francis is clearly right. It's always interesting to hear people talk about their best WAKY memories.

Louisville Sun Article - Summer 2006

The Heart of WAKY: Johnny Randolph remembered
By Joe Elliott

If you're a child of the 60s or 70s, and you grew up in Louisville, chances are that WAKY was the soundtrack of your life. The Mighty 790 exploded on the scene in 1958, and kept Kentuckiana teens plugged in to the latest music and pop culture for more than 20 years.

The architect of the WAKY glory days was Johnny Randolph. He guided the station through its most successful run for ten years from the late 60s to the late 70s. He hired the right people, played the right music, and always kept things exciting with great contests and station promotions.

Randolph came to WAKY after being fired on a cold Christmas Eve from cross town rival WKLO, and he credits that firing for giving him the competitive drive to make WAKY the dominant Louisville top 40 station. Randolph told WAKY archivist John Quincy, "when I first went to Louisville, WAKY and KLO were battling neck and neck." "when I went over to WAKY we took more of a personality approach--fun loving to go with the call letters WAKY."

Randolph once told me that the key to his success at WAKY was hiring great personalities, establishing some simple guidelines, and then getting out of their way. Those personalities gave WAKY a special sound that was admired and imitated by countless other radio stations.

The self proclaimed Duke Of Louisville, Bill Bailey, was larger than life, and is probably Louisville's most popular radio personality of all time. Thousands of Louisvillians woke up to hear the Duke's take on life every morning. His ratings were through the roof, and bringing him back to Louisville from WLS in Chicago may have been Randolph's greatest coup.

If you were a teenager with wheels, cruising 4th Street, you'll never forget The Weird Beard, or Coyote Calhoun coming to your high school for a pep rally before a big game. Both jocks had great fun on the air, and it was infectious. Weird Beard's live commercials for the House Of Adams clothing store were classics, and I still smile when I think about Coyote's famous yell, his incredible high energy, and his bad jokes.

The overnight audience loved Mason Lee Dixon's talk show, the Mason Dixon Line. There was nothing like staying up until 3 AM to play trivia with Mason, to comment on the morning's topic, or to get an astrology reading.

There were funny men like Gary Burbank and Skinny Bobby Harper. Teen favorites like Lee Masters, Tom Dooley, and Jason O'Brien.

These were strong creative personalities, and Randolph brilliantly hired and managed them. He encouraged them, giving them the freedom to create, while establishing boundaries to make the station sound consistent.

Johnny Randolph understood Louisville's music taste, and added both country and R&B to his top 40 mix. WLOU, the cities only R&B station signed off at sunset, so WAKY attracted the African-American and R&B audience by playing their favorite songs at night. Randolph also understood Louisville's love for country music, so he wasn't afraid to play Charlie Rich after the Beatles, or follow the Temptations with Donna Fargo.

WAKY was about excitement, and I was one of dozens of announcer wannabes who were inspired by the sound that Randolph and others created. Radio was so exciting, so alive, so intoxicating, that I absolutely had to be part of it!

I remember calling Johnny when I was 14 to ask for career advice. Incredibly, he made time for me, and I'll always be grateful for how he took me seriously, and encouraged me to follow my dream.

I worked at WAKY years later when it was nearing the end. It was long after the glory days, but it was still a great honor. It was heartbreaking when the station's owners decided to blow it up in 1986, but the sound of the legendary WAKY was long gone.

We invited Johnny Randolph to come back for our last broadcast. We all shared memories, swapped stories, played a few last requests, and said goodbye to Louisville's most legendary radio station.

WAKY will never die for those of us who loved it. The Super 79 is still alive at www.79waky.com. Long time fan John Quincy has created a tribute site that lovingly tells the story of one of America's great stations. You can read its history, hear audio clips of your favorite jocks, see pictures and more. You can also join the WAKY crew for a special reunion on August 5th to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Louisville. Details are at www.louisvillereunion.com.

Every city had an AM rocker that played the hits in the top 40 era, but WAKY was more than just a radio station to Louisville. Great stations become part of the fabric of their communities, and WAKY did this brilliantly. Johnny Randolph understood what worked in Louisville, and he tailored the personalities, the music, the promotions, and the contests to make every day special.

Joe Elliott is heard Monday through Friday evenings from nine until midnight,
and Sunday mornings from 8:30 until noon on 84WHAS radio.

Courier-Journal Column - August 2, 2006

Early Top-40 days of WAKY, WKLO will resonate at reunion
By Byron Crawford

Like a favorite oldie but goodie, news of this Saturday's WAKY and WKLO (AM) Radio reunion in Louisville has me remembering.

On an October evening in 1966, the WAKY News microphone looked as big as a football during my first newscast on "The Mighty 790."

Tim Tyler, the deejay, took a break in "The Tyler Tantrum" just long enough for me to reel off a rapid-fire news and sports report, then it was straight back to the Four Tops, Sam and Dave, the Beatles, Elvis, Buckinghams and Supremes.

WAKY had grabbed Louisville and much of Kentucky and Southern Indiana by the ears its first day on the air in July 1958, when it played "Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor" nearly continuously for 24 hours. Some listeners still claim it was much longer.

"Jumpin' " Jack Sanders, a.k.a. "El Kabong," the irrepressible afternoon drive-time disc jockey, told listeners that he had locked himself in the control room and that no one could get in to stop him. In the background, station personnel could be heard banging on the door, threatening Sanders and pleading with him to cease his madness. Occasionally, he promised that he would. But the very next song would be "Purple People Eater."

Was the entire WAKY staff insane?

On the contrary, they were among the pioneering geniuses of Top-40 radio in America.

Battling at the top of Top 40

WAKY was an almost magical place to work.

Some stations just have it -- whatever it is.

WAKY had it, and so did its crosstown rival, WKLO (1080). Through much of the 1960s and '70s the two battled neck and neck for Top-40 supremacy. Although I left WAKY in 1969 for WCKY in Cincinnati, I never again worked for a station that had the mystique of "The Mighty 790."

In 1970, 15-year-old Ted Tatman of Lexington heard WAKY for the first time on his transistor radio while at a church camp in the Fern Creek area. He was so captivated by deejays Gary Burbank, Johnny Randolph and Dude Walker that he pursued a career in broadcasting. WAKY survived until 1986, WKLO until 1979.

"I was only there for the last couple of years of WAKY, but it means a lot to me to have worked for such a legendary station," said Joe Elliott, a WHAS Radio talk show host, who is quoted on the WAKY tribute Web site.

Both WAKY and WKLO helped make broadcast legends of the likes of "The Duke of Louisville -- Bill Bailey" and Bill Crisp, who worked for both stations, as well as Jim Brand, Hal Smith, Weird Beard, Mason Dixon, Coyote Calhoun and a host of other personalities.

A chance to meet the voices

Although never employed by either station, Tatman -- who today is known as John Quincy at WSUY-FM in Charleston, S.C. -- has organized the reunion of former WAKY and WKLO air personalities and staff for the second consecutive year. He has invited listeners to join this year's reunion Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight at the Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St. in Louisville, to mingle with many of their favorite air personalities of yesteryear.

Tickets are $25 from Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Kentuckiana, which will benefit from the proceeds.

There will be live music from the Monarchs and a silent auction of WAKY gold record plaques, Bill Bailey paintings and other souvenirs.

"The whole thing is a labor of love," Quincy said. "Stations like WAKY and WKLO will probably never exist again, but we're doing our best to keep the memories of those two Louisville legends alive."

Courier-Journal Column - May 13, 2007

KOOL no more: WAKY is back on local radio

WAKY radio is back on the air in Kentuckiana, nearly 50 years after it took the region by storm.

On Friday at 5 p.m., Bill Walters, the president of Elizabethtown's KOOL 103.5-FM, announced on the air that the oldies station was changing its call letters to WAKY:

"Ladies and gentlemen, five decades ago a radio station was born that went on to become a legend in Kentuckiana. This station ushered in the rock ' n' roll era, and with it the most famous, talented, funny and irreverent list of DJs that could be found on the radio:

"DJs like 'Jumpin' Jack Sanders, Jim Brand, Tim Tyler, Bill Crisp, 'Skinny' Bobby Harper, Mason Lee Dixon, The Real Tom Dooley, Lee Gray, 'Dude' Walker, Jason O'Brien, Lee Masters, Johnny Randolph, Weird Beard, Gary Burbank and 'The Duke of Louisville,' Bill Bailey."

Then former WAKY on-air personality and program director Johnny Randolph announced: "Ladies and gentlemen … this is the rebirth of a legend, WAKY, Louisville."

An original WAKY station identification segued to the song remembered as "One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater." In 1958, when the first WAKY signed on, it played the song continuously for what some insist was two days or more. Thankfully, the reborn WAKY only gave "Purple People Eater" one glorious spin before launching a virtual back-to-back weekend barrage of mostly '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll hits that helped make the station famous.

The station is located in Elizabethtown and licensed in Radcliff, but its signal essentially covers Louisville, much of the central Bluegrass and Southern Indiana.

'We want to get back to the passion for WAKY of this whole Kentuckiana area that grew up listening," said Walters.

"I think there's an emotional attachment they have to that station and that era. We're going to play the same songs -- basically what we're doing right now -- but we are going to pick up the Louisville groups a little more."


Station owners, from left, Mike Baldwin, Rene' Bell and Bill Walters
have acquired the radio call letters of the famous WAKY.

Walters and station co-owners Rene' Bell and Mike Baldwin acquired the WAKY call letters several months ago from a station in Greensburg, Ky. That station had owned them since the original WAKY 790-AM relinquished the letters in the 1980s as most of its audience switched to FM stations.

This weekend, the new WAKY is featuring nearly nonstop oldies, punctuated by original or remakes of WAKY jingles and voice drop-ins by former WAKY personalities. Les Cook, the program director and morning on-air personality, said that he and other on-air staffers -- Greg Laha, Michael Marvin, Karen Allenn and "Fast" Eddie Lee -- will return tomorrow with programming modeled after WAKY in its heyday.

South Carolina broadcaster John Quincy, a native of Lexington who liked WAKY so much that he created the tribute Web site www.79WAKY.com, said the site registers thousands of hits each month from fans who fondly remember the original WAKY after all these years.

Mike Cummins, a promotions planner for the station, said he has searched 79WAKY.com to find songs that were popular on the original WAKY music surveys for possible play on the new station.

Johnny Randolph called the rebirth of WAKY "very flattering" and added, "I never thought, when we ended the whole thing at WAKY, that decades later we'd still be remembered."

Times-Mail Article - September 22, 2007

WAKY: the soundtrack for many lives
By Roger Moon, Times-Mail (Bedford, Indiana)

A more appropriate song couldn't have been playing on the radio.

Gladys Knight was belting out "I heard it through the grapevine" as I was tuning my radio dial to see whether what I had heard a few days earlier was indeed true — that WAKY radio was back on the air. Like a long-lost friend.

The words of Mark Lindsey's "Arizona" also came through the speakers. So did Percy Sledge's "Take Time to Know Her." And a disc jockey spun off of Percy's song to say, "You gotta listen to your mama, especially when she says, ‘Turn that radio back to WAKY.'"

We WAKY radio fans (who pronounce it like a word) from the 1950s, '60s and '70s who are living more than 30 miles or so away from Louisville, are not, with any regularity, going to be turning our dials back to the station we grew up with. We can't. The signal for WAKY 103.5 doesn't come in that strong. But, when we jump in our cars to head toward Louisville, we know we can switch that dial and go back to a time when the livin' was easy, thanks to the folks at "Fun Lovin' WAKY."

I didn't know of WAKY's return until a couple of months ago. As some former classmates and I were reminiscing about the good old days, someone mentioned WAKY.

"It's back," Janevera Crecelius Rothenburger announced. She lives in Shelby County, Ky., where the WAKY signal no doubt is powerful.

News of WAKY's resurrection was a revelation for me. Right here in this space, I once heralded the words a former WAKY radio personality had shared on a WAKY Web site. "There will never be another WAKY," I wrote. E-mails and phone calls began coming in from new friends, old friends and former WAKY disc jockeys and news announcers, who concurred that when we lost the original WAKY, we lost pieces of ourselves.

None of us thought it could ever come back.

But, we didn't know a man named Bill Walters, who now is one of the owners of WAKY 103.5 (that's on the FM dial, folks).

I talked to the 58-year-old Walters this week. He told me, "When I was a teenager living on a farm in central Kentucky, I grew up listening to WAKY. We never forget a station like WAKY." He talked of how he went on to become a disc jockey and then got involved in station management and ownership. The oldies station (with different call letters) that preceded WAKY at 103.5 was successful, but Walters couldn't stop thinking about the AM dial's WAKY 79. He had a dream of owning the call letters that another station (in Springfield, Ky.) had but was under-utilizing.

"I knew there was a huge love affair that everybody had with WAKY," Walters told me. "It was sort of the soundtrack of their lives for anybody who grew up in the Kentuckiana area in the late '50s, the '60s and into the '70s. I knew where the call letters were, and thought we could recreate the station. Without the call letters, you don't have WAKY. And, when you go in and you program it similar to what it was back in the day, you really have the brand."

Les Cook, program director and morning man, said the station began a week-long series of air spots to tell listeners something was about to change, but they weren't to know exactly what until the station went on the air at 5 p.m. on May 11. WAKY returned, using many of the original WAKY jingles and with former news director Johnny Randolph in the studio where he played the first record — "Purple People Eater," the song the original WAKY played over and over when the stationed debuted.

Cook said of the WAKY jingles that have been resurrected, "It's like playing a hit between the hits. These jingles are hits, too."

Randolph has even come out of retirement to do afternoons at WAKY, driving 68 miles one way five days a week from his home in Danville, Ky.

Randolph, who reflected briefly on the days when he would come to the Bedford National Guard Armory to meet young WAKY listeners, said the station's personalities from way back when didn't fully understand WAKY's place in people's lives. "We knew that we had a lot of fun and that the station had a lot of listeners," Randolph said. "We never thought that it would be remembered like it has been remembered."

Cook talked about the format. "Right now, we play salutes to the roots of rock 'n' roll with select '50s stuff. We play some early '60s. There are still people who love that stuff. Primarily, these songs are from '65 to '75."

John Quincy, who maintains a popular Web site about the original WAKY, wrote in an e-mail, "The new WAKY is helping to keep the legend of the original alive, especially since the folks in charge were big fans of the Big 79. It's not a clone of the original ... but it's more like the original rethought as an oldies station for the 21st century."

Another former air personality, Gary Burbank is also happy about the new WAKY. He said, "WAKY defined my radio career." He said he has worked at some great radio stations, but he added, "WAKY still has to be ... the most exciting radio station that I took part in."

On the day I tuned in, I heard The Stones coming through the speakers with, "This may be the last time."

It likely will be WAKY's last reincarnation.

But, may it last a long time.