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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.
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 &
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.
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
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,
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
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
"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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
Louisville's Midnight Cowboys
While the city sleeps, disc jockeys play to a small but loyal
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
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.
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
Courier-Journal Article - Mid 1970s
gave impetus to Rich
By Billy Reed
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
Three disc jockeys who moved on returned to Louisville
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
|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
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
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
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
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
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
7:00 pm - 12 Midnight - 790: BOB DRIES. A new voice brings
Saturday night alive with music to ease you through the evening.
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
Courier-Journal Accent Column - September 24,
Tim and Evelyn Kelly are operating regularly as a husband-and-wife
deejay team at WAKY Radio in Louisville
deejay has two voices
Tim and Ev chime in on WAKY
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
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
Then you might program
"All Maudlin, All the Time" with songs like:
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.
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
("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 that's when I woke
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
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
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
"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,
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
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
It's probably making Jumpin' Jack Sanders turn over in his grave.
Jumpin' Jack was perhaps the best known on-air personality WAKY ever
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."
Would a legitimate station air a "news report" about the alleged
sighting of a giant alligator in the Ohio River near the foot of
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
"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
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
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
"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."
One of the WAKY crew
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
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
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
station was one wacky place to work
"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
Listeners were amused, baffled and outraged. But they didn't touch
Nobody called it WAKY as in "double-you-a-k-y."
Everybody pronounced it "wacky" and wacky it was -- 5,000 watts of
"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
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
"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
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.
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
Limp's first words in response to the question: "Coyote Calhoun."
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Early Top-40 days
of WAKY, WKLO will resonate at reunion
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
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
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
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
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:
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,
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
'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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 underutilizing.
"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,
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
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.
Courier-Journal Feature - June 7, 2018
60 years ago,
WAKY put the crazy in Louisville's rock 'n' roll radio
By Jeffrey Lee Puckett
On any given Saturday night in
1960s Louisville, a string of cars filled with hormonal teens and
the sound of Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her" stretched from
Broadway to River Road, a mobile party that lasted hours.
The soundtrack was provided by Top 40 radio and WAKY was king. The
station blasted hits all night at 790 AM as kids cruised past its
Fourth Street studio on their way to Kingfish and back again.
As Louisville's first Top 40 rock 'n' roll station, WAKY represented
a cultural earthquake and it held sway over Louisville's airwaves
until the rise of FM.
WAKY is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, looking back at
a history that includes record-setting ratings, unhinged disc
jockeys, barely controlled mayhem and sweet radio espionage.
But WAKY is more than a quaint local icon. For all of the, um,
wackiness associated with the station during its glory years, the
truth is that the station represented high-level radio, and some of
the voices those cruising teens worshiped eventually shaped radio on
a national level.
And Johnny Randolph, the man who many credit with making WAKY a
powerhouse, is still at it. Five days a week, from 3-7 p.m.,
Randolph slides up to a microphone and introduces songs he's played
thousands of times.
"It has been rewarding and it is rewarding," said Randolph, 76, who
came out of retirement to DJ again. "It's been a real treat."
WAKY celebrates its 60th as a far different station than it once
was. Instead of breaking new hits, it plays classic songs from the
1960s to the 1980s to a much smaller audience than at its peak.
And while it's still active on the Louisville scene, sponsoring
concerts with appearances by DJs, its studio is based in
Elizabethtown. On-air personalities such as Mark Strauss, Bobby Jack
Murphy and Joe Fedele are veterans of WAKY and other stations, and
their voices have been heard in Louisville for decades.
Randy Michaels, longtime radio executive and CEO of Merlin Media,
last year selected vintage WAKY as the 13th greatest Top 40 station
of all time in a survey conducted by radio-industry trade
publication Radio INK.
WAKY's staff in the early 1970s included Jarl Mohn, then known as
Lee Masters, who is now president and CEO of National Public Radio.
He also founded the E! Network and was an executive at MTV and VH1.
Coyote Calhoun was WAKY's Wolfman Jack and went on to become one of
the most decorated program directors and DJs in country radio
history while at WAMZ. He's in the Country Music On-Air Personality
Hall of Fame.
The characters created by Gary Burbank at WAKY propelled him to
become one of radio's pre-eminent humorists at Cincinnati's WLW and
his Earl Pitts editorial satires are still heard on 200 stations.
He's in the Radio Hall of Fame.
Newsmen Len King and Mike Summers founded CNN Radio for Ted Turner
while Al Smith became Turner's Director of Broadcast Operations,
overseeing his television and radio empires.
Even the station's freelancers were stars-to-be: Southern High
School student Dan Mason contributed sports reports and went on to
be CEO of CBS Radio.
These were the guys you heard on any given Tuesday in Louisville –
the radio equivalent of a movie starring a young Keanu Reeves,
Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Ryan Reynolds and George Clooney.
"It's hard for people in Louisville to believe but it's true: Johnny
built something really unusual," said Mohn. "Johnny had a great ear
for talent, he hired really unique personalities, and then he gave
us all plenty of room.
"To have a whole radio station, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,
of personalities was unique then and it's impossible today."
They were the cream of Top 40 radio, respectable, hard-working,
Except, maybe, when they were wrestling Jerry "The King" Lawler at
Louisville Gardens, or staging a murder in the studio for fun, or
slamming into each other at demolition derbies, or drinking most of
a fifth during a morning shift.
"I learned to ride a motorcycle in the hallways of WAKY, salesmen
jumping out of the way," said Burbank, who also pretended to be shot
by an outraged fan on his last day at WAKY. "I came from a station
in Memphis where they didn't want their disc jockeys to be seen,
like they were ashamed of them, and suddenly I walk into this
"I would basically say, 'Just don't get us in trouble with the
FCC,'" Randolph recalled.
WAKY famously debuted on July 7, 1958, when stodgy old WGRC began
playing Sheb Wooley's "The Purple People Eater" around the clock,
sometimes breaking the monotony with a Jim Backus novelty song,
When it was over, WGRC had become WAKY and it never stopped trying
to live up to its name. The station was wildly popular in the 1960s
and '70s and did constant battle with rival WKLO, which adopted the
same format in 1959.
Randolph joined the staff as a DJ in 1967 and became program
director in 1970 when the WAKY DJs collectively walked out and began
drinking at Kunz's The Dutchman until Randolph was promoted
(although, to be honest, some may have just wanted to drink).
Randolph had once worked at WKLO but left under bad circumstances
only to get his revenge. Seemingly mild-mannered, he was actually a
straight savage who loved trolling WKLO, said John Quincy, who runs
the 79waky.com tribute site.
Randolph snuck into WKLO and sabotaged their outgoing lines by
patching in a tape recording that played nonstop WAKY jingles over
the air. He parked WAKY's van directly outside WKLO's picture window
and used his given name to win a $1,000 WKLO contest and then lorded
it over them.
But his greatest accomplishment was stealing Bill Bailey. Bailey,
who died in 2012, was slaughtering WAKY in the ratings and Randolph
wanted him at WAKY, or at least out of the market. So he got sneaky.
"We became the agent he never knew he had," Randolph said.
WAKY created audition tapes of Bailey and mailed them out to
hundreds of stations until he was hired by a Chicago station. Within
a year, Bailey got fed up with Chicago and wanted to return to
Louisville. Randolph was waiting with an offer too good to pass up.
At WAKY, Bailey would become the Duke of Louisville and go on to
draw an unheard of 40 percent share of listeners every morning (a
good DJ would typically get a 7 or 8 share). Randolph, naturally,
let WKLO know exactly what he had done.
"I made sure of it," he said, still relishing the long con.
Calhoun and Burbank, now both retired with roomfuls of plaques, were
barely into their 20s while at WAKY and up for anything. They're a
bottomless well of WAKY stories, many of them about Bailey's
exploits at every bar in downtown Louisville.
Calhoun's favorite story is his 1976 wrestling match versus Lawler,
the professional heel that everyone loved to hate. The tag-team
match was Randolph's idea, of course, and Lawler orchestrated a beef
that started in an interview on WAKY and escalated into a challenge.
Calhoun showed up at the sold-out event in tights, promising to use
a move called the "Bohemian Alligator Holt" to defeat Lawler. The
joke was that Bohemian Alligator Holt was actually the name of
Calhoun's partner, a huge wrestler, and Calhoun studiously avoided
his partner's tag until Lawler finally drug him into the ring.
"Lawler picked me up with one arm and put me over his head and did
like a helicopter spin over and over and over again and then dropped
me onto the canvas," Calhoun said. "And when he dropped me he leaned
over and said, 'Don't even think about gettin' up.' He didn't have
to worry about that."
WAKY is currently on its second life. It's first run ended in 1987
and the iconic call letters went to a station in Greensburg,
The letters were bought in 2007 by Bill Walters, Rene Bell and Mike
Baldwin, who own Hardin County's WLVK (105.5-FM). They reanimated
WAKY, which now broadcasts on three frequencies – 103.5-FM, 100.1-FM
and 620-AM – with a signal that reaches several counties in
Louisville and Southern Indiana.
A longtime WAKY fan, Walters reintroduced WAKY with, of course, "The
Purple People Eater" and then started working on Randolph, who was
retired in Danville, Kentucky.
"I was gonna stay retired," Randolph said. "I was laying on the
beach and next thing you know Bill's calling. 'You gotta come back!'
He talked me into it and 10, 11 years later here we are."
Listening to WAKY now, especially on 620-AM, is a nostalgic rush
that never gets old. The WAKY Wayback Weekends are especially good
as long forgotten songs are again spotlighted and snippets from
classic WAKY DJs are played. Weird Beard lives.
It's a reminder of a time when rock 'n' roll was still fresh and its
daily upheavals were perfectly matched by the cheerful chaos at
"Johnny Randolph is insane to still be on the radio but it makes me
happy to be able to hear it," said Burbank, who listens via a stream
from his home in Florida. "There's nothing like WAKY now. I think
they realized, Hey, these guys are having too much fun. Stop paying