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Country WWKY is newest player
in 790-AM name game

By Tom Dorsey - TV/Radio Critic
Courier-Journal - June 8, 1989

For years it was WAKY radio. Later the station at 790-AM became a WVEZ-FM clone. Monday it gets a new identify all its own again as WWKY, a country oldies outlet.

"It was a shame to clone VEZ," says Frank Iorio Jr., WVEZ's co-owner and general manager who took over last month. "That's not what AM radio should be."

Country music from the 1950s and '60s is what Iorio thinks it should be.

"We're after listeners who want to hear Tammy Wynette and George Jones," says Iorio. "I Love My Country" is the station's slogan, but WWKY isn't kidding itself about taking on WAMZ-FM for the country audience.

AMZ has been sitting atop the Louisville radio ratings as a country-western station for years with WTMT as its only other continuing competitor.

"AMZ is a big, 100,000-watt, classy pop-country operation and we don't think we could dent their audience," says Iorio. He isn't above slipping in a little indirect criticism though. "WAMZ is so slick and up-tempo that sometimes you don't even know you're listening to country."

Several other Louisville stations have flirted with country over the years, including WAKY, which later became WVEZ. Iorio wishes the former owners hadn't dumped the WAKY call letters, good will and national reputation. The WAKY name was immediately scooped up by a Greensburg, Kentucky station.

WWKY was as close as management wanted to get to reclaiming WAKY's reputation. Research indicates that it might not have been a good idea to try and resurrect the old image anyway.

"It would have been a two-edge sword," Iorio says. "While it might help with some listeners, others would resent it and say we could never be what WAKY was to them. We'll be happy if I can get a small, but solid, rating with WWKY."

While the big news is the AM switch, WVEZ-FM has been quietly making some changes in WVEZ 107-FM. About $50,000 worth of new equipment has been installed to update the stereo sound and add compact disc capacity.

"We've had lots of calls already telling us how great it sounds," Iorio says. He's also been busy "smoothing out" the highs and lows in the station's easy-listening music.

"The former manager had let it get a bit rockish, so we've sanded off the rough edges so that people will hear the same easy-listening music whatever time they tune in," Iorio explains.

Dick Clark's weekend countdown show was a casualty of that polishing process. "Too much new music," Iorio says. "We aren't into playing new songs, only classic hits."

He also has put the VEZ spotlight on DJ Connie Willis. He changed her shift to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is VEZ's prime time because its biggest audience is in offices.

"Connie is very talented," Iorio says. "We're building our day around her because she comes across as very friendly and both men and women like her."

Before being assigned to 790-AM in Louisville in 1989, the WWKY call letters
belonged to 1380-AM in Winchester, Kentucky.