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Thirty years ago, on January 1, 1980, Carrollton welcomed a new radio station to the community. The first voice broadcast when WIKI joined the airwaves in stereo at 6 that morning was mine. I had voiced a brief recording of the station’s signature sign-on, a short statement required by the Federal Com-munications Commission giving the station’s location at 100.1 on the FM dial, and that the station was licensed to the Titan Broadcasting Corporation in Carrollton, Ky.
Morning disc jockey Matt Holliday then began the regular programming with adult contemporary music entertaining a seven-county audience base in Kentucky and Indiana. A camera crew from one of the Louisville television stations was on hand to capture the moment for a much larger news audience in the metro area.
WIKI grew out of the old WVCM radio station, an earlier broadcast entity owned by Titan Broadcasting. A shakeup in the parent company’s board of directors led to the cessation of operations of WVCM in February 1979.
I had been part of the staff from 1977 to 1979 and was the last voice heard on the airwaves when WVCM left the air. I was the first staff announcer hired for WIKI by the late Robert P. “Pete” Dean, then president of Titan Broadcasting, when plans were underway in mid-year to open a new station in Carrollton. Cathy Montgomery, now Cathy Gilbert, was hired as the first advertising sales representative.
Titan Broadcasting’s Board of Directors in late 1979 consisted of Pete Dean, C.A. Lankton, Bill Ransdell, Joy Jolley, Kathryn B. Chapman, Cecil Dorten, Perry Stanley Dean, John P. Tilley, Warren Ventress and George Cutler.
The officers of the corporation were; Pete Dean, President; C.A. Lankton, Vice President; and Sam Burgess, Secretary/Treasurer.
I was hired as program director and as such my responsibilities included interviewing and hiring of on-air personnel, overseeing programming schedules, on-air quality control and designing the layout of the broadcast and commercial/news production studios, as the corporation had purchased all new equipment—record turntables, cartridge tape player/recorders, amplifiers and microphones—which had to be installed before we could go on the air.
Jerry Shea, of Louisville, was the station’s chief engineer who worked with me to lay out the studios so they would be user friendly for the disc jockeys and news personnel who would be providing entertainment and information for our listening audience. Jerry and I did several test broadcasts during the month of December, 1979, to ensure we were operating with a clear signal at the correct frequency.
Other personnel in 1980 included Pete Dean, General Manager; Jeannine Dean, Marketing/Sales Manager; Ray Clem, News Director; Gilbert, Sandra Kemper (now Nevin) and Connie Wood as advertising account representatives; Donald Ward and Beau Solley as account executives/part-time announcers; Kay Barnes, Traffic Director; Smilin’ Dan Reisner, a balding veteran of the Peace Corps; Tom Disbro, Mike Taylor (who electrified the Saturday night airwaves as Mick Savage), Janet Day, Paul Russell, Doug Ramsey, Charlie Baglan, Doc Dean and Holliday as disc jockeys.
We were heavily involved in community activities at the time, broadcasting live at basketball games, open houses for new businesses, the Carroll County Fair, the Carroll County Tobacco Festival, the Jefferson County, Ind. 4-H Fair and the Madison Regatta. Someone designed a cartoon “WIKI critter” and soon we had a mascot’s outfit for the “critter” to wear at community functions and parades.
Solley and I did impersonations which spiced up numerous commercials and house ads. I did several spots as “Wiki C. Fields,” and others as a cowboy named “Buffalo Barf” (a persona I still use occasionally for children’s sermons in church). Beau had a talent for impressions of Hollywood greats like John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Foster Brooks and others. One of the most hilarious things he ever did was a spot for a Kentucky Derby promotion we were doing. He portayed actor Jimmy Stewart stuttering his way through a play-by-play call of a horse race. I wish I had kept a recording of that. It was one of those great moments in sports!
The television show “WKRP in Cincinnati” was really hot at the time. We used to tease Clem about being Les Nessman, the bumbling news director of that show who once did an emergency broadcast about “godless killer tornadoes” about to hit Cincinnati. Occasionally, we pulled some of the same behind the scenes hijinks as our WKRP counterparts, such as setting fire to news copy while a cohort was trying to deliver a newscast or making hideous faces through the window at another announcer trying to record a commercial in the production room. I recall that during one staff party at the station one announcer was goaded into climbing the radio tower in the nude. It is best that radio audiences remain blissfully unaware of many of the events that occur on the studio end of the microphone.
In May of 1980 most of the station’s personnel attended the Kentucky Broadcasters Association Spring Convention in Louisville and had the opportunity to hear and meet longtime CBS news broadcaster Charles Osgood and the late Foster Brooks. Brooks, known for the “Loveable Lush” character he portrayed in his nightclub act and on numerous Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on TV, told of being marooned for more than a week in an upstairs studio at Louisville’s WHAS radio station during the 1937 flood. Brooks and other staff announcers manned the microphones keeping the public informed of emergency measures being taken by city officials, announcing escape routes and other important information while having meals delivered to them by rowboat each day.
Record hits of 1980 included Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After the Love is Gone,” Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It” and a song by a young guy named John Cougar, called “I Need a Lover That Won’t Drive Me Crazy.” Now everyone knows him as John Mellencamp.
What were some of the major news events reported by WIKI that year? 1980 was the year Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter in the presidential election. It was also the year John Lennon was murdered outside his home in New York City. The late Dean Chenoweth and Miss Budweiser won the Madison Regatta that summer, the last time the American Power Boat Association’s prestigious Gold Cup race was held in Madison. Following the race WIKI remained on the scene reporting live as a submerged car with a body inside was pulled from the Ohio River near the Milton/Madison bridge.
It is difficult to believe that 30 years have flown by since that cold New Years Day in 1980. Much has changed during that time. Although WIKI continues to broadcast to a Kentuckiana audience today, none of the original staff remains with the station. While still licensed as a Carrollton station, the broadcast entity’s headquarters of operation are now located in Madison. The station has changed ownership several times and long ago opted for a country music format.
By far, the most drastic change in radio has been the switch from analog to digital broadcasting, making records and turntables obsolete as well as reel-to-reel and cassette cartridge tape recorders. Much of today’s programming is computer automated.
The switch from the old vinyl 45 rpm and 33-1/3 rpm discs to compact discs happened so long ago that many of today’s younger readers are unfamiliar with the terms “albums,” “record players” and “turntables.” Those historic artifacts date all the way back to the 20th Century, after all.
Last week, several of the original WIKI staff gathered at a Madison restaurant for a reunion meal and a few laughs. All of us have moved on to other interests and it was quite interesting to catch up with each one and what has taken place in each life down through the years. The gals still are their same beautiful selves. I have to admit that most of us guys wear a few more pounds around the middle, and less hair than we sported three decades ago. Interestingly, Smilin’ Dan still has the same amount of hair today as then.