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Area CHR Stations in Central Illiinois and the Midwest


Here is a group of stations which got my attention back from the early 70's through the mid-late 70's.  I have worked with a few of these, such as my long time association with WDNL, WTIM-FM(later WEEE, now WQLZ), WDZ and WDBR.  These are the things I remember about the formats and the stations along with some noted contributions.  Just when I thought I had completed all that could be done....along comes more information about some of these stations.  Updates continue as more history is collected.....check back often.  So, enjoy in alphabetical order.... 

I've gotten a lot of requests for information about various stations in central Illinois and the Midwest.  Unfortunately, I have to explain that the stations listed here are "my favorite stations."  That's not to minimize the significance of other stations in the region. 


KGRS(FM) 107.3 Burlington, Iowa

I discovered KGRS when I was at Western Illinois University during 1976-77.  It was airing Drake-Chenault's XT-40 format pretty much the way Drake would have set it up.  The station was formerly KBUR-FM and programmed a beautiful music format when it was changed to KGRS and the Drake-Chenault XT-40 format on December 31st, 1975.  Not much local input other than commercials and the usual weather breaks, local PSA's and the back timed instrumental cuts leading into ABC network news at :15. I visited the station in early '77 and saw the station was running a Harris 9000 system using Revox reel to reel recorders/players as playback only decks(Why they were using the more pricey record/playback decks as playback decks is a mystery to me).   They were following the Drake-Chenault formula to the letter.  I found it interesting the FM automation was located what seemed to be miles away from the KBUR(AM) studios within the sprawling facility on Roosevelt Road on Burlington's west side.  The antenna array was somewhat strange as well, as it had separate antennas for horizontal and vertical polarization.   KGRS now...


(thanks to Tim Brown from KBUR/KGRS/KBKB/KBKB-FM for his contribution)







KBUR/KGRS located on Roosevelt Road
in Burlington, IA in 1977.



A KGRS billboard, "The New KGRS, Stereo Rock 107."




KGRS(FM), 107.3FM, Burlington, Iowa
This air check is from 11:06pm to 11:45pm, April 15, 1976.  A good example of following the Drake-Chenault format.  Nothing fancy here.  Listen for dead air.  Obviously a reel had run out, and wasn't changed.





WBNQ(FM) 101.5 Bloomington, Illinois





WBNQ is the FM side of Bloomington heritage station WJBC.  My earliest recollection of WBNQ, goes back to 1971 or so, when the station was broadcasting an automated oldies format from Draper-Blore “Olde Golde,” the same format that WDZ(1050AM-Decatur) was airing.  Denny Adkins, the WBNQ PD at the time, said the station dropped the format because of problems with quality and updates and replaced it with Drake-Chenault's  “Solid Gold” format. WBNQ was doing a great job in localizing the station and going far beyond the basic design of the Drake format.  The station had what was the best broadcast facility in central Illinois during the 70’s.  The original FM automation, another Gates product, overlooked the main office and lobby from its loft.  The studios are still at that location on the south west side of Bloomington, on the old belt line, US 66.   WBNQ today....
WBNQ Automation, 1977

The WJBC/WBNQ studios taken in 1976.






WBNQ Gates automation taken sometime in early 1977.  It shows, from left to right, the Gates 55, 4 Ampex reel to reels, the random select carousel controller and carousels, the main control unit with cart decks.  Interesting to note, much of the automation shown here ended up at WDAN(AM) in Danville back in the late 70's.

(photos from the Doug Quick Collection)











WBNQ(FM), 101.5FM, Bloomington, Illinois

This air check was recorded during a thunderstorm during a hot 1974's summer's overnight.  No commercials, just music and lots of oldies blended with a few currents.  This is an aircheck of around 45 minutes of air time with the Drake-Chenault "Solid Gold" format.


WBNQ(FM), 101.5FM, Bloomington, Illinois

This air check was recorded during the 8am hour on August 16th, 1976.  The station was using the Drake-Chenault XT-40 format.

WBNQ(FM), 101.5FM, Bloomington, Illinois

This air check was taken on Easter Sunday, 1977.  This is a  half hour scoped down once again using the Drake-Chenault XT-40 format.


WCVS 1450 AM Springfield, Illinois
WCVS tower(now WFMB AM/FM)







WCVS(formerly WCBS) was the first top 40 rocker in Springfield.  Some of the jocks of the early to late 60’s included “Skinny Jim” Palmer, Jim Wingo, Doug Segal, Steve West, Greg Thomas and others.  The station was very active with teens in the area and maintained it’s popularity until FM rocker WDBR came about in the early 70’s.  The station is now WFMB-AM, and programs satellite sports with some local talk. The calls for classic rocker WCVS are being used by former Virden station WRVI(FM) and was co-owned by Neuhoff Broadcasting's Country WFMB-FM and sports/talk WFMB-AM.    In 2006 WFMB AM/FM as well as WCVS(FM) ownership returned to the Neuhoff family having been a property of Clear Channel for several years.    
WCVS(FM) now...  WFMB(1450AM) now...











WCVS(AM) 1450 Springfield, Illinois
  

This is a priceless aircheck with longtime WDBR jock, Steve West.  Here is a radio segment from his early days at Springfield's AM Rocker and Top 40 station WCVS.

Thanks to Rich Styles for this contribution




A picture of the WCVS studios from the 1950s located at the Leland Hotel.



(Photos of WCVS from the 1940s and the WCVS Top 20
Countdown form the Randy Miller Collection)


WDZ(AM), 1050 Decatur, Illinois
The 1975 WDZ Automation
system using the IGM System

Source 1: Time Announce machine(actually two cart machines which would normally hold both even and odd time announcements.  In this case it held one TA cart, and one jingle which would lead into the spot sets.  This would be set at :00, :10, :20, :30, :40 and :50.

Source 2: The 1st random select carousel which would air the random select commericals at :00, :10, :20, :30, :40 and :50.  This would hold the ABC News at :00.

Source 3: A 2nd random select carousel which would air the ABC newscast at :00, then random select commercials at :10, :20, :30, :40 and :50  This would allow commericals to be programmed back to back in spot clusters.  This would hold the Local Newscast at :00.

Source 4: A single play cart machine which would hold the local weathercast done by the DJ.  It would end with a sounder which would mix into the talk track.

Source 5: Set at "all" it would always be ready to air to match the setting of music(the next source) also set at "all."  Talk track, either a cart or reel to reel deck which the jock would record his voice talking over a timed segment which would match the song intro. It would overlap the next source which would be music.

Source 6 and 7: Both set at "all" but designed to alternate use by alternating random select.  Probably carted music from carousels which would support the music order by alternating the use of them to allow for music to air nearly back to back, just separated by the voice track.








WDZ(AM) 1050 Decatur, Illinois
This was recorded in either late August or early September of 1975 and features Larry Limbach doing the jock work.  It sounds live, but in effect was an early example of pretty good voice tracking for the 1970's....or any time.  The DJ would record his tarlk track with a list of songs which would play in a distinct order.  He/she would record talk positions which would talk up each song in the same order.  When you would want the song to begin under you, you would push the secondary tone which would start the next song in order.  If you knew the song intro time, you could talk up the first second of vocal every time.  Unfortunately, with this system you never heard the actual song intro, so delivering your vocal in pace with the music would be difficult.  Larry did a superb job of working each song.  It was obvious to me that he knew the songs very well.  See the analysis of the format at left.  You will notice one exception to the format.  It seems that the novelty song of "Mr Jaws" was dropped in manually to the format as it didn't fall into the regular pattern of being preceeded by a voice track and was followed by the weathercast.  It was probably inserted in the commercial carousell manually.
Fred Moore was the Chief Engineer and morning DJ, Larry Limbach was the afternoon jock, Sonny Carter did evenings(during the summer) and weekend jock shifts and later did a regular weekday shift.  Jeff Balding was the News Director. 

WDZ(AM) 1050 Decatur, Illinois
Here is about a 30 minute aircheck from July of 1979
while I was at WDZ.  Along with being an AE I was
also the mid day-afternoon jock, via talk track. 
It was one of the strangest formats I'd ever worked with.  Basically each voice/track was recorded without me knowing what came before or after the talk track aired.  No song intros, outros, no knowledge about where it was running within each hour.  The voice track was recorded on reel to reel, while the music was on carts on a simple IGM system.  You could "dial in" your talk track to air at timed intervals of 5, 7.5 or 10 minutes(see WTIM automation for the full explanation).  I believe I set mine for every 5 mintues, but based on other events within the hour you couldn't count on all 12 to run each hour.  Instead, it usually ended up being 9-10 times an hour.



WDZ
is well known as Illinois' first commercial radio station having it's early days of broadcasting from Tuscola, Illinois as station 9JR.  It's also regarded as the third oldest in the nation.  The date was March 17, 1921 when WDZ began to broadcast grain market reports for the agricultural community twice an hour between long stretches of dead air. 
It was reported that there were a total of two receivers in the area to actually hear the original broadcast.  It was originally licensed to operate at 350 watts of power at 833kc.  The station changed frequency to 1080 kc as power output was reduced to 10-watts in 1923.  The original station broadcast from an antenna that was a simple wire strung between a couple of buildings in Tuscola.  To that date it appeared that there were only three radio stations on the air at the time.  They were KDKA in Pittsburgh and WGY in Schenectady, New Jersey.  By 1927 the station was given a full time license to broadcast at 100-watts as it broadcast with the slogan, "The Buckle of the Corn Belt."  That arrangement didn't last long as the Radio Act of 1927 once again changed to license of WDZ to broadcast only during the daytime at 1070 kc.  Again in 1936 the power changed to 250-watts, but so did the frequency now at 1020am. 

Broadcasts continued to come more regularly over the years and by 1941, WDZ had a new home with a 250-foot tower broadcasting mostly agricultural information to it's audience from it's frequency at 1020 kc and at 1,000 watts.   Entertainment did come to play though, with the broadcast of live entertainment, mostly "hillbilly" music and humor.  The station drew performers from Kentucky, Tennessee and other hotbeds of "hillbilly" music and talent.  One of the "stars" of the station who went on to a national career in show business was Smiley Burnette who later teamed with Gene Autry on network radio and in the moves and TV.

The station had a short wave remote broadcast facility by 1938 in a panel van which traveled the area to broadcast from the various towns in it's coverage area.  In 1941 the frequency was changed to 1050 kc, where it remains today.  During that time the station broadcast a variety of entertainment programs such as children's programming, local big band music shows, contests,  religious programming and it's mainstay "hillbilly" music and comedy.  Also in the late 1930's WDZ added four broadcasting studios in other Illinois communities.  Studios were opened in Danville, Mattoon, Effingham and Paris.  Each location had their own "studio band" for while which would host programming from these remote locations, broadcast on short wave back to the master control in Tuscola to be broadcast to the midwestern audience. 


By 1949, the owners of WDZ found that a move to Decatur would benefit the station in bringing more profitability and more programming options.  At that point the history of the station blurs.  There seems to be more written about the station's early days than it's time from 1950 to the present.  With the other local AM station WSOY which was a CBS afilliate from it's time, it could have meant that WDZ would have been an NBC or Mutual affiliate, but being confined to broadcast only during the daytime, this would have not been an ideal situation for a broadcast network at the time.  It seems apparent that the station continued it's heavy farm/agriculture programming along with recorded "hillbilly" and western music perhaps with some other block programming from the 1950's through the early 1960's.  In Decatur the transmitter was on Decatur's south west side, across the Wabash(Norfolk and Southern) tracks just off Illinois Route 48.  The short single tower broadcasts a 1000 watt signal during the daytime on 1050 kc, a clear channel frequency. 


Sometime during the early 1970's, the station went through a big change formatically.  The automated format "Olde Golde" from Draper-Blore(see Automated Radio Formats)  was utilized and promoted which changed the station's variety format to that of Oldies.  Later though, around 1972, the station went to it's own automated format which split the broadcasting day between two of it's announcers, separated by a local call in talk show.  The station's chief engineer, Fred More, did the morning show with live elements and recorded talk tracks, followed by Lois Howlett who hosted a midday hour long talk show.  The afternoon to sign-off show was recorded on track by Larry Limbach who was also a sales representative of the station (Listen to the 1975 WDZ aircheck above).  WDZ at that time was owned by Steve Bellinger as Prairieland Broadcasting who was also part owner of the Mumbles Corporation with WWDZ(FM) which went on the air in the mid 1970's as a country station.  Both stations by that time, had second floor studios just off of Central Park on Park Street in Downtown Decatur.   The author of this website was employed by WDZ/WDZQ during the Summer of 1979 as a salesperson and as a jock with WDZ(AM)(listen to the 1979 WDZ aircheck above).

Sometime in the 1990's the station transferred ownership to NextMedia and to Tom Joyner Broadcasting.  During 2008, the format of WDZ changed from Urban to Sports Talk.   In December of 2008, it was announced that ownership would change to Neuhoff Broadcasting, which owns a group of stations in Springfield(WFMB AM/FM, WCVS(FM)) and in Danville(WDAN(AM), WDNL(FM), WRHK(FM)).     


WDBR(FM) 103.7 Springfield, Illinois

WDBR Business Card from 1976 The first FM station in town was WCVS-FM at 102.9.  The FM license of WCVS-FM was surrendered in 1953, and the allocation for 102.9 was moved to Decatur which became WSOY-FM.   When WCVS-FM went off the air, the top mast to the WCVS-AM tower on south 4th St. in Southern View/Springfield was used for the transmitter antenna to WICS-TV when it went on the air in 1953.   WTAX-FM was Springfield's second FM station.  Oliver J. Keller purchased WTAX in 1946 when it was located on the Reisch Building on the west side of the Springfield Square, around the County Building, which is now the Old State Capitol Mall.  It was a 100-watt facility and broadcast from a long wire antenna string between two towers on the roof.  In the late 40's, WTAX moved to it's location on Bypass 66 between Illinois Route 29 and U.S. 36(later 712 South 31st Street, Dirkson Parkway) where it broadcast from a four legged self supporting tower and went to 1000 watts daytime/250 watts nighttime.  Keller died in 1967.  Around that time Sangamon Broadcasting consisting of among others, Shelby Harbison purchased the stations.  Harbison continued as GM during the Sangamon Broadcasting years and for some time after before retiring.  Sangamon Broadcasting was also owner of WDAN/WDNL in Danville, Illinois from 1977 to 1987.



WTAX-FM
either simulcast or featured an easy listening format using a "home made" automation system developed
WDBR Stereo Rock
by the IBEW Local 1292 engineers on staff.  During the late 1960's and into the very early 1970's, here was the programming schedule of WTAX-FM:  WTAX-FM would simulcast WTAX-AM from 5am to 8am.  During the day, from 9am to 10pm, the station would feature the beautiful music format.  At 10:10pm to 11pm, it was "Night Line" a local talk show, followed by a record show with Coley Cowan.  WTAX-AM then would simulcast WTAX-FM's beautiful music format until sign-off at 1am.

At Noon on January 14, 1972, the station began it's Top 40 history with a broadcast of Drake-Chenualt's 48-hour radio special "The History of Rock and Roll" which was followed by Drake-Chenault “Solid Gold” format.  Station manager Joe Jackson, who was promoted from engineering, developed the station and led it's building through 1977 when he was transferred to be GM at WDAN/WDNL.  Even though the "Solid Gold" format ran from sign on at 5:30AM to 7PM,  the station began experimenting with a “like live” format during their Nighttime daypart with local AE, Rich Styles doing the jocking via “talk track.” 
(continued below)





more to come soon


more to come soon

WDBR(FM), 103.7, Springfield, Illinois        
This short aircheck was a product of a hybrid of
the Drake-Chenault "Solid Gold" format and the
live sounding talk track format which would be
 adopted by WDBR within the next
couple of months.  Here Rich Styles is the jock,
with the already established "Solid Gold" jingle but
he calls the station "Stereo Rock" which would become
the theme of the station during 1973.

This recording is from the Rich Styles Collection












WDBR(FM), 103.7, Springfield, Illinois
       
This was from December 1972.  This is the earliest aircheck I recorded.  WDBR was just about one year into the Drake-Chenault Solid Gold format.  It was just a couple of months later that WDBR dropped Solid Gold and went with their own automated format.  A couple of the future jocks were heard here(also account reps) Bob Taylor and Rich Styles.  Long time newsmen at WTAX Dave Anderson and Coley Cowen are also heard.


WDBR(FM), 103.7, Springfield, Illinois
       
This is from December of 1973.  The jock is the late Steve West.  So incredibly smooth....he's was known to slide into the studio just seconds before he was to go on the air.  From there he would voice track the rest of his show and be finished in no time.  Here is a great air check from right before Christmas.


WDBR(FM), 103.7, Springfield, Illinois
    
Bob Taylor's Gold Mine ran beginning sometime in 1972 while the station was doing the Drake-Chenault format "Sold Gold."  It aired every Sunday night from 8 to Midnight through around 1975 when Rich Styles took it over.  Bob's interaction with the audience made him a natural when the format was dropped in favor of the self produced automated format.  Bob continued as morning jock and in his role of an account executive.  You'll also notice him mentioning a fan, who was to work with Bob several years later!   This was from New Years Eve 1973.









Comments:  The adult CHR format aired on WDBR from 1973 through the late 70's.  It was an "adult Top 40" with a scattering of superstar album cuts.  No Jackson Five, no Osmonds, no bubble gum of any kind, although, Helen Reddy's "Ruby Red Dress" was included in the playlist.  Album cuts included artists like the Doobie Brothers, Livingston Taylor(James' brother), Elton John and others.  WDBR's Music Director Steve West was a big fan of Motown and other soul artists of the time.  The playlist contained Harold Melvin and Bluenotes, the Spinners, Al Green, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. 


WDBR(FM), 103.7, Springfield, Illinois
  
This aircheck is from New Years Day 1974.  The DJ was Rich Styles, one of the most popular DJ's in the market at  that time.  Along with being a jock at WDBR he was also a very successfull account executive and hosted a cable TV dance program for a while.


WDBR(FM), 103.7, Springfield, Illinois
  
I bring you an air check from WDBR, June 13, 1976.  The jock is Skip Joeckel, on talk track through the Gates SP8-10.  The segment is from about Midnight to 12:30am.  It contains a 8 minute newscast, as WDBR had a heavy news commitment at the time which ran at about 12:23am.   I was the very young newscaster.  WDBR was known as "Music 104" with TM-Century Jingles.







WDBR's Gates SP8-10(above) including the main control unit, 4 single play carts, 2 large cart-decks for time announcements, random select carousel control unit and twin carousels, 4 Ampex reel to reel playbacks.  The Magnicord record/playback deck above the cart machines was used for recording of reels and for an emergency playback when one of the Ampex machines failed(which was more often that one would think).  Note also the large carts on the automation system.  Those were time announcements and talk track carts for the various jocks.

(picture from the Doug Quick Collection)


Frank Darnielle Jr. was one of the union operators of WTAX/WDBR.  This is a demonstration of what I called the "Frankie Darnielle stretch" which could be necessary whenever the automation would go astray from format.  The operator would have to correct the automation by going into "manual" mode and start the various format elements to get it back "on track."

(picture from the Doug Quick Collection)



(above):  Rich Styles in the WDBR studio during a late Sunday night edition of "The Gold Mine."  This weekend program would include oldies from the 50s and 60s along with audience participation games and contests.  Rich took over the show after Bob Taylor left in 1975.

(picture from the Doug Quick Collection)


(above):  Rich Styles at the door of the small WDBR air/production studio.

(picture from the Doug Quick Collection)





The staff of WDBR in those early days was certainly an all star collection of talent.  Pictured above is Station Manager Joe Jackson, during the
pre-WDBR days at the WTAX/WDBR studios located on Dirkson Parkway at the base of the existing WTAX tower near the corner of East Cook and Dirkson Parkway in Springfield.  At top left, Joe is pictured in the WTAX master control area.  Note the open Mel-O-Creme donut box on the turn table(Great lunch Joe!).
At top center is Joe also in the WTAX master control center.  It wasn't a pretty studio, but well equiped to operate both WTAX and
what was then WTAX-FM in the very early 1970's.   At top right, Joe is in front of the WTAX Collins AM 1,000 watt transmitter.
Joe is my nomination for the Broadcaster Hall of Fame for his part in the development of the first automated radio voice track system, in which
the jock could hear the intro of the song he/she was "talking up."  It is the basis for all voice tracking today.  Keep in mind it was his theory that jocks could double as account executives, program directors and any other position within the radio station that enabled the jock to increase his income and opportunities
without being strapped to a live control board.

(pictures above courtesy of Joe Jackson and his daughter Jill  Bulgin)



WDBR-Music 104 Bumper Sticker
WDBR Jocks 1978?
WDBR-Music 104 Bumper Sticker

(Pictures above courtesy of Skip Joeckel)

Link to Skip: Talk Show's USA

Link to Rich Styles: Genesis Marketing Partners


One of several great lineups at WDBR pictured from the late 1970's.  This one during a lineup of one of the Illinois State Fair Parades.  From left to right: Steve West(10am-3pm), Rich Styles(3pm-7pm), Diane Martini(12Mid-6am), Bob Logan(7pm-12mid) and Skip Joeckel(6am-10am).


A billboard from 6th and South Grand in Springfield with the morning lineup of Skip Joeckel(mornings), Pat Gordon(news) and Steve West(mid days).




It was so successful and Styles gained so much popularity in the market, he eventually hosted a local cable TV dance program.  Bob Taylor, who joined the WTAX staff in September of 1971, joined WDBR as host of "The Gold Mine", the station's Sunday Night audience participation oldie show.  Bob brought personality to the "Gold Mine" with various features like "Cheap Thrills Trivia", "Dedications on the Huggie Bear Kissy Face" segment and introduced listeners to "the sexy voice secretary."   Other station promotions during that time included "The Buck a Throw Picture Show" which took place at Midnight on Friday nights at the Esquire Theater(near McArthur and So. Grand), a concert appearance of the "Raspberries" at the Holiday Inn-East(across from the Capitol Cities Shopping Center) and parking lot sock-hops at a Pizza Hut restaurant(near Catham Road and Lawrence Street).  Rich Styles later hosted the "Gold Mine" in the mid to late 70's. Even though the station was airing a Top 40 format through the 70's, the station still maintained a very heavy news commitment.  Newscasters included Coley Cowen, Marge Kimacki, Jo Warfield, Rick Derrick, Tim Schwitzer and the late Patrick Gordon.



Later the next year, Joe Jackson took the station to an all automated “like live” format, becoming “WDBR, 103.7FM, Stereo Rock.”  The original jocks  were Bob Taylor,  Rich Styles and ex-WCVS(AM1450) jock Steve West.  Other jocks over those years included Skip Joeckel, Rick Ramsey, Dan Scott, Greg Lawley, Bob Logan, Diane Martini, Sam Kaiser and others, including this web site host  Doug Quick.  Read more about the talk track system, and how it worked, at the History of WDNL page on this web site.The station continued using a newer version of the old Gates SP8-10 with the “like live” format under the logo “Music 104” until the early 90’s, when ownership under Sentry Insurance took the station live.   Added competition in the market caused the station to falter during the mid to late 80’s, and they felt the need to go live would bolster their position in the market.   WDBR is now owned by SAGA  who operates a very successful CHR station and is once again back on top in the Springfield market. The original studio at 712 Dirkson Parkway(originally bypass 66, South 31st Street) near Cook Street was torn town sometime in the early 1990's, although the original 1949 tower and transmitter building remained to broadcast the signals of WTAX and WDBR until a tornado destroyed it on March 11, 2006.  The tower was later replaced where it broadcasts from today.     WDBR today...



Doug Quick Personal Note:  Maybe that's where I learned to appreciate those artists as well.  I'm so glad he didn't have to conform to some "cookie cutter" playlist determined by some corporate schmuck in a high rise office, taking payola.  Steve, along with Rich Styles were the two people who talked Joe Jackson into allowing me to do a weekend talk track when my time at WTAX was through, as summer help.  So while I was a student at Western Illinois University, I did a Sunday afternoon track, along with occasional overnight tracks during the week.  It was a terrific experience at a truly outstanding facility and group of people! 

Steve West is no longer with us having passed away in the early 1990's.  Not only was Steve a great programmer and one of the best broadcast voices in the industry, he was also an outstanding TV repairman.  I learned a lot from him about recording, choosing, editing and "sweetening" music for automated formats.  The last time I visited to Steve he was doing afternoons on sister station WTAX.  I couldn't believe he wasn't on WDBR!  His talents and abilities were wasted and ignored by the management at the time.   With his passing, the Springfield market lost a real pro.  The WDBR history segment is my tribute to him.   We also note the passing of the former WDBR News Director Pat Gordon in the late 1990's.  At the time of his passing he was the morning co-anchor on WICS-TV.


(thanks to Al Germond for his contribution to the history of WTAX/WDBR!!
thanks to Rich Styles, Skip Joeckel, Joe Jackson, Jill Bulgin  for their contributions to the history of WTAX/WDBR!!)

WKDQ-FM, 99.5 Henderson, Kentucky


WKDQ-FM was programming the Drake-Chenault XT-40 format in the mid to late 1970's as recorded in this rare aircheck from what has been determined to be from May of 1977.  This was recorded during one of the unusual mornings in which "skip" was making its way into central Illinois from the southeast.  

One observation about this recording, was the large amount of commercial time which ran on the station....even with the additional political commercials.


Without additional research, I can't provided much information about its history, but if anyone knows anything about it.....please drop me an e-mail.  In the meantime, enjoy this aircheck of WKDQ-FM.   WKDQ-FM is now a country station.  To see more about today's WKDQ-FM click here to go to their website



WKDQ-FM, 99.5, Hendersonville, Kentucky

This air check was recording during a "DX-ing" session in
what is believed to be May of 1977. 

WLRW(FM), 94.5 Champaign, Illinois

WLRW
was the first stereo FM station in Champaign and was contracted to supply a beautiful music in-store background service and commercials for the Eisner grocery stores in town.  WDWS-FM was already "store-casting" to the IGA stores.  Frank Stewart, owned Putt-Putt Golf and built WLRW and pretty much paid his operating expenses with the Eisner contract.  Sometime in the late 60's, Stewart purchased WKID(1580AM).  It’s interesting to note that the Champaign News-Gazette did not include the program listings of WKID along with the other radio listings of the day.  Keep in mind that the News-Gazette owned competitor WDWS which was listed.  The newspaper competitor the Champaign-Urbana Courier included the listings and advertising of WKID, choosing to omit WDWS.  So much for objective journalism of the C-U newspapers!  Before 1960, WKID was the original license holder for 103.9FM.    Around 1960, 103.9FM went dark and that allocation was later assigned to WTWC which later became WKIO(FM) or K-104. 




After a frequency change in the early 90's, which was brought about by a Crawfordsville, Indiana FM at 103.9 which interfered with the station locally, the addition of another station in Bloomington at 104.1 and the RF interference which was being experienced by all of the local stations around the transmitter sight of WKIO in the downtown Champaign area.  Later “Oldies 104"  became WKIO, "Oldies 92" at 92.5FM.  Earlier Stewart was in the process of trying to get 24-hour a day broadcast authority for daytimer WKID from the FCC when he died, leaving the stations to the executor managers.  By that time, WKID had changed call letters to WCCR and adopted a top 40 format.  Later WCCR became WJTX and programmed an oldies format before that of “Oldies 92.5.”


WLRW(FM) 92.5 Champaign, Illinois
 
Here is an aircheck of WLRW(FM) from June 19th, 1976 which featured the station running the Drake-Chenault "Solid Gold" format.  The station did some local programming with the morning show that ran from 7 to 10am with Jody Anderson, and "Sunday Solid Soul" which ran on Sunday evenings.  This aircheck includes a Dr. Pepper commercial with Danville native, the late Bobby Short.


WLRW became an extension of top 40 WCCR(1580AM) sometime in the late 60's or early 70's and featured a country format under new owners (unknown).  In fact, it was said call letters WLRW, stood for "We’re the Little Red Wagon."  Actually “The Little Red Wagon” was used in advertising for the station when it ran the country format, but the call letters actually originated by being the first stereo station in Champaign-Urbana.  The call letters L stood for Left, R stood for Right surrounded by W’s....WLeftRightW.....get it?   The station later in the early 70’s used the Drake Chenault “Hit Parade” format and later the “Solid Gold” Drake-Chenault formats on an IGM automation system.  Using an IGM automation system had to be a bit of a challenge for the engineers at the station, since IGM designed their systems to use 22.5 kc tones on the music reels they would syndicate to those stations using their systems.  Drake -Chenault and other syndicators used 25 kc tones.  Eventually, sometime during the late 70’s, the station was taken live, where it's one of the market's leaders today.  It’s now owned by Saga Communications with Country sister station WIXY(100.3FM)and Oldies station WKIO(92.5FM). WLRW now.
Visit the former WKIO, which is now WCFF "The Chief 92.5"

(Thanks to Fred Seibold, former Station Manager of  WCZQ(105.5FM) Monticello for his contribution!!)


WMBD(FM) 93.3 Peoria, Illinois



It was sometime in 1976 I visited the studios of WMBD located in the heart of downtown Peoria on Southwest Jefferson.  It was located in what appeared to be a former hotel.  The studios at the time was probably the worst I'd ever seen to that point.  Along with desks located in the hallways and the setting appearing to be quite worn out and no longer suited for it's broadcast occupant, the place was incredibly filthy. 

Now, I always felt that a broadcast station was simply a "warehouse" while it's on air product was it's "showroom" but this place would've made a warehouse seem quite comfortable. 

The WMBD(AM) studio was located behind a glass window which overlooked a very large former theater area which still had a circular layered floor which was higher at the rear of the room, and lower toward the window and studio which contained the operation of the AM station.  It was obvious that it once held theater seats which overlooked the main performance studio of the radio station, but the seats were now gone.  In that room there were concrete blocks which were used to level a couple of sheets of plywood which supported the automation system pictured to the right. 


The tile floor floor of the former radio audience theater  was considerably worn with broken tiles, areas of bare floors and broadcast equipment debris scattered around the room.


The WMBD(AM) studio floor couldn't have been any dirtier if it had been located in a barn.  The only reason that any tile floor was visible, was that the dirt had been worn away by foot traffic.  Dirt was literally creeping up the walls, the ancient equipment racks and console in the studio.



(above):  The WMBD AM/FM/TV studios in 1957.  When I visited there in 1976, the exterior looked very much like it did here.








This is actually a two picture image of the WMBD-FM automation.   The reel to reel decks were AMPEX decks(notice they were only using two out of the 4 available).  The automation system was a GATES SP-8-10 which included the "dial a format" system of placing pulses on a cart.  The two oval shaped screens were actually time clocks which worked like an old fashioned digital alarm clock and projected the times by a series of backlit numbers on the plastic screen.  It appears that there were reel to reel decks for time announcements as well as station ID's which were provided by TM Productions.  The carousels consisted of two sets of random select decks which were controlled by the placement of the slider diode pins on the control panels above.  There is also an FM receiver which monitored the station.

(pictures from the Doug Quick Collection)








At the time, the station was programming TM "Stereo Rock" but wasn't doing a very good job of it.  Having the use of just two reel to reel decks, and not the minimum of three, the station was prone to many periods of dead air, extreme repetition and other format errors.  The control and operation of the station depended on the attention of the operator or announcer which was on the air with the live operation of WMBD....in a room which was even though in line of sight, required a long walk to fix any problems....or even change a reel of tape.  I wasn't able to locate an aircheck of the troubled and neglected Adult CHR station of the mid 70's.

There was no doubt that the station had to relocate, if for no other reason than the health department.  A few years later, it would relocated at 3131 North University in Peoria.

Click here to see what WMBD-FM is all about now as The Drive, 93.3


WNNS(FM) 98.7 Springfield, Illinois


This station went on the air sometime during the late 70’s using an automated urban format run on a Harris System 9000. The studios were located on West Jefferson Street in Springfield in an office complex near Walnut Street.   The station was minority owned during that time.  Later it went to an automated AC format, and was later purchased by WMAY(AM970).   Sometime during the 80’s, it took a live format where it continues to be a successful AC station in the Springfield market, now co-owned with WMAY and WQLZ(92.7FM). WNNS now...






WNNS(FM) 98.7 Springfield
  
Here is an aircheck of WNNS from February 22, 1981 right after it's switch from the Urban format to a light AC.  I'm not sure of the syndicator.  I believe it was running a Harris System 90 from an office/studio which was located in a complex just east of Walnut on Jefferson in Springfield.



WQLZ(FM) 92.7 Taylorville, Illinois

See the
Early Days/WTIM-FM.  The station, actually licensed to Taylorville, began in 1967 as 3K, WTIM-FM and was an extension of daytimer WTIM(1410AM).  It was owned by Don Jones PSB, Inc. (other stations included KFIZ, WVLN, WSEI, WMDH and others)during the early to mid 70’s.  It used an IGM automation system, along with MOR/Country WTIM(AM), and featured a locally popular beautiful music format.  At night, it became a sports outlet for local high school football and basketball, broadcasting the games of the Taylorville Tornadoes, the Pana Panthers and other area high schools as well as St. Louis Cardinal's Baseball.  

In 1974, the station began a live nighttime rock show called “Ovation 7-11” a reflection of the hours of the broadcast.  Since the station had no stereo studio, the programming was mono after 7PM being produced from the daytimer WTIM(AM) studios.  The only stereo capability was the stereo tape heads in the Scully reel to reel playback machines in the automation.  In 1976, the station went to a locally produced a MOR automated format with a call letter change to WEEE(FM), or “W-triple E” and later to an automated AC format "Rock n' Gold" in 1977.  During 1977 and 1978, the station also featured a nighttime AOR format. During several ownership changes, the formats and call letters changed at least of couple of times, becoming WTJY for while with a country format, and eventually with an AC format.   A couple of owners later sold the station separate from WTIM to the WMAY/WNNS people in Springfield, and that station was moved to their studios, and an upgrade(from 3K to 25K) was made and transmitter sight change between Springfield and Taylorville brought the area WQLZ(FM), now a leading rocker in Central Illinois. WQLZ(92.7FM) today... WTIM-FM(97.3FM) today...



WSOY-FM 102.9 Decatur, Illinois

WSOY-FM along with being one of the first FM’s in Central Illinois, it’s grand fathered in at 54,000-watts and originally was an extension of it’s sister station WSOY(1360AM).  As far back as the the late 60’s and early 70’s, it was automated country, then during the early 70’s changed to the Peter’s Production’s automated beautiful music format, “Music Just for the Two of Us.” 

During the early 80’s it switched to the Peter’s “Love Rock” automated format using the logo “Y-103.”  The format wasn't that far away from the Drake-Chenault “XT-40” format in sound, but it wasn't administered very well.  When it first went on the air, it was common to hear one song, followed by one commercial, then another song, another commercial, etc., with no re-entry jingles after the spots.   The “Love Rock” was dropped some years later for a satellite rock formats.  Y-103 continued to hold the market, until WEJT went on the air to bring some competition to the market in the early 90’s. 

Y-103 went "live" during early 2000 and continues with a CHR format.  Since then, WSOY has had various degrees of success, but a number of ownership changes over the last few years has resulted in much turmoil of the Decatur radio market.    In December of 2008 it was announced that ownership would shift to Neuhoff Broadcasting which owned groups of stations in the central Illinois markets of Danville and Springfield.    WSOY-FM now...






WSOY-FM, 102.9, Decatur, Illinois
   
This aircheck was recorded the first evening of the format change.  I guess it's not fair to judge a staton from it's first day on the air, but this should never have been allowed to hit the air without at least a couple of days to work out the bugs.  I don't remember the exact date, as I didn't label it, but I believe it was in 1980.


The air-check above for WSOY-FM is one of the most hideous air checks ever.  The station has just signed on with the automated format "The Love Rock" from Peters Productions.  I can't imagine how Peters would feel about this mangling of their format by WSOY.  The lesson is never put a format on the air, automated or otherwise, before you've got the bugs worked out.  Most of the automated formats at the time operated with a mandatory dead roll on all carted material.  Obviously WSOY didn't do that in some situations. 
Also, the station breaks every formatic rule possible.  From a marketing standpoint count the number of slogans used.  Not just one, which would obviously be "The Love Rock" they use "Non stop stereo rock", "You are the reason we do what we do...(TM jingle package for Adult top 40 full service stations)", "for all the rock you need", "central Illinois' best rock", "you can always depend on us" etc..    Also, they have the most complex promotion with bumper stickers I've ever heard.  The promo alone was longer than this air check.  They couldn't have gotten any kind of response from this.  This was sorta like a Top 40 station programmed by your great grandfather.



WWTO(FM) 105.7 Peoria, Illinois

For most of the last 15 years or so it's been WWCT, Rock 106.  In the early 70’s it was WWTO and was another of the Drake-Chenault “Solid Gold” formatted stations, using a Schafer automation  system.  WWTO also aired the syndicated “Bill Balance” show as drop-ins during the mornings.  The syndicated Bill Balance Show was a ground breaking show dealing with adult topics, relationships and some rather frank language for the day.  Later the station used a syndicated “like live” format, using tracks from former WLS jock, Kris Eric Stevens, among others.  By October of 1973, the station went to, what sounded like a, self produced AC format called “Gentle on Your Mind.”  During early 1977, the station was still operating through their automation, while construction was being done to take the station live.  During that time it operated “out of phase,” which was surely quite curious for mono radio listeners.   

The station later changed calls to WWCT, and went AOR during the late 70’s.  The studios during that time were located just a few store fronts down from WMBD, in a second story walk up on S.W. Jefferson.  In a more recent move the frequency went though a call letter and format change on September 20th, 2003 and is now WXMP(Mix 105.7), while the call letters went with another lower frequency rimshot station at 96.5.   To see the station which operates on 105.7 visit Mix 105.7.  To see the station which is now called WWCT visit Rock 96.5.






WWTO Automation 1977

WWTO(FM), 105.7, Peoria, Illinois
   
This is a short example of WWTO from August 3, 1973 running the Drake-Chenault "Solid Gold" format.  Commercials include one for "Playback" a regional chain of stereo stores which disappeared in the early 1980's.

WWTO(FM), 105.7, Peoria, Illinois
  
Here's an example of WWTO from 1974. The station dropped Drake-Chenault for it's own home-made format called "Gentle on Your Mind."  They actually did a pretty good job of formatics, good image pieces, tight format, but the music mix consisted of a lot of "stiffs."  On the check there's also reference to Bill Balance, a syndicated adult talk/music show of the day.   Bill was from Peoria, even though his show originated elsewhere.  The Bill Balance show ran during morning drive, if I remember right.



The WWTO, by then the WWCT studios in an upper office just to the west of WMBD along South-West Jeffereson in downtown Peoria.

(picture from the Doug Quick Collection)




WWTO Schafer automation system with Revox reel to reel decks.  In was in the process of being taken apart for a "live" studio format after the format and call letter change.  What was previously WWTO became WWCT.   This was taken in early 1977.

(picture from the Doug Quick Collection)


WLS 890AM Chicago, Illinois




OK, WLS wasn't automated, but can you think of a better CHR station from 1960 through the late 80's?  Larry Lujack, Tommy Edwards, Fred Winston, John "Records" Landecker, Bob Sirott and others were an inspiration to me and others who later got into the field of radio and perhaps television.  Name someone today of equal influence.......it just can't be done.  What a shame.....



WLS Music Survey from Oct 26, 1970



WLS 1983 Airstaff (top) Tommy Edwards, Larry Lujack, Brant Miller (bottom) Jeff Davis, Turi Ryder, Fred Winston

(picture from wlshistory.com)




  

 

WLS, 890AM, Chicago, Illinois-Part 1

You may have heard Larry Lujack's last show on WLS....this is a few segments of his NEXT to the LAST show from September of 1987 featuring the most incredible segue in radio history.  Part 1

WLS, 890AM, Chicago, Illinois
-Part 2
You may have heard Larry Lujack's last show on WLS....this is a few segments of his NEXT to the LAST show from September of 1987 featuring the most incredible segue in radio history.  Part 2

Larry Lujack obituary as broadcast on
WLS-TV on December 19, 2013





KADI(FM) 96.3 St. Louis, Missouri


KADI began it's history as an easy listening AM/FM combo known as the "KADI-twins."  KADY(AM) and KADI(FM) were owned by local businessman Richard Miller.  Under his ownership the format changed several times from the late 1960's through the late 1980's.  It was said to be the most successful when it was "progressive rock" during the 1970's.  The station was the first FM station in St. Louis to meet with any kind of ratings success during the period.  It was also a great alternative to KSHE which was a bit more "hard" than KADI.  It had a very free form format which didn't shy away from playing a top 40 song, if it fit the criteria for just being a good song.   Artist like Seals and Crofts and America actually fit right in with Uriah Heep and Pink Floyd.  It probably was best described as a "superstars" music format within a progressive presentation. 

Personalities included Radio Rich Dalton, Sam Kaiser, Melissa Knight to name but a few.  Features like the "KADI free classifieds" and the weekend oldie show on Sunday's followed by Wolfman Jack was right up there in reaching the 18-34 year old audience at the time.   KADI tried to also market it's logo during the 1970's with key chains, t-shirts and bumper stickers much like KSHEKSHE was probably more successful as it appealed to the "bad boy" demographic who were more likely to display KSHE logoed clothing and bumper stickers(see KSHE below).

Sometime in the late 1970's, KADI suffered a fire which put the station off the air for a time.  It later returned to the airwaves broadcasting from a studio on loan from KSLQ(see below).  KADI was to later transition to an adult contemporary format, tightly formated music, highly structured during the 1980's. 

During the late 1980's the call letters were changed to KRJY, Joy 96 and J-96.  Eventually the station would change once again, this time to an oldies format called "Jukebox 96."  Miller eventually sold the station to Heritage where the call letters were changed to KIHT, K-Hits 96, with the Greatest Hits of the 70's.  It was later purchased by Sinclair where it went to a classic hits format of the 60's-80's.  It's now owned by Emmis and called K-Hits 96 with Classic Hits.  Middays are hosted by former KADI jock Radio Rich Dalton.  Visit them K-Hits96 today.....





KADI(FM), 96.3, St. Louis, Missouri
   

Here's an air check from one of my favorite stations in St. Louis in the mid 70's with Sam Kaiser.  It was a great progressive alternative to KSHE as well as the typical top 40 stations in the market.  It was a much softer, easier to listen to progressive format .  With the likes of Seals and Crofts, CSN, Gordon Lightfoot and other superstars of the 70's the station probably appealed to a more mature top 40 audience probably burnt out by the likes of KSLQ(FM) at 98.1 and KXOK(AM) at 630KC.





KADI(FM), 96.3, St. Louis, Missouri
   
This is a once great radio station reduced to a shell, thanks to consultants.  It's obvious.  Sure, there's nothing wrong with the way it sounded here in 1986, but the free form style which  attracted me was totally gone.  Maybe it was the 80's music....it's no wonder it didn't work.  Here's KADI(FM) from June 11, 1986.



KSHE 95.1FM Crestwood/St. Louis, Missouri

KSHE began broadcasting from a basement of a house in Crestwood during the mid 1960's.  It featured a MOR format which was designed to appeal to females.  That's where to call letters come from....K-SHE.

 In the late 1960's, the station began to swing it's format to what was called "underground rock" or "progressive rock."  In an effort to appeal to those, particularly male members of the audience, who were not fans of the top 40 formats of KIRL and KXOK, KSHE chose an album oriented format in which artists who were virtually unknown were featured.  The format was guided by Ron Elz, who was one of at least several people who played the KXOK franchise jock "Johnny Rabbitt.  The format has proven successful since around 1970, with very little changes over the years other than the natural changes in music over the years. 

The station wrote the book, or so it seems on media marketing and media branding.  KSHE probably made a fortune selling products with it's logo on it.  Keychains to t-shirts, hats bumper stickers....you name it were all sold by the station at various outlets from the malls to Six Flags.  I have seen K-SHE bumper stickers with "Sweet Meat"(the pig) on vehicles from coast to coast.  That's quite a reach!   It is now owned by Emmis Broadcasting.  Visit the station now at KSHE-95







KSHE(FM), 94.7, Crestwood, Missouri
  
Here's an aircheck of KSHE from 1974.  This check features one side of "Dark Side of the Noon" by Pink Floyd and another side of  an album from a group called Nektar(great album-I've got it on vinyl).
































KSLQ 98.1 St. Louis, Missouri


Originally KSTL-FM was part of the KSTL AM and FM combo.  The original AM station went on the air in 1948 from studios located at the American Hotel at 7th and Market in downtown St. Louis.  The format was called "a wide range of recorded music with no hillbilly numbers or hot jazz....and less yakity yak."  

In 1960 KSTL had an FM sister station at 98.1 and 76,000 watts.  Both AM and FM were simulcast operations from a transmitter sight in East St. Louis.   Around 1967 the station was sold to Foreground Music, Inc.   It's not known what the format was then, but by the early 1970's the station was sold to Bartell Broadcasting which changed the format to a Top 40 format with a call letter change to KSLQ, or Super-Q.  The studios by then were located in Clayton and under Bartell the power of the station was increased to 100,000 watts.




KSLQ was pretty much why the AM Top 40 Giant KXOK at the time began to lose audience.  The format was a tight blend of pop top 40 hits and high personality jocks, with great jingles, promotions and a processed sound which was far and wide better than the AM KXOK.  

By 1979, the appeal of top 40 began to weaken, and the competition of other contemporary stations doing more targeted formats began to take a toll.  In 1979 the station switched to a more lighter format which was billed as "between Rock and a Soft Place."   By 1982 the call letters were changed to KYKY when it was doing a love songs format.  Now it's adult contemporary Y 98FM owned by CBS.  For more on KYKY....visit Y98FM.





KSLQ(FM) 98.1 St. Louis
    
The premiere Top 40 CHR FM station in St. Louis.  This one is from December of 1973.  High energy, high personality, jingles, and certainly more "hip" in the early 70's than AM rival KXOK. 














WFYR 103.5 Chicago, Illinois



WFYR(FM) 103.5 Chicago
    

This one, I believe is from 1977.  Recorded at Macomb, Ill from Chicago.  WFYR was a 3,000 watt station with antenna on the Hancock.  This is quite a haul to Macomb and is quite scratchy.  But it is a solid ID.  I first WFYR in the mid 70's, and was blown away at the oldies automated format.  It was terrific....great mix of 50's-60's....and great thematic jingles.  It may have been Drake Chanault, but I can't verify it.  Crank it up, it's not very loud.







WHBF-FM 98.9 Rock Island, Illinois

WHBF-FM went on the air as an FM partner to it's AM sister station WHBF-AM in 1947.  It's early days was a simulcast partner at least part of the day to it's AM sister.  It was also the first FM station in the market to broadcast in stereo in 1958.  It's beautiful music format was later automated.

The station was also co-owned and located with WHBF-TV, Channel 4(CBS) in the Telco Building in downtown Rock Island.  All three of the stations were owned by the Potter Family, which also was in the publishing business.

In 1974, the AM station went to a country format, while the FM was programmed with what was called an MOR format.  This MOR format was "Rock 99-" programmed through the automation system as TM's Stereo Rock.

By 1987 the station went through a call letter change and became WPXR, "Power 98.9" a CHR station.  During the early 1990's, the format would swing to a different direcction to a alternative-classic rock format, but would change back to CHR when it became "All Hit 98.9, WHTS."  During the mid 1990's, ownership changed again to Mercury Broadcasting where it was controled by Clear Channel Communications until being pulled from it's control by FCC ownership regulations. 

The Frequency is now owned by Education Media Foundation and operates as a non-profit religious station WLKU and "K-Love."  What a terrible waste and ending to such an historic radio station!

(thanks to Scott Davis, a TM Stereo Rock expert for his contribution)




WHBF-FM 99.9 Rock Island


WHBF-FM, Rock Island, Illinois.  This was recorded on November 11, 1975 at Macomb, Illinois.  It's a great example of "TM Stereo Rock."  According to Scott Davis, the jingle series was from the TM SR-1.  "All I Have To Do is Dream" from the Everly Brothers was the only song from the 50's included in the Stereo Rock package.  The oldie "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry was from oldie tape number 203(out of 200-222), cut #12.  TM revised these oldie tapes every couple of years.  Cuts #15, Everly Brothers and cut #16 "Popcorn" were replaced the next year by "The Joker"-Steve Miller Band and "Everlasting Love"-Carl Carlton.






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