John Quincy's On-Air History

JQ Radio Days Photos

WBGR-AM & FM - Paris, KY

June 1972 - September 1972

This was my first real on-the-air gig, right between my junior and senior years of high school. Paris was about a 20 minute drive from my hometown of Lexington. The AM was was a 1000 watt daytimer, while the FM put out 3000 watts and stayed on the air most nights until 11. The same country music programming was simulcast on both stations. I hated the format (after all country music was especially bad in 1972 and at the age of 16 I would have rather been playing Top 40) and running the board for the Cincinnati Reds baseball games the station carried was a chore -- but hey, I was on the air!  I worked from 6 pm until 11 pm Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 pm until 11 pm on Sundays. Needless to say, this didn't leave much time for a social life that summer. My pay? $1.60 an hour, which was minimum wage at the time. Though I didn't think so at the time, I was probably overpaid.

No custom jingles were used. The Gates board was very nice for 1972 but the two Sparta cart machines, even fairly new, were pieces of junk. WBGR went automated in September of '72 and they didn't need me anymore.

WEKY-AM - Richmond, KY

December 1972 - January 1973

Now this was more like it! WEKY was a 24-hour Top 40 station in Richmond, the home of Eastern Kentucky University -- and other than the times I was on the air there, sounded quite good for station in a town of its size. The power was 1000 watts during the day, 250 watts at night. I worked two shifts each weekend during my 2-month tenure there: 6:00-10:00 a.m. on Saturdays and 6:00 p.m. till midnight on Sundays. I think I made $1.80 an hour at WEKY. Moving on up!

WEKY didn't use any jingles on the air at this time, but had these killer IDs voiced by Gary Burbank, who was then at WAKY in Louisville. WEKY had a Gates board that was so old that you had to throw the mic key to the left to turn it on. (On most boards the mic key is flipped to the right.) Spots came from a 5-deck Spotmaster machine.

WAXU-AM & FM - Georgetown, KY

June 1973 - June 1974

WAXU-AM was Lexington's primary source for county music through the most of the 1960s and 1970s. (I hated to go back to playing country music, but hey -- it was radio.) The station was known as the "Top Gun" and used the "Top Gun" jingles from CRC. We later got a jingle package from TM Productions that was respectable.

WAXU-AM was a daytimer-only station at 1580 on the dial, pumping out 10,000 watts of directional power. Even though it was licensed to Georgetown in Scott County, it was programmed primarily for Lexington listeners. (The studios and transmitter were only two miles from the Fayette County line.) I worked weekday evenings from 6 till sundown (when the station signed off) and Sundays from 10 a.m. till sundown. In the Fall of '73 WAXU-FM signed on the air and simulcast WAXU-AM. At that time my airshift became 6:00 p.m. till midnight weekdays. WAXU was a Mutual affiliate.

WAXU used reverb on the air. However, it was just on the main control room microphone. It was also the first station I worked for that had ITC cart machines. (WAXU had one of the famous ITC triple decker units.) The control room board was a 5-pot Collins console where the program/audition switches went up and down instead of sideways.

WKXO-AM - Berea, KY

 February 1974

WKXO was a Top 40 daytimer (1500 AM) in the small college town of Berea, but it sounded pretty good. I did 4 days of fill-in work there while the regular jock was on vacation. (This was while I was working nights at WAXU.) It sure felt good to be playing Top 40 even if it was for less than a week. WKXO used jingles from one of my favorite PAMS packages, "The Philadelphia Story". These jingles were also being run on WAKY in Louisville at that time.

I don't recall what kind of cart machines WKXO had, but they had a custom-built Shane rotary fader board. (Mr. Shane was the station owner.)

WCBR-AM & FM - Richmond, KY

 March 1975 - October 1976

Back to Richmond to country-formatted WCBR AM (250 watt daytimer) and FM (3000 watts). This was the first station I worked for where I was actually full-time. I did middays and was Program Director. I actually started to like country music by this time.

WCBR had previously been Top 40 and had a cool set of Gwinsound jingles. Unfortunately, they didn't fit the country format. We had some country jingles, but they were awful. We later got a few cuts from William B. Tanner and they were tolerable.

WCBR used a Gates Yard board and pair of rickety Spotmaster cart machines (complete with levers). The station had one of the worst air monitors I've ever heard -- very tinny (and that was the FM).

During the last few months I was there, WCBR-FM changed call letters (I forget what to) and became Top 40 using a five-pot Gates stereo console and two Gates stereo cart decks (along with a couple of turntables of course). The FM had two mics in the control room: one was connected to the left channel only and the other was connected to the right channel only, so the DJ could sway in his seat and his voice would bounce between the two channels. Weird.

WWKY-AM - Winchester, KY

 Summer 1976

WWKY -- a 1000 watt daytimer -- was a decent-sounding Top 40 station for a town of Winchester's size. I did a few days of PM drive fill-in during the Summer of '76 while I was doing middays at WCBR in Richmond (see above). When the owners of WCBR found out, they weren't too happy with me...but it was fun to take a break from country music to spin Top 40 at WWKY. I really liked the jingle package they were using: TM's "Pacific & Southern". National and International news came from the ABC Contemporary Network.

WWKY's control room had a Gatesway console that was wired so that if you threw the switch above a pot one way, reverb would be placed on that audio source. If you threw the switch the other way, the source would be "dry". The three cart machines were single-play Spotmasters (complete with levers).

WKDJ-FM - Winchester, KY

 October 1976-September 1977

WKDJ originally came on the air in the mid-70s as an automated stereo Top 40 station. However, owner-GM-engineer Dave Greenlee decided he couldn't compete locally with Top 40 AM WWKY, so he flipped the format to country and mono-ed out the 3000 watter's signal so it would cover more area. The station was using a service for its Top 40 format, but made its own tapes for the country format. I helped Dave with music while I was working at WCBR. Eventually he asked me to come on as program director.

I had a ball at WKDJ. I came in around noon every day and did production (including making automation tapes). Then I went live from 7:00 p.m. till midnight. (WKDJ was signing off at 11:00 when I got there, but I volunteered to work the extra hour so the station could sign off at midnight like a "real" station.) WKDJ ran news each hour at :15 from the ABC FM network.

WKDJ only had one studio in its tiny offices located in a shopping center. The studio was live during mornings and nights; the other times it was used for production while the automation system provided programming. I remember the station having a QRK board and Spotmaster cart machines.

In March of 2005, I got this nice e-mail from former WKDJ owner and manager, Dave Greenlee, who now lives in Lexington, Kentucky:
 

Most of the WKDJ equipment was stuff that other Lexington stations threw away or was "home brew," built from Dayton Hamfest parts. I filed my own application when the local AM (WWKY) said they were not interested in building the FM because the manager there said there was no future in FM. I was their contract Chief Engineer then. When I filed, I handed in my resignation at WWKY. They asked me to stay on, anyway.

You are right on the fact that about the conversion to country. It was economic driven. When the station signed on on October of '72, if I recall correctly, we were a progressive album rock station. We held up well because we were the only station programming this format and were a novelty. All other stations in the market were Top 40. Excluding WAXU, Lexington was an all-rock market! Probably against my better judgment, i.e., influences and encouragement from Jim Ballard and Bill Purdom and a few others, I signed on in a small rural town with a progressive album format 15 miles from Lexington with 3 KW and an unfavorable terrain toward Lexington. People with really good radios or in a good location could pick up the station in Lexington. Otherwise our listeners and sales market was Winchester.

Because of the novelty of what we were doing, we managed to pay the light bill and squeak by with a small staff and with the help of automation. Then it happened. Village came to Lexington and WLEX-FM became WKQQ - Album Rock! We hung on for another year as our loyal listeners, sponsors and staff began to tune in WKQQ. I was managing the station and holding down a job at GTE in Lexington during the evening. GTE sent me to Chicago to attend several weeks of training at Automatic Electric in Northlake. While there, I got to listen to the Chicago market and became attracted to the WJJD Metro Country format. It sounded really contemporary and upbeat. By the end of the six-week stay in Chicago, I came home to reevaluate where WKDJ was going. I think we were averaging about 50 dollars a day in sales. We had picked up the Reds games shortly after WLEX became WKQQ. That was the only moneymaker we had.

The next weekend WKDJ came out of the Reds wrap up show with Joe Nuxall "rounding third and heading home" with Loretta Lynn. If I remember correctly, both listeners called in and said they would never listen to the station, ever, man!

I have a lot of neat memories from the experiences of operating a pint-sized station during the era before FM popped. I learned through hard knocks valued principles. But, mostly I have to thank those who helped me through it all!

WKDJ was the only owner/operator unaffiliated station in the Lexington market, we were paddling our canoe with one oar! I think I started the low power FM movement! Ha ha!

Do you remember David Fried?  He worked with the station during the album days and did the "Headwaves" (what a name) show till signoff or whatever time he decided to quit. He is running an electronics parts and equipment distributor here in Lexington. Bill Bunch who helped run the office and station operations during the country days later married Cathy Willoby the sales girl; they are in Winchester and have a couple of grown kids. She ran a daycare, while he is manager of Winchester Municipal Utilities. Lou Kopp the WKDJ morning guy was at WEKU, the Eastern Kentucky University classical music station on air and later left to sell Toyotas. Jimmy Jackson was in Campbellsville. The aforementioned Bill Purdom was doing overnights when the plants all closed in Winchester during the early 70's recession. That's when we were forced to start signing off early.

By the way, when WKDJ signed on, I had less than the cost of a used Hyundai Excel in the station, but even that was more than I could afford. After I filed, the local AM decided to get interested in FM. We had to go through a hearing; the lawyers won.

We really cleaned up at election time. All the candidates wanted air time. We had them lined up down the walkway past the barbershop, a favorite after-hours hangout and watering hole. These guys couldn't wait to get into the 400 square foot offices/studio to cut their spot. I had a couple of Radio Shack cassette recorders. I would give a candidate a recorder with a fresh tape and tell him to go to his car and cut his spot. I would bump it off to cart and write it on the log, that quick. They were amazed that they could hear their spot as they pulled away from the station! 

Sometime I'll tell you about the night I was making out the bank deposit after signoff and a fight broke out in the barbershop next door complete with gun shots.

WBLG-AM - Lexington, KY

 September 1977-August 1979

On the radio in my hometown of Lexington -- wow! Program Director Jim Rivers hired me to do 7 p.m. to midnight for the AC-formatted AM station, owned by Village Communications along with Lexington's WKQQ-FM and WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC. WBLG's and WKQQ's offices and studios were located in the old WKYT-TV studios on New Circle Road next to a drive-in theatre. It sure was nice to be playing something besides country music again -- although most of my shift during the year was taken up running Cincinnati Reds games (which I had done at WKDJ).

Unlike previous years, WBLG had a decent airstaff with folks like Rivers, Tom Agar, Jill Chandler, and Dan Davidson. Warren Levinson -- who went on to spend many years with UPI Radio -- was the News Director. Village Communications tried to do a good job competing against WVLK and WLAP, modeling the station after WCHL. We even had an airborne traffic reporter ("Cher In The Air") for a while. Several months after I joined the station, I got a chance to work with my first JAM jingle package, a composite package consisting mostly of cuts from "You've Got It". Top-of-the-hour newscasts came from NBC. WBLG was also the first station I worked at that played music from carts.

Rivers eventually left commercial radio to go to work for the University of Kentucky. Gary Dickson became the PD, and I took on the music director's job. Eventually Gary moved over to be the PD of WKQQ and I got the PD slot. A little while later Village announced the sale of WBLG to Ohio's Wendell Triplett. He changed the calls to WTKC and took the station country using a live-assist TM format. Nearly all of the airstaff made the move to WTKC...except for me.

WBLG's control room had a Gates President console along with a pair of ITC triple-decker machines. There was a mono 1960s-era Ampex reel-to-reel in the rack.

WPKE-AM - Pikeville, KY

 September 1979

It seemed like a good idea at the time -- leaving my medium-sized hometown to work at a Top 40 station in a MUCH smaller town in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. However, after three days of doing afternoons on WPKE, I got the feeling that moving me and my wife to Pikeville would be a mistake. Even though the people were nice (and seemed to think it was "cool" to have a "big city" DJ join the staff), the money was decent, and the station's equipment was good, a bad "don't do this" feeling came over me the third night I stayed in Pikeville. (I'm guessing it was God telling me I was making a mistake.) So, I turned in my resignation the next day.

WAXU-AM & FM, Georgetown, KY

 October 1979-December 1979

When I returned to Lexington from Pikeville I did some part-time non-radio work for a while, but managed to get back into the biz after not too long of a break. I went back to WAXU to do morning drive. Country music wasn't so bad after all!

Other than the getting up early part, mornings were fun to do. Since I was signing on the FM station at 6:00, I had to make sure I wasn't late -- and I never was.

WAXU owner Bob Johnson was a strange bird. A salaried announcer had sued him claiming he worked more than the 44 hours he was supposed to work each week and wasn't paid overtime. So Bob installed a time clock outside the control room door and all announcers had to punch in and out each day so there would be a record of their hours. Even though I arrived at the station by 5:30 each day, I couldn't punch in until 5:45. Even if I was busy doing production in the afternoon, I had to punch out at 1:45 or I'd get in trouble.

WAXU-FM had gone FM stereo since I had left the first time, so a McMartin 802 stereo console replaced the old Collins board in the control room. Spots and jingles were still played from the mono ITC triple decker, and music continued to came from turntables. National/international news and sports still came from Mutual (do-doop) on one of the worst-sounding phone lines in the country.

WKBX-AM - Savannah, GA

 December 1979-January 1980

In November of 1979 I saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. I received a call from Doug Welldon, program director of WKBX/WSGF in Savannah, Georgia. He had gotten a tape and resume that I had sent out during the last weeks of my employment by WBLG, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in doing afternoons at WKBX, a 5000 watt adult-contemporary station at 630 on the dial. I flew down and was impressed with the city, the beach and the two stations. When Doug told me how little snow Savannah gets (virtually none) I knew I wanted the gig. I wanted it so much that I took it for the exact same money I was making doing AM drive at WAXU. Tired of Lexington winters (especially when I knew how tough it would be driving out narrow Iron Works Pike to WAXU on snowy mornings to sign on the station), I made arrangements for a U-haul and made my first big radio move.

Lindy Brannen (now at WJCL-TV in Savannah) was the guy I replaced. He went off the air to go into sales at the station. "Easy" Ed Hartley did mornings. A guy named Dave (can't remember his last name) did middays and Jay Edward took care of nights. Overnights were automated. Jim Driscoll did a Saturday night oldies show called "The Treasury Of Gold". Howard Foster took care of local morning news. Afternoon news was read by Jay Edward. The afternoon sports was done by a couple of the WSGF jocks, Johnny Dunaway and Craig Stevens. NBC provided network news.

WKBX's control room sported a Broadcast Electronics rotary pot board, two stereo Gates single-play cart decks to play music in (the currents were on cart and dubbed in stereo), a reel-to-reel deck (don't remember the brand), a couple of Rusco turntables, and a mono ITC triple-decker for commercials and jingles. WKBX had Tanner's "Sound Of Philadelphia" jingle package, which was sung in Memphis and to me, the vocals sounded off key. The jingle instrumentals used a riff lifted from MFSB's 1974 hit "TSOP". 

"Easy" Ed Hartley put a lot of listener phone calls on the air, and to prevent profanity and other undesirable speech slipping through, his entire show was on a 7-second delay. The delay was created by using a dedicated cart machine with a reversed record/play heads along with special carts that Ed wound himself. (The carts had exactly 7 seconds of tape. If you listened closely you could hear a small glitch in WKBX's air signal every 7 seconds as the tape splice ran over the playback heads.) Ed told me he could get two days use out of each cart he made. 

Things seemed to be going great at WKBX, until one day around Christmas I was called into the station manager's office along with Doug Welldon and a representative from the owner, Beasley Broadcasting. I got the bad news that nearly all of WKBX's personnel were being let go, including me. They told me the station had lost a lot of money in the previous 12 months, so they were going to simulcast WSGF on it as much as the FCC allowed at the time (which turned out to be morning and afternoon drive) while middays would be automated. In two weeks Dave, Jay and I were going to be "on the beach." Ed got to stay on for a while, presumably because he had a contract, but he was moved to nights to do a straight-ahead, caller-driven talk show. Doug told me after the meeting with the bigwigs that if he had known about the demise of most of WKBX's live programming, he never would have brought me down. He was nice enough to throw some part-time hours my way, so for a couple of weeks I became Ed's phone screener and did a couple of weekend shifts on sister station WSGF, a full-blown top 40 outlet.

WSGF-FM - Savannah, Georgia

 January 1980

I only pulled two weekend shifts at WSGF, but boy did I have fun. "95SGF" was a high-energy Top 40 station with lots of jingles (most of them came from Tanner but they weren't too bad) and excitement. After a few years of AC and country radio, being able to let it all out on 'SGF made me forget I was 700 miles away from my hometown with no full-time job.

WSGF had a rotary pot Broadcast Electronics board (a different model than the one WKBX used) and a pair of Broadcast Electronics (i.e., Spotmaster) triple deck stereo cart decks. All of the music came from carts. The Rusco turntables were only used to playback special programming like "The Robert W. Morgan Special Of The Week." WSGF also carried newscasts from NBC's youth-oriented "The Source" network. A reel-to-reel deck was used to playback the newscasts several minutes after they were fed each hour, as well as record listener phone calls.

WSGF's lineup included PD "Dangerous" Doug Welldon in morning drive, Johnny Dunaway in middays, "Doctor" C.B. Gaffney in PM drive, and "Captain" Craig Stevens at night.


Captain Craig Stevens on WSGF

After hearing about being let go at WKBX, I of course talked to the other stations in town. Some interest came from Brady McGraw, PD at WZAT (WSGF's direct competition and also a Top 40 station) who wondered if I could handle the Top 40 delivery. After giving Brady an aircheck of my first WSGF show, he was convinced. I was hired to do nights (6p-11p) at WZAT the week after my WSGF debut.

WZAT-FM - Savannah, GA

 February 1980-September 1981

To come...

WSSX-FM - Charleston, SC

September 1981-July 1985

To come...

WXTC-FM - Charleston, SC
WCSC-AM - Charleston, SC

July 1985-January 1995

To come...

WJUK-FM - Charleston, SC

January 1995-June 1995

To come...

WBUB-FM - Charleston, SC

June 1995-January 1998

To come...

WSSP-FM - Charleston, SC

February 1998-January 1999

To come...

WXLY-FM - Charleston, SC

May 1998-January 2001

To come...

WTMA-AM - Charleston, SC
WTMZ-AM - Charleston, SC

January 2002-December 2003

To come...

WNKT-FM - Charleston, SC

Winter 2004-Fall 2004

To come...

WSUY-FM - Charleston, SC

Fall 2004-Fall 2007

To come...

WTMA-AM - Charleston, SC

Fall 2007-Present

To come...

John Quincy Radio Days Photos

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