AFTER 45 YEARS ON THE AIR..I'M RETIRING!
I’M RETIRING AFTER NEARLY 45 YEARS ON THE RADIO.
Well it’s official. I am retiring from HI-99. All the paper work is signed and July 16, 2014 will be my last day on HI-99/WTHI.
My interest in radio began as a kid. I got a “transistor” radio for Christmas when I was in the sixth grade. I’d go to sleep at night with it playing under my pillow. My career started 45 years ago this summer. Bernie Whitten, a friend I had made through my hobby of Ham Radio, was working at WWVR-FM and told me they were looking for someone to work part time. Back then you had to have a FCC. license to operate the transmitting equipment at a radio station. Bernie and I went to Indianapolis where I took the FCC 3rd class license test in front of the FCC examiner. I passed it and I started working at WWVR the next week. WWVR’s format was Gospel then. At first I just ran the controls airing syndicated programs and commercials which was fine because I was more interested in the technical side of radio back then…even though I idolized some of the great DJ’s I listened to on the old radios that had been given to me. Art Roberts, Clark Webber and Dex Card in Chicago. Johnny Rabbitt in St. Louis, Cousin Brucie when I could I’d pull in WABC in New York and of course Jim Austin, Johnny Palmer, John Marvel and Martin Plascak at WBOW here in Terre Haute. My Uncle, Harry Weger, did the 2 hour early morning country music show on WBOW in the late 60’s and I would get up early and go to the WBOW studios and sit in and watch him do the show.
At WWVR I was under the tutelage of Dick Lee (real name Richard Boyll). Dick had worked at WBOW, WTHI and WAAC and had a great radio voice and delivery. Dick showed me the ropes and when Howard Huey, the WWVR manager, allowed me to do the daily 5pm country gospel DJ show Dicks input was invaluable. Once I was allowed to DJ I was hooked.
In the early spring of 1970 I did the country morning show at WPFR for a short time. At the time Paul Ford owned it and the studio and transmitter was located on his farm near New Goshen. Later in the summer of 1970 I started to work at WBOW part time. I ran the board for sporting events on WBOW-FM and did over nights on weekends on WBOW-AM the number one station in town.
Joe Tate was the program Director at WBOW at the time. Joe was a sports fanatic. In fact he went on to be the voice of the Cleveland Cavaliers Basketball team. Joe was on the road a lot doing ball games on WBOW FM and he had me do his show on WBOW-AM…I was lovin’ it. I ran the controls for Martin Plascaks mid-morning telephone talk show “Party Line” then I would get to DJ 2 hours. Just before Joe moved on he hired Don Fisher to do the morning show. You might recognize that name. Don still does the play by play for the Indiana Hoosiers. After Joe left Jim McKnight became the program director and I moved into evenings on WBOW. 19 years old and doing nights on the number one station in town playing top-40 music…I was living large.
While doing nights at WBOW a young lady would call me and make requests and to talk. I finally met her. Her name was Kelly Whalen and in 1974 we were married. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary. We have two boys Barry and Brent.
As the years went by at WBOW I became Music Director then Program Director. I worked with a lot of great people over the years at WBOW. Many of them are still friends. Kris Michaels, Nancy Bradford, Dallas MeNeely, Martin Plascak, Mark Otteson, Jay LaCoy, John David Sell, Larry Joseph, Mickey Burk, Jerry Probst, Shawn Murphy, Bryan Thomas, Lynn Halterman, Paul Kinney (Buffalo Bill), Jay Ferguson, Kenny Edwards, Scott Mills and many, many others. Mike Raftis did the morning show and contributed to my gray hair and Kevin Oprpurt even did the morning show for a while at WBOW before he moved to WTHI-TV.
The WTHI Years.
In the late 1970’s WTHI-AM was number one knocking off WBOW by playing country music. So we changed WBOW-FM to WBOQ country and it was an immediate success tying WTHI-AM in just one rating period. Realizing country on FM was the way to go Wabash Valley Broadcasting (The Hulman Family) switched WTHI-FM to country and called it HI-99.
At this same time WBOW/WBOQ was going through another ownership change. Needless to say things began to go downhill as the new owners took over. In early January 1983 Kevin Orpurt called me to let me know that the Program Director at HI-99 and just quit. I didn’t waste any time. That same day I was in WTHI Radio manager, Dave Listons, office applying for the job. Dave hired me as the Program Director.
I hit the ground running. Cork McHarge was the Farm Director and Martin Plascak had moved to WTHI from WBOW in the early 70’s so I felt right at home. Originally I started doing the afternoon show on HI-99 but quickly moved to the morning show. Mark Jaynes was going to school at ISU and I hired him as the morning co-host. Mark still is a part if the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Network. Ken Sullivan did mornings with me for a while. He was Kenny Edwards when he worked for me at WBOW. Other morning Co-hosts over the years were Kris Davis (currently at channel 13 in Indianapolis), Diane Orpurt, Bobby Ashley and probably for the longest period Frank Rush.
The years at WTHI have been great. We built a great radio station and had a lot of fun doing it. Since HI-99 was co –owned with channel 10 I got to dabble in TV. I hosted one of the first country video shows in the nation “Video 99” it was fun and a great way to promote the radio station. We also did many memorable TV campaigns to promote HI-99. Most memorable was “The HI-99 Shuffle.”
In the 90’s we had several rating periods where we had over a 30% share of the radio listening in the Wabash Valley. My first rating period, as Program Director, at HI-99 we had 19.2 % share. My goal each year was to maintain a 20 or better share and we did that through 2013. In 2010 HI-99 actually had the highest market share of any country station in the United States. HI-99’s reputation in the industry was the little station that could.
Over the years I made many friends in the music Industry in Nashville. Bobby Kraig is one name I must mention. Bobby was program Director at WTHI-AM when I was at WBOW. He went on to become the head of the promotion department at Arista Records in Nashville. Also Dale Turner, he too had worked at WTHI-AM and he went on to head up promotions at RCA in Nashville. Both became close friends over the years. There are many other Nashville record people who I won’t mention because I’ll forget someone.
COUNTRY RADIO HALL OF FAME
In 2011 I had the honor of being inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in Nashville. For several years I had filled out paperwork as a nominee for the hall but I hadn’t been inducted. In late 2010 when the paperwork was due I didn’t worry about it because I figured I wouldn’t make it. Then late in the year Bobby Kraig called me (Bobby was on the board) to tell me I made it and would be inducted in February of 2011. Needless to say being in the Hall of Fame was the highlight of my career.
The induction dinner and ceremony was a fantastic night. Country Radio Industry VIP’s and many artists were there. It was a great night. My bronze plaque hangs on the wall in the Nashville convention center beside some great country radio people. A hick from West Terre Haute is in the Hall of Fame. Wow!
TOO MANY PEOPLE TO THANK
Many People have touched my life over the last 45 years in radio. To many to mention but there are a few that I do want to acknowledge:
My Uncle Harry Weger
And of course I want to thank the listeners who have welcomed me into their lives for the past 45 years. Many of you I am proud to call friends.
I don’t know. I’m going to take some time off and try to get used to not getting up at 3 am. I’ll end up doing something. If you see me around make sure you say Hi!
God Bless you all !
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.