WAKY Web site recalls glory days
By Tom Dorsey
Courier-Journal TV and Radio Critic
John Quincy, a Lexington, Ky., native,
runs 79waky.com, a site devoted to WAKY radio.
Nothing is as sweet and
sentimental as a teenage memory. That first kiss, maybe that first beer you
sneaked. If you are John Quincy, the first radio station you fell in love
It was an affair he shared with countless thousands who were entranced by WAKY
radio from the late 1950s into the '80s. The Big Seven-Nine-O, as the DJs used
to call it, was a station that became a legend in its own time and remains one
in the reveries of those who recall its great days.
For Quincy, it was not only love at first sound, it became a torch he carries
to this day from his home in Charleston, S.C., where he runs a Web site
devoted to the station. And 79waky.com is a labor of love if there ever was
Quincy, a Lexington, Ky., native, remembers just how the bug bit. "I was 15
and away from home at a church camp in Fern Creek, Ky., and I had smuggled in
a transistor radio, which was forbidden, of course," he said in an interview.
One day, he was cruising the dial "when I just discovered it and thought it
was the coolest thing in the world. It opened my eyes to 'Hey I want to be in
radio,' " Quincy said.
He never looked back. For the last 30 years, he's worked in radio for several
stations and is now assistant program/music director at WSUY-FM in Charleston.
But he's never forgotten his first romance. In 2003, he and former WAKY
program director Johnny Randolph put together a one-hour audio tribute to the
station. That got him to thinking. "There were lots of Web sites to lesser
radio stations, why not WAKY?"
So he erected one and asked people who had worked at WAKY or who had tapes,
pictures or recollections to contribute materials. Many of the people who did
were also fans of Louisville's old WKLO station from the same period. They
asked Quincy to build a Web site dedicated to that station too. You can find
it at 1080wklo.com.
The 790-AM address on the dial today is occupied by WXXA, a sports station.
The WAKY call letters were later acquired by stations in Springfield and
Greensburg, Ky., which have never exploited their recognition factor and whose
owner says he just wanted to keep them in Kentucky where they belong. KLO's
1080-AM spot is now occupied by WKJK, a talk/paid-program outlet.
The WAKY Web site contains listeners' and employees' e-mails and tape
recordings made decades ago.
Visitors can download those recordings and even listen to jingles WAKY used
over the years. One Web page includes the first chapter of "Fourth Street
Nights: The Golden Age of Louisville Top 40 Radio," a forthcoming book about
WAKY and the era by David Inman, who also writes the Incredible Inman trivia
column that appears daily in The Courier-Journal.
WAKY made its debut by playing the song "Purple People Eater Meets the Witch
Doctor" for 24 hours straight, a prophecy of the off-the-wall things to come.
Inman reminds people it was a time when WHAS and WAVE radio were still airing
regular program schedules much as a TV station does today with game shows,
soap operas and sitcoms. WAKY was the brassy newcomer, the "American Idol" of
its day -- sizzling hot and oh-so-cool, as Quincy said.
WAKY soon became known around the country, winning national awards for its
programming innovations and personalities. It also became the station that
launched countless other careers. Those of a certain age will see lots of
familiar names on the site's A to Z list of former personalities with bios and
updates on their lives: Coyote Calhoun, Bill Bailey, Gary Burbank, Mason Lee
Dixon, Dude Walker, Lee Masters, Bob Moody, Joe Elliot, Liz Curtis and
Courier-Journal columnist Byron Crawford, a newsman at the station.
The Internet site gets lots of e-mails. "Man, it's great to find out where all
those people are and that they're still alive," one man wrote.
If you're 15 today, all of this is meaningless. But if you were 15 when WAKY
ruled the airwaves, a trip to Quincy's Web site is a magical stroll down