Unusual Radio Stations: local, strange or interesting
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Thread: Unusual Radio Stations: local, strange or interesting

  1. #1

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    Unusual Radio Stations: local, strange or interesting

    In a post under Arizona radio is detail on KBUX in Quartzsite, run from the home of the owner. This was followed up by Simon Geller's WVCA.

    To start this one off, the station might be called 'interesting' because it bucked the trends in radio.

    When the internet was new and the personal computer was just gaining traction, even before 56k connections, was KTEO FM 90.5 in Wichita Falls.

    KTEO was Classical and under the shadow of WRR, the City of Dallas owned FM that aired a classical music format and was received like a local station in Wichita Falls. In fact, WRR's legacy of decades in the format may have been why the station changed format after a few years going to a Christian format aimed at children.

    KTEO was computer driven classical music 24/7. It played a fine mix of classical music centering on the recognized and known classical pieces. The mix was good, from a Sousa march to quiet and relaxing lush orchestrated material. You might say the flow of material was well rounded and recognized. Even a track like the main theme from South Pacific might be tossed in (such a tune perhaps every 4 or 5 hours).

    The format was totally unannounced. All the talk you heard was the ID and time on the hour with a short plea to financially support the station every hour or two. Yes, there was the Saturday afternoon opera from the Met. Sunday mornings was Christian music from 6 to noon with a station ID every 30 minutes.

    The ploy was if the listener wanted to plan their listening or wanted to know what aired, the monthly program guide was essential, the bait to get the listener donation. There were no membership levels, just a donation to get the monthly program guide. I cannot say if the actual printed guide had advertisements but I guess it might have since the station did not sell underwriting although they were 'seeking a sponsor for the opera'. The listener could download the program guide online (I still have a month's programming in print...a hefty stack of papers containing about 100 or so pages of music listings that not only taxed my huge 1 megabyte hard drive and 28.8 kb phone connection on my custom built $1,600 computer that was a good one back in the day).

    In speaking with the GM, they managed to get about $2,000 through the doors each month. I'm sure operating expenses were several multiples over the income generated. It seemed they were trying anything that might work. As I recall, the weekly opera was fairly new to the station. In drive time hours, they eventually added the hour-long segments of syndicated classical music (called The Beethoven Network offered by WFMT). Not long after this was added, the switch to the satellite service of a children's Christian network began.

    KTEO didn't air the syndicated orchestras or Performance Today in the evening like many classical stations, just a good mix of classical music around the clock. One can try to break apart the elements to determine why the station did not last but I think it is safe to say it is an uphill climb to get a city of 125,000 to support a classical station and doubly hard to do with WRR in Dallas offering classical music with a decent signal in the city.

    The concept is at minimum, interesting. It seems the funding option revolved around the program guide and not announcing the music on air. It seems they were liked by the community's classical music fans.

    The truth be told, I really liked KTEO when I had the chance to hear it.
    Last edited by b-turner; 01-25-2017 at 12:59 PM.

  2. #2

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    Gotta throw the hat in for the most unusual radio station out there...the man is an enigma in the town he broadcasts in, a long-haired hippie type who lives in the transmitter shack and chain-smokes like they're going outta style!

    WXJK Farmville, VA. 101.3 FM the X. One-man operation in a small college town of 7,000 people. 2-3 commercials/hour right after the TOH ID.

    Station can be described as Christian "rock". Not the format of "Christian Rock" like what Air1 plays...more like Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive into a live Beatles song, into a 10 minute-long sermon by the owner, into a Focus song, into Tom Waits, into live Allman Brothers.

    Probably the most diverse classic rock station out there....and his preaching is fascinating to say the least. Just imagine a progressive rock station from 1969, add a few more current songs, and replace the spacey poetry DJ breaks with spacey preaching...you'll have hit the nail on the head!

    I failed to mention a capella jingles (yes, a rock station with jingles that haven't changed since its inception in 1992. And they sound like they're from 1992)

    There's a basic website with streaming (where you can hear a constant hum that also goes out over the transmitter). wxjkfm.com

    When I want to hear deep tracks, I don't go to the SXM channel of the same name, I tune into WXJK.

    Radio-X
    Last edited by Radio-X; 02-15-2017 at 10:59 PM.
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  3. #3

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    I listened to the stream a couple of hours last night. WXJK is quite a find and I enjoyed listening. Very eclectic indeed but nicely mixed even if rather abrupt going from one song to the next. Even heard "My Spiritual Journey". Dare I say almost a 'hippie' version of Gene Scott. Thank you for sharing.

  4. #4

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    Several years ago I was on the backroads in Illinois and visited the station in Havana, Illinois. There had been a write-up in Radio World about WDUK FM run by one person. I recall his name was Wyn Stempson (or something close to that). He ran the station 6am to 10pm each day, perhaps fewer hours on Sunday.

    The radio station operated from a home on the edge of town. I did not get the impression the home doubled as a residence. The 'front room' as they say in the Midwest had a large bay window looking out over the spacious well kept yard to the highway. The painted and lit tower was to the left of the home (facing the home from the highway). The station had a tenant on the tower along with their gear. The home had a big kitchen and you could tell it got use as it would in a typical home. I suspect with the 16 hour workday, the refrigerator and pantry were stocked and the syndicated programs gave the owner time to cook a meal between breaks. The home itself set on a couple of acres or more and resembled a 'ranch style suburban' look. It was not an old home nor a cheap fixer-upper.

    WDUK's uniqueness was that the owner preferred vinyl and ordered country hits from a record shop in Nashville, Tennessee. It seems he played music for AM drive. Once the day got rolling, the format was a mish-mash of various syndicated music programs that were mostly on cassette at that time. He said he aired over 50 such weekly programs. In lieu of playing the full program, only one side of a cassette was aired. So, if that was a one hour bluegrass or Southern Gospel or Rocking the 60's syndicated show, you got a 30 minute serving of the show, then off to the next syndicated program. Between the programs, the weather forecast was aired. If there was a commercial, perhaps every few hours, it would air between these 30 minute segments that seemed to end around :20 and :50 past the hour. In a given two hour period you might hear half an hour of Southern Gospel, then maybe 30 minutes of top 40 oldies, perhaps part of the weekly country countdown and maybe big band. It was like this all day. I did hear some Farm news and I think he also had a bit of network news, maybe a state network. The owner utilized this format because he did not want to be a satellite delivered format, insisting on being live and local all the time. I strongly suspect he ran local school sports and did live broadcasts from various large events such as the 4-H show and such. Some of the few ads I heard seemed to be sold because of the coverage.

    He seemed to do okay on billing although I suspect the early morning is when the bulk of the commercials aired. I'd guess he billed about $2,500 to $3,000 a month and I suspect part of that was tower rent. There seemed to be the cash to keep up the equipment in good order and the tower looked well maintained. The station itself was 'low' and sounded very unprocessed. Not quite muffled, it lacked the brightness and depth of other stations with about half the 'loudness' of other stations. It was not in stereo. The owner said the biggest issue in selling advertising locally is the evolution of the business community. The national chains would come in and take dollars that once went to the local business. In Havana that was the likes of CVS Pharmacy, Dollar General and such. He noted they never spent anything on local radio.

    It seems the owner had a daughter that would come in and run the station for several hours on some days while the owner mingled in the community, selling advertising and talking to the movers and shakers in the community to maintain that local connection.

    Equipment was decent. There were turntables (professional grade), cart machines, a typical board although I do not recall the brand, a decent microphone and I think a guest mike. The production studio, seemingly a bedroom, was what appeared to be a homemade two pot board (the VU meter was a third of the board in size it seemed), a microphone and a record/play cart machine. If memory serves me right, there was a 7 inch reel to reel, likely for any agency or jingle spots. And yes, this was in the computer age (maybe around 2004 or 2005) but the computer did not figure in the 'old school' station.

    The owner sure did not have the golden voice but I really doubt that mattered. I gather the town listened, knew him by voice, and likely counted on him to keep them up on what was happening.

    The interesting thing is these rare gems of stations are hiding in plain sight. Most I have discovered were amid a fairly active radio dial, not far from other communities with stations and not in oddball but very ordinary small towns. For some reason, these stations took a left while the rest of the stations took a right. I might add the owners tend to be very community aware and dedicated while seeming to be that strange black sheep uncle in the family of radio...seemingly off in left field but much more on the ball than it appears.

  5. #5

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    Living in Southside VA during my high school years in the late 90's-early 00's, I can attest to the large number of unusual stations out there. As you said, all of them were in places that were seemingly normal, and as is the norm in most places along the east coast, got at least some FM radio reception from big cities.

    At that time, there were stations using old equipment cobbled together and still signing off at night (actually, a better rule is: if an FM station still signs off at night after about 1995 or so, it's probably an 'oddball' as automation and satellite had a commanding grasp on 24 hour broadcasting even in small town stations)

    WTTX-FM "The Lord's Station" in Appomattox, VA was another one of my favorites. From about 1988-2010 it was owned by a fire-and-brimstone baptist church near Lynchburg playing *real* southern gospel music. Still used the mono 3kw transmitter that was bought back used in 1970 for a country format. Recorded all commercials by cart up until it's sale. They had live telephone broadcasts of their church services...and they were lively, to say the least!

    It was a commercial station but still solicited donations from folks...always with threats that it would be sold to a secular operator if bills weren't paid that month. No automation...signed on at 6am, signed off at 12am 7 days/week.

    The head pastor was on every morning for an hour to basically rant about moral degradation and talk politics as well. They simulcasted WSET-TV's 6 and 11pm newscast from a microphone pointed at the TV (you could hear the tube TV "whine" and the board op coughing from time to time)

    It's stuff like this that made me glad I cut my teeth in the radio industry in Southside VA. It was a place where interesting small-town radio was still in full swing even into the 21st century!

    In terms of one-man operations, those are always an interesting setup...that one person is usually very set in their ways on how radio should be done...for better or worse, it shows in the on-air product!

    I forgot the call letters, but there was a FM classical station in Gloucester MA that was a one-man operation for decades. The sign-on time was "whenever he got up" and sign-off was whenever he had to do sales/grocery shopping during the day. He'd sign back on until he felt tired and went to bed!

    Radio-X

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by b-turner View Post
    Several years ago I was on the backroads in Illinois and visited the station in Havana, Illinois. There had been a write-up in Radio World about WDUK FM run by one person. I recall his name was Wyn Stempson (or something close to that). He ran the station 6am to 10pm each day, perhaps fewer hours on Sunday.
    Thanks for posting this. I remember the article in Radio World, and thought about posting something when I saw this thread, but didn't remember all the details.

    I do remember from the article the station had started out fully staffed with downtown offices and studios, but the town had fallen on hard times after a major employer folded. This gentleman had been an employee and at some point bought the station. I don't remember if that was before the town's economic problems, but the station had to make numerous staff cuts until he was the only person left. He then moved operations to the transmitter, and sold spots by phone while running the board.

  7. #7

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    When I visited WDUK (twice) it seemed Havana had an ample number of local businesses to support the station. Certainly not enough to make the guy rich but enough to support a typical small market station staff. I'm guessing about $12,000 to $15,000 a month if the market was worked properly but I realize that has to do with the mindset of the community. Other nearby towns of about the same size and comparable number of local businesses that had a station were able to maintain a staff. It might have been Wyn felt if he hired a staff he might have to let them go at some point because he felt the economy locally was too shaky.

    Simon Geller was the guy that ran WVCA. He lived in a two room apartment and reportedly his bed was behind the transmitter. The broadcast schedule varied. At times he signed the station on at 5:30 am until 1 am. Other times he operated as little as 44 hours a week. Most of the time it was 10 am to Midnight. He was known to sign off to go to a doctor's appointment, grocery shopping and such. It was said he'd take in a movie or go to dinner, signing off the station. I talked to him in 1980. He supposedly had 4 advertisers paying $32 a spot and he told me in 1980, he was getting about $1,000 a month in donations. I got the impression talking to him that the broadcast schedule was revised based on the money coming in to the station. I mentioned a 4:45 to 11 pm broadcast day listed in a 1974 SRDS Directory. He responded that was back when paying the light bill was a struggle. Reportedly he was quite poor, earning an annual salary from the station that was below the poverty line at the time.

    Mr. Geller was pretty critical of his community at times. Listeners said they might hear the toilet flush. There were reports he would sometimes fall asleep and awaken only after a reel of music had run out. Some said he'd curse and leave the mike hot to answer the phone if someone called while during a break.

    All the classical music was on reel to reel. I think there was about 400 to 450 hours of music. He refused to do news, weather and aired only a few PSAs. It seems in 1980, he ran a 30 minute public affairs program from an university (playing the same weekly program every day at 5:30 am) to satisfy the FCC (Simon inserted a choice word for the FCC). He was in a decade plus long fight to keep his license when it was contested by another group that promised to do news and such. Obviously that was during the time stations were required by the FCC to devote a minimum of 6% of their broadcast week to non-entertainment programming. So, he'd run 30-45 minutes a day of mostly Public Affairs but at times, I suppose, after those minimum percentages went away in 1981, he claimed 99.8% classical music. I do not recall if the music was announced on tape, or even announced except for a live break.

    I worked at a station in Big Lake, Texas for a few months, 1290 KWGH, a 1kw. daytimer. It seems the lady that had owned it had become so elderly she needed to be put in a home. In the last few months, dementia set in. Employees would get their paychecks on Monday, say, then ask the owner on Tuesday if they were getting their paychecks that day. She'd write them out again.

    She hand selected all the music, a combination of beautiful music, old country and big band music. The announcers had 5 minute rip and read newscasts at the top and bottom of the hour. The traffic person not only had to type up the program logs but had to rewrite every commercial daily. All commercials were read live by the announcers. Her rates were amazing: if you were a local business and she liked you a lot, you got free commercials. Other local businesses paid up to 25 cents a spot (in 1980 mind you). If your business was out of town, she charged $1 a spot.

    It seems her long deceased husband was one who gambled on drilling oil wells and made a bunch of money. When they married she had a weekday recipe exchange show on a radio station in either the Midland/Odessa or Big Spring, Texas market. When the couple ended up in Big Lake, he financed a radio station for her. The station never had to make money. In 1980 it sounded, according to the staff, exactly as it did when it signed on in the 1950s.

    The guy that bought the station from the lady thought the station billed $8,000 a month, not $8,000 a year. I worked for that guy. In fact, on a road trip with another jock, we stopped by on a Sunday morning. The GM was working and desperate to get back home to California, so he offered me the job at more money than I was making...$750 a month versus $600 to be General Manager. I jumped without a second thought. I literally helped the poor owner toward bankruptcy. I had only been a small market program director and DJ at that time, so sales were minimal and, plainly put, I figured out real fast that I was over my head.

    Quite frankly, in the few years the station remained on the air after I left, it was never able to generate enough revenue. I recall seeing it advertised for $80,000. One fellow that stayed about 18 months managed to bring in about $50,000 the first year and the ad claimed the station was billing about $6,000 to $7,000 a month before it sold. It seems the guy that managed to pull that off was wanting to buy it and when the owner put it up for sale, he bailed out. I was told the new owner assumed virtually no billing: the lumberyard that sponsored a 3 minute devotional every morning, a 30 minute and a 60 minute Church program on Sunday and just 2 spots a day.

    In the final days, the fellow that had the station lived in the station with his family and he, his wife and daughter ran the station. He finally gave up after about 3 years or so. I couldn't figure out what the guy was doing on the air. I picked up on the fact he tracked album sides, usually something like big band but maybe southern gospel or traditional country. About every 90 minutes to 2 hours he had some long form program. One time it might be social security questions and another it might be about some health subject or some obscure topic from some college somewhere. I never heard weather, community announcements and such, just maybe a time check and ID possibly followed by a commercial, then another album side. I dropped in once and managed to look at their program log. I doubt they had more than about 6 commercials all day. I do recall the Lumberyard still sponsored an early morning devotional and two Churches were on the air on Sunday.

    Out in that region, likely more stations went dark forever than ever survived. As I recall, the McCamey station had gone dark a few years before I got to Big Lake and there was another station where I heard they had so many trades they couldn't pay the bills. It seems that owner bought some little trailers to sit back behind the station to house the jocks who complained the paychecks frequently bounced by they had restaurant trades, a trade for gas and even auto repairs they could tap. The station in Crane had been sold by then to a ministry because a secular commercial station just was not viable. This region was not well populated. For example, 3,100 lived in Big Lake then and there were 3,400 in the whole county. In Sonora, at that time, the station there was automated and signed off at 7 at night claiming to the FCC that they didn't have the billing to maintain better than a 6am to 7pm schedule for their FM. In Ozona, the guy that had that station was happy to bill about $4,000 a month then. In fact, he was likely the most financially successful station in the surrounding towns where towns were 30 miles or more from one another. The area was reliant on the oil industry (Big Lake had a rotten egg smell thanks to a sour gas well nearby). In the early 1980s, the oil industry crashed. Even so, most stations had gone dark before the crash.

  8. #8

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    WXXS, serving the Saint Johnsbury, VT area with its lone CHR. Except... it plays virtually no songs that peaked in the top 10, mainly purged songs (songs that didn't last 20 weeks as a current and get only limited AirPlay from monitored stations).
    And if that wasn't enough, it airs CBS Radio News at the top of every hour, and has no DJs or studio.
    A sample 1/2 hour includes:
    Shawn Hook- Sound of your Heart
    Rihanna-Kiss it Better
    John Legend-Love Me Now
    Zayn-Like I Would
    Tory Lanez-Say It
    Nick Fradiani-All on You
    Friendship-Capsize
    Nick Jonas-Jealous

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