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History of Lexington, KY Radio - WLAP

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WLAP - Through Sixty Years
1922 - 1980
Lewis M. Owens
Written and Published in 1982

The principle of radio-broadcasting was first demonstrated by Nathan B. Stubblefield, by 1892, at Murray, Kentucky, and was called, "wireless telephone", "radio telephone" and ultimately just "radio" from his first equipment which scoffers referred to as his "crazy box." For over twenty-five years the principle of his demonstration was not recognized as the popular medium of information dissemination and entertainment that it would become, as the first authorizations for the purpose of broadcasting to the public were not issued until September 1921. By the end of 1921, only twenty-five authorizations had been issued by the Radio Division of the Bureau of Navigation, Department of Commerce.

About 1912, William V. Jordan of Louisville, Kentucky became involved in Amateur Radio experiments and operation, and by 1915 had been issued call letters 9-L-K for his wireless transmitting station. The operation of this type authorization was for communicating by a version of the Morse code with another person with similar equipment, and was not for the public's listening use. World War I interrupted Mr. Jordan's hobby. When he returned from service, he was permitted to re-open his wireless station, which was located in the office of his firm and continued its operation until about July 1919. The broadcasting of music or speech was not permitted; however, Mr. Jordan reportedly stated that he did occasionally "radiocast phonograph records," as by this time he had built and installed what was known as a wireless telephone. The method of broadcasting consisted of a microphone, similar to the mouthpiece of a telephone, placed in front of a phonograph. Obviously enjoying the refinements of his hobby, he is credited with installing a radio receiver in 1921 at the Waverly Hills Hospital in Louisville with headphones for each patient.

A further statement attributed to Mr. Jordan is; "I continued this method of radiocasting until September 15, 1922, when I was granted a license, under the call letters of WLAP, to radiocast programs of the same nature you hear today."

WLAP was authorized to operate with 15 Watts of power on 360 Meters (832.8 Kilohertz), the frequency of the some 550 stations across the country. A historian later described this early period in radio-broadcasting as A Tower of Babel.

WLAP's location was in a corner of Mr. Jordan's Big-Six Audio Repair Shop and Battery Service firm at 306 West Breckinridge Street in Louisville. The antenna, supported by wooden towers, was located atop the building. Programming consisted of the phonograph-record device and the station was primarily operated in the late afternoons and evenings at Mr. Jordan's leisure, following the day's work in his auto repair shop.

Mr. Jordan became disenchanted with radio-broadcasting in 1926. In April, negotiations were started for the sale of WLAP with Rev. Lloyd W. Benedict, pastor of the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville. Also negotiations were pursued with a Mr. J. F. Markle, who wanted to move the station to Kingston, Pennsylvania. However, a commitment was made on June 22, 1926, to sell the station to Rev. Benedict, subject to Federal approval. The commitment was completed in July, and in November WLAP was relocated to the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church building, newly completed that summer, at 2600 Virginia Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky.

With ownership by Rev. L. W. Benedict and the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church, WLAP was primarily used for broadcasting their Sunday and other scheduled ser vices, which was a common practice with Church-owned stations. During their ownership period, mail was received from listeners on the west coast of the United States, and as far away as Bristol, England.

In June 1927 operating power was increased to 30 Watts and the frequency changed to 1120 Kilohertz. In August 1927 daytime power was increased to 100 Watts, while nighttime power remained at 30 Watts. A major frequency reallocation affecting most broadcasting stations in the United States became effective November 11, 1928, and the Federal Radio Commission ordered WLAP to change frequency to 1200 Kilohertz. In December 1928, daytime power was reduced to that of the nighttime power,30 Watts.

In 1928, WLAP was sold to Mr. Dinwiddie Lampton who had formed the American Broadcasting Corporation of Kentucky, to operate the station. The Corporation was capitalized for $5,000.00 with Dinwiddie Lampton owning 98% of the stock, and A. M. Wash and J. Rogers Gore, 1% each. Studios and offices were relocated to 709 Inter-Southern Building at 1263 South First Street, from where programming of about two hours daily, plus the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church services, continued until July 1929. L. T. Carlson, operating engineer, with Virginia Avenue Baptist Church ownership, continued employment following the ownership transfer. In June 1929 an improved antenna was constructed, consisting of an Inverted "L" with a Flat-Top of 87 feet, and a Counterpoise ground system, identified as a 6-Wire Fan,100 feet long and 12 feet above ground.

The Louisville Herald-Post reported in the July 4,1929, edition, that WLAP would go on the air Friday night for a six-hour period, with the primary objective of attaining popularity and prominence from being a public servant to the Louisville community. From the studios, the Staff had planned festive activities and programming designed to satisfy the tastes of the most exacting radio fans. Those plans had been formulated and would be directed by William Fariss, who had served as General Manager of WBAM in Nashville, assisted by Mrs. Vivienne Adams Woolfe, WLAP's Program Director. A feature of the evening broadcast would be the presentation of a "Key to the Station" to Mayor William B. Harrison, signifying that WLAP was "Louisville's Own Station." Following the presentation and dedicatory speeches, the program schedule, with all live-talent performances, was as follows:

7:00 - 7:30 Dedication of Station WLAP. Address by Mayor William B. Harrison. Orchestral music period with Miller Haas, Soloist.

7:30 - 8:00 Studio Trio with William B. Fariss, Soloist. 8:00 - 8:30 Lorraine Royster and Marguerite Johnson in "Piano-logues."

8:30 - 9:00 Popular Trio

9:00 - 9:30 Symphonie Petite

9:30 - 10:00 Orchestral period with Miller Haas, Baritone

10:00 Something for Everybody. General Ensemble.

11: 15 WLAP Melodists

12: 15 - 1 :00 Request Program from Studio

With this innovative new beginning, WLAP continued initiating firsts that gained favor with the "listeners-in" and realized ever increasing popularity. In September, remote broadcast facilities were installed to the Kentucky State Fair location, and during the week William Fariss and Harold S. Logan provided a word view of the activities, including the $10,000 Saddle Horse Show described as the world's greatest saddle horse contest, and descriptions of the various exhibits in the $300,000 Merchants and Manufacturers building. Provisions were made for broadcasting the music of the 50-piece Steedham Symphony Orchestra, the Ormsby Village Band, and Carbone's Rainbow Exposition Band. All would be playing almost continuously throughout the week. Also, those attending the State Fair were able to view the WLAP announcers in action. WLAP's coverage of the State Fair resulted in letters and other communications applauding them for their public spirit.

For the following week, an unusually attractive schedule of programs had been completed, including; The Watchtower program of music and inspirational lectures; the WLAP String Quartet; a vocal recital by Mrs. Marcella Roy, dramatic soprano; and the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church morning and evening services, all on Sunday. Through the week the schedule would be: Frank Rich and his original Southern Night Hawks, featuring novel arrangements worked out by this orchestra; Ruth Ann Moore, Jack Dale and Hester Bailey with an hour and a half of popular songs and piano solos; The Symphonie Petite, old time melodies by Jimmy Ufco's singers; William Crady, Tenor; Harold S. Logan, Tenor of the Staff; William Fariss, Baritone of the Staff; The WLAP Melodists; Margaret Dante, Violinist; Don Correll, Baritone; Mikana Clark, Soprano, in addition to the popular broadcasts of the Louisville Herald-Post news flashes, baseball scores, a daily resume of the day's news which was furnished by Time, the weekly news magazine, and the daily weather reports.

In the fall of 1929, William Thomas Owens began his short tenure as WLAP's General Manager, guiding its operation to new heights of popularity. President Herbert Hoover visited Louisville in late October, and plans were for him to deliver his speech on the canalization of the Ohio River from the deck of a steamboat. Due to inclement weather the location for the President's address was changed to the War Memorial Auditorium, and thousands who were not aware of the change in plans were expected to line the riverbank. The Louisville Board of Trade contacted William T. Owens and requested WLAP's remote facilities be used to feed the levee's audio system. Technicians immediately went to work and when the crowd gathered on the riverbank, they were able to hear William T. Owens and Ward Keith describe the celebration at the Auditorium, in addition to the President's address. These efforts were recognized by the Louisville Herald-Post, in the October 29,1929 edition, which reported that WLAP fulfilled its slogan of "Louisville's Own Station".

The following week the Third National State finals, sponsored by Atwater Kent Foundation, were held on WHAS. The contest was won by WLAP's staff vocalist and announcer, Harold S. Logan, sharing in awards of $25,000 and musical tuition for a period of one or two years.

A popular program later in 1929 was the "WLAP Thespians", who broadcast their dramatic presentation under the direction of Harry Roy. On December 14, 1929, 114 members of the "Seckatary Hawkins" club attended the opening meeting of this youth group in the studios of WLAP. Following the meeting each member was given an airplane glider, courtesy of the Caulfield Novelty Company of Louisville. The following Saturday, the regular meeting of the club was planned for 11 :00 AM to 12:00 noon in the studios, and all members were requested to wear their badges or bring their membership cards.

As 1929 drew to a close, WLAP had started early morning broadcasting to the Louisville area, beginning the broadcast day at 7:00 a.m. The number of employees had increased from nine in October to thirty-five in December.

The Herald-Post reported February 16,1930, as a result of a popularity poll by the Radio Digest magazine, WLAP had led all stations in Kentucky except WHAS which operated with 10,000 Watts, while WLAP operated with less than 100 Watts. William T. Owens stated the station's popularity was due to its diversified programs, which were arranged by Leo Pelle, and the stations aggressive policy which introduced early morning broadcasting to Kentucky, as well as other unique features.

A popular program started in March 1930 was the "WLAP Four Leaf Clover Club." The Club went on the air each weekday for an hour at 5:30 p.m. with lively melodies by the Four Leaf Clover Club orchestra, conducted by Roy Fisher, and an interesting feature in a radio contest. Some of the Club's first members were, Governor Flem D. Sampson, Mayor William B. Harrison and Major E. S. Helburn, U.S. Collector of Internal Revenue.

Under the ownership of Dinwiddie Lampton and management by William T. Owens, WLAP realized many firsts in less than one year, some of which were: early morning radio-broadcasting, broadcasts of the Colonels baseball games from Park way Field, blow-by-blow descriptions of local fights, fall-by-fall descriptions of wrestling matches, more local football games than any station in Kentucky, the Derby Eve fight between Mickey Walker, the middleweight champion, and Paul Swiderske which was fed to some seventy stations of the Columbia Broadcasting System network, on Derby Day broadcast all races from Churchill Downs, was the only station to broadcast the Grainger Memorial Handicap and the Oaks from Churchill Downs, and increased the daily broadcast schedule from six to eighteen hours.

The city of Louisville's one-hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebration, in 1930, was held in the studios of WLAP, from which originated a commemorative program including the reading of congratulatory messages from President Hoover; Kentucky Senator J. M . Robsion; Congressman Thatcher, in addition to addresses by Governor Flem D. Sampson and Mayor William B. Harrison, and comments by Colonel Carl Bernhardt, a noted writer.

In January 1930 an application was filed for 250 Watts Day and 100 Watts Night on 1200 Kilohertz, at a new Louisville location. In March the Federal Radio Commission approved the application, and construction began immediately at the new transmitter antenna location on Phillips Lane, midway between Preston Street and Ashbottom Road.

In May plans were being made to relocate the studios from 1263 South First Street to the central part of Louisville, and to become a full-time affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System network, from the part-time affiliate status. In order to pursue construction of the new facilities, it was announced the broadcast schedule had been reduced to 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM and 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM daily.

n June 1930, Thomas C. Hedden, Director of WLAP, reported, "In July 1929, the property (WLAP) was acquired by the American Broadcasting Corporation and on Independence Day of that year the first commercialized programs were released. Since its formal opening, when it was operated on thirty watts of power, it has made rapid strides, and has pioneered the way in many phases of broadcasting in Kentucky." Great expectations were in the offing as the facilities for the power increase were being constructed. The fulltime affiliation with CBS would bring WLAP's listeners the following personalities: Walter Winchell, Will Rogers, Paul Whiteman, Heywood Broun, Chic Sales, Jesse Crawford, Ben Pollack, Jean Carroll, Ted Weems, Duke Ellington and scores of others.

John Ruffner, WLAP Staff Engineer, reported in June 1930: The new Western Electric speech input board had arrived, allowing the ultimate in quality for listeners, along with patch arrangements for the efficient broadcasts of remote programs, such as baseball games and all programs with the elimination of foreign noise, and complete control of levels. The new transmitter sections were arriving from Chicago to realize the increase in operating power, with plans to effect the increase on July 4, 1930. Construction at the new transmitter location was progressing for relocation of the transmitter facilities that had handicapped coverage with the low operating power, from the Twenty-Sixth Street and Virginia Avenue location. The new transmitter building included living quarters for the engineers, for a constant vigil on the transmitter's operation and for instant availability in the event of trouble.

The "Stems", supports for the horizontal antenna, had been obtained from the forest in the state of Washington and transported on two railroad flatcars to Louisville. The ninety-foot "Stems" were installed in massive steel reinforced concrete bases, and further steadied with guy cables.

Leo Pelle reported on July 4, 1930; "With all signs and portents pointing to even greater achievements, WLAP holds two celebrations in one day." Independence Day was to be observed with patriotic musical selections by WLAP's Little Symphony Orchestra, and a special address by Lieutenant Governor James Breathitt, Jr. was expected to have a large and responsive audience. WLAP was to observe their anniversary as a commercial broadcasting station. "It was not until July 4,1929 that it (WLAP) began special-test programs which were followed on Saturday with the formal beginning of commercial programs." The festivities included a "Parade of Artists", who had performed during the past year, who would contribute a song or musical selection from 8:15 PM until 11:00 PM.

Two days later Thomas C. Hedden announced the addition to WLAP's program schedule of the remote broadcast from the steamboat America, while docked at the foot of Second Street, each evening except Sunday from 7:45 to 8: 15 with William B. Durbeck, one of WLAP's announcers, as master of ceremonies. The program would consist of music by Cy Rinehart's dance band, and the calliope playing melodies under a beautiful moonlight setting, just before the steamboat left nightly on its moonlight excursion up the beautiful Ohio river.

The Herald-Post reported in the August 10, 1930, edition; that Harvey White, Vice-President of the Inter-Southern Life Insurance Company had resigned to become President of the American Broadcasting Company, operator of WLAP. Simultaneously, word had been received from Washington, D.C. that WLAP's application for license, for the increase in operating power, had been received and Program Tests began July 25, 1930, would continue awaiting the visit of a Federal Inspector to complete the inspection of the new transmitter facilities on Phillips Lane.

In early November, plans were announced for several special programs and several new regular programs. On Armistice Day, the Plymouth Community Singers under the direction of Rev. B. G. Harris and leadership of J. Everett Harris, would offer singing of genuine Negro spirituals by remote broadcast from the Plymouth Settlement House at Seventeenth and Chestnut Streets. This program was regularly broad cast on Tuesday night. Other programs scheduled from the Plymouth Settlement House studios would be a barn dance type musical program by the Hayes Old-Timers on Tuesday night. On Wednesday night, the CBS Fast Freight program musicians would take their listeners to the home of Admiral Richard E. Byrd in Virginia, at which time homage would be paid to Colonel William Byrd, founder of Richmond, and ancestor of Governor Harry Byrd. The Fireside Melodies program of old sacred songs and hymns, and a brief story of days gone by were to be presented. Insights into business conditions were to be broadcast on Tuesday and Thursday evenings by the Retail Merchants Association of Louisville. The Music Box Club on the air from 7:00 to 10:00 each morning was adding members daily, and a large number of theater tickets had been distributed to the members. On Saturday night, a special serenade was scheduled for the residents of Frankfort and Franklin County, Kentucky. The Thanksgiving week programming plans were to be highlighted by the remote broad cast of the Junior League Cabaret Ball, from the Crystal Ballroom of the Brown Hotel, for the benefit of the Junior League Ward of the Kosair Crippled Children's Hospital. Other scheduled programs during the week: The Country Serenade to Carrollton and Carroll County, Kentucky; the Harmony Crooners and the Carefree Crooners from Franklin, Kentucky; and the Matty Boys, Blackface Eddie and Leroy Rapp, would present their second performance in a series sponsored by Matty Boy.

Employees in December 1930 numbered 33, including licensed operator-engineers John Ruffner, Joe Charpie and Ray Gehres. In January 1931 Dinwiddie Lampton sold WLAP to Ralph L. Atlass of the Atlass Investment Company. Ralph L. Atlass owned WIND, Gary, Indiana and was the co-founder of WBBM, Chicago.

In April, WLAP's studios and offices were relocated to the Speed Building in downtown Louisville. The consulting firm of Doolittle and Falknor in Chicago, who had built WLAP's transmitter, contacted Wilbur E. Hudson who was seeking broad cast engineering employment and advised him WLAP needed a Chief Engineer. Hudson was interviewed by Ralph L. Atlass, became WLAP's Chief Engineer in mid-1931, and remained through 1933 when WLAP ceased operation in Louisville.

Early in 1931 efforts were started to change frequency from 1200 to 1010 Kilohertz and increase Night operating power to 250 Watts, which would improve night cover age over the Louisville area. An experimental authorization was received to operate at various times on 1010 Kilohertz, and pursue engineering efforts to support a later application for these facilities. Frank Falknor, of Doolittle and Falknor, personally handled or supervised these efforts. In July information was filed with the Federal Radio Commission requesting permission to modify the WLAP antenna to a directional operation, for study in placing the main radiation over Louisville. This request was granted and a pioneering Directional Antenna effort was started at WLAP. The transmitter was modified to Direct Crystal Control, realizing operating frequency stability of plus or minus 10 Hertz, improved from the industry standard of plus or minus 200 Hertz. It was believed this improvement would eliminate concern, of the Federal Radio Commission and stations operating on 1010 Kilohertz, of interference from heterodyning due to frequency drift. The Directional Antenna efforts achieved the desired results, but the Federal Radio Commission approval was not realized. The Commission noted, that to properly serve a city the transmitter and antenna should be located near its center and WLAP's was on the extreme edge of Louisville. Within 10 years this approach would be reversed and transmitter installations would have to be outside a densely populated area. Benefits of a directional antenna had been proven, though, and in a short few years would be used extensively by the industry.

The manager of WLAP in mid-1931 was Miss Merle Friedel, and her assistant and secretary was her sister, Sylvia. George Jaspert succeeded Miss Friedel as manager and remained until WLAP went off the air in Louisville in 1933, at which time he became the manager of Ralph Atlass' WIND.

After owning WLAP for about one year, Ralph L. Atlass sold the station to George W. Norton, Jr. With the sale, CBS switched to WHAS and WLAP began operating with independent programming in May 1932, from 6:30 AM to 11 :00 PM weekdays, and 8:00 AM to 11 :00 PM on Sundays. In 1932, WFIW, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, operating with 1000 Watts on 940 Kilohertz, sought permission to relocate to Louisville. WLAP opposed the move and requested WFlW's power and frequency. Hearings before the Federal Radio Commission continued for several months before the Commission's decision in June 1933 in favor of WFIW. George Jaspert stated that WLAP would appeal the decision, which could take a year to resolve. The litigation was resolved on October 25, 1933, when George W. Norton, Jr. purchased WFIW, and announced WLAP would no longer oppose the move to Louisville. Wilbur E. Hudson moved WFIW to Louisville, which went on the air December 30, 1933, as WAVE, and remained their Chief Engineer until his retirement in 1968.

Charles Powell, with Graybar-Electric in Louisville, was familiar with WLAP and the broadcasting industry. He was also familiar with a family ownership of newspapers and radio stations in the Southwest, and contacted Gilmore N. Nunn to investigate the possibility of the family-owned group purchasing WLAP. J. Lindsay Nunn, a native of Shelby County, Kentucky, upon graduating from Georgetown College in 1905, went to Amarillo, Texas and entered the newspaper business. His son, Gilmore N. Nunn, upon graduating from Washington and Lee College returned to Amarillo and entered the newspaper business with his father. They had begun purchasing a radio station in the community where they owned a newspaper, and Charles Powell knew they were negotiating for the Lexington Herald. The Nunns agreed to a contract of ultimate purchase for WLAP.

WLAP's final program schedule in the Louisville Herald-Post was December 23, 1933. The new owners, Turner C. Rush (50%) and Alvin L. Witt (40%) of Lexington, Kentucky, on December 22, 1933, requested permission to relocate the station to Lexington, which was granted January 5, 1934, along with a silent period until April 15, 1934. Operating facilities approved were 250 Watts Day and 100 Watts Night, on 1420 Kilohertz.

The Lexington Herald reported on January 16th, that Mitchell Morris had been appointed Manager of WLAP, and he stated installation in Lexington would be started shortly. On February 3,1934, revised ownership was reported; Turner C. Rush with 77% of the stock, and Mitchell Morris with 11%, along with details of the Lexington location and operation. The location was to be in an existing building at Main and Esplanade, with a roof mounted, insulated, 120-foot vertical wrought iron antenna with a counterpoise ground system of 64 - I / 64 by 2 inch copper strips,60 feet long in each direction on the flat roof. Approval of these plans was received February 20, 1934.

On March 1, 1934, Mr. Morris announced the installation was complete except for the 138-foot vertical pole which would serve as the antenna. The vertical antenna was constructed of iron-plumbing pipe and insulated with a 16l/2 by 7 inch porcelain insulator. With cooperating weather, March 10th was the scheduled date to begin operation in the Walton Building on the Esplanade, in Lexington.

Sanford Helt had assisted Charles Powell in relocating and installing the station in Lexington, and would serve as the Technical Supervisor until about 1945, when he became Technical Director of the Nunn Station group. Other personnel announced March 1st were: Thomas G. Foster of Lexington as Secretary-Treasurer; Mrs. Eleanor B. Knox of Lexington as Musical Director; Beecher Frank of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and a student at Transylvania as an announcer; and George Bose of WCOA, Pensacola, Florida, Production Manager. Further reported was that some 150 local artists had passed audition requirements and would perform on the station when it went on the air, with a schedule of 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM weekdays, on Saturday until 1 :00 AM or 2:00 AM on Sunday morning, and 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM on Sunday.

WLAP began Equipment Tests March 14th, and went on the air in Lexington with Program Tests on March 17, 1934, with 250 Watts Day and 100 Watts Night, on 1420 Kilohertz. While attempting to maintain the broadcast schedule during the early period of operation in Lexington, it was frequently necessary to leave the air in the early afternoon for a couple of hours to repair the equipment, so the evening schedule could be completed.

By June 1934 Winston L. Clark was the General Manager. Also in June the Corporation's Articles of Incorporation were amended to change the principal place of business to Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, by T. C. Rush, President, and Directors, Winston L. Clark, Henry A. Harper, Edward W. Jarvis and Charles C. Leonard. At this time Turner C. Rush owned 51% and G. L. Wainscott 10% of the American Broadcasting Corporation of Kentucky, owner and operator of WLAP.

The Nunns bought the Lexington Herald and exercised the contract of ultimate purchase for WLAP. On July 22,1936, the ownership of WLAP was transferred, with the purchase of Turner C. Rush's 51% of stock, to the growing list of Nunn-owned radio stations, which would include; Ashland, Kentucky; Huntington, West Virginia; Knoxville, Tennessee; Mobile, Alabama; Amarillo and El Paso, Texas; Clovis, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as the Sunshine Network in New Mexico. The Herald was sold in about a year, but ownership of WLAP continued for twenty years.

The effectual management of Gilmore Nunn was immediately obvious in improvement of WLAP's operation and service to the community. He realized the necessary balance between facilities, personnel and programming, and later received industry recognition with appointments to numerous board-management responsibilities.

Technical improvements began immediately with the installation of a new Western Electric Model 310-B transmitter in early 1937. During the last week in June 1938, openhouse was held in the modern studio-office building at Walnut and Short Streets in Lexington. The new studio-office facilities were proclaimed as the "South's Finest Studio's", by people in and familiar with the radio industry. WLAP was no longer an infant, but was being listened to as "The Voice of the Bluegrass."

At this time, Gilmore Nunn was President, J. Lindsay Nunn was Vice-President, Warren G. Davis was Treasurer, and Winston L. Clark was Secretary and General Manager of the American Broadcasting Company of Kentucky, owner and operator of WLAP.

By early 1940 the Federal Communications Commission had adopted minimum antenna heights of 150-feet, which WLAP complied with in April, and realized an increase in nighttime power to 250 Watts, improving the coverage to the central Kentucky area. In July 1940 authority was received to relocate the transmitter from the Walton Building to a 10~2 acre site just off Mason-Headley Road, on the west side of Lexington. A new 360-foot tower was installed for the antenna and operation from this location began in late 1940. The flashing beacon atop the tower, for aviation safety purposes, resulted in the naming of present Beacon-Hill Road. Realignment of some 1300 North American radio stations resulted in the frequency of WLAP being changed to 1450 Kilohertz on March 29, 1941.

On May 20, 1941, WLAP-FM was granted under the call letters of W51SL on the frequency of 45.1 Megahertz, but was not built. On January 9, 1946, a second grant was received for 102.3 Megahertz, and again was not built. On June 21, 1950, a third grant was received on 94.5 Megahertz and went on the air October 24, 1950, which is the frequency WLAP-FM [ now WMXL] operates on today.

In 1950 following several years of contested efforts, WLAP was granted 5000 Watts Day and 1000 Watts Night, utilizing a four-tower directional antenna array, on 630 Kilohertz, in preference to some Cincinnati aspirants to this frequency. Seventy acres of land was obtained some seven miles from Lexington, on Russell Cave Road in Northern Fayette County, for construction of the antenna system and location of the transmitting equipment. A masonry building was constructed, the equipment installation completed, and a license issued on October 11, 1950, which is the location of the combined WLAP, WMXL and WKQQ-FM operations today. A 24-inch rotating beacon, with automatic lamp-changer, was installed on the Northeast tower for aviation obstruction purposes, which reportedly was used by pilots for location identification before they could see the lighting at the Lexington airport. This beacon was removed from use in 1974. In 1952 WLAP was issued a National Defense Emergency Authorization which has continually been renewed. The authorization, currently under the Emergency Broadcasting System, places responsibility of operation as the community Primary Common Program Control Station on WLAP and WLAP-FM for national as well as local area emergency situations.

By the mid-1930's radio had developed an unexpected ability to move and persuade; networks were providing on-site reporting of the coming war in Europe, networks and local programming were providing the listener a means of briefly forgetting the problems from the continuing depression, and in the early 1940's kept them abreast of the war that touched practically every family.

WLAP more than kept pace with the industry with very competent personnel. Ted Grizzard joined WLAP in 1935 and progressed from Staff Announcer through other responsibilities to General Manager in 1939; but is probably best remembered for his "Man on the Street" and "Quizzer and the Cop" programs. He appeared as comfort able with these as observing the Regional Marbles Matches at Woodland Park or interviewing the winner, James Bostick, and runner-up, Edward Haney, or interviewing a group of youngsters from the Julius Marks Sanatorium that WLAP treated to a circus visit at Joyland.

In 1934 WLAP broadcast three University of Kentucky football games beginning with the Auburn game, October 27th. In 1935 four games were broadcast beginning with the Ohio State game, October 5th, for which the Lexington Herald announced it would furnish a description through their loudspeakers for all who wanted to listen to the game in their parking lot.

On September 19, 1936, Winston Clark announced WLAP had planned an extensive Sports program for the fall, including the University of Kentucky football schedule. Ed Ashford would handle the play-by-play description, and was to be assisted in the opening game by John G. Heber, Henry Clay High School Coach. Lyell Ludwig, WLAP announcer, assisted with several broadcasts. Ed Ashford began as a sports writer while a teen-ager, and in the mid- 1930's was employed at the Lexington Herald. He began a daily sports news program on WLAP in 1934, which continued until 1942 when he entered the military service. During the 1934-35 basketball season, he recreated from wire reports in the WLAP studios play-by-play accounts of some University of Kentucky out-of-town basketball games. On March 7,1935, he broadcast the first live description of a University of Kentucky basketball game. The Kentucky State High School basketball tournament was broadcast for the first time the same year, with Coach Adolph Rupp and A. B. "Happy" Chandler assisting Ed at the WLAP microphone. Additionally, Ed broadcast live play-by-play descriptions of numerous local area College and High School basketball and football games, and the Grand Circuit Trots. Keeneland opened with the 1936 Fall Meet, from October 15th through October 24th, and Ed broadcast all races each day over WLAP. In 1939, he broadcast the Bluegrass Stakes race to 103 stations of the Mutual Broadcasting System's network.

Dick Bray and Roger Baker provided play-by-play descriptions of the Cincinnati Reds from Crosley field, which were broadcast on WLAP. On September 20, 1936, Dr. Arthur Braden, President of Transylvania, announced that beginning September 28th, Transylvania would broadcast daily programs over WLAP from the campus, of educational, musical and dramatic nature. These programs were to be termed, the official educational extension productions of WLAP Transylvania, and would include performances by a 60-Piece Symphony Orchestra, and a 60-Piece Philharmonic Band; which were expected to supply the WLAP audience with a large number of good programs during the year.

WLAP announcers broadcast the description of the Regional running of the National Soap Box Derby.

During the 1938 Keeneland Spring Meet, Keeneland Publicity Director, Brownie Leach interviewed the founder of Keeneland, Mr. J. O. Keene, for WLAP's listeners.

WLAP's short-wave transmitting equipment, with call letters W9XPY and W9XPZ, was used for on the spot broadcasts of news and events where wire facilities were not available. The July 1939 flood that devastated Morehead and neighboring communities left wire circuits down, and short-wave equipments' range was inadequate. WLAP chartered an airplane, flew over the area, returned and reported the situation long before normal circuits could be used.

During the 1937 Ohio River flood, WLAP joined WSM in Nashville, WFBM in Indianapolis, and WCKY in Covington in providing service to the area, and during the period when WHAS lost power, these stations carried WHAS reports. Mayor Miller of Louisville moved his communications office to WLAP from where short-wave radio contact was maintained with Louisville and boats on the river for coordinating efforts with relief organizations.

n 1939 WLAP joined the Mutual Broadcasting System which provided a more
varied news service to the public and a variety of other programs. This was enhanced by WLAP's personnel and UPI Wire Service. WLAP news personnel were; J. E. (Ed) Willis, Tom Downing, Phil Sutterfield 1937-1939 and 1943 until the late 1940's, George Jesse, Frank Ellis, and announcer, Goodloe McDowell. The livestock market reports were broadcast daily from the Producers Cooperative Association Stockyard by Mr. Oney Cook or Mr. Crouch, and stock exchange reports were broadcast by Jack Castleman of the W. L. Lyons & Company.

The Sales Staff during the late 1930's consisted of J. E. (Ed) Willis, Sales Manager; and Miller A. Welch, Joe DeLong and Chris Moore. Ed Willis was originally employed as an Announcer, entered sales, became Sales Manager, Station Manager, and then General Manager of the Nunn-Station group. Joe DeLong, a native of Lexington, spent eleven years in Chicago handling newspaper and radio accounts before returning to Lexington, and joined WLAP in 1935. Chris Moore, also a native of Lexington, was employed in Dayton, Ohio before returning home where he was employed by the Lexington Herald, and joined WLAP in 1938. Miller A. Welch was a student at Purdue in 1933 when his band won the Big 10 Dance Orchestra contest. They immediately went on the road. In September 1936 the orchestra was performing at the Springhurst Dinner and Country Club in Lexington, when he was invited to meet the Nunn's and was employed for WLAP. His first responsibility was conducting the "Kiddie Klub" at the Ben Ali Theater. He remained with WLAP until 1958 with responsibilities in Sales, Sales Manager and then, General Manager.

Continuity Department personnel in the late 1930's, were; Kate Threlkeld, whose first employment responsibility in 1938 with WLAP was Night Receptionist; Wallace Swink, Frances Cleveland Smith, and Lora Standish Crandall. Lora Crandall had been a free-lance writer for a number of outstanding national network programs and had traveled abroad. She came to WLAP in 1938 and conducted the first women's program "Words To The Wives".

Office personnel were; Virginia Sharkey, secretary to the Nunn's; Mary Nugent, office secretary, who joined WLAP when it first began in Lexington; Lillian Reynolds, stenographer, who joined WLAP in 1938; Helen Robinson, 1939 -1949, secretary; William Holt, accountant; and Jake Shubinski, a high school student, was a part-time employee with a variety of responsibilities.

Technical personnel during the late 1930's were, Sanford Helt, Chief engineer; and his staff, A. T. Stewart, Mac McCormack, Frank L. Stewart, and C. Frank Newberry.

Some of the live programs during the late 1930's were; The Morning Roundup, a Country and Western music show directed by Asa Martin; Matt Adams and his Kentucky String Ticklers; Don Weston and his Westoners; Uncle Henry and The Kentucky Mountaineers; Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmy; The Old Singing School by whomever wanted to participate with familiar songs; The Lexington Singers with songs of yesterday and today; June Lacy at the Piano with a quarter-hour of piano music and songs with a modern rhythm; Juanita Crutcher, talented musician and member of the WLAP staff, at the Hammond Organ and Baldwin Concert Grand piano; The Prairie Dream boys, led by Paul Sapp and featuring vocalist, Jenny Wells, 1937 - 1940. Jenny Wells also had a 15-minute program, Songs by Jenny Wells; The Wheeler Amateur Hour from the Wheeler Studios in the Wheeler Furniture company, conducted by Catharine Warren; Hilly Foy, the Pennzip Boy, began in 1936; The Moonlight Ramblers; Mel Marvin and his dance orchestra from the Bluegrass Country Club; Bob Walker's band from the Joyland Casino; Gene Bryant and his orchestra nightly from the Blue Meadows Country Club; Bill Cross and his orchestra; The Lexington Little Theatre Group with dramatic presentations; The music of Jimmy Dorsey and his band in their appearance at Joyland; Miss Jimmie B. Lyons, vocalist; Miss Kay Kruse, pianist; Frank Goodfriend, xylophonist; Harlowe Dean, popular baritone of Lexington and music director at Calvary Baptist Church; Bob Albright, vocalist; Ross Todd, classical pianist; Tutt Flora, guitarist; The Clay Sisters, Stanley Elizabeth and Mary Eleanor, popular vocalists. Orchestra music from the Dixieland Nite Club, one of which was Chick Carter and his famous Orchestra; Community Sing directed by M. O. Landrum, and accompanied by Eleanor B. Knox, WLAP's Music Director.

Some of the religious programs were; The Revival of the Air, conducted by J. Archer Gray; Everybody's Church each Sunday from 11 :00 AM to 12:00 Noon, which began in 1934, from the Ben Ali Theater, conducted by J. Archer Gray. J. Archer Gray and his wife assisted the WLAP staff in preparing and delivering hundreds of baskets to needy families of Lexington at Christmas, sponsored by the Lexington Goodfellows Club; The Churches of Christ program by Evangelist C. W. Scott; Family Prayer Hour by Rev. Krebs family from their home; The Porter Memorial Church Sunday morning service, conducted by the Pastor C. L. Hargrove; Sunday evening services from Calvary Baptist Church; Morning Devotions daily by different speakers; The Church of the Nazarene; The Lexington Colored Churches weekly program on Sunday, directed by D. I. Reid; The Sunlight Four, a black quartet singing the old mellow spirituals.

WLAP with the Lexington Herald began an effort that resulted in the start of the Junior League Horse Show, and also the Golden Gloves finals for the Southeast. This joint effort also started the popular Kiddie Klub in 1936, where youngsters turned in soft drink bottle caps, diary food cartons, and similar items from sponsoring businesses for "votes" toward monthly prizes; bicycles, dolls and baseball gloves, and grand prizes; Ford V-8 Sedan, Electric Refrigerator and furniture.

The University of Kentucky radio productions were produced in the WLAP studios and several were fed coast-to-coast on the Mutual Network. WLAP broadcast the Keeneland Horse Sales, and in 1939 organized the Ashland-Aetna Oil Sports Network which continued for twenty years, and in the early 1950's complemented the sports off-season with the popular "Romance of Kentucky Quiz Show" hosted by J. B. Faulconer. This show traveled to various communities in Kentucky involving local participants, was recorded and distributed to the network stations. The Southern Network was organized in 1939 by Gilmore Nunn and WLAP for the Mutual Broad casting System, and originally consisted of WLAP, WGRC, WCMI and WSIX. In November 1947 WLAP broadcast and fed to the Network the funeral services of the famous racehorse Man-O-War, which was attended by over 2,000 people. WLAP co-sponsored construction of the Fayette County Fountains on the Fayette County Courthouse lawn, which were dedicated to the men and women who developed Fayette County.

During the late 1930's WLAP was involved in Facsimile testing with WLW, WGN and WOR, and closely with the Crosley Corporation. These tests were daily from 2:00 AM until 5:00 AM for an extended period. During this period WLAP joined WSM in the feasibility study of a microwave link via Louisville, for the transmission of programs in a network approach that decades later would be used by the national networks.

Commentator Paul Sullivan, when in the Lexington area, used the WLAP facilities for his network news feeds during the late 1930's.

WLAP became affiliated with the Blue Network on July 1, 1944, and Lexington Mayor R. M. Oldham congratulated the station on-the-air for obtaining the network's programming. Governor Simeon S. Willis, by letter to J. E. Willis, WLAP's General Manager, on July 5th, 1944, conveyed his congratulations on becoming a Blue Network affiliate. Some of the Mutual network's programming was retained until June 15, 1945, when the Blue Network became the American Broadcasting Company and Mutual Broadcasting System's network affiliation was terminated.

Some of the employees following the late 1930's were L. C. Redmon, 1953-1964, who began in Sales and became General Manager; Ann Jones, 1954-1962, had the popular "Talk of the Town" program, designed for the housewife-homemaker, that received wide recognition; Frank Faulconer, 1949- 1958, had the early morning show co-hosted with June McCulloch, the first female disc jockey in Lexington; J. B. Faulconer, 1940-1955, handled sports play-by-play on the Ashland-Aetna Oil Sports Network, and hosted the Romance of Kentucky Quiz Show in addition to sports news reports; Doris Hotlzclaw, 1940- 1957, as Receptionist and then Traffic Director; John Sutterfield, 1941-1944, studio engineer-announcer, who was on duty December 7, 1941 when the wire service carried the report of the attack on Pearl Harbor; Ralph L. Hucaby, 1942-1943, studio engineer; Henry C. Locklar, 1943-1957, in engineering, and became Chief Engineer about 1945. He was responsible for the installation of the directional antenna system in 1950, which consisted of some 5000-feet of air-dielectric transmission line and 230,000 feet of copper wire for the ground system, in addition to transmitters and audio equipment. Dave Parry, a student at the University of Kentucky, visited WLAP to play their piano, became Music Director and Program Director. Mignon Doran produced and announced special Women's programs which were broadcast coast-to-coast, as well as locally.

Departmental Management employees in 1955 were J. E. Willis, General Manager; Miller A. Welch, Assistant General Manager; Helen Brooks, Bookkeeper; Henry C. Locklar, Technical Director; Henry Allin, Public Services Director; Sue Ann Fenimore, News Director; J. B. Faulconer, Sports Director; Ann Jones, Women's Director; Jack Brooks, Program Director; Paul Everman, Farm Director. Joining the staff later were; Earl Boardman,1956- 1960, Sports Director; Nicholas Clooney, late 1950's; Dick Dixon, Farm Director; Stan Carr, Music Director, and Reynolds Large.

Beginning in 1952 WLAP sponsored an annual Easter Egg Hunt as a community service. On Saturday before Easter, two hunts were held at two different Lexington Parks. By 1960 the average attendance had grown to over 10,000 children and parents hunting for the more than 30,000 candy eggs, along with the 225 golden eggs which were numbered. Each of the numbered eggs were redeemable at the park for prizes donated by local merchants.

As a service to various Bluegrass area community civic clubs, WLAP personalities in 1956 began "Sok Hops" for the young people. This service reportedly earned over $7,000 for the Lexington Recreation Department in an eighteen month period. During the 1959 Kentucky High School Basketball tournament, Len Carl conducted a Sok Hop in which over 6500 teenagers participated.

The Community Broadcasting Company, owned by Frederic Gregg, Jr., Charles H. Wright, and Harry C. Feingold, purchased WLAP and WLAP-FM January 17,1957. Frederic Gregg was General Manager of the stations with the new ownership, but shortly relinquished this responsibility to L. C. Redmon.

The American Broadcasting Corporation was dissolved in February 1957. On April 24,1958, WLAP Radio, Inc., owned by John B. Poor, a Vice-President of RKO in New York, bought the stations. In the late 1950's, the stations switched network affiliations from ABC to the Mutual Broadcasting System, and relocated the studios and offices to the Featherston Building at 177 North Upper Street, where they remained until 1974.

The Thoroughbred Broadcasting Company purchased WLAP and WLAP-FM February 15, 1961. William R. Sweeney was President of the new ownership, and General Manager of both stations.

In October 1963 Thoroughbred Broadcasters, Inc. became the new owner, with Dee O. Coe, an Indiana resident, President. Robert J. O'Malley of Madison, Wisconsin was a Stockholder and Officer. By early 1964 Ken Hart was Vice-President and General Manager of the stations, and WLAP was operating 24-hours daily. Other management employees in April 1964, were: Jimmy A. Kincer, Technical Director; Ralph J. Campbell, Acting Chief Engineer; Cavin Barnette, Sales Manager; Philip H. McClure, Program Director; Robert J. Morton, Production Director; Lucinda M. Spencer, Public Service Director; and Bill Herald, News Director.

Mutual network affiliation was dropped in preference to affiliation with the National Broadcasting Company on March 14, 1966.

In 1966, Paul N. Lindsay, a Chicago Broadcasting Executive, and a group purchased WLAP's licensee corporation. Corporate officers were; Paul N. Lindsay, President and General Manager; Frank F. Wilson of Lexington, Vice-President; Raymond E. Daly of Gary, Indiana, Treasurer; Nicholas J. Clooney of Lexington, Assistant Treasurer; Thomas J. Radigan of Gary, Indiana, Secretary; and H. H. "Shorty" Stout of Lexington, Assistant Secretary.

WLAP and WLAP-FM were purchased in 1968 by Illinois Broadcasting Company, a Decatur, Illinois based Corporation with Merrill L. Lindsay, Chairman of the Board, and Charles R. Griggs, Executive Vice-President. The Corporation also owns, WSOY and WSOY-FM, Decatur, Illinois and WFRL and WXXQ-FM, Freeport, Illinois.

Plans were formulated early in IBC's ownership to utilize current state-of-the-art technology throughout the plant, thereby improving service to the central Kentucky area and realizing a more efficient operation from both stations.

The NBC network was released in 1971, in preference to becoming a CBS network affiliate. Later, RKO network's No. I and 2 and some programs from the Mutual Broadcasting System network were added. WLAP programs with "Adult Contemporary" music, while WLAP-FM has programmed with "Adult Stereo Rock" music since 1974, and both are complemented with a news staff reporting local area news and news feature programs.

During IBC's ownership, a complete renovation of every area of the stations' operations have been realized. Both stations were relocated to a new studio-office building at the transmitting plant location on Russell Cave Road in 1974. At this time WLAP-FM's operating power was increased from 3540 to 50,000 Watts ERP, and stereo operation started with automatic programming equipment. Further improvements were completed in 1980, with increased antenna height from 279 to 642 feet HAAT. WLAP and WLAP-FM operations contain current state-of-the-art technology in all departments, and keeps abreast of new technology for continuing means of providing service second to none to the central Kentucky area, whether for day to day entertainment and information or disseminating information in times of emergency conditions.

The management and staff of WLAP and WLAP-FM takes pride in the innovative history of our operations, and are dedicated to continuing reliable service to the central Kentucky area.

Check back here often as we bring the history of Kentucky's oldest radio station back to life. If you are a former employee or have information on it's history, please contact Kevin Bell at
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(This page was copied with permission from WLAP, as Lew Owen's History of Lexington Radio. I do not know if the contact at Clear Channel Communicatiions is still good. Scott)