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WVLK AM/FM

WVLK-AM 590 was first licensed in 1947, with studios located in Versailles, KY. (Thus the VLK, Versailles, Lexington, KY). They moved shortly afterwards to Lexington into the Lafayette Hotel, then later to the Phoenix Hotel, where they remained until approximately 1980, when they moved to their current location in the Kincaid Towers. Throughout all of this time, Paul Dunbar (PD as he was known) was the Chief Engineer, until his retirement in 1986.

WVLK started out as a 1KW, N-DA station, but in 1959, added a 5th tower to its 4-tower pattern and became a 5KW Daytime, 1KW night station with a DA-2 license. Open wire feeders fed the nighttime array. This was always a challenge on rainy days or during icestorms when readings would go crazy. WVLK used a Collins 21E 5KW transmitter until 1978 when a Harris MW-5 was purchased. The original Gates BC-1E transmitter was kept as the standby and was used on the air during commercial power interruptions because it was a single-phase unit, and the other transmitters required three phase power. The 30KW generator installed in 1976 was only a single-phase unit, as was its 10KW backup. Needless to say, when the 10KW generator was online, most everything else at the transmitter site was offline.

WVLK-FM 92.9, "The Beautiful Island", went on the air in 1961 playing easy listening music via an automation system at the AM transmitter site. The transmitter was actually housed in a small shed at the base of Tower #1. It was an old ITA transmitter, rated at 5KW. The station was licensed at 32KW ERP with an antenna height of 290 feet. In 1975, WVLK-FM was granted an increase to Class C status. They moved to their sister television station's tower (WKYT-TV) at 980' with 100KW ERP, utilizing a pair of Gates FM-20H3 transmitters. The old ITA transmitter was retired from backup service in 1980, and a new Harris FM-5 was installed. WVLK-FM utilized two separate sites for their main and backup transmitting plants. For years, there was no STL between their AM studio and Production Center and their FM transmitter site. All FM programming originated from the manned AM transmitter site, using the duty operators there to program the automation, load commercials and record feeds.

WVLK is unique in my experience for a station in the 73rd ADI to use transmitter engineers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They maintained two complete stereo studio's at their transmitter site. A new building, the Paul Dunbar Building, was completed in the late 1980's housing the AM transmitters and phasing units, FM controls and the capability to run all operations. In my 15-month career at WVLK, the ability to run operations from the transmitter was used as an emergency backup at least twice.

If you have pictures or any corrections and/or additions to this article, please send me a comment.