Turning the tables

Everyone in Winchester knows Tim Smith as the guy who asks the ques­tions. As the host of Mornings on Main on Winchester radio sta­tion WWKY, 990 AM and 102.9 FM, Tim has inter­viewed hun­dreds of folks on the air. This week WCN&V’s Chuck Witt reversed roles with Tim, ask­ing the ques­tions and allow­ing Tim to answer. The two men sat down at the stu­dios of the sta­tion at 138 North Main Street on December 21.

WCN&V – Since you spend two hours per day, five days per week inter­view­ing oth­er peo­ple, it’s nice to be able to turn the tables on you a bit and ask you some ques­tions.  To start with, give us a lit­tle his­to­ry of WWKY.

TS – WWKY came on the air in October of 1954.  It was owned by Bluegrass Broadcast which was owned by Garvice Kincaid, who also owned WVLK, WKYT, WUKY in Richmond, and WFKY in Frankfort, Central Bank, and some oth­er enter­pris­es. The stu­dio at that time was locat­ed at 17 12 West Broadway on the sec­ond floor over a liquor store.  The broad­cast tow­er was locat­ed on Mt. Sterling road across from what lat­er became Lykins Park. Eventually, the FCC deter­mined that Mr. Kincaid could not own all these broad­cast sta­tions and would have to divest of some of them. He chose to divest the three small radio sta­tions and a gen­tle­man named Don Horton wound up with WWKY. It was lat­er sold in 1981 to the Cromwell Radio Group in Nashville, Tennessee and run by Bud Walters.  While he owned it, it was com­bined with an FM sta­tion, 100.1.  He lat­er sold the two sta­tions to Premier Broadcast Group of Albany, New York and they oper­at­ed the sta­tions until the ear­ly part of 1991.  Then 100.1 was sold to the IHeart group and oper­at­ed as WKQQ. I wound up with Kelly Combs and Jerry Patton with 1380 and we sold it to Mike Dempsey in 1995 and it was moved to Lexington and Winchester lost its local radio station.

Tim Smith in the stu­dio of Winchester radio sta­tion WWKY, 990 AM and 102.9 FM

WCN&V – So what hap­pened then?

TS – In 2007, Hays McMakin had an FM sta­tion oper­at­ing out of Mt. Sterling and began broad­cast­ing high school ball games in Clark County.  I left the radio busi­ness in 1995 and was brought back in 2009 by Mr. McMakin and start­ed get­ting involved more in local issues. In 2016 we became aware of FM trans­la­tors which would enhance the mar­ketabil­i­ty of AM radio

WVN&V – Which led to what?

TS – In order to secure an FM trans­la­tor, you have to also have an AM license and we no longer had 1380.  So we had to go look­ing for an AM license and the only way to get one is to buy one that is going out of busi­ness.  We were lucky enough to find 990, which was being oper­at­ed by a sin­gle indi­vid­ual who was run­ning the 990 out of his house and play­ing church tapes all day.  He was about 70 years old and want­ed to get out of the busi­ness so we bought the fre­quen­cy, not his busi­ness, just the fre­quen­cy.  And so, with an AM sta­tion on board, we were now able to secure an FM fre­quen­cy as well, 102.9.

WCN&V – And how do the AM and FM operate?

TS – The AM fre­quen­cy oper­ates at 1000 watts dur­ing the day and drops to 20 watts at night.  This is done to pro­tect met­ro­pol­i­tan area broad­casts so we aren’t broad­cast­ing over them. The FM fre­quen­cy oper­ates at 250 watts all day but it’s designed to basi­cal­ly cov­er the coun­ty so you’ll lose the sig­nal when you hit the Boonesboro Bridge. During the day, 990 AM can reach as far as Elizabethtown or Edgewood in north­ern  Kentucky.

WCN&V – So how does the sta­tion oper­ate dur­ing the day after Mornings on Main?

TS – There are five sta­tions as part of this group, WWKY, WMST and WKYN in Mt. Sterling, WKCA and WIVY in Morehead.  Four of the five sta­tions oper­ate off satel­lite ser­vice from Westwood One which has mul­ti­ple for­mats from which each sta­tion can select.  Our pro­gram­ming here comes from Denver, Colorado and it’s live. We have rough­ly eigh­teen min­utes per hour where we can plug in local ele­ments, com­mer­cials, weath­er fore­casts, etc.  Our for­mat is called Light Adult Contemporary. We can pull away when­ev­er we want to broad­cast local inter­est infor­ma­tion such as Clark County ball games.  So we pull away and do Mornings on Main.

WCN&V – You don’t have some­one in the build­ing twen­ty-four hours, do you?  You don’t require staff here to oper­ate equip­ment at night?

TS – No, we have to have some­one in the build­ing from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to meet FCC broad­cast requirements.

WCN&V – Who com­pris­es the staff here at WWKY?

TS – Neal Howard is the Head Producer.  He han­dles most of the com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion, and Cora Hefner is the Administrative Assistant.

WCN&V – Let’s go back a minute and talk about how WWKY got from West Broadway to 138 North Main Street.

TS – We moved from that loca­tion to a sec­ond-floor office at 53 South Main Street, above what was then the Bethany Book Room, and weren’t there for very long before mov­ing to the small cub­by­hole on Cleveland Avenue that was next to the Elkins/Keeton Law Office. I expect you remem­ber it, about five feet wide and twen­ty feet deep. We moved there in 2009. I had to go across the street to the Courthouse if I need­ed to use the restroom. When we real­ized that we were going to be able to oper­ate the AM and FM togeth­er we start­ed look­ing for a more per­ma­nent place. I had been over on Highland Street on some busi­ness and was com­ing down Depot Street and saw a for sale sign on this build­ing.  Hays McMakin and I inves­ti­gat­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a long-term lease but were offered a good price to buy it and it has turned out to be per­fect for our pur­pos­es. We bought the build­ing in 2017 and WWKY was back on the air in January of 2018.

WCN&V – And how about you, Tim.  Are you a native of Winchester?

TS – No, I was raised in Cynthiana, but my grand­par­ents lived here in Winchester, in Bön Haven.  After grad­u­at­ing high school in 1973, I entered EKU and while there I would fin­ish class­es and dri­ve back to Winchester and be a DJ on WWKY. And then I worked at WVLK as a disc jock­ey from 1976 to 1980, but I’ve always loved the small­er town atmos­phere so came to WWKY as soon as I had the chance.

WCN&V – Well, Tim, it’s been a real plea­sure talk­ing with you and get­ting a great dose of local his­to­ry.  Thanks for your time and for what you do for the community.

TS – My plea­sure.  Thank you.

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