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95.7 WQHI
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A History of WQHI

by Bill Elliott, original Operations Manager/Chief Engineer
2006 by Bill Elliott

WQHI, aka HI-95, hit the Louisville airwaves in April 1974. Consisting of a 1,400 sq. ft. studio/office in Jeffersonville, the transmitter site was in Harrison County, Indiana.

The strange thing about the introduction of WQHI to the Louisville market was that it almost never happened. Here's why:

WQHI was owned and operated by a company named Whateversfair, Inc. The principle owner, John Rutledge, had roots in Owensboro and became a highly successful broadcaster in Florida with stations that included WLOF-AM and WLOQ-FM in Orlando and WQXM-FM in Tampa. Specializing in high profile Top-40 (WLOF), his love of beautiful music and big band brought success on the FM side with WLOQ and WQXM. It may not have been public knowledge, but John had the opportunity to purchase WVEZ in late 1972 and early 1973, which we had planned to maintain in the beautiful music format with the addition of big band, which would have given John his third successful FM utilizing his proven Beautiful Music/Big Band format he had pioneered in Florida.

A quick sidebar to the name, "Whateversfair, Inc." It was inspired by Rutledge's signature response to new ideas. Run something by him and you usually were given, "whatever's fair" as a response. Rutledge also had a couple of other short-lived broadcast companies: "Great Joy, Inc.", which was his usual positive response when things were going right, and "Virtually Perfect, Inc.," which was how he responded when asked how he was doing that day. He loved these lines so much, they became corporate names.

As things progressed with the purchase of WVEZ, John received a call from our FCC attorney and was told about a floundering company with a construction permit that was about to expire. It was a class B frequency on 95.7 licensed to Jeffersonville. We looked into this a little closer and found the CP did indeed exist and the people involved were willing to let it go. The financial details were arranged, but with the FCC being far different way back when with ownership transfer laws, we had to proceed cautiously to avoid unlawful transfer of control. For an exceedingly low investment of well below $50,000.00 (that's fifty thousand), the ultimate purchase of the station transpired. It had to be built and in operation before the sale could be finalized, but Rutledge took that chance and funded the project with the stipulation that a few of his Florida people were going to operate the station. With everyone in agreement, the WVEZ purchase was abandoned and the new "Stereo 96" project was on the drawing board.

During this time, it was discovered further that the FCC had assigned call signs to the station since no one had applied for any. It just so happened the calls WQHI were next in line for FCC assignment. So we started with the concept of beautiful music with big band on the new "WQHI, Stereo 96." A closer look at Louisville revealed, however, that the beautiful music market was more than likely the wrong direction for the station. A rock format was the next choice. John was extremely hesitant to even remotely approach anything "live" on his new station since FM was still a relatively new arena for rock formats and there was the lack of upstart capital. I honestly don't think John would mind this particular confession in this day and age, but it was a subject that was definitely not discussed in 1974!

Rutledge had good business and personal ties with the folks at TM Productions in Dallas. Along came the "Stereo Rock" format that hit the air waves.

We were still going with the concept of "Stereo 96" even with TM signed up. There was one nagging problem that we could not get over. How redundant does "Stereo Rock on Stereo 96" sound? We were sitting around the General Manager's house while still in Florida brainstorming the logo one evening. We had three elements in front of us: "WQHI", which was picked by the FCC; "95.7", which was the frequency; and "Stereo 96", that just did not go well with TM's "Stereo Rock," which they promoted heavily in their identifiers (jingles, custom liners, etc.). Back in 1973, no one used decimal point frequencies as on-air identifiers. It was easier to look at your slide rule FM tuner and locate "92", "101" or whatever. The conversation of the evening started out that the station was at "96," so what do we put in front of it? Charlie Champion, our original program director, all of the sudden blurted out "Hi 95" with the argument that the "HI" part was already in the call letters and the "95" part was part of our frequency anyway. So the station became "HI-95" that night in late 1973 due to someone arguing it wasn't "96" on the dial, but since it was 95.7, it was sure enough "HI-95"!

There were so many negatives and set-backs on trying to get this station on the air, I sometimes think we would have never achieved our goal if there wasn't a team effort driven to make it happen. A few of the negatives:

  • The land that was purchased by the previous company for the transmitter site would not hold a tower. We had to have a "short guyed" tower designed and installed that required four sets of guys rather than the traditional three. The top of the hill in Harrison County was too small for the guy wire runs, so two of them were actually ran down the hill and anchored below the tower base itself.

  • The transmitter site was short spaced with another station south and west from us. We had to apply for a special waiver to directionalize the FM signal away from the short spaced station. Working closely with RCA and the FCC in order for this directional antenna permit to be issued, we weren't sure if the FCC was even going to grant this waiver. Directional FMs were not a common thing back then.

  • We tried, without success, to locate the studios in Kentucky so we could get a good-direct microwave shot to the tower. We applied twice to the FCC to grant us permission to locate in Louisville as a "hardship case" due to technical issues with microwave. The first studio location was going to be in a three-story office building in Shively. The second application for waiver was going to be the building where WLRS was located right out of downtown (I am not sure if WLRS ever knew that we had an entire west end of a floor in the building on reserve for us!). Both requests were turned down by the Commission. We were back to finding a space to rent in Jeffersonville or -- definitely not an option -- build studios at the transmitter site and operate a sales office somewhere in town. The absolute only site where we could operate our microwave that was available at the time was the Medical Arts doctors' office right beside the hospital in Jeffersonville. The doctors that owned the building at first rejected, almost violently, to the idea of a radio station renting space there. But they must have started looking at their nearly empty building and guessed a long term tenant such as a radio station wasn't such a bad idea. And we decided having a radio station with an address on "Sparks Avenue" was cool, so that is where and why we ended up there!

  • Just when things were looking good and the station was built and waiting for "Program Test Authority" -- again, things weren't automatic at the FCC in those days -- the 1974 tornado hit Louisville. I was putting the final touches on the studios when I thought the building exploded. Even in Jeffersonville, the bad weather made me never want to be in the middle of a tornado. After trying to get home, then seeing what had happened on TV, I honestly felt our transmitter site was gone. The twister came right out of the hills, hit in S.W. Louisville and proceeded to do its destruction. Our tower site was in line with the storm. There was a curfew in place and I could not get to the tower site that night. The next morning, I made my way out to Harrison County, and the site was relatively intact. Just a lot of debris around the guy wires, etc. I called our tower company back into town, and the station got a clean bill of health: no tornado damage to the antenna and transmission line.

We got the OK from the FCC to sign-on and, as they say, the rest is history. Our first song? "Oh My My," by Ringo Starr. We decided our big hunk of green metal automation machine should have a name. It became the "Boogie Machine," so we thought it appropriate to play Ringo with part of the lyrics being, ".......can you boogie?"


WQHI's Charlie Champion
(1974-1975)

The studios consisted of one production room that doubled as a control room and one room for the automation. The production room was equipped completely stereo, including the mikes. A list of the equipment is as follows:

Ampro ten channel stereo rotary fader console
Scully 280B-2 two-track reel-to-reel recorder
Revox two-track reel-to-reel recorder
SMC stereo cart recorder
SMC stereo cart playback
2 - Russco turntables w/MicroTrak wood tone arms
3 - Sennheiser 421 mikes
2 - Electro Voice Sentry monitor speakers
1 - Set of Gates/Harris studio furniture
Teletype brand encoding equipment to get logging information on the carts for the automation system

All of the studio equipment was mounted on risers for "stand-up" operation. The studio/offices were located on the third floor of the Medical Arts building with the production room being in the corner of the suite. We had two windows on each corner that gave us a nice view from there.


WQHI Christmas Card depicting a clever cartoon
version of the station's automation system

The automation was a SMC (Sono Mag Corp) Model 3060. It was a totally sequential system that had to be programmed by either slide switches (on the main controller) or thumbwheel switches (on the carousel controllers). It was capable of handling 10 stereo sources, which we had full. It came in five racks, which consisted of:

4 - Scully 270-2 reel-to-reel playback machines capable of handling 14" reels. We only used 10.5" reels on it.
3 - SMC stereo playback cart machines. 1 for the Station ID, 1 for image liners and 1 for jingles.
3 - 24 tray SMC Carousels for commercial playback.
3 - SMC carousel programmers. These things had fifty 24-position thumbwheel switches on each programmer. Once each day, we had to manually set these switches depending how the commercials were to be played back using the daily log as a reference. No computers, all hand set. On busy commercial days, we had to manually program these switches twice in a 24-hour period.
1 - SMC 3060 program controller. This unit consisted of sixty 11-position slide switches which determined the basic program clock (or format rotation). We usually were able to set this switch unit up once or twice a day, but sometimes it had to be changed hourly. The programmer would control the actual sequence the tape, cart, and carousel machines would play during an hour. The ten machines had designator numbers on them that corresponded with the switch position number. In other words, if you placed the first switch in position one and the second switch in position three, the number one Scully would start followed by Scully number three. Trust me, a monkey could program this thing. It was not complicated at all, just a lot of switch flipping!

The audio chain was a CBS Labs Audimax for audio leveling and a CBS Labs Volumax for peak limiting. We never thought it was necessary to "crank" these things for loudness. We let that nonsense up to the AMs. We tried to have the best sounding audio possible while controlling overall levels for FCC compliance. The station had a good "warm" sounding stereo signal.

Our Studio Transmitter Link (microwave) was two Marti transmitters operating in discreet left and right modes.

The transmitter site consisted of a Collins 10kw transmitter and an RCA/Dielectric 8 bay directional FM antenna. The tower was 340' tall and was located just north and east of Elizabeth on top of the hills in Harrison County, Indiana.


WQHI License Plate

A little about TM's Stereo Rock:

The basic library consisted of four categories, with each having its own reel number series. The "100s" were the current songs that were grouped together in two's. This is also the reel where the announcer lived. Coming out of either an ID or jingle after a break, reel series 100 would roll, play two current songs then the TM announcer would come on with the "That was (what ever the song was) and before that (whatever the first song was)". They used to get creative and say "That was ______________and prior to that _______________", which I guess broke the monotony of saying the same thing over and over again.

The "200s" were the oldies, which would usually roll right after the 100 reel would get done. "300s" were recurrent songs, which played after the 200s. If there was time left in the quarter hour before each commercial break, the machine was programmed to run back and forth between the 200s and 300s. The 100s always ran immediately after each stopset, which was four times an hour.

There was also a "400" series that contained album cuts that were not considered mainstream hits. These songs were always back announced by TM with the name of the artist, song and album. We played these at nights only. TM could never make their minds up whether to play the 400s or not. They would tell us it was okay to play them, then a month later, they would suggest they get pulled. This went on for months until we decided to play them anyway.

So, the basic hour clock looked something like this:

Station ID
100
Jingle
200
300
200 (fill)
300 (fill)
200 (fill)
300 (fill)
Image Liner
Stopset - 2 minutes in length, no more than 3 spots (One 60 & two 30s)
Jingle
100
Jingle
200
...and so on.

Each quarter hour was the same.

The 400s at night were placed between the 200 and 300 categories.

 Sample TM Stereo Rock Cue Sheets
 Reel 205  Reel 307  Reel 400
 Reel 216  Reel 311  Reel 402

The current tapes were updated every two weeks. We had about 10-15 current tapes always in rotation. The recurrents were updated about four times a year. They added a few reels here and there to get the former currents back on the air in recurrent form. The oldies were updated about two times a year. Again, a few of the former recurrents would show up in the oldies reels eventually. The old tapes were requested to be sent back to Dallas so they could reuse the metal reels, although a mountain of them would pile up before they were ever shipped back!

TM's Stereo Rock was consulted by George Burns Media out of Los Angeles. George would make a market visit about every six months. We would discuss the overall sound and direction of the station. Although we subscribed to TM's syndicated format, George would listen to local input and allow us to take certain songs out of the library while placing some songs in locally. This gave us some slightly regional sound to the station. It also gave us the freedom to remove "Beach Baby" that played over and over in the middle of winter. (I don't hate too many songs, but that one is high on my "kill" list!) The playlists, reel rotation, music updates, etc., were all furnished by TM under the direction of George Burns.

We localized the liners and station IDs with the jingles being customized for the station by TM. The jingles were TM's standard Stereo Rock package and they were also updated at least once a year or two to avoid a stale sound.

TM was a great company to work with. They never questioned what we were doing on the station and we always got good critiques when they listened to us. I think what was unique for our situation is we weren't just the "FM" side of a multi station operation and the automation wasn't just sitting in a room with no one operating it. This happened a lot back then. In some situations, the AM jocks were usually required to operate the FM automation. They were always busy, the tapes would run out and the station would run jingles and commercials for an hour. Since WQHI was a standalone station staffed 24 hours a day, the automation always had someone monitoring it and taking care of routine operational problems if they ever came up. Keep in mind, these were the days of pre-hard drive computers. This was an analog-driven automation system that had to have its music reels changed once every couple of hours. If the reel runs out and was not changed, guess what? Dead air and on-air chaos!


WQHI Promotional Coaster, complete with record-like grooves

A few questions I have had over the years:

  • Did we make an impact on Louisville radio? I think so.

  • Were we the smartest radio broadcasters in the world? I doubt it.

  • Did we believe in what we were doing and try to do our best with available resources? Definitely!

  • Did we ever talk about or make fun of other Louisville radio stations? Never!

  • Did other Louisville radio stations talk about us? A big YES! I have heard, more than once, subtle mentions of us on WAKY, WKLO and WLRS things like, "We're live, not like other stations you hear," or "We're not a metal machine playing music." I guess the "metal machine" was a reaction to our TV spot audio that contained the line "HI-95's Boogie Machine, it's a ton of metal that thinks its rock."

Here's a personal secret: My favorite radio station in Louisville was WAKY. The first time I ever traveled to Louisville working on the HI-95 project, I tuned in WAKY and heard Bill Bailey. I was in absolute awe of the station. The folks there knew how to do radio and do it right!

I had returned to Louisville briefly in 1984 to work at WRKA. The best compliment I ever had about HI-95 was from a telephone man working with me at the WRKA transmitter site one evening telling me about this amazing automatic radio station he used to listen to when he was a teenager. He went on to tell me about how a computer ran the station and all his friends loved it. He said he wished HI-95 never went away. This was totally unsolicited by me, and I was very humbled hearing someone whom I did not know talking about his favorite radio station from ten years earlier.

I am proud to be a part of Louisville radio and its FM broadcasting history. I hope this website lives on so people can read about Louisville radio of the past and how it has evolved to the present.

When did WQHI become WQMF? Former WQHI staffer Alan White writes:

"QHI stayed intact through the end of 1980...just after John Lennon's murder. We did an all-night call-in tribute that night...seriously broke the TM format.

"The Woods family empire of Cincinnati (WEBN) bought the station and took over in January, 1981. They sent the old man down to assure us that they didn't have a staff waiting at the Holiday Inn. Apparently, they were at the Days Inn. The QHI full-time staff was picked off one by one shortly after the Woods took over. It was a sad and heart-breaking episode. But we all lived through it. Bob Reis got into the Heating and Air business, where he remains to this day.

"I went to WINN 1240 for a while. It was tough. Many paychecks bounced. I eventually went back to work for my uncle in the electrical business. Then in 1984 I went to WKJJ (later WDJX) and worked part-time...then fulltime for about two years. I jumped over to WAKY in March, 1986. I worked the overnight, then became production director. I left WAKY in March, 1987 and went to the Kentucky News Network. I stayed at KNN for nearly 13 years, until Jacor merged with Clear Channel. The heads rolled. Mine was one. In April 2000, I joined the Salem Radio Group. I stayed just over four years...until I fizzled-out one day...and walked away. Christian Radio is brutal.

"After that, I went to Metro Networks for about a year. Split-shift traffic reports. UGH! Metro moved me into news. During my stay at Metro, I got my foot in the door at Cox-Louisville as a part-time board-op. I also earned my Master Electrician license from the state of Kentucky. I got the electrical license as a hedge against the turbulence of radio. (I'm keeping that damned license forever!)

"In late Summer of '05, Cox brought me on fulltime as continuity manager. I have since taken on the additional duties of traffic manager for WRKA and WPTI (New Country). Cox is the GREATEST place I've ever worked! I love it...and plan to stay for the rest of my life."

WQHI Sales Kit
Thanks to Bill Elliott for sending us scans of the promotional material WQHI passed out to prospective advertisers. You'll see lots of cool photos and station "stuff" of interest to any WQHI fan.
Arbitron Statement Bill Elliott Statement
Bill and the Automation Charlie Champion Statement
Contour Map Fact Sheet
File Folder George Burns Bio
Ken Knight Statement Listener Letter
Outside Ad Page 1 Outside Ad Page 2
Rate Card Front Rate Card Inside
Management Combination Selcom Station List
WQHI Staff Welcome to the Music
WQHI Audio
WQHI 1974 Dry Liners and Legal IDs
:49 - 383 KB
WQHI 1974 Produced Legal IDs
:51 - 404 KB

Bill Elliott writes: "A quick note about the music behind the 1974 station legal IDs. The SMC automation we used would not auto log the legal ID when we put it on with dry voice only. We had to add the longer music bed behind the TM announcer to allow time for the Teletype auto logging to print out the time, etc for the legal ID on the hard copy paper log, which you had to have way back when."
WQHI 1975 Quad Liners
:52 - 413 KB

Bill Elliott says: "These image liners went on the air in 1975 after we went 'Quad'. The quad system was a Sansui QS encoder that enhanced the stereo into a matrix (simulated) quad sound. It actually worked quite nicely. I don't know how long they left the quad encoder on line, since the concept of quad died on the vine as quickly as it came out."
WQHI Simulated Aircheck #1
17:10 - 12,078 KB

This presentation was assembled by WQHI staff who inserted WQHI liners, jingles and spots into an existing TM Stereo Rock demo. It gives you a good idea what WQHI sounded like during its first year. TM later changed the service's "voice" to John Borders, who can be heard on the second simulated aircheck below.

WQHI Simulated Aircheck #2
1:02 - 487 KB

This simulated WQHI aircheck was part of a TM demo for the Stereo Rock format. It was produced after Dallas announcer John Borders became the official voice of the format.
WQHI TV Spot Audio
:28 - 165 KB

Bill Elliott provides the background on this WQHI TV spot: "We had the video cut somewhere (I think it was through someone TM knew, but not sure). This was well before digital graphics. The spot was a totally black background on the screen with 'floating' WQHI 95 letters moving up, down and all around the screen. We placed the electronic noises on the audio while the letters floated around. They then all lined themselves up and froze into place when the HI95 jingle hit. It was actually pretty cool how they floated the letters around and made them line themselves up on cue. How did they do it? The studio was totally blacked out with people dressed in blacked-out costumes holding the letters, which were painted in day-glow colors. I think they did use black light in the studio, but I can't remember. They started the spot out by dancing around and waving the letters up, down and all around. On cue, they lined all the letters up and they held them still until the end of the spot. It was a great video effect for the day!"
WQHI TV Spot Audio - Revised
:29 - 230 KB

Bill Elliott says: "The revised TV spot is the audio that was changed for the 'floating letter' TV spot when we introduced quad on the station. The voice is Les Cook, who went by the name of Jonathon Stone while at WQHI. We added 'Stone' to his name when he came over from WLRS and was using just one name on the air (Jonathon)."
WQHI Richie Havens Liner
:05 - 45 KB
WQHI Jingles

WQHI 1974 TM Jingles
:26 - 417 KB
WQHI 1975 TM Jingles
:35 - 548 KB
WQHI TM Liner/Jingle Hybrids
2:23 - 2248 KB
For more information on TM jingles, go to the Jones TM Website.
All audio is in downloadable MP3 format.

 

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