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Fresh Listen: WAKY Louisville KY

WAKY 103.5 Louisville 620 100.1

In the early years of the Ross On Radio newsletter, WAKY-FM Louisville, Ky., was a relatively consistent presence. One of the truly great AMs of the ‘60s and ‘70s, in a market with a unique hit music history, was being saluted by a suburban FM. Legendary former PD Johnny Randolph was in afternoons, while vintage jingles played between songs-not-always-heard-on-Classic-Hits-stations. Within a year, more traditional rival WRKA was gone (something that could easily have happened anyway in that era).

I haven’t written about WAKY recently. As an audio tourist, there were always new choices for Oldies stations that went beyond the safe list, even if most of them weren’t FMs in significant markets. Also, WAKY’s numbers weren’t published for many years. Last month that changed, and in the recently-released August ratings, the station was in the top 5, 12-plus, 4.7-5.5, putting WAKY ahead of both the Mainstream AC and the more traditional Classic Rock outlet. It’s now heard on three frequencies—thanks to the addition of an AM and a translator covering more of the city and Indiana suburbs.

The emergence, then endurance of “Heritage Oldies” as a subformat in general has been encouraging. AM outlets drawing on older music and vintage presentational elements have come and gone. But on FM, WTIX-FM New Orleans carries on, still playing songs not heard outside of that market. So does WIBG-FM Ocean City, N.J. There were murmurs about modernization when WLNG Eastern Long Island, N.Y., was sold, but it marches on, in defiance of time and radio law as well.

WAKY is centered in the ‘70s and still playing the ‘60s—more of them on the weekends. That’s how I remember them, but it’s particularly noticeable after a decade when the Classic Hits format is ten years newer. Randolph is still in afternoons. The music is still punctuated by PAMS and JAM jingles from the ‘70s (and on the ‘60s on the weekends). Promotionally, it feels like there’s more going on—there was an upcoming Dodge Journey GT giveaway and a tie-in with an annual bourbon festival. There was also an ongoing on-air promotional campaign—“The WAKY Generation”—with a lot of drops from listeners who remembered WAKY-AM.

Here’s WAKY just before 10 a.m., (and top-of-the-hour news) on Sept. 16:

  • Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On”
  • Grand Funk, “Some Kind of Wonderful”
  • Sister Sledge, “We Are Family”
  • Rod Stewart, “Forever Young”
  • Beach Boys, “Fun Fun Fun”
  • Bee Gees, “Lonely Days”
  • Firefall, “Just Remember I Love You”
  • Bonnie Raitt, “Something To Talk About”
  • O’Jays, “For The Love Of Money”
  • John Mellencamp, “Hurt So Good”
  • Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds, “Don’t Pull Your Love”
  • Beatles, “Get Back”
  • Commodores, “Lady (You Bring Me Up)”
  • Fleetwood Mac, “You Make Lovin’ Fun”
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  1. StogieGuy says

    I tune into this station every time I’m in the Louisville area and am really pleased to see that the locals do too. However, I must say that the daypart that you logged is really ho-hum compared with what I am usually treated to on WAKY. Evenings, especially, are much broader and you hear more “wow” songs than depicted here. Anyhow, this station is an audio treat and it’s a testament to the ownership and PD that it hasn’t been “modernized”, washed and bleached like the vast majority of classic hits stations. Even once great ones are currently boring as hell to listen to.

    1. Sean Ross says

      I’ve gone back to WAKY a few times, including tonight and I’ve just gone from “Crystal Blue Persuasion” to Fleetwood Mac, “Over My Head.” That’s pretty typical of what I’ve encountered. Neither is an oh wow, but neither of them are still on the larger-market Classic Hits stations either, so winning with them is still a statement.

      Going back to WAKY for the first time in a while has also sent me back to WTIX, The first time I turned them on, they played Mel & Tim, “Starting All Over Again” and followed it with the Hall & Oates remake. Tonight, I got Box Tops, “Neon Rainbow.” WTIX will also play some songs that were only New Orleans hits, If I wish WAKY went deep anywhere, it would be on songs like “Slow Motion” by Johnny Williams or “Stranger” by Johnny Duncan–the R&B and Country hits respectively that crossed over only on WAKY. But I haven’t spent enough time with the weekends when they go deeper.

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