SPECIAL SECTION

RAY LIVESAY AND WLBH, MATTOON, IL

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151.

 

WLBH ON-AIR IN 1946

WLBH ON-AIR IN 1946

J. R.  "RAY" LIVESAY  BIOGRAPHY

Ray Livesay of Mattoon has provided us with a detailed account of the history of radio in Coles County.

 

Mr. Livesay describes the  first  radio station in Coles County as being a tiny transmitter built by R.A. Lumpkin  (son of the Lumpkin telephone pioneers.      This   station, started in 1922, had call letters WQAL, was nicknamed "The Buckle on the Cornbelt."   WQAL did not become a commercial station.

Until 1946  WDZ radio at Tuscola would serve the needs of Coles County and Central Illinois. Ray would move back to Mattoon from serving in the Navy during WW II.  Mattoon Broadcasting Company was organized consisting of R.D.   Bills   Sr.,  Paul Harris and Livesay as stockholders.

J.R. Livesay was president and also general manager of the new broadcast company. He would work full time to get the new station approved by the FCC and ready to begin broadcasting.

One of the first things he had to do was to find a location to build the new transmitter.  Land was leased land on the Bates Farm  about  one-half mile  north  of Mattoon on U. S. Highway 45.  The studio would be located on the top floor of the old National Bank Building at 17th and Broadway.   Construction of the station was begun on May of 1946.  The studio was quite elaborate with booths for announcers and a small theater for live productions.

A tower 220 feet in height was erected on the Bates Farm site.     The transmitter was in a small building next to the tall tower.

WLBH ORIGINAL STAFF IS HIRED

The first WLBH staff included:

Rolland O.Looper, sales manager

Andrew S. Kirk, chief engineer

Ralph Voigt, transmitter engineer

Gale Duree, control room engineer

Robert LaMere, program director

Gene McCormick, musical director

John Sanders, farm director

Rev. John Codd, religious director

Lincoln Woodyard, book-keeper

Helen Hall, secretary-receptionist

Mary Jane Robertson, women's program director

Charles R. (Bob) Guess, announcer

Larry King, announcer

Walt Ellis, sport-caster

Al Pigg was hired as Farm Director shortly after start of the station.

WLBH APPROVED BY FCC TO BROADCAST

The FCC assigned call letters of WLBH to the new station. The equipment was tested from midnight to 5 A.M. Everything worked perfect and the FCC gave the "go ahead" for programming and WLBH actually was launched at 6:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1946. Louise told me that she and Melvin were in the car listening to WLBH come on the air for the first time. They were to get married a short time later.

WLBH-FM PUT ON-AIR AUGUST, 1949          

J.R. Livesay saw a need for night-time broadcasting. He got permission from the FCC to build an FM station. FM was the up and coming thing. The signal was much stronger and clearer. He was granted a wattage of 23,000 at 96.9 megacycles. The new station went on in Aug. of 1949.

TAYLOR BOYS WENT TO SLEEP LISTENING TO WLBH

In the days before TV, the Taylor family would tune in to WLBH to listen to its music. You could call in requests in the old days. They played the popular songs of the day. J.R. Livesay very soon became involved with local election reports, sporting events and local news and social events.

1973 BRINGS NEW STUDIO AND TRANSMITTER LOCATION WLBH-FM

 . .increased to 50,000 watts in 1974, after having moved into new studio facilities north of Mattoon on RTE. 45. The station continues to broadcast beautiful stereo music on FM. In the 90's they even play several old GOLDIES such as Beach Boys and other softer rock songs. They also cover all kinds of sports (U. of I., E.LU., area high school sports; as well as Cubs Baseball). The A.M. station had a local old-fashioned touch with call-in programs and a country-western theme.  WLBH A.M. still broadcasts daytime only with old-style music and news.

Information from the article "Livesay Family" from the Coles County History 1876-1976, pp. 374-37, by Ray Livesay

 

 


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