SPECIAL SECTION

RAY LIVESAY AND WLBH, MATTOON, IL

152.

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JIMMY RAY LIVESAY, A RADIO PIONEER

COLES COUNTY'S LONGEST RUNNING RADIO EDITORIALIST STILL GIVES HIS OPINIONS

J.R. Livesay, called Jimmy Ray in his early WDZ days, in 1993, still goes on the air every morning and evening giving his local conservative editorials on WLBH. J.R. is still very active in the broadcast field. Every Sunday night he broadcasts a lively "Big Band" program from 7:00 to 11:00. J.R. and Leffel Livesay had finished two years of Navy service during WW II, and moved to Mattoon in 1946, to build their own radio station. Ray had been involved with Illinois' first radio station WDZ at Tuscola for several years before the War.  Jimmy Ray Livesay had a very interesting life with radio before the WLBH and WW H years. I would like to attempt to tell a little of his story.

JIMMY RAY GOES TO WORK FOR WDZ

According to the "Roster of Former WDZ, Tuscola, Talent & Staff listing", by Ray Nemec of Napervtlle, II., Jimmy Ray Livesay started his professional radio career in October of 1937, with WDZ in Tuscola . Livesay was described in the listing as having worked in sales and entertainment. The Nemec listing also has an entertainment entry called "Ray and Todd" 1935-1936 featuring Jimmy Ray (Livesay) and Bumper Todd.

In an article by Robert Lee Zimmer (Associated Press), WDZ was the only radio station in the area. They opened studios in Effingham, Mattoon, Champaign, Paris and Danville. In addition, other towns got a look at radio in action through a WDZ traveling show. Ray Livesay is quoted in the article, "Just before WW fl, we developed this idea of taking WDZ out into the community. We called it *WDZ on parade". Station employees and performers traveled from town to town and were greeted by huge crowds.  The performances were relayed back to the transmitter and broadcast live."   The WDZ studio in Tuscola also drew large crowds. This was the excitement of working for the popular and widely listened-to WDZ of Tuscola,

In another article by Allan Keith (Decatur Herald and Review) Ray stated that he was hired to manage WDZ's Effingham studio for three years. He said he was with WDZ for a total of eight years. The War interrupted his career. He joined the Navy and was gone for two years.

LEE LYNCH WORKS FOR WDZ DURING THE SAME PERIOD AS JIMMY RAY LIVESAY

WDZ started out in 1923, as a farm grain and crop reporting station, with no entertainment or public service programs (news or sports). In about 1937,

all this changed. News announcers were hired.  Among the roster was a newspaper reporter from Charleston, Lee Lynch. Lee acquired the title of "Coles County Reporter."

WDZ carried his news show regularly on Sunday afternoons.   No  doubt,  Lee  and Ray Livesay developed  a friendship    and   professional    relationship    that would carry into the the post-war years.

Lee Lynch would transfer his Coles County Reporter news show to the new WLBH in January of 1948.

 

LEE LYNCH OF COLES COUNTY WAS HEARD ACROSS CENTRAL ILLINOIS

Being on WDZ created a vast following in Central Illinois.   The program was heard from 2:30-3:00P.M. on Sunday through  1950.  In 1951 the program was expanded to Saturday and Sunday.  Lee Lynch died in June of 1951.   His wife

would carry   on   the news program until   she   would   leave   for   Texas permanently (about 1953).   Lee's cousin, Louise Taylor would take over the programs until 1955.  WLBH would have a Coles County Reporter after that until 1960, when Louise would return for a Sunday news broadcast.

 

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