RADIO WAS THE MEDIUM OF THE TIME
When one reads the exciting history of WDZ, Illinois' first commercial radio station, you can get the feeling that the everyday folk could have big-time entertainment and information in their own home for the price of a radio receiver. The Bushes of Tuscola thought of using it to help transmit grain prices. They even started out with a little music. It wasn't long until entertainment and news was the primary purpose of their little (but powerful) station-WDZ.
COLES COUNTY ENTERS THE RADIO MARKET
Coles County would enter the Golden Age of Radio in November of 1946. J.R. Livesay and wife Leffel would build an AM station in Mattoon. Ray Livesay would very quickly start many innovative radio broadcasting activities. WDZ moved to Decatur in 1949. WLBH would dominate from then on. WLBH-FM would start in August of 1949. Ray hired a large number of employees (see the picture album for earlier employees). He connected with Lee Lynch while at WDZ, and Lee moved from WDZ to WLBH in the late 1940's.
MORE ON RAY LIVESAY'S LIFE IN RADIO
For 28 years Ray served as President of the Daytime Broadcasters Association, a national organization made up of AM radio stations permitted by the FCC to only operate during the daylight hours. There are 2,400 of these stations in the USA which have to sign off at dusk. He served several years on their Board of Directors of the National Radio Broadcasters Association.
ORIGINATOR OF THE NINE KILOHERTZ PLAN
This plan allowed for the creation of 12 additional broadcast channels so that most daytime stations could become full-time. In 1979 his plan became the official position of the U.S. Government. In the early 1980's Ray would travel to Washington and other places as official advisor to the U.S. State Department in International Radio Conferences involving 28 countries of North and South America. He often is called upon to give advice to the FCC and the U.S. Congress. Ray is in his late 70's (born October 1, 1916) and had open-heart surgery a few years ago. His son, Jim Livesay manages the stations now.
RAY STILL VERY ACTIVE IN RUNNING OF STATIONS WHOW (CLINTON, IL) AND WLBH (MATTOON, IL)
In a recent visit to the Mattoon station, manager Jim Livesay told me his father was in Clinton, Illinois, at WHOW repairing a major transmitter break-down. Ray Livesay is an electrical engineer in roots. He even taught this while on duty with the Navy during World War II. Sometime back, I was in the Mattoon, IL Cross County Mall at Mattoon, and saw WLBH broadcasting live. In speaking to Ray told he told me that years ago, he had built portable wireless microphones. He was directing the action. My mom, Louise Taylor, had a "Man on the Street" program below her studio on the Charleston Square. I suspect she had to use a wired mike for that. WDZ, Tuscola, IL, had a portable van that could connect to the station, and did remote programs in the old days.
RAY IS AN ACCOMPLISHED PILOT
Since 1948, Ray has logged over 5,000 flight hours in his log book. He has owned his own plane since 1948. He and his wife have traveled all over the world and all fifty states. Much of his U.S. and Canadian traveling was by his own private plane. He always has "felt that an airplane is an instrument of his generation and necessary in his business."
RAY AS ILLINOIS' LONGEST-RUNNING EDITORIALIST (MONDAY-FRIDAY WEEKLY)
Up until 1949, radio station editorials were not allowed. The FCC made a decision in June of 1949, to allow radio stations to broadcast editorials. Ray would take advantage of this, realizing the importance of having an editorialist spokesperson in the area. "Radio Editorials were a new frontier...new furrows to plow." Ray states in his biography that in the early years much pressure was placed on him to take special sides. Ever since the first editorial at 7:15 A.M. in May of 1950, on both of his stations, Ray states that "these efforts slowly disappeared as people learned that his (Ray Livesay's) editorials were not for sale." I have heard him criticize and praise both parties, but often it is hard to sit and listen when he is stepping on your own toes. He always ends with one of his one-liners.