Hometown radio personalities serve the community
A LOCAL WEATHER EMERGENCY ALERT. Help finding a lost dog. The opening of a new store downtown. Interviews with city or county leaders. And a little down-home humor.
That’s the kind of richly local information Kentuckians get from their community radio stations, where the familiar voices of local broadcast personalities are keeping them informed and entertained.
Mornings on Main with Tim Smith
WWKY-FM, 102.9, Winchester
Tim Smith’s uncle had a good ear: He recognized that young Tim had what he called a good radio voice. In 1970, Smith, a 14-year-old high school freshman, got his first job at WCYN in Cynthiana.
Three years later, Smith went on the air at WWKY, where he can still be heard every weekday on his show, Mornings on Main. “What we do with Mornings on Main is we don’t just report things,” says Smith. “We bring people in and put them on the air and let them tell their story.”
When an ice storm disrupted power throughout Clark County and surrounding areas this past winter, Smith’s listeners tuned in for the latest news from Clark Energy Cooperative representatives. They were eager for power outage reports and service updates, which the co-op and Smith worked together to provide.
Smith is committed to serving the community by keeping them informed. “Local radio is extremely important to local communities,” he says. “We take what we do very seriously.”
The Greg Dunker Show
WKYX-FM, 94.3, Paducah
As a radio personality, Greg Dunker has developed a six-word mission statement: Hear what’s happening. Have some fun.
An early interest in a college radio station led to a career for Dunker, host of The Greg Dunker Show. For the past 36 years, he has kept western Kentucky listeners informed of relevant local and state issues—some energy related.
Dunker recalls the crippling 2009 ice storm. “Every day, we talked to a representative from Jackson Purchase,” he says. As a result, Dunker, a Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative consumer-member, relayed power restoration news. More recently, after the December 2021 tornadoes, Dunker shared updates on efforts of Jackson Purchase crews working in Mayfield and other storm-affected areas.
More than news, Dunker shares laughs with listeners, with daily radio comedy sketches based on current events. Listeners tune in to Dunker’s show to hear Steve Schwetman, Jeff Lawrence and Courtney Willard portray different “characters,” from the station’s boss and Gov. Andy Beshear to fictional hero Quilterman.
Dunker credits the station’s news staff and character sketch team for his on-air success. “None of this would work if it wasn’t for them,” he says.
The Shop Local Show
WHHT-FM, NASH 103.7, Glasgow
Kellie McKay always had a love for radio. She decided in high school that a radio career was in her future, and in 2000, she got that opportunity with Commonwealth Broadcasting. Fast forward to 2015—McKay began hosting The Shop Local Show, a successful program that boosts the economy by encouraging listeners to shop at local businesses.
What’s unique about McKay’s two-hour weekday show is that the first half features a co-host promoting a local business, while the second half focuses on interviews with community members to spotlight area happenings. One regular Shop Local co-host is Caralyne Pennington, director of member and public communications for Farmers RECC, whose next appearance with McKay is July 5.
“We work with Farmers (RECC) closely in the event that they need to get information out to the community, whether it’s about power outages or to be proactive with storms that might be coming in,” says McKay.
Building relationships with business owners and community organizations she supports is important to McKay, as is letting listeners know what is happening right where they live. “If you want to know what’s going on in the community, tune in to a local radio station and find out,” McKay says. “It’s all about local.”
WRUS’s Living legend 610 AM/104.9 FM
Seventy-five cents for the morning hour and the same for the evening hour—that was Don Neagle’s pay as a teenager working in radio in the 1950s. His career in broadcasting now spans nearly 70 years and five radio stations. Since 1958, listeners have tuned in each morning to WRUS-AM/FM in Russellville to hear Neagle’s steady, calming voice.
Though Neagle is semi-retired, he still hosts Feedback, an interview talk show with guests who represent a wide array of interests, including theologians, historians, authors and politicians. Neagle says he’s discussed nearly every topic, except one: “I’ve never done a program on ancient Greek poetry,” he jokes.
The Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame member has always enjoyed working in radio and loves the community and the people he serves. “I’ve tried to cover so much, and hopefully the information is good and useful for people to hear,” says Neagle. “That’s what I’ve always tried to do.”
To listen to Neagle’s Feedback program, tune in to 104.9 FM and 610 AM weekdays from 9:05–10 a.m. Listen worldwide on WRUSradio.com. The Feedback shows are also available for about a month online via podcasts.
ABE (as in Lincoln)
WLCB-FM, 93.7, Hodgenville
Cale Tharp was just a kid when his mom played a prank on the local radio personality doing the morning show. Tharp’s role in this was to help his dad deliver the dessert imposter—a cornbread “cake” complete with chocolate frosting—to the radio station on North Lincoln Boulevard in Hodgenville.
“The minute I walked in, I knew that this was what I wanted to do,” recalls Tharp. He began hanging out at the station, learning all he could, and occasionally going on the air before the operation left town. Tharp went on to make a radio career, but he always dreamed of owning his own station. He got his chance in 2018 when he bought the old station’s AM broadcast license and a year later, he had a chance to buy the same building on the downtown square that had once been home to the station where Tharp spent time as a kid. He and his wife, Tracy, jumped at the chance to return the station to its original location, where they also added a new FM station. “It started on this corner, and it’s on this corner again today,” says Tharp.
His “program” has no name because Tharp says he’s on the air all day long—“a one-man show.”
Now with 40 years in radio, he says he’s living the dream, playing classic country hits and getting results for advertisers, including Nolin RECC. “This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12 years old,” says Tharp. “And here we are.”