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K-State Today

October 28, 2014

Great Plains Radio Symposium

Submitted by Trent

Come to the Great Plains Radio Symposium to experience two exciting panel discussions about the history of Kansas radio from former radio employees and entrepreneurs. The symposium is from 1-5 p.m. Oct. 30, in the Hemisphere Room in Hale Library.

Anyone who is interested in Kansas history, radio, communications, or entrepreneurship is encouraged to come.

Topics will include developing Top 40 stations in the Kansas City area battling for ratings as well as the development of Internet radio.

A panel discussion "Kansas City's Battleground: The World's Happiest Broadcasters vs. The Big 1380 Boss Jocks" will include former KUDL and WHB employees who will recall the era when the two stations fought for Kansas City's youth market and the ratings war. Mike D'Arcy was program director at KUDL when the station's Top 40 format was developed; Wally Thornton, known is his heyday as "J. Walter Beethoven," worked at WHB for two years before moving across town to KUDL; and Ray Janz worked as sales manager at WHB and was familiar with both stations' efforts to lure advertisers in the height of the competition. All three are now retired in the Kansas City area.

The symposium's second panel will focus on Internet broadcasting, and more specifically, former radio broadcasters who are using audio streaming to revive the sounds familiar to AM radio listeners of the 1960s. Three entrepreneurs will be featured guests and participate in a panel "Streaming Into the Future: Classic Top 40 On a New Platform."

Jay Wachs, Lawrence, a former radio programming and management consultant, operates a Net-only station, lawrencehits.com, that features the once-familiar sound of local radio: music, local news and community-oriented programming. It originates from his office in downtown Lawrence.

Frank Chaffin, Topeka, a former Kansas broadcaster and advertising executive, operates wrenradio.net, which re-creates the sound of Top 40 radio, using the call letters of a once-powerful AM station, WREN, which operated from 1926 to 1987.

The third panelist will be J.R. Russ, Philadelphia, a former radio programming and production consultant, who is using Net-only delivery to re-create the sound of Chicago's legendary "Voice of Labor," WCFL. His cyberstation, wcflchicago.com, features music of the 1960s and 1970s, but also includes hits from the '80s and '90s as Russ' vision of what WCFL might sound like if it was still broadcasting. WCFL left the Top 40 music business in 1976 when its licensee, the Chicago Federation of Labor, gave up its attempt to overtake the legendary and highly successful cross-town competitor, WLS.