WKMS-FM Information

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City Murray, Kentucky
Broadcast area Western Kentucky
Branding91.3 WKMS
Slogan"Sounds Good!"
WKMS-FM 91.3 ( MHz) Murray, KY (also on HD Radio)
W205CR, 88.9 ( MHz) Murray, KY (all-classical, HD2)
First air dateMay 11, 1970
Format Public Radio, HD Radio, Alternative Rock, Jazz, News/Talk
ERP100,000 Watts
HAAT183 meters
Transmitter coordinates 36°55′17″N 88°05′48″W / 36.92139°N 88.09667°W / 36.92139; -88.09667
Affiliations National Public Radio, Public Radio International, American Public Media, BBC World Service, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kentucky Public Radio
Owner Murray State University
Webcast wkms.drupal.publicbroadcasting.net/sites/wkms/files/streaming/wkms-hd1.m3u
Website www.wkms.org

WKMS-FM (91.3 FM), is a non-commercial National Public Radio-affiliated station operated by Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. WKMS features a variety of National Public Radio programming and local music shows ranging from classical music, bluegrass, alternative rock, jazz, electronica and world music. WKMS signed on May 11, 1970 as a non-commercial, educational FM station licensed to Murray State University.


The station now broadcasts in analog FM stereo and HD Digital on 91.3 MHz, with 100,000 watts analog and 1,000 watts digital, from antennas nearly 600 feet above average terrain currently located at Land Between the Lakes, and streams these signals at wkms.org. The station also operates translators in Paducah, Madisonville, KY, and Murray, KY. In 2009, WKMS installed repeater services for Madisonville, KY as well as Fulton, KY, which also covers Martin, TN and Union City, TN.

Terrestrial listening communities are throughout southernmost Illinois, far western Kentucky, and northwest Tennessee. Listeners throughout the world can seek wkms.org for "home-away-from-home" listening experiences.

The station offers 2 independent channels of programming on its digital signal: HD-1 simulcasts programming on analog 91.3 FM while HD-2 offers classical music programming 24 hours a day. WKMS has emergency auxiliary transmitters at its tower on the site of the former Mont, Kentucky in Land Between the Lakes, and at its studios on the 8th floor of Price Doyle Fine Arts Center, Murray State University.

WKMS broadcasts programming from National Public Radio, American Public Media, Public Radio International, the BBC, the Associated Press, independent producers from around the nation and from producers who are either on staff or volunteers. WKMS News is a contributing correspondent with the Kentucky Public Radio News Exchange and a partner in funding the Kentucky Capitol Bureau.


Early history

In 1948 WNBS owner Chuck Shuffett gave the Murray State drama department an hour a week to broadcast plays adapted for radio. [1] It was not until October 4, 1949 the first broadcast from Murray State College was heard with Murray State College on the Air. The college studio from which was broadcast consisted of a hand-made control board located in the old economics room on the third floor of Wilson Hall. The title of the show was changed in the 1950s to The Thoroughbred Hour and broadcast nightly half-hour segments. The content changed from radio plays to campus information. The Thoroughbred Hour was under the direction of Charles Henry Stamps through the use of a telephone line. [2]

In 1962, The Thoroughbred Hour's staff was split into an audio department and into a technical department under the direction of a student program director and a student chief engineer. In the early 1960s a news department was added emphasizing on in-depth–on-the-spot reporting for the southwestern Kentucky area. In 1964 an official station manager, program director and engineer was instituted and The Thoroughbred Hour. Also in 1964 special broadcasts came into being with the Homecoming Parade. The Thoroughbred Hour was extended into full our segments Monday through Friday and two hours on Sunday in 1965. During this year live broadcasts expanded and included broadcasts from the Auditorium, the Student Union Building, freshman basketball games, Dr. Wood's Twentieth Year Banquet, and the Quad-State Band and Choral Festivals. The Thoroughbred Hour Tape Library was formed in 1966. It provided the college with a permanent record of important events. By 1967 a Board of Directors was established.

Ray Mofield, general manager of The Radio Center, The Voice of Murray State, helped develop funding for a radio station in the university budget.

Up until 1969, WKMS was originally called "The Radio Center, The Voice of Murray State." [2] Executive assistant Ray Mofield's pushed for a radio station for the 1965–66 college budgets. Mofield convinced, then President of Murray State College, Ralph Woods of the benefits from a radio station on campus, and as a result $15,000 was set aside for its development. In 1968 Woods applied for a non-commercial educational radio license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and requested to be located at 91.7. In 1969 the FCC granted a construction permit for WKMS to operate at 91.3, 91.7 was already taken. [3]


WKMS-FM, the broadcasting service of Murray State, signed on air May 11, 1970. President of Murray State, Dr. Harry Sparks noted this milestone and said, "With this radio station's audience we lengthen the shadow and multiply the sphere of influence of this University. Every broadcast of whatever type is a public relations message saying something about this school." [1] Sparks also put forth a mission for WKMS to follow, "We perceive WKMS as the window on the world for our region. It will help cast a longer shadow for Murray State University and will deliver not only news about Murray State but will also offer culturally and educationally enriched programming throughout the Murray State region." At first the station only employed Mofield as a general manager and Thomas Morgan as station manager and was assisted by students and volunteers. As a result, broadcasts were only manageable while school was in session. [2]

The two rooms in the northwest corner of Wilson Hall just weren't meeting the productive professional environmental needs of educational radio broadcasts Mofield had first envisioned. Mofield and other faculty of Murray State recruited about a million dollars to build the Price Doyle Fine Arts Building, the new location for WKMS. In September 1971 the building was officially open for use. In its permanent home on the sixth floor (in the late nineties the sixth floor became known as the eighth floor), WKMS was fully equipped with offices, soundproof studios, state-of-the-art RCA equipment, and a new stereo with FM capability. In the September 1972 WKMS affiliated itself with National Public Radio. NPR's news programs set the standard for comprehensive and enlightening reporting. 91.3 was among the first public radio stations to affiliate with National Public Radio. When NPR was created, stations affiliated receive support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a nonprofit organization funded by the United States Congress. With finances from CPB, the station was able to upgrade its network interconnection: a high-quality telephone line. [4] As NPR and WKMS converged, All Things Considered became the only daily newscast at the station and was an instant success. [5] In 1973, WKMS received its first underwriter for thirteen weeks from the Cleveland Orchestra. Businesses took a queue from the Orchestra and began participating in underwriting. [4] 1973 was also a landmark year as the Watergate Hearings were in progress. WKMS provided the only radio source in western Kentucky for the hearings. WKMS has since provided a service for the region in equally important moments in United States history, such airing the hearings regarding the nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court of the United States, complete coverage of the Columbia Shuttle Disaster, complete coverage of the beginning of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, the Presidential impeachment proceedings of 1999, complete coverage of the events following the September 11 attacks in 2001, and complete coverage of the January 2009 Central Plains and Midwest ice storm that hit most of western Kentucky and the surrounding region. [4] [6]

October 1976 marked the first year WKMS started membership coordination. "Student friends" could donate three dollars, "friends" could donate five dollars, "good friends" could donate ten dollars, "great friends" could donate twenty-five dollars, and "best friends" to the station could donate fifty dollars. These membership donation applications were sent in the mail and found on the back of the first programming guide. The programming guides were a membership type of magazine released monthly at first and then seasonally. It always started off with a letter from the station manager discussing new programs added to the schedule and the reasons some others were taken away. There were statements of the current financial situation as well as a reminder of the importance of listener support. The guide would also have a grid of a regular week's program schedule in it, and the breakdown of each show's features. Later it would include features on staff, volunteers, musicians, and/or composers. In later guides it would also eventually mention the involvement of WKMS in the community and community feedback. [7] [8] [9]

The advent of advanced technology took place in the late seventies with a sophisticated system of satellite interconnection of radio and televisions around the country. Before the new technology, stations were linked by terrestrial land lines that were leased from AT&T. Costly telephone lines delivered a low quality signal, and were only suitable for talk programs to be sent through. This new, however, would transmit all programs, music and talk, through satellite and, "be of the highest quality." The satellite transmissions would also permit stereo and quadraphonic network broadcasts, therefore allowing WKMS to broadcast live stereo concerts from anywhere in the world. Consequently, content for the air was enlarged and the station was given more options to choose from.

On November 5, 1979 Morning Edition premiered and became an instant hit like its counterpart All Things Considered. It also was the first show to transmit from NPR through the new satellite terminal. [10] That year WKMS received a $150,000 facilities grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to increase power and upgrade studio facilities, a milestone acquisition. The station moved its transmission from the old KET tower in Farmington, KY to its present co-location with the Kentucky Early Warning System in Land between the Lakes. The 501-foot-tall (153 m) tower and the station's two transmitters receive the WKMS signal from the studios at Murray State University by microwave. [3]


Former Program Director Mark Welch in 1981, hosting a classical music show called Masterwork's Showcase.

The eighties were a notable decade for WKMS-FM. On March 30, 1980 at 5 pm WKMS boosted its power to 100,000 watts, Dick Estell from Radio Reader stopped by the studios in 1983 to help a fundraiser, and listener Joy Thomas of Murray won the " Powdermilk Biscuit" recipe contest. [11] Weekend Edition premiered on Saturday November 2, 1985. At first it was only aired on Saturdays. It took until January 18, 1987 to debut a Sunday Weekend Edition. It was at this time NPR provided a full news service for seven mornings and seven evenings. [5] Furthermore, both NPR news shows were well received by WKMS listeners.

91.3 experienced nationwide recognition with homegrown shows that were syndicated through NPR around the country. Twenty-seven NPR stations in sixteen states (ten percent of the network at the time) picked up The Black Cats Jump; a WKMS produced show hosted by Bobby Bryan. The Black Cats Jump was a thirteen-week series of hour-long programs on big band music. The series featured some of the great black big band leaders, sidemen, vocalists, and arrangers. The first show was aired live on Friday October 3, 1980 at 8 pm Bryan was inspired to do the show with the re-release of many of the big band sides on re-mastered 33⅓ and 45 rpm vinyl which featured the contributions of the black band leaders, sidemen, vocalists and arrangers from 1934 to 1950. He explained, "During the '30s and '40s, the big hotels and ballrooms played by white bands controlled most of the air time for big bands, and black bands simply did not get the exposure they deserved. And if you didn't get air time, your records didn't sell very well." He said most every white musician copied and learned from black musicians, but the public didn't know. It wasn't until the likes of Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw, and others began to integrate the bands and share the spot light. [12] Bryan later created another thirteen-hour series about Billie Holiday and the musical biographies of over forty major artists that had played with her over three decades. He named it Lady Day and the Cats. Nearly one hundred stations in thirty-six states picked up Lady Day. [13]

The eighties also saw the switch from vinyl records and cassette tapes to compact discs, or CDs. WKMS took the opportunity to provide the community with tips on how to buy CDs, who to buy from, what genres sounded better, and so forth. On August 21, 1988 a lightning strike set off a chain reaction that, "fried many components and circuitry," within the transmitter. As a result, the station had noticeably long dead air. Station manager Janet Kenney cleverly named it, "Sounds of Silence," and used it to WKMS's advantage. In the fall 1988 programming guide she addressed the situation to listeners and challenged them to recall the need they had for public radio during the silence, and reminded them of the importance of their support. The fall Friendship Festival that year easily met the fundraiser goal and surpassed it. [8]


January 24, 1990 the Attorney General of Kentucky, Fredric J. Cowan, wrote to WKMS. He commended the station for fulfilling Murray and western Kentucky with information, "that is crucial in our system of democracy." [14] WKMS celebrated its twentieth birthday that year, and as a special birthday treat, Bob Edwards, host of Morning Edition, came to WKMS for a Special Guest open house informal seminar. He also joined the WKMS staff and volunteers at the Paducah Symphony's Concert in the Park at Kentucky Dam Village State Park. [15] On July 15, 1994 the old fine arts center, a connecting building to the Doyle Price Fine Arts Center, caught fire. 91.3 was off the air at 9 am until the next day. WKMS remained unharmed, but with a few smoky studios as an exception. [16]

During the nineties WKMS expanded airing twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in a five state area. The creation of on-line streaming offers worldwide listening opportunities. Translators have been put up to expand broadcasts to 92.1 Paducah, 99.5 Paris, TN, and 105.1 Madisonville. Two studios were also added to the station. [1]


WKMS News Director, Chad Lampe (right) with Murray State University President, Dr. Randy Dunn (left) with Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (middle) during the January 2009 Central Plains and Midwest ice storm.

In the late spring of 2007 WKMS-FM provided a new digital signal which virtually eliminates noise in broadcasting such as static, hissess, pops, and fades. The new technology also provides a second channel in which WKMS airs 24/7 classical music. [17] NPR and Public Radio International (PRI) now send shows through the internet. It is only a matter of minutes that a show can be received. This new process is much faster than the 1979 satellite transmission that recorded shows in real time.

The January 2009 Central Plains and Midwest ice storm

During the January 2009 Central Plains and Midwest ice storm, power was temporarily lost to the regional signal at the tower and HD radio digital transmission system in Land Between the Lakes and operated on its studio site auxiliary system, a low-power transmitter and line that reached most of Calloway County and the WKMS transmitter in Paris, Tennessee.

By January 31, a generator obtained with the assistance of the Calloway County Emergency Operations Center and the Department of Agriculture's Forestry Service, enabled the station to resume its regional analogue service, however the HD radio signal remained damaged and inoperable. Tower inspections revealed icing damage to a flange weld connecting the digital antenna to its transmission line, resulting in water damage to the line itself. Repairs estimated nearly $40,000 in previously unbudgeted expenditures for the public radio service licensed to Murray State University. [18] All services, including the HD radio signal, have since resumed normal operations.

A view of WKMS Studio A during the 2008 Autumn Fund Drive.


In February 2010, WKMS changed the frequency and the programming on its Paducah translator, to carry a 24-hour classical music service. The Paducah translator, formerly 92.1, has been switched to 92.5 FM. Broadcasts include the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, concerts from Murray State University and nationally syndicated programs like From the Top and Sunday Baroque. The Paducah translator broadcasts at 27 watts, designed to improve WKMS reception for area listeners in low spots due to the proximity of the Ohio River where lack of clear line of sight challenged reception from the main WKMS 100,000 watt transmitter in LBL. [19]

In March 2010, WKMS signed on a new repeater service, 90.9 FM, WKMD, Madisonville. Additionally, the station put its all-classical WKMS HD-2 service on its 105.1 FM, Madisonville translator. The repeater service at 90.9 FM, transmits from a tower on campus at Madisonville Community College. This is repeater transmitter broadcasts a signal at a power just over 20,000 watts. 90.9 FM WKMD, Madisonville rebroadcasts 91.3 FM, Murray areas of Union, Webster, Davies, McLean, Ohio, Muhlenberg and Christian counties previously outside a public radio service coverage area and boosts the reception for listeners in Hopkins County.

In June 2010, WKMS improved reception for listeners in Fulton, South Fulton, Martin and Union City, Tennessee with repeater service 89.5 FM WKMT, Fulton. WKMT restores a strong signal from WKMS to Fulton, one of the communities that experienced reduced reception when WKMS moved its transmission site from Farmington, Kentucky, to Land Between the Lakes in 1980. WKMS is using a data-link connection to transmit programming to the WKMT tower from its studios in Price Doyle Fine Arts Building at Murray State. [20]

In 2012, WKMS launched the Youth Radio Project, involving local youth in radio production. This project grew with a grant from the Carson Myre Charitable Foundation in 2013, to record and broadcast orchestral and choir performances. In the summer of 2013, WKMS partnered with Murray State University implementing a Teen Leader Radio Project, for high school juniors and seniors in area leadership groups to produce stories for scholarship awards.

In May 2014, repairs on the 91.3 transmitter allowed for improved coverage in Paris, Tennessee, which made the 99.5 repeater redundant. WKMS used additional funds raised by listeners in February 2014 to move this repeater to Murray, KY to become the new classical repeater, 99.5 Murray. In mid-December 2014, 99.5 was moved to 88.9 due to interference with another station.


The WKMS operating budget comes from four main sources: Murray State University, individual listener contributors, businesses and corporations, and grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting administering funds appropriated by the U.S. Congress. The proportion of funding and funding sources vary from station to station across the nation. WKMS listeners provide the lion's share of the part of the budget which WKMS must raise to match support from Murray State University.


WKMS co-sponsors several events with regional organizations such as Murray State University's Lovett Live, Land Between the Lake's Pickin' Party, Lowertown Art and Music Festival in Paducah, Pennington Festival in Princeton, Kentucky, concert broadcasts with Paducah Symphony Orchestra, local schools, and other art agencies. WKMS also hosts an annual "Battle of the Bands" competition in coordination with Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah and hosts monthly Live Lunches featuring local bands.


WKMS hosts a diverse programming schedule comprising both national and local news and music programs. WKMS employs a news team, mainly composed of Murray State University students, to cover news and events in the region in the format of interviews and features, which appear in the daily locally produced two-hour-long program Sounds Good. Generally news and talk programming is heard during the day, with arts and culture programming on the weekends. National programming on WKMS includes well-known staples such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Science Friday, World Café, Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, A Prairie Home Companion, Fresh Air and The Diane Rehm Show.

Local programming

WKMS staff member Tracy Ross hosting his indie rock show, Beyond the Edge.

WKMS produces several local programs, which focus on regional news or a specific genre of music.

  • Beyond the Edge – An eclectic, three-hour mix of folk, rock, pop, alt-country, Americana, blues and other genres, weekly with host Tracy Ross. (Saturdays at 8 pm)
  • Café Jazz – Two-hours of mainstream jazz, weeknights. Cafe Jazz is hosted by Tracy Ross, Todd Hill, George Eldred and Brian Clardy. (Monday through Thursday at 9 p.m). This program is followed by Jazz Vault which features archival episodes of Café Jazz and is produced by George Eldred. (Monday through Thursday)
  • Classical Encore – A twice-weekly two-hour showcase of classical music with host Dr. John Dressler. This production also broadcasts throughout the week on the HD-2 channel. (Sundays at 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.)
  • Left of the Dial - A weekly, two-hour music program featuring tracks heavily rooted in the underground music scene of the 1980s. Hosted by John Null. (Fridays at 9 p.m.)
  • The Jazzman Show – A weekly, hour-long music program featuring the pioneers and innovators in jazz as well as world jazz and big band music, with host Andy "Jazzman" Smith. (Sundays at 1 p.m.)
  • The Jive House – A weekly, hour-long music program featuring a mix of blues, soul, and roots music, hosted by volunteers John McMillen and Brad Robertson. (Thursdays at 9 p.m.)
  • The Last Splash - A weekly, two-hour long music program featuring alternative, indie and punk rock music, along with local hosts' thoughts and reactions. Hosted by Austin Carter, Tim Peyton, Corbet Hall and Matthew Rowan. (Fridays at 11 p.m.)
  • Rick's Kitchen Sink – A weekly, two-hour music program featuring a mix of blues, jazz and roots music, hosted by Rick Nance. (Saturdays at 1 p.m.)
  • Music from the Front Porch – A weekly staple on WKMS for over 30 years, Music From the Front Porch is a three-hour music program featuring folk music, bluegrass, acoustic music and western swing, from musicians old and new alike, with hosts John McMillen, Mike Gowen, and Nick Morris. (Saturdays at 10 a.m.)
  • Sounds Good – A daily, two-hour showcase of conversations with members of the community and a range of AAA, folk, and indie music, hosted by Tracy Ross and staff members. (Weekdays at 11 a.m.)
  • Weekend Energy – A weekly, two-hour-long music program featuring techno, electro, trance music, drum and bass and other high-energy styles of contemporary electronica, with host Matt "McG" Markgraf. (Saturdays at 11 p.m.)


WKMS HD2 airs the nationally syndicated satellite-delivered public radio service, Classical 24, which plays classical music around the clock, co-created by Minnesota Public Radio and Public Radio International. [21]


  1. ^ a b c "30 Years of WKMS." Murray Calloway County Kentucky Chamber of Commerce 8 (April 2000): 3.
  2. ^ a b c Cole, Elizabeth T., and Gene H. Coleman. Radio Center Handbook. Ts. Murray State University.
  3. ^ a b "WKMS – The Story." Celebrating 20 Years of Listener Support 5–7.
  4. ^ a b c Cowan, Frederic J. Letter to the staff and management of WKMS-FM. January 24, 1990.
  5. ^ a b "NPR Milestones." Celebrating 20 Years of Listener Support 24.
  6. ^ "Meet Jay Landers." Celebrating 20 Years of Listener Support 4–5.
  7. ^ WKMS fm stereo (Fall 1976).
  8. ^ a b Kenney, Janet. "Welcome Note." Air Fare (Winter 1988): 1.
  9. ^ "HD...High Definition... Digital... More & Crystal Clear..." WKMS with NPR news 91.3 fm (Autumn 07): 7.
  10. ^ "New and Different." WKMS-fm stereo 91.3 (November 1979).
  11. ^ "WKMS – How The Years Go By." Celebrating 20 Years of Listener Support 9–12.
  12. ^ Miller Welch, Karen. "WKMS Goes National with "The Black Cats Jump"" WKMS-FM (October 1980).
  13. ^ "Lady Day & The Cats." 91.3 WKMS-FM Listening Guide (Sept. & oct. 1990): 6.
  14. ^ Cowan, Frederic J. Letter to the staff and management of WKMS-FM. January 24, 1990.
  15. ^ "Meet Bob Edwards." Celebrating 20 Years 21.
  16. ^ "FIRE!" Notes from 91.3 FM (September & October 1994): 2.
  17. ^ "HD...High Definition... Digital... More & Crystal Clear..." WKMS with NPR news 91.3 fm (Autumn 07): 7.
  18. ^ Tim Moore. "WKMS HD Digital Transmission System Damaged by Ice Storm".
  19. ^ "Paducah WKMS Translator Changes Frequency – Now All Classical" Press Release. Station Manager Kate Lochte (March 3, 2010).
  20. ^ "WKMT Extends WKMS Signal to Southwest" Press Release. Membership Coordinator Kate Lochte (June 4, 2010).
  21. ^ [1], Minnesota Public Radio's Classical 24 website.

External links