WKVI History

WKVI building, Home of the Voice of the Valley

The idea of building a radio station in Knox began in 1965.  Three men, Almo Smith, Tom Bell and Mike Gurrado started planning for the station and then by 1968, decided to take the plunge.

In January of 1968 a consulting engineer in Washington, D. C. was contacted to look for an AM radio channel.  A few weeks later, the consultant called to inform the trio that AM Channel 1520 was the only one available for this area.  During the conversation the consultant mentioned that an FM station might also be available.  He explained that FM stereo produced a better sound than AM and it could be broadcast 24 hours a day, instead of just during the daylight hours.  The consultant then directed the three to a Washington attorney who advised them that equipment alone would cost approximately $53,000 with more cash needed to keep the station on the air until it could generate a cash flow.  At that point, three other local men, LeRoy Gudeman, Ralph Harbison and Rudy Stark were brought on board and the six applied for incorporation as Kankakee Valley Broadcasting Company.  Each of the board members purchased 10 shares of stock for $100 per share.

April 3, 1969 was a “red-letter” day for the fledgling group.  That was the day they received a letter from the Federal Communication Commission authorizing the corporation to begin construction on the FM radio station.  On May 8th, they purchased 5 acres of land north of Knox to construct a building to house the transmitters and provide a site for the tower.  They also purchased a home at 204 North Main Street, Knox for $9,000 be used as a studio.

George Yazell, an electronic engineer was employed to install the proper equipment, which was purchased from Gates Equipment in Quincy, IL.  Financing was arranged by the Farmers Bank and Trust Co., of of which Mr. Stark was president.

Next they hired a manager, Harold Welter, age 24.  Mr. Welter was a native of Knox and was employed by a radio station in LaPorte, IN.  The equipment started arriving on Memorial Day.  Soon after the arrival of the equipment, Mr. Bell and his son Jack started using bulldozers and tractors to clear the land for the tower and equipment building.  They contracted with a tower company to erect the tower and install the FM Antennas.

Sometime in June, Mr. Welter hired Mr. Ted Hayes.  The pair had previously worked together in Rensselaer at WRIN Radio.  On July 21, 1969 they bean broadcasting.  Harold Welter did the news and Ted Hayes played the music.  Bob Densmore, a local telephone company employee was the engineer and Becky Keys served as the first secretary.  Harvey Allen and Bill Harvey were also employed as disc jockies and Joe Steiner was hired as the news director.

The first day’s log at WKVI Radio showed they ran seven commercials and billed a whole $14.00 !!

In November of 1970 the board received word that the F.C.C. had granted the AM license.  The rest, as they say, is history.  In 1972 Harold Welter left for Washington, D.C. to serve as a congressional press secretary and Ted Hayes became manager, a position which he has held ever since, with the exception of two years spent in Rensselaer, helping put another new station on the air.