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J.R. Russ, last night show on WTRU Muskeegon | Undated

For his final act (literally), new contributor J.R. Russ is heard doing his finale on WTRU. Here’s another old-line AM Top 40. This one sounds like it’s from the late 70s sometime. 6 minutes, scoped, in glorious 10k wide AM mono.

For our listeners, what frequency was this and is the station even around these days? I’m gonna guess the year at 1974. A google search comes up with a current gospel station in North Carolina.

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  1. WTRU was a 5 kw AM radio pop music radio station from the mid 1950s until the late 1970s, originating from Muskegon, Michigan. Its frequency was 1600 kHz. Despite the weak signal, WTRU was once one of the most listened-to and most influential contemporary hits stations in Michigan. The station’s influence and popularity waned with the waxing of FM radio in the late 1970s.

    In the 1970s, during its peak of popularity, its slogan was “The TRU spirit of America”. During the station’s later years, one of the DJs, Larry Allen, hosted an FM-like program called “Spectrum” on late Saturday nights. This program rivaled the FM stations of the day.

    In the late 1980s, AM 1600 again became a top-40 station, called by WSNX-AM, a simulcast of WSNX-FM. Later, the frequency was used for sports-talk WSFN. Later still, the station switched to an urban contemporary format with the call letters WMHG (“Magic”). Today, the station continues with the WMHG calls and “Magic” name, but the format is now a pop standards/oldies mix known as “Stardust” from ABC Radio Networks.

    compiled from Wikkipedia

    Reply

    • “Please Mr. Postman” was released by the Carpenters in November 1974… JR says “here is a brand new song” as he hits the song. 🙂

      Reply

      • Hi Rich,

        OK, I’m a little slow getting back to you. 🙂

        The aircheck is from November of 1974. I only worked there six months but it was one of the best summers of my life.

        I married my first wife from Indiana during that time and she couldn’t adjust to me being gone at night and I got the “It’s radio or me” choice. Hindsight says I should have taken Radio because the marriage didn’t last long and I should have stood my ground. Oh well, I still made what I think are some pretty good moves. Check http://www.jrruss.com.

        Thanks for listening,
        JR

        Reply

  2. I grew up listening to WTRU – True radio, am 1600, Muskegon. I can even remember some of the call letter jingles they used to play.

    When the song ‘Alley Oop’ came out, one of the DJs (I think it was Bill Trapp, who doubled as the news guy if I remember correctly) set up on the roof and kept playing the song over and over again. I heard (unconfirmed rumor) that he was not a rock-and-roll guy, hated the song, and kept playing it as a sarcastic tribute to how stupid it was.

    The only other DJ name I remember (early ’60s) is Ron Tindal.

    Feel free to email with questions…

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  3. J. R. Russ sounds like he was influenced by Truckin Tom Cookin Kent. I am not putting either him or Mr. Kent down but that’s who he reminds me of when I listened to this check.

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    • Hi Larry,

      Sorry I am so slow on the response. Hey Jon,

      I didn’t know this was up until Tom Wyant told me of a link on the WGVU AM website.

      You have a very good ear. I list “Truckin’ Tom as one of my “Top 5, fave-rave DJ’s” along with Larry Lujack, Big Ron O’Brien, Fred Winston, John Records Landecker and Jackson Armstrong. No particular order. Interchange whichever one you want as #5.

      I got to work with Tom in the mid-80’s at WAVA in Washington, DC

      I was at SiriusXM when they let Jackson audition for a position in fact, Terry Motormouth Young and I were in the studio with him for what turned out to be his last-ever live show.

      I became friends with Big Ron in Philadelphia until his passing a few years ago. His mother allowed me to rescue all his tapes and get them archived.

      And around 2010 John worked where I started in Michigan City, IN. I told him it “took them 30 years to hire someone as good as me.” I contribute stuff to his show and we have become friends. He autographed his book “Records truly is my middle name” with “John Landecker, WIMS.”

      I sadly missed talking to Lar and have been trying to reach out to Fred to get him to do a “memory” for my on-line station.

      I am currently semi-retired from radio but, running three online stations…2 @ http://www.movieticketradio.com and a “salute” to Big 10 http://www.WCFLchicago.com. All are on TuneIn, Shoutcast, RadioShaker and others too.

      JR
      J.R. Russ

      Reply

  4. In the late ’60s, the late night staff used to crank up the power way beyond its FCC bounds, and direct the signal to the northeast where the population was very sparse.
    They received mail from all over northern Ontario, as WTRU was heard far off in the Canadian woods.

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  5. I remember in the early 60’s when Bill Merchant and Donnie Anderson were DJ’s. I also remember the Sat when they kept playing Alley Opp all morning long. If I remember the radio station got in trouble with the FCC over that Alley Opp deal.

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  6. I, too, remember Bill Merchant and, I remember him as Don Anderson. I remember picking up their top 40 list every week – some place. I don’t remember where now. I’m thrilled to have this tape to help recall old memories. My brother worked there for a short time.

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    • Don Anderson was also the General Manager at WGRD, later I believe he purchased a station in Benton Harbor. Bill Merchant was the original Bozo The Clown on WZZM-TV. His son Tommy was in my elementary school class and I sent to their house in EGR, then their new one in Rockford. He did the morning show on Z96 and WGRD… was unaware he’d been at WTRU. Spent most of his career in the Syracuse market.

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  7. Bill Merchant was my father. The Alley Opp deal was a well told family story. Yup…my dad got really sick of the song, but he did love that old (well, it was new back then) rock n roll. Wouldn’t be the last time he got in trouble with the FCC for other antics. Ah, me…memories.

    Don’t recall him using the name Don Anderson. Are you confusing it with his partner Skip Henderson?

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  8. Ooops…misread the message and got confused. That would be Skip Knight…not Anderson. (And, yes, my married name is Anderson…no relation to Don.)

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  9. I also remember that WTRU radio in the late 50’s and early 60’s had dedication night where you would mail in a request for a song and dedicate it to your friends. It was fun to sit home doing my school homework and listening to the radio hoping my name would be mentioned. People would mail in list so long, it would take several minutes to read all the dedications. Those were the fun days.Does anyone else remember this?

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  10. I remember WTRU used to have a call in show called “Sound Off”. People would call in to give their views on defferent topics. It was a very popular show. I also remember that some times the DJ’s would do live promo’s from dances, like the Grand Haven dance at the roller rink or the Armry in Muskegon.

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  11. I used to love listening to Skip Knight, who was on in the mornings, in the 60s, (“Your night in the morning”) as well as Bill Merchant (“A tenth of a ton of fat and fun”). Skip was a funny man, but I recall he always used to cut off the end of the Four Seasons version of “Under My Skin” (which got under MY skin) Musta been too wild for him. Seems he also had a contest to see who was more popular, the Beatles (who were new then) or Louie Armstrong (who had current hit with “Hello Dolly”). Skip was rooting for Louie, but Louie got smoked, as I recall. Memories.
    How about the ads by “Tex” (“Tex’s Market”)? They featured Tex talking/yelling and were pretty obnoxious and very unpopular. People would regularly complain and ask to have him banned (or at least toned down) but he bought a lot of air time, and continued to use it as he wanted.
    Also recall a promotion called “Bid a Bucks” where you received fake money when you made purchases at participating merchants, which was supposed to be used to buy real stuff at a later date. Turned out to be pretty much of a disaster, with thousands of people (with millions of bid a bucks) showing up on the appointed day to buy stuff. Long lines of hot unhappy people trying to get something (anything!) for all the bid a bucks they’d saved up for months.
    Yeah, WTRU was a big part of the lives of all Muskegon area boomers. WTRU, WOKY, WLS, WCFL (http://radiotimeline.com/am1000wcfl.htm) and WLAV and WGRD were all my favorites, as I recall. Dick Biondi, Jerry G. Bishop, Joel Sebastion… The good old days. Wouldn’t if be cool to go back for just one day, every once in a while? Somebody get to work on a time machine eh?
    Well, it was fun reminiscing – I guess that’s as close to a time machine as we’ll get for awhile…

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    • Hello Darrell, Did you graduate from OVHS in 63′?
      I’m at my home PC surfing for historical stuff from the 1950z and 60z.
      When I came across your blog from 2008 about WTRU AM Muskegon.
      I enjoyed your thoughts.
      Now memories of some of our adventures are surfacing.
      I hope you get this, Mike

      Reply

  12. I would guess the year at 1980 since he mentions Saturday December 14th and some of the music was after 1974. LOVED the trip down memory lane.

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  13. was a friend of bill merchant while he was in grand rapids at wgrd and am wondering what happened to him. lost contact when i went into the navy back int he 60’s but woke up one morning in norfolk to his voice and went to visit him. next i knew he worked for pitney-bowes. found him again working at a radio station in upstate n.y. and went to visit him where we had a good time. wife, betty was still there but heard they seperated and have not had contact with bill in SEVERAL years. as to Skip “anderson”, only remember him as skip bell, last known to have moved back to MN because of “radio politics”. if any knowledge of whereabouts of either, would like to know….thanks, craig

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    • I was going to Muskegon JC from 66 to 68,and listened to WTRU. I had a summer job job working at WGRD with Skip Bell when it was the “Big white house on the hill”on Layfette St.My job was to stack the 45s before Skip got there,and when we did a live broadcast at the Dog”n Suds(Which is now Wendy’s)I had to run out,and deliver the record album, if someone got the triva question. I had a blue blazer that had WGRD in yellow on it. I still have my metal WGRD ink pen from then. Well,Skip,and I got to go to WTRU to hear this guy who wanted to have his song played there.(this guy was unknown then)It was Bobby Bare,and the first time it was ever played on the air was at WTRU,and he was in the studio at the time to hear the reaction from the listeners. The song…”Detroit City” First time it was ever played anywhere.Skip Bell went to WOKY in Milwalkee.I met Bobby Bare while in Nashville in 1973,and he still remembers that day at WTRU.

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      • Hi Ron,

        Any idea on where I can contact Skip Bell today.

        Thanks,

        Gary Hunt
        Real Oldies 1480 and 850 AM (WGVU)

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        • Sorry Gary,lost touch with Skip Bell years ago when he returned to WOKY in Milwalkee .Got a big suprise in 2004 while driving in Chicago,and heard Dick Biondi on an oldies station ! I called the station,and talked to him. I told him I listened to him on WABC out of New York. You could only get it at night in West Michigan.He came on after “Cousin Bruce-ie”. I listen to Real Oldies 1480 (WGVU).now. “Lost in the 50s”..love the “Do-Wop Stop” on Saterdays,and the Sunday “Countdown” show from 3PM til 4PM. “Keep up the good work”!

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  14. I’m Skip Knight’s son (his real name was Charles Rutledge, but everybody called him Skip) and Bill Merchant was good friend of the family when we lived in Muskegon. Bill passed away several years back. And Dad passed away in Nov 2001 in Fergus Falls, MN. After, Muskegon, we moved to Duluth MN where he managed KAOH (long gone now) and then to PA where he managed WFFM in Johnstown PA. From there he went back to Duluth to work at WAKX and then a variety of other things before landing in Fergus Falls.

    I have to say he would quite pleased that he was still remembered fondly because working at WTRU was his favorite gig.

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  15. Going through this, reminiscing, as I get back to West Michigan every 9-24 months (if my life takes me to Chicago, which it does – and thanks for the Amtrak train!).
    Oh yeah, Bill Trap was the news guy, Skip Knight the big time DJ- station was owned by one Fred Tascone, who lived at the end of McCracken Street. My aunt used to date a sales rep at TRU, and recall (when I was, gee, about ten at the time)getting the VIP treatment while the unwashed were milling around outside the station one Halloween night.
    Can also recall when it was a NBC radio affiliate (1970-71), so it’d have Monitor and Encore on weekends, and NBC News on the hour- you only hear that type of “national radio” on the CBC these days. Would go back to Muskegon infrequently (until Dad, then Mom died), but seem to recall it had become a FM simulcaster (and a weak one, at that) by the mid-80s, then a sportsbabble station.
    Yes,boomers would listen to JJ Jeffries on WOKY, Jim Stagg, Ron Britain, and Barney Pipp on WCFL, Larry Lujack of WLS. Do you recall when Tommy James and the Shondells got grief when “I Think We’re Alone Now” was played? Good heavens!

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  16. I was a DJ on WTRU from 1974 thru 1975. My shifts were Saturday night from 8:00pm until we went off the air at midnight. Then I returned on Sunday from noon until 6:00pm. It was one of the highlights of my early radio career. I now live in FL and had no idea it was no longer around. It will be missed.

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    • I was a DJ on WTRU. I used to fill in for Ray Hosier (sp?). Back in the early 60s when it became WTRU from WKNK… (that’s another story) My shifts were Saturday night and Sunday morning.

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  17. I remember cruising Western Ave. and listening to Bill Merchant, Ron Tindel and Mark Banks (the crazy Native American who did the late night shift). Also, these guys were involved in doing hops (dances) at the Muskegon Armory and in Grand Haven. L.J. Ploough, a city policeman sold tickets, I worked in the coat check area. Met some rising stars like Conway Twitty during that era. Great times for a high schooler and first year college student. The slogan in 1956-58 was, “WTRU, the top aisle on your radio dial.”

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  18. I was Program Director/Midday Jock/and later Afternoon Jock at WTRU from 1974-79. I also hosted the hour-long “Hotline” talk/call-in show in 1978-79.

    My guess is that this tape of JR is from 1975. He plugs Tom Wyant as the morning jock, and Tom left the station shortly after I arrived in September 1974. Tom was replaced in the mornings by Stan Wallis with Bill Trap as his newsman.

    I really enjoyed this clip of JR, and was glad to hear that he went on to bigger and better things from WTRU. While I was there, WTRU had several very talented people like JR, including a very early Charlie Quinn, who is now with CBS Radio, Bruce Bisson, Mike Stevens, etc.

    By the way, to correct something that was said in several of these comments. Fred Tascone was the manager of WTRU, not the owner. The station was owned by Regional Broadcasters, a chain of small/medium market stations that was headquartered in upstate New York. Regional also owned WGRD in Grand Rapids. Don Anderson, another name mentioned is a couple comments here, was the General Manager of WGRD.

    Really enjoyed this slice of WTRU history. It was great fun working there for five years, although I hated the Muskegon winters.

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    • i dug Hotline, it was cool as heck !!!

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      • My dad was called “mr hotline” for a LONG time running. His name was reg (Reginald) Bullis and he would have been a world wide figure if he hadnt been stricken with cancer. many loved him and he had his enemies too….but anyone that heard him REMEMBERED. he was ahead of his time exposing the “new world order” and corruption at high levels…he even got a few death threats. Anybody know if there is a way to hear any hotline archives?

        Reply

      • do you remember a caller named reg Bullis who was called “mr hotline” for years on end? thats my deceased father. id die to hear some of his broadcasts if archives exist.

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    • Jon my dad was named Reg Bullis aka “mr hotline” and he died in 1980. he had a huge following and turns out he was right about many things he warned about back then. Do you remember him? is there any hotline shows archived?

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  19. Ah, memories…

    A Muskegon native, I was the summer fill-in guy from 1973-75, and then sporadically after that; also worked the sister station in Grand Rapids (WGRD) in ’74 and ’75.

    I grew up listening to WTRU, WLS, WCFL, WOKY, and when FM got more prevalent, WGRD.

    This is the only radio work of any significance I’ve ever done; I’ve often wondered what might have happened if I’d stuck with it. To this day I miss it.

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  20. LOL………..i was there with all of them in the mid 60’s….on air part time and was still in highschool at mona shores. It was totally some of the best days in radio..went on to wmus and many other stations..i left the air in 2000 and looking back its seems i lived the life of three people.

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  21. I had no idea that this website was here and I’m glad I found it. I worked at WTRU from 1976-80 and fondly remember Bill Trap, Fred Tascone, Mike “Stevens” Sirianni, Bill Spaniola, Bill Uecker (can’t remember spelling), Jon London, Stan Wallis, Bill Lowry and the other sales and clerical staff. I worked along-side Bill Trap as a newscaster but would get to do fun jobs like the 54-hour Fishing Marathon (try coming up with exciting radio about men trying to catch a million dollar fish at 3 a.m.!), the March of Dimes Walk-a-thon, and driving around in “Trudy” the station’s bus. Those were the good ol’ days and I’m proud to have been a small part.

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  22. I’ll have you know that “Hotline” was the spark that led me down the broadcasting road in life. thanx (((ya never know what lives yer gonna touch when you open that ol’ mic.)))

    I remember an ad ya’ll used to run for a local band called “Guitar Foots”. In the ad, they had a line in their song “I wanna hear the meat cookin’,/ I wanna hear the fish fry,/ and if you can’t give it to me baby. . . plee’EEASE give it a good try”.

    TO this day. . . .I wanna actually hear that song.

    Then there was the ad singing, “It’ll be alright, / skatin’ at the holliday tonight.”

    aaaahhhhh good times

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  23. WTRU was my third job in radio. I am kind of hazy on the dates, but I know I was there around 1982-1985. I started out doing weekends, moved to evening drive, and finally I worked as a morning show producer (Cliffy Martin was the talent), when the oldies format moved to a talk format. I will still in High School when I was working nights. I can’t imagine that we weren’t breaking any child labor laws since I was only 16.

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  24. Whatever happen to “Larry Allen” who did the sat nite under ground music

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  25. We tried to revive the glory of the old WTRU in 1986/87. I was brought in from WZDQ (Jackson Tennessee) by station owner Goodrich Broadcasting to handle operations and a live morning shift using Transtar’s “Oldies Channel” format. We couldn’t get the WTRU calls back, so we settled for WTRV, and used the ID “True AM 16-All Oldies, All The Time”. It seemed no one knew the station was even on the air-we had no promotional or advertising budget. When the Goodrich company started hemmoraging money after starting a new station in the Quad Cities, the plug was pulled as a cost cutting measure, and sister station WSNX began simulcasting on 1600. I was moved to evenings on WSNX. Got the opportunity to work with Bill Spaniola and Bill Uecker from WTRU at WLCS in Muskegon, and with Michael Sirianni at WLHT in Grand Rapids.

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  26. I moved to Muskegon in 1956 and remember WKNK switching to the Big New Voice of the Port City, WTRU or TRU. The livin’ end of the radio dial. I was just going through a pile of old WTRU Tundexes that my wife saved. Remember the “Wax to Watch”? Ron Tindall, Skip Knight and Bill “Tenth of a ton of fat and fun” Merchant seemed like a really cool bunch of guys. Ron DJed at a dance at Laketon Central once and I kept asking him to play Norman by Sue Thomson. He didn’t have it finally told me to scram. WTRU is now a religious station in the south.

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  27. Hey!!! I got my start at WKNK, in the early 50’s,when Nick Kuris owned it. Then came back in the early 60’s when it was WTRU.
    I well remember Skip, Ron, Ray Hozer, Jack Leroy at night.
    Anyone remember Bill Trap on the roof playing Alley Oop for 24 hours straight?
    Those were the days of radio, never to be equalled.
    I met so many people while there. Loved the Motown days and the dances with some of the Motown greats.
    Bobby Bare sat in my office waiting for Ron Tindall to finish his show and Take off for the L.C. Walker Arena for the “HOP”.
    I did “on-air fill” but worked in Copy writing commercial material.
    Later in the early 70’s built my own station, WZND in Zeeland, Michigan, retiring in ’87.
    Hope this adds to the memories of the “Good Loe Days”.

    Reply

    • We used to sneak through the woods from our church to watch nudie movies at Nick Kuris’s GK (later OK) Drive-In on Whitehall Rd.

      Every Muskegonite remembers the Alley Opp thing. We drove by the station in the evening when Bill was on the roof in a caveman leopard skin.

      Reply

  28. I remember “WTRU True to You” during the 1960’s summers at the “Bend” listening to tunes when the DJ would call out time to roll over every 30 minutes to prevent sunburn. I couldn’t wait to leave Muskegon. Now I can’t remember why. Part of the reason was WTRU would not play controversial songs such as “WAR”, “Eve of Destruction”, “In-a Godda-Da-Vida”,and “Wild Thing”. I listened to WLS in Chicago to get the “long” versions of the good stuff.

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  29. Cal Curow, are you Marla’s brother? If so, I lived a block down the street from you and was very fond of my neighbor, your aunt Esta Mae. I remember my family listening to Sound Off while eating dinner. I’ve been trying to remember the name of the host, but can’t. I remember the Alley Oop song playing repeatedly. I think my family was heading to Twin Lake for an enjoyable day of swimming and picnicking when it happened. I was maybe 5 years old and it was a favorite of mine at the time (no accounting for the taste of someone so young), so I was thrilled and I remember us all laughing about it. I spent many hours listening to WTRU but also listened to WLS and some station in Milwaukee, too, when I got older. One of my often-requested Christmas gifts was a little transistor radio that I would listen to on end. When people say what musical instrument they played, I just say that I played the radio.

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    • WOKY was the Milwaukee station that you most likely listened to. Their slogan was “Woky in Milwaukee”.

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    • That would be me. Uncle John and Aunt Esta (we kids thought it was Ester) ended up in Grandma’s house after she died. I spent a good part of my summers there.

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  30. I started my radio career at WKNK, in Muskegon in 1952, and later in the early 60’s came back when it was WTRU. I well remember Ron Tyndall, Skip Knight, Ray Hozer & Jack Leroy. – – later to become WTRU in Muskegon (The upper aisle of your radio dial)
    Jack Leroy later joined me at WZND, a station in Zeeland, Michigan that we constructed.

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  31. Hey Jon,

    I didn’t know this was up until Tom Wyant told me of a link on the WGVU AM website.

    I think of you every time I hear one of those airchecks and you are on the end of a spot for a hamburger joint “Laketon just east of Getty and downtown at the corner of Peck and Hartford.”

    I am currently semi-retired from radio but, running three online stations…2 @ http://www.movieticketradio.com and a “salute” to Big 10 http://www.WCFLchicago.com. All are on TuneIn, Shoutcast, RadioShaker and others too.

    Drop me a line at [email protected]

    JR

    Reply

    • This comment mis-fired and was intended for Jon London.

      Reply

  32. Tom Wyant left in May of 1975. He was at one time part owner in WLKI in Angolq IN with Tom Andrews. Tom is now on WGVU Realoldies every afternoon 2till 6.

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  33. My mother (Mary Riegler)worked for WTRU as a copy writer in the mid 60s making commercials. I was recorded in a few of those commercials when they needed a child’s voice. She said it was the best job she ever had.

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    • As stated above….
      I started my radio career at WTRU (WKNK at that time.) in the early 50’s. The station was owned by Nick Kuris, then.
      Nick has a bunch of businesses with NK” in the names.
      There was the NK theater, NK drive-in Theater, NK Bowling Alley, NK Parking Lot, etc.
      I think Nick came to the US from Greece.

      Later in the 60’s I came back when Regional Broadcasters Inc. owned it and renamed it WTRU. Fred Tascone was the manager, Skip Knight was program director and Bill Trap was News Director. Also Ron Tindall, Ray Hozer, Jack Leroy and others. We were on Summit then. That was where Bill Trap went up on the roof and played Alley Oop for hours on end.
      Them, there was the days of radio, my friends….

      My first radio job — leading to a great career ending with ownership of a number one rated local station, WZND, in Zeeland, Mi.
      I am now retired at 81, but will always remember those days.

      Reply

  34. My father Matt Andrews work at Wtru in 1977

    Reply

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