Jim Blog

What a Difference Nineteen Years Makes to a Radio Station!

todaySeptember 11, 2023 28

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Where have the years gone??  We’ve just passed our 19 year mark ….saving and reviving Ionia County’s radio station.

The re-birth of WION as “today’s” I-1430, or AM Stereo 1430, or “America’s Biggest Little Radio Station”…(pick your favorite descriptor) began in August of 2004.

The station was off the air from the passing of the former owner and the timeclock running out.  When a licensed broadcast station is off the air a year with no “special temporary authority” extension,  the license is forever revoked by the FCC.  Insert the ticking of the clock here.

With 16 years in radio, and with a resume that looked like alphabet soup, I’d been toying with buying a radio station for awhile.  My first “coming close” was a small station in Jasper, Alabama, WZPQ.  Quite a few trips were  made to this station, about an hour from Birmingham, and much of my money was spent in trying to make this deal happen.  The seller and his wife wanted out of owning it, but it came with more than the usual “ghosts” in the machine, both figuratively and literally.  The place needed help.  One studio was abandoned in the house where it was located. A  new one was in place in a rather live living room with no sound deadening. The transmitter site was a mess, but…it would have been mine…and negotiations continued. Closing was getting closer after seeing the future battles and projects that would be needed.  It was full steam ahead.

Then, about two or three weeks before closing, the owner of WZPQ and his wife decided to pull the plug. No sale. No station for me. Lots of money spent.  Back to my morning show in Hillsdale, Michigan and down in the dumps, until an engineer came in that knew me well….

“You should go look at Ionia” said Michael!  “Why?” I asked….”Because the local station is off the air and needs an owner” he told me.  So, I went to Ionia with a buddy of mine, saw the freefair in-session, ate downtown and decided to pursue buying WION. 

The widow of the former owner was very gracious in speaking with me when she said, “we’re already in a deal to sell to Stafford Communications but if it falls thru, I’ll call you.”   Guess what? It fell through. The FCC would not allow them to own newspaper and radio in Greenville, AND WION.  The challenge was “on” for financing and to stay the execution of the license which would expire on September 4th.  It was already August.  The keys came to us on August 14th, 2004 and we had only til September 4th to get this place running, and we DID.

Here’s how the (front)  yard looked then….

And how it looks today…

But there was much more work to do…..
The Transmitter had to be tested, and it “passed” but…not without sparks and the engineers warning me that it may “make some noise.” Well, it did…and I had to change my drawers when it made some lightning of it’s own…This is what engineering looked like in 2004….

Speaking of lightning,  a few months later,  a lightning bolt would take out the original transmitter we owned here, and after fighting insurance, the new one was installed.  A very basic, improved engineering room by 2005.

Since then, much has been done to upgrade this little radio station to be what you know it as today…”America’s Biggest Little Radio Station!”

Here’s what engineering looks like today…..

To improve WION, first, we enlarged the daytime AM signal….




With the larger AM signal, then came AM  Stereo…not just for the local listeners, but….for streaming!  Yes, folks, we STREAM REAL AM STEREO from my office in the WION studio building…directly from a tuner into streaming software, then out to the world!  Thus, after much work by our engineers to make our AM really “sing”…we truly are, “the BEST sounding AM Station in the Nation!”…Many folks who listen online don’t believe we’re really broadcasting AM on the web…but we are!  Just listen for our power and pattern change in the morning and evening, and you’ll be a believer!

Just a few years ago, WION was offered the opportunity to add another small FM, this time hailing from Lowell on what we now call “Broadcast Hill.” …..We share an antenna with the high school LPFM thanks to some excellent engineering (once again our engineers show us how important excellent planning and execution of plans really IS if you want to properly make great radio)….which gave us 100.3 FM serving Eastern Kent County!

Along the way, we’ve held a few annual food drives in the famous WION RV….

We took the “silver studio’ to the Ionia Freefair in our early years…

This year will be our 10th year hosting “Treasures for Troops” in November…

WION held multiple broadcasts from the annual Chili Dawg Challenge when it was Big Bros/Sisters

We covered Christmas parades from the Lamplight Grill….

We broadcast two days in a row from the opening of our new “Sparrow Ionia Hospital”

We took our microphones to Hell and back and….

The WION Mics went to Punxsatawney PA to bring you live coverage of Groundhog Day.

We held the first annual “Heave on the Eve” with secretaries tossing phones on the library lawn…

We had Mayor Dan Balice co-host most every Wednesday during the Covid mess…

We raised $2000 for Bertha Brock Park on the park’s 80th Birthday and buried a time capsule

We’ve been in-studio for (most) severe weather incidents….


We added an 800 Number for easier access to us 24/7

We’ve maintained a website for you since 2004, the latest being a HUGE step forward..

We’ve been here through major power outages…with our full power standby generator

We brought you open house broadcasts from Ionia County 9-1-1!

and, there’s so much MORE this little station has done.   If we’ve forgotten something you enjoyed or liked that we’ve done, remind us!

We have a great team now, and have since 2004…..and our service to you continues to grow.


We love y’all….for your loyalty, your listening regularly, and your spreading the word about “America’s Biggest Little Radio Station”…WION.

(Above)  The very basic WION studios of 2004, with a 1980’s analog control board…..in mono, and much “stuff” stacked up around the announcer.

(Below)  And, the comfortable very FUNCTIONAL studio from which originates the J and J Midday Show, Popeye John’s Classic Rock Monday Night, Edwards’ Archives, Barry Scott’s Lost 45’s, The Totally 80’s Flashback with Tommy Kay, our weather coverage and SO much more:


Written by: Jim Carlyle

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