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West Central, Michigan

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We beat all the office pools, and WION celebrates in September!

That's right, WION beat all the "wagering" by (some) locals against our survivial!  We won with our team of radio pros, who bought and revived WION in 2004.  Many folks didn't think small-town radio could survive, let alone THRIVE in this modern digital world! 

Before we get too far in to this post, let me apologize for not writing more blogs of late, my (few) readers know it's been a long time.  Radio's kept me, and the whole WION team busy!  

It'll be ten years on September 1st that Jim Aaron and I threw the "official' switch turning the station back on (legally)....and, actually, truth be known, the license had not been "reinstated" during the morning show, but was "ok'd" in person by an FCC official to the attorney representing the seller within minutes of the end of the morning show.

That show was scary for Jim and I, a new venture together in business, both of us very familiar with the radio industry, with similar stops around Michigan and Indiana learning the ropes from some excellent mentors, program directors, and owners.  Rumor is that we played Charlie Dore's "Pilot of the Airwaves" for the first official song on WION, though during transmitter testing I recall our engineers asking me to put something on so they could tune up the old tube monster. If memory serves, it was Jimmy Buffet, but given the condition of the pile of equipment in OUR early WION, he sounded like Anne Murray at the bottom of a well, singing an AC/DC song while having a bad cold. Yes, the sound of WION was less than we had hoped but we got it on the air.

Over the  next weeks and months, with the help of great engineers including Michael Bradford (whom I credit with pointing me in the direction of Ionia, sometimes with more blame than credit on days where radio seems an odd career choice) Ed Trombley,  and the other radio engineers at the firm of Munn-Reese in Coldwater, MI, along with  Ralph Haines, we gathered enough equipment to kick the sound (and the signal) in the pants, and get a stronger sound out there for our listeners,which was by this time growing in numbers every day!  Still broadcasting in Mono and limited by our equipment and startup budget, we moved forward. 

Along the way, however...there were a few setbacks. A storm in June of 2005 took our old Continental transmitter off-air for a few days (A bad thing for a new company to experience, especially when trying to improve WION's image in the community.)  Insurance at the "upper" levels fought our claim, but, they brought in an independent engineer not associated with WION to look at the issue who said, "yep, it can be fixed, but there's more damage done AFTER the lightning bolt, so your best bet as insurance carriers is to REPLACE the whole box, and have less overall claims."  With that said, a new 45 thousand dollar transmitter was installed, and we paid only for a rather large surge supressor on the power input.  It was a bit of  good fortune  for us. Since then, the new transmitter has not had any bouts with lightning. The independent engineer was correct!  With that new transmitter came better range, better sound, and....eventually AM stereo...but we'll get to that soon.  Literally, that lightning bolt was a gift from God himself.  We even overcame the well going dry, the roof being at the end of its life on the studios (a new lifetime metal roof is in place)  and other various small "emergencies" that happen to any 24/7 business, and always come out of each situation in better shape, thanks to the talents of our WION family and our advertisers! 

The first major thing we had to do was improve and enlarge the AM signal! WION alway pointed it's signal north. We fixed this and moved the daytime AM signal to a "round" pattern with the help of the great engineers we've mentioned in this blog!  That was around 2008-2009. Now you can enjoy the over the air AM from Lansing to Grand Rapids along I-96, and for a good distance of the way going north and south, too! During this upgrade, we also installed a generator that keeps us at FULL POWER and ready to bring you information during any power outage or local emergency when cable, DSL and other communication means are not working!

Then came the NEW FM STEREO 92-7 with it's clear, VERY stereo, excellent sound!  It covers most of our county 24/7, and fills-in where the AM can't (mainly at night, due to the laws that make us lower our power at night) and this signal quickly became a favorite of many business owners, and "local" homes and drivers.

Next on the list came our improved AM "sound" with the addition of AM stereo! Many HD radios and cars with years up through the mid 2000's have AM stereo built-in, but...we also did this to show the world how GREAT AM stereo can sound!  And how did we do this, you ask?  By the next of the miracles for our small station:

STREAMING!  WION launched our streaming service officially on the morning of the station's 60th birthday!  We're now known (and heard) worldwide, and we're known as the leader in quality AM sound!  If you've tuned-in to our stream, you know how great it sounds, and guess're listening to AM STEREO directly from  the AM stereo tuner you see at the top of our website.  Yes, it's AM, and YES, it's STEREO!  You can now take WION anywhere in the world, with our online player, our apps in Google Play and I-tunes, through the Tune-In Radio app, and even on new 'smart TV sets" with the tune-in app! (and boy, do we sound GREAT through home theater systems!!)

Programming has evolved over the past ten years. Many a guest has joined us at the round table.  We've added more songs, features, and some special shows that nobody else carries!  Randy Edwards' show each weekend called "Edwards' Archives" and his daily "Turntable Trainwrecks" are produced just for us!  We were an early affiliate of the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, and still have them today! Weekends also include the "Lost 45's" with Barry Scott, "Retro Stars, the 90's show" and Pastor Ken Harger's weekly message from the lighthouse. Certainly these, and others represent  a huge variety of programming when mixed with our hourly music and information!  

Looking back on  10 years of great music, informing our county, providing employment and paying local taxes, we also can celebrate many other things, like:
Donations to Big Brothers/Big Sisters each year through broadcasting the Chili Dawg Challenge;  Donations to the Bertha Brock Improvement Fund;  a "Time Capsule" buried at the park;  Many successful food drives; Thousands of Dollars given to the local "Relay for Life" in Ionia; 4 years of re-creating the 1939 radio version of "A Christmas Carol" and selling copies for charity; Remote broadcasts and interviews from the Ionia Freefair; Funds raised for winter heating of the Blanchard House; promotion of the IPS Empty Bowls program,  and most recently, WION teaming with the I-M kids 3rd meal program with WION's 10th anniversary.  I'm sure I've left many a fundraiser out!

Through the generosity of the Ionia Moose Lodge hosting us, and by their donating the pig to roast, we'll continue our tradition of giving back,  by 100 percent of all (suggested) $5 donations for lunch going to help feed youngsters who may not normally get a supper when they head home from school!  Please join us on September 13th from noon to 5 PM for our celebration of TEN GREAT YEARS serving Ionia!  Yes, we beat all the office pools who said, "It couldn't be done!" And, we're very proud.

In closing, thank you to our advertisers.  To those who don't know, radio like WION pays its bills through advertising, and we want to advertise YOUR BUSINESS on our airwaves. We'll show you how creative radio advertising from people who care about YOU will grow your business!  And, guess's AFFORDABLE. May we ask for your business as a WION advertiser, please? We love having our listening business list grow, but we'll continue to grow and contribute BACK to Ionia County the more clients we have!  Hear some GREAT creative ads, and even see our new "self serve" online form for ordering one-time event advertising by clicking HERE and, see our advertising package inviting folks to FALLFEST by clicking HERE! We give $50 to the Bertha Brock Park improvement fund for every package sold! 

Thanks for 10 great years, and here's to continued growth....with the help of GREAT listeners, and GREAT advertisers!  Read here what people say about WION. We're very proud of the compliments!


Jim Carlyle, Co-Owner and Morning Host
WION Radio

and on behalf of Jim Aaron, Music Director and Co-Owner,

"America's Biggest Little Radio Station"


  1. Congrats on 10 years! I have listened to hundreds and hundreds of radio stations online and no station is as unique or sounds as good as WION!

    I wish I could join you for your celebration at the Moose Lodge! And it’s no surprise to me that Jim would take a WION event and figure out a way to use it to help raise money for the people of Ionia.

    I was lucky enough to be able to listen to and enjoy WION for a few years before WION officially went online via a special engineer’s line Jim setup for me. When Jim first asked me to humor him and give a listen to his station I never expected to fall in love with it like I did!

    I run a very popular website which in good months can attract about a half million unique IP addresses. I loved the station so much that I gave the station their own online discussion forum where people can talk about WION and Ionia. (Although I do wish more people would use it!) and have adopted WION as our official Home Town Station!

    SatelliteGuys has enjoyed working together with WION on things like "A Christmas Story" including CD sales and raising money for the Ionia Area American Cancer Society. Yes through its power WION brought in a lot of money from out of town and brought it into Ionia!

    I remember I was in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show and Jim called me up as I was walking on the show floor and told me he was looking for a new slogan to celebrate the stations birthday. Without hesitation one popped into my head... "How about "American's Biggest Little Radio Station?"

    Jim loved it and I am proud it’s a slogan he still uses today.

    Last year we had a SatelliteGuys get together in Ionia and never in my life have I traveled to a place with people as friendly as the people of Ionia. As we drove into town I smiled as I saw "Welcome SatelliteGuys" on the display of my rental car. Everyone we met in Ionia made us felt welcome and at home. It was the most enjoyable and relaxing time I can remember having. I do hope I will get a chance to go visit Ionia again!

    I also now also consider Jim an extended part of my family.

    In the radio business you don't come across owners like Jim who not only cares about paying the bills, but also strives to put out the best quality possible. Many of you don't know how hard he works keeping WION sounding so good. Jim also deeply cares about the community which is something else rare in radio. Jim believes in giving back to the community to help it grow. I also know that Jim considers Bertha Brock Park his own little slice of heaven. I have never heard anyone talk about a park so much, but after Jim took us to the park I can see why he loves it so much.

    Finally in closing... to the businesses of Ionia I ask you to support WION. In most of America small hometown radio stations such as WION are a thing of the past. Many small stations that served the community are now gone, replaced with corporate radio stations with DJ's from out of town, with no local personality whatsoever. Other small town radio stations have gone away completely leaving a big hole in the local community. It is said you never realize what you have until it's gone, no other radio station that that is receivable in Ionia has done more for Ionia then WION.

    If you own a business and love Ionia and want to show the town your community spirit, please consider becoming an advertiser on WION. I know Jim and his crew have ad packages to fit any budget. It is funny when I went to Ionia as I was driving in Ionia I would look around and point out businesses that I heard advertising on WION. In fact while I was in town I went and went and visited and shopped and thanked a number of businesses for advertising on WION
    Be PROUD of your local station! And be thankful that you still have one!

    Congrats to both Jim's on 10 years of WION!

    Scott Greczkowski

  2. Congratulations on 10 years!! That's a great accomplishment for any business these days.

    I have had the opportunity to be on the round table morning show with Phil and Big Mike. Promoting the Ionia Classis Car Show which benefits the local food pantries.

    My husband and I advertise on WION with our businesses of Feehan & Son Excavating and Landscape Supplies. And now with the newest the Log Cabin Inn Banquet Center in Muir.

    May you have many more years for our listening of WION!

    Toni Feehan
    Muir, MI