The Weather Bird — and WSLM 1220 AM – turn 61 on Friday.
That’s right – on Valentine’s Day.
Becky White, station owner and general manager, is quick to point out two things. First, it’s the station that’s turning 61. And second, all the kudos for WSLM begin and end with her late father.
She recalls the stories her father retold with pride and passion over the years.
“Dad wanted to get the station going on Christmas Day 1952,” she aid. “He had things ready and someone broke in that night and demolished a lot of the station and stole the rest.”
But as Don Martin showed over the years, he was a master at promotion and a spin doctor extraordinaire.
The Christmas Eve theft was enough to get the Associated Press’s attention and Martin told them he had equipment most preferred by thieves and that was enough for the AP to send the story around the nation.
“Dad was a master of turning lemons into lemonade,” White said of her best friend and business partner of more than 20 years who passed away in August 2011. “They found the equipment and re-installed everything and had the station ready to go by Valentine’s Day 1953. The Associated Press carried the story again. This time they dubbed WSLM as the Sweatheart Station of the Nation.”
And indeed, the station has been a sweatheart to Martin and now to White.
As the 1220 AM station gets a facelift — not only in the studio but on the airwaves too (it now plays Classic Country music on its own – apart from sister station WSLM 97.9 FM) — it is the new home of Purdue Sports in the Kentuckiana area and home of the Cincinnati Reds.
“WSLM 1220 AM is the largest AM station in Southern Indiana,” said White. “We reach from the south edge of Indianapolis to Frankfurt, Kentucky and from the edge of Illinois to Cincinnati. The station is back on its own and playing classic country music, which is the format it started off with in 1953. I think Dad would be very proud.”
After Martin’s 98.9 FM station, White started WSLM 97.9 FM in 1992. She’s also busy transitioning her TV station — WHAN 17 to the digital age this year. It will become HD 40 and will be an over-the-air channel as well as on all the Time Warner Cable systems in the area.
Although the old studio is outfitted with the latest in digital radio equipment, modern microphones and custom wooden furniture — signs of Martin’s 58 year reign are apparent — the thousands of 45 rpm records, 78s and LP albums are still archived in the studio. “I can’t take them out,” said White. “They remind me of Dad and this is the studio he worked in from the day he started the station until the night before he passed away. It’s updated but still has memories of him.”
WSLM will be giving away prizes from local merchants — including hotel stays, diamond jewelry and dinners all day on WSLM radio and through the station’s website – wslmradio.com.