Family affair on the air: Go Radio marks 65 years

Mar. 11—GRAYSON — Anniversaries provide the perfect opportunity to reflect, and that's what's happening at WGOH 1370 AM and 100.9 FM, with classic country and bluegrass formats and staffed by local disc jockeys and local information.

Also known as Go Radio, the station, which reaches 30 counties in three states, has received many Associated Press awards, Kentucky Station of the Year honors and has won the National Association of Broadcasters Crystal Radio Award in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2008.

One of the owners, Dee Shufflebarger, said one of her most vivid — and telling — memories is of one of the ice storms that hit the area.

"Somebody had to stay up here all the time so, (General Manager) Jeff Roe stayed so people brought him food and candles. This old block building got cold," Shufflebarger said. "Somebody had to be here making sure everything was OK at the station."

Her son, Mark, recently had his 14-year anniversary at the family broadcasting business. He also remembered a serious ice storm in 1994 that knocked down the station's tower. But that was before his time, he said. His memories drift toward Francis Nash, former station manager and morning show host, who took him under his wing, preparing him to take over the morning show.

"I was a little intimidated, but it became so fun," he said, noting other big-name legends from the station include engineer Bill Craig, with the station since 1968; news director Jim Phillips, who came from the local newspaper in 1979; his son, Mike Phillips, who began as an announcer in 1985; and Roe, operations manager who will soon retire after working at the station for more than 40 years.

Mark's brother, Aaron, 34, also attended Morehead State University, earning a degree in English, all the while planning to work at the station.

"I always sort of knew it's where my grandfather wanted me and my brother to be," he said, explaining he works evenings and much of his work revolves around airing Cincinnati Reds and local ball games. Working solo for the first time was memorable.

"Your first shift by yourself after you finish your training, in that moment you sort of realize you're really ready or really not ready," he said. "Also, the first time working alone and losing power. All kinds of alarms go off. It's a trying time."

Regardless, Aaron Shufflebarger said the station is where he's meant to be.

"It's an honor to work here. We've been around so long," he said. "My grandfather started it and it was important to him and it's important to me."

Program director Mike Nelson has been with the station for about six years, but has spent 25 years in broadcasting.

"I just enjoy providing information and being there for people listening to the radio and just being a voice," he said. "I've been hooked on it since I was a child. My uncle (Ronnie Bell) was a disc jockey (at WIRO in Ironton and WCMI in Ashland) and he is the one who got me started. ... My dad would drive me to the studio and I'd sit there in the floor and watch mu uncle work."

The station began when local physician Dr. H.E. Shufflebarger started the process in Grayson in the late 1950s. WGOH went on the air on June 1, 1959. The call letters stood for Grayson and Olive Hill and was at 1370 on the AM band with 5,000 watts. The station operated during daylight hours to avoid interference with other stations, until it was granted a pre-sunrise and post-sunset authority, playing a variety of music from bluegrass and country in the morning to rock in the afternoon with gospel sprinkled in.

Several notables have connections to the station: Dick Martin, who later was mayor of Ashland, was the first manager. Charlie Esposito and Bill Stewart, who would become a CBS correspondent who was killed on the job in a Central American jungle, were announcers. The late country music star Tom T. Hall had a short stint as a deejay in the 1960s.

WGOH also has featured live performances in the studio: Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley first teamed up there. Paul Mullins, who later formed a popular bluegrass band, was an early disc jockey and a young Loretta Lynn brought her first album to the station to be played. Carmel Stevens hosted a weekday bluegrass show for more than 25 years.

WGOH began broadcasting local high school games in 1967 after obtaining an FM signal and became a Cincinnati Reds and University of Kentucky affiliate. It also carried local high school sports, as well as Kentucky Christian University and Morehead State University games, Nelson said.

In the late 1970s, the station began expanding the facilities in anticipation of the FM changing its programming. In 1979, WGOH-FM became WUGO and began music programming on its own with light rock, with call letters again represented Grayson and Olive Hill and adopted a nickname of "U-102". WGOH AM continued to program country, gospel and bluegrass, dropping rock from its repertoire.

When the town was wired for cable television in the early 1980s, the station took charge of the local community access channel in 1982 creating local television for the area with computer generated messages, advertising, news, weather and a live public affairs show "County Conversations," as well as taped news with "Focus On Grayson."

By the early 1990s, WUGO received permission to up the power to 4800 watts and go to "stereo" broadcasting. In 1996, the automation was switched to "Westwood One;" all newscasts were broadcast live on both stations. It also became one of the longest-running Associated Press news stations members in the state. Both stations began to be known as "Go Radio" as GO appears in both stations call letters and was easier for listeners to remember.

In July 2012, WGOH launched a translator rebroadcasting the 1370 AM signal on 100.9 FM, creating WGOH AM and FM, Nelson said. "This allowed us to move East Carter sports to a full-time home and leave West Carter, UK and the Reds on WUGO," he said.

Another major change came in March 2013 when WUGO moved to a new frequency of 99.7, allowing for a better signal with less interference.

There is a special kind of love the broadcasters have for their jobs and their community.

Mrs. Shufflebarger said hers is a fun job.

"I just get up and come in for a few hours and do what needs to be done," she said. "I enjoy it. I've learned a lot. It's different and I learned how important ad sales are and it all depends on community support. ... We just want to stay a hometown radio station and be here for the community."

Matt Shufflebarger discovered he preferred broadcasting to business when he was a business major at Morehead State University because it "became more about dollar signs than people."

"A friend recommended a broadcast class and I fell in love with communications," he said."I've done everything from working the morning shift to climbing onto the roof to change a fan belt. It truly feels like family here. There's always someone eager to get something done." He also reports the news, relying on Kentucky News Network and CBS feeds, but with a healthy dose of local news.

"We feel fortunate we can still be a small, community-based radio station and make sure, whether it's a non-profit or church, if you have something going on, you can call us or sent us an email. Carter County isn't big enough for anything to stand alone, so it's really important to work together so these things can thrive."