25 Years of 103GBF: Tony Couch
I grew up in Evansville listening to AM 1280 WGBF. It was the late 70’s. I remember my sister and I calling incessantly on our rotary telephone with the long curly cord requesting KC and the Sunshine band, ELO, Elton John, Gloria Gaynor and on and on. My favorite DJ was a guy named Buddy Scott. Man, was he good. He inspired me at the age of 8. I remember thinking, “how cool would it be – to be on the radio?” For those of us old enough to remember, the studios were on Washington Avenue across from St. Mary’s Hospital. There wasn’t a time my family drove by that I missed looking at the sign or wondering what the studio looked like.
I went to Bosse for High School and figured out by chance that I might have a talent for radio. By accident in a speech class my teacher suggested I look into WPSR (Public School Radio), a station owned by The EVSC located at Central High School. My senior year, I spent a half day on the airwaves. I loved it. I lived it. I was fortunate enough to intern at WIKY with the late Bob Buck, brother of the famous broadcaster Jack Buck. I don’t care what anybody says, you couldn’t tell the difference. They were both world class broadcasters. I also had the chance to intern with Randy Wheeler. He is also a consummate pro. From there, I had the chance to transition to WGBF. The station had fallen on hard times and had floundered in the in ratings suffering from an identity crisis. Keep in mind this was now both AM (1280) and FM 103.1. It wasn’t long after the internship became a minimum wage board operating job. I handled the Indiana University sporting events, plugging in commercials.
Within a few months the word on the street was that Larry Aiken was going to purchase the stations. I knew of Larry and that he, too had been a big broadcaster in Pittsburgh at the same time Dick Clark was blowing up out of Philadelphia. His radio moniker was, “Lonesome Larry.” Since his radio days he was the big concert promoter in town and owned several restaurants in addition to his political involvement. He was known to be a smart no nonsense businessman. He did, in fact, buy the stations and the changes were immediate. I spent several months recording every Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra and Ames Bros. songs that existed as we launched WWOK radio. The FM dabbled for a minute with some middle of the road format and THEN the decision was made to ROCK. I worked part time on the air – and made myself available WHENEVER I could get the chance. My first full time shift was overnights. Wow, looking back, those were some interesting times!
Eventually the stations moved to Henderson, KY on Highway 41. Larry was tough, but fair and he knew how to market and promote. I learned so much from him. I learned similarly from Mike Sanders, The Sandman. I was young, reckless and carefree. Mike told me so many times that someday would understand what he meant. He was definitely correct! Thank you Mike!
I became the Program Director at the young age of 22. I’ll never forget doing afternoons from 3-7pm. Over the years, we interviewed all of the rockstars & famous comedians, etc… I remember dressing up as a Turkey while RodZilla was Santa Clause broadcasting from the roof of Lawndale Shopping Center in the freezing cold. Once Kevin Roberts and I legally got drunk on the air with a Sherriff to prove how alcohol affects your system. Another memory was to promote the Freedom Festival Balloon race, I went up in a hot air balloon and was broadcasting from a cell phone. I’ll never forget, the wind changed and the pilot began to freak. Suddenly, we were right in the flight pattern of airplanes that might be coming into Dress Regional Airport. Where did we land? You guessed it. Yup, right in the middle of the runway to be met by airport security. Let’s just say the pilot had some ‘splainin’ to do. There are so many cool memories, racing other radio folks at the dirt track in modified stock cars at Evansville Raceway, driving the brand new Hummer back from Indianapolis to turn into a station vehicle after Turner Watson flipped the station van. Of course, multiple Ski Day on the Ohio events. Not to mention being the first station to syndicate Bob and Tom. It was great kicking 96STO’s ass. A 100,000 watt station taken down by a measly 6,000 watt signal. I could go on and on… Just great times.
I moved to New York City back in 95’. It’s hard to believe it was nearly 17 years ago. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to continue working with rock bands. In fact, with many of the artists heard on GBF’s airwaves still today. The early days here at Indegoot Entertainment, we found Creed, then 3 Doors Down. From there Puddle of Mudd, Shinedown, Chevelle, Theory of a Deadman and began working with Saliva, Sevendust, Halestorm, Black Stone Cherry, 10 Years and so on.
It’s hard to believe The River City Rocker is celebrating 25 Years of Rocking the Valley! It was an honor to work on the airwaves and one of which I will always have fond thoughts. I haven’t done an air shift in about 15 years. It would be great to get back on the mic. and intro some songs. Evansville is lucky to have the Sandman running the show. He is a career broadcaster and like me, I know radio will always be in his blood. It was great to hear from him and fun to recant a few memories of days gone by. Keep Rockin’ GBF, I know you will.