CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?
Reflections on WRFL’s 7900 Watt Rebirth
by Mick Jeffries
June 17, 2010 was a very special day
for WRFL-FM, the University of Kentucky’s
radio station. It is, in total fact, the most
important day since the day the station
went on the air.
That’s because — after ten years of
paperwork, construction, fundraising,
and certifications — the station’s signal
was boosted from 250 watts to 7900
watts. With the full support of the FCC.
I learned of it Thursday morning at 5:30am, after reading an email from WRFL’s
unflappable Faculty Advisor, John Clark:
“hi, RFLiens. Shortly after midnight, at
12:10:58, to be precise, with little fanfare, but
lots of love, [Program Director] Matt Gibson
and I applied our digits to the proper places on
the transmitter touchscreen. Then we stood back
in silence and awe and watched the digital
readout climb. Without even beginning to name
names, many thanks to everyone who had anything
to do with this awesome event, all the way
back to 1996, when we first started working on
After that, I got to spend my show as the
first “waking day” deejay to share this news
with listeners. What a joy. Pondering it myself,
I’ve been overcome repeatedly with
joyful little tears.
Maybe I’m just glad we’re both still alive,
WRFL & I.
And while I did help start the station, I
didn’t expect it to be the beacon that it is in
my life, decades after those outlandish college
times — and years after leaving to “get
on with my life.”
Nor did I expect for Life to bring me back
to Lexington, or for a young friend named
Ross Compton — who knew I’d been involved
in “the early days” of the station —
to arrange a shift for me, should I want one.
It hadn’t occurred to me, but I was flattered.
At the time, my life seemed in terrible flux,
and the idea of playing a little music on the
radio seemed like a welcome diversion from
the daily challenge of living alone with my
struggling teenage daughter.
Flash forward eight years and here I am:
Thursdays, 6 – 9 am
My daughter got her shit together, and so
did I. Sometimes, I’ve flogged myself, thinking
I must be a loser because I still do a radio
show at a station I helped start in the late
80s. Ironically, it could be that being on the
radio is the only thing that hasn’t changed
for me. Even my show — a genial “morning
zoo” thing called Trivial Thursdays — I jokingly
call “the show I never would have allowed
anybody to do” when I was WRFL’s 2nd Program
More than just error-prone volunteers
playing music nobody’s ever heard of,
WRFL really is a beacon. Over and over,
I’ve seen it speak to people who need it for
one reason or another. Within those graffitiand
sticker-laden walls, some of those people
have become my dear friends, and some
of those people were not even born in 1986-7,
when a handful of bright misfits (who were
very similar to some of my young friends
today) were trying to figure out how you
start a radio station.
And that must be where the emotion
comes from for me.
Because how could I feel anything but
profound gratitude for this station — and my good fortune to be so involved in its
existence — when it’s still nurturing me 25
Last week’s power upgrade will deliver
the sounds of 60+ volunteer deejays to far
more ears. Previously limited to Lexington,
we’ll now reach west beyond Frankfort.
South past Nicholasville. And north towards
Cincinnati. And into the country —
to places with names like Stamping Ground
and Waddy. And Peytona, of course.
And that riot of sounds traveling at 88.1
megahertz will matter to some of those who
hear it. Those sounds will matter in a way that says something like: “Maybe it’s okay to
be weird or a little different. Listen to that radio
station — do those people sound normal?”
And in some strange way, this notion
will give some souls the permission they
need to do the wonderful things that they
are meant to do.
How could I ask to be involved in anything
better than that?
This reflection is entirely dedicated to my
friend and regular inspiration, the inestimable
Kakie Urch, a force of nature without whom so
many of us wouldn’t be talking or even know
each other — to say nothing of listening to this
beloved radio station.
Trivial Thursdays was voted Best Local
Radio Show by Ace Readers in the 2009
Best of Lex ReadersÕ Poll. It airs 7 am to 9
am every Thursday on 88.1 WRFL. July 1
the guest will be Steve Daniels, LA screenwriter
and WRFL original, and July 29 will
be Wyn Morris of the Morris book shop É
and WRFL’s 2nd Music Director.