Mark has a
B.F.A in Film
Southern Methodist University
Mark reading the script for his death scene.
If you have the time and the curiosity then I would like to tell you about my dream for the Willcox Arizona radio stations KWCX and KHIL and now KWQR. This story does not begin in Willcox, no… it begins in Dallas Texas where I grew up and graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BA in Cinema. Only took me 13 years to work my way through school. I grew up with radio because radio was free and for my brother Scott and I growing up dirt poor, well, radio was our only means of escape from the oppression of poverty, terrible alcoholism and the environment of the poor. As long as my brother Scott had his radio with him, we had access to the world beyond our own limitations. Radio united all of us kids in the 70s, and without any intention at all, radio gave my brother and I a family, populated by neighborhood kids. Soon we all united over our favorite radio station at the time, KNUS, “The Top Banana!” We united over favorite songs, favorite bands and a world beyond debilitating poverty and abuse. Radio had the power to bring us all together, to hold our attention, to allow us to dream, to comfort us through the terrible times and to give our oppressed spirits wings. To elementary school kids like we were, radio was everything wonderful in the world, as long as you had batteries. Yes batteries. I solved that dilemma myself by making money dumpster diving. As we got older our musical tastes changed in time with the Dallas radio stations changing ownerships, formats and call signs. As the troubles of our elementary youth compounded into the troubles of teenagers growing up in the same poverty, alcohol abuse and other terrible abuses best not mentioned, each of us kids sought solace in different musical styles, each of us sought comfort in the radio and escape from our daily nightmares. I watched how the music that once brought us all together soon separated us from each other as we each struggled with our own demons. Radio though, waited for us all to find our way back together and once again be a family built around the magical music box. We listened to great radio stations like KNUS, KEGL or KVIL and always we were transported away from our miseries by the airwaves.
Berkner high school in Richardson Texas is where KVIL took hold of me because Berkner high school played KVIL inside the school and that was why I loved algebra class so much because I could listen to “Dream Weaver” echoing in the hallway and learn algebra at the same time, just like at home when I did my homework. KVIL stood out to me for one reason, KVIL did not follow the genre rules that dictated a radio stations picked a format, like pop or country, and stayed true to that format. Not KVIL, KVIL followed it’s own rules and was the number one station in Dallas Texas for it. Lesson learned.
The next part of my education happened some time later at the sprawling honky-tonk Billy Bob’s Over Texas. On this particular night the dance floor was near empty as several country songs played in succession and then something incredible happened before my eyes. The DJ felt the vibe of the crowd and put on Michael Jackson and this cowboy venue went nuts, the dance floor was packed and then a Van Halen song followed Michael and the dance floor was chaos. The crowd loved it and I listened and learned.
As a child I grew up in dive honkytonks across Florida, Kansas and Texas, around jukeboxes, alcoholics and other terrible things. I grew up listening to my Father playing country music at home and in the honkytonks until I discovered the Beatles. The Beatles saved my life and life goes on.
In 2003 I was recruited to work for KHIL’s morning show (for free) as the live on-air board operator, soon I was actually a part of the morning show (Shelly and Mark in the mornings) and soon I was working full time for KHIL and KWCX. We had ten or so people working here then. I was shocked to find our radio stations, like most radio stations, was driven by a satellite delivered music generated from out of state. Gone were the days of local homespun radio and gone was thousands upon thousands of songs deemed not profitable by someone. (I eventually found out whom). I had a desire to break the satellite feed and get back to being real radio stations like I the ones I grew up with.
Well, there is a reason most of the radio stations in America and the world use satellite feeds, the amount of work involved! It takes lots and lots of work to entirely air out of the studio 24/7. It requires a crazy person willing to work sixty plus hours a week to build a big enough music library that you can broadcast 24/7 out of your studio. I’m that kind of crazy. I believed KWCX and KHIL have a rich history in Willcox Arizona and these two radio stations should get back to its roots established in 1959 when music was played right out of the studio.
Great idea, impossible to implement! To build a library you have to research the music (takes time), find the music (takes time) and then buy the music (takes money)! To do this I would have to buy every single song I would play on air. Now I don’t know how radio programmers did it back in 1959 but today my only option was, and still is, to buy the music just like you do and build my library. Well, I did it.
So here’s what I do, first I research the songs and artists, pick songs for the library, find the song however possible, buy the song however possible, process the song for radio, add the song to the library and then schedule the music library for broadcast over the air every single day. Every single day. A single song takes about 30 minutes to process for radio once it’s purchased. This takes a lot of time and lots of work. I started with KWCX, because the satellite contract was ending, and slowly built a 6000 plus song library over many years and KWCX became a powerful FM radio station that people loved. You have no idea the time, energy and money I’ve spent on KWCX just so I could broadcast out of the studio like radio used to do. I can tell you it is very hard for a single parent raising a son to adopt a radio station music library to raise as well, but I did and I did it.
Now it was time to work on KHIL because the satellite contract was ending. I did my research and came to the decision that the 80s were the probably the heyday for country music radio stations that have been around as long as KHIL. So I started building a KHIL library that stepped back in time up to 1989 and stayed there. Great! Now I just have to build the library, easy right? No. Classic country music for the most part is a disappearing genre. Most old songs are lost, most have never been transferred to CD and most are gone forever. You would have to be crazy to continue with this crazy idea. I’m still that crazy. I started building KHIL’s classic country library by buying CDs, 45rpm records, LP records, cassette tapes and more. To my surprise I have found classic country music still exists in Europe and other foreign countries so I expanded my search across the seas, to vinyl records stores and record collectors and with only 200 songs in my library I launched KHIL classic country on to the air waves out of the KHIL studio and gave Willcox back its original radio station established in 1959, but from the year 1989.
Today I have built the KHIL library to over 5000 songs and I can tell you it was hard to do after building KWCX.
So if you’re still reading this and you listen to any of my stations, KHIL, KWCX or KWQR then I tell you now that I alone built these stations from the ground up with my time, effort and money and no reimbursement. KHIL, KWCX and KWQR are on air right now because of my hard work and my music libraries and everyday I take care of them just like I do my son Tristan. I have given Willcox Arizona and possibly you reading this back these radio stations as they were meant to be when they were first built.
At least for a while, until they are taken from me, and my formats and I are finally rooted out and gone.
Thank you for listening, Mark W Lucke
Mark working on a special effect
for an upcoming shoot.
Filming completed for Mark's death scene..