Radio Heads: Former KLKT DJs recall Incline Village’s first and only radio station
Special to the Sun
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – “This is Lee Warner, in Warner’s Corner, on KLKT Tahoe FM 100.”
And so began a typical day of music, news and fun in the 1980s during the short life of Incline Village’s first and only radio station, KLKT 100.1 FM, which went live for the first time on June 10, 1983, at its station located in the Village Shopping Center off of Mays Boulevard. Lee Warner, KLKT program director, was the first disc jockey on the air.
“I was out of breath, I was so excited,” Warner said Saturday night at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, where 11 former KLKT staff members gathered for a 30-year-reunion.
Some of the crew had not seen one another since the station closed in 1988. Some staff members were unable to attend, while others, such as Jim King, owner/founder of the station, were unable to be reached, with no knowledge of their whereabouts.
“Mojo” Mickey Lees was the first DJ hired by Warner at KLKT. Lees said the station was the idea of then-Washoe County commissioner King, who always wanted a radio station.
KLKT was a loosely formatted station of jazz, rock and oldies – all vinyl records, spun on turntables in the station’s early days.
“It wasn’t wild, but we were on the cutting edge for those days,” Lees said Saturday night. “We were heard all around the lake. We had a pretty darned good signal.”
What gave KLKT life, the former staffers recalled, was their work within the community, supporting charity events and interacting with callers and with staff who would drop in.
But it wasn’t just the DJs who had fun. The staff also played pranks on one another.
Incline resident McAvoy Layne, well known in Northern Nevada for his portrayal of Mark Twain, was hired out of the Hawaiian Islands as a DJ for KLKT. Layne recalled how the radio station shared a bathroom with a medical lab. A sign in the bathroom had instructions for producing a urine sample. Layne said.
“This one guy came out of the bathroom with a little paper cup and said, ‘I’ve got a urine sample, where do I take this?'” recalled Layne, who answered: “Take it to the first room on the left and put it on the desk; the woman’s name is Cathy” – referring to former KLKT office manager Cathy Critz.
The fun often continued after hours for the station employees. Station engineer David Metts spoke of taking the station mascot, “Baby,” a life-like baby doll, to their haunts around town, sometimes in a bassinet. The predicaments Baby would get into (with employee help) would raise eyebrows of people unaware Baby was a doll, Metts said.
As KLKT gained popularity, it became a 24-hour station, broadcast from Reno to South Shore with towns in between, including in Truckee.
Metts said the expanded service area required transmitters and antennae to be erected around the mountain. As the county commissioner, King, the station owner, was able to work out placement of towers with government agencies.
But in one case, King was unwilling to deal with the red tape of antenna placement required by a newer watchdog agency – the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Metts recalled that King approved a 50-foot pole, painted brown, to be surreptitiously placed in the woods on the South Shore. The antenna mounted on it was covered with a camouflage green fiberglass cover that made it resemble a tree. The “tree” went unnoticed by TRPA the entire length of time KLKT was in operation.
After several years of a successful run, KLKT changed with the times, becoming more automated, said Layne, becoming, in his words, “K-Snoozy,” with less DJ-community interaction. He eventually left the station and launched his career as Mark Twain.
Mojo Mickey Lees said as radio stations became more automated and music changed, KLKT had run its course. By the late ’80s, King was ready to move on, and KLKT was sold in 1988, ending a five-year run.
Lees was delighted to reminisce with his KLKT co-workers at Saturday’s reunion, but was sorry more former workers couldn’t make it.
“Maybe we’ll have another one in 30 years,” he said, adding, “in wheelchairs.”
Added Warner, jokingly: “Or on gurneys.”
– Frank Fisher is a freelance reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.