On the air: ‘Insane’ Darrell Wayne increases frequency modulation around Tahoe
TAHOE, Calif. – Californians used to call him “The Insane Darrell Wayne” and his early 2009 purchase of a 2,500-watt Lake Tahoe radio station with little recent history and few prospects of making money probably burnished that image. Now, Darrell Wampler’s KTHO is doing just fine in the challenging economic market, showing the term “certifiable” might apply to his optimism rather than his acumen.It was March 1 of 2009 when Wampler, who began broadcasting at the age of 15, reached his childhood dream of owning his own station, one of only three frequencies in the area.Where others looked at Lake Tahoe and saw only the miniscule market size, small enough to almost teeter off the Arbitron list, Wampler saw the upside potential: a huge resort and gaming travel area as well as an enviable demographic fueled by winter skiing and summer recreation.The problem of buying the facility would almost equal the challenge of operating it. Simply put, when Wampler tried to purchase the station, no one knew what it was worth. Local commercials were nonexistent, and the balance sheet was as tiny as the station itself.In the decades between ages 15 and 50, Darrell Wampler had done it all. He worked at KEZY, KAGB, and KHNY before landing at L.A.’s KROQ, which eventually would become the jumping point for such luminaries as Carson Daly and Jimmy Kimmel. At K-ROQ as it is called, Wampler variously served as program director, operations director, chief engineer and morning drive DJ. He ran the Don Martin School of Radio and Television. In short, he had learned everything a small market station owner had to know except, perhaps, how to change light bulbs on the tower. He also earned an MBA degree with a specialization in organizational behavior from California Lutheran University.He went live and local with all programming with the exception of a few syndicated features on weekends. He added an informative website with streaming audio, kthoradio.com. He hired experienced broadcasters with ties to the area, some of whom double as station executives. He even found two local homemakers who were particularly funny when paired together. The veteran broadcaster also purchased an FM translator to cover South Lake Tahoe. He moved the studios and offices into the Ski Run Marina, South Lake Tahoe, and recently opened a remote studio location at the Boatworks Mall in Tahoe City.Wampler explains: “Paul Middlebrook, our vice president and general manager, introduced me to Linda Adkins, a North Shore phenomenon, during the fall of last year. The question was ‘How do we better service the communities around the Lake beyond just our South Shore home?’ In order to reach out beyond the walls of our local studio, we scoured the North Shore looking for the proper venue to showcase our product. The Boatworks Mall was the perfect answer.”Beginning in February 2011, K-Tahoe established a remote broadcast operation on the second floor of the Boatworks Mall. They have already conducted more than a dozen live broadcasts with community and business leaders, as well as becoming the primary radio sponsor for SnowFest! this year. Wampler commented: “Linda Adkins has become quite the interviewer, as well as heading up our sales and marketing efforts for the North Shore and beyond.”But the geographic and technical improvements are only part of the story. Darrell Wampler believes in local programming. The station covers high school sports, play-by-play, live broadcasts from church carnivals, beach parties, live election coverage, local debates, city council meetings and more. KTHO has partnered for bike rides around the lake and signed on for SnowFest!. It will also be a part of Amgen’s Tour of California that kicks off in Tahoe in 2011.Insane Darrell Wayne remains cautiously – some even say certifiably – optimistic.- Submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org
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