Fulton High School is the home of one of only four high school radio stations in Tennessee, and is one of only a small number of high school radio broadcast stations in the country. The call letters, WKCS, were originally chosen to stand for Knoxville City Schools. Now that the school system has merged with the Knox County Schools, the call letters are still fitting. WKCS went on the air on December 18, 1952. The station broadcast from 4 PM to 5 PM on that first day. WKCS broadcast its first basketball game on December 23, 1952, as the Fulton Falcons faced the Rule Golden Bears. 1952 was the second year for students at the new Fulton High School. The station originally began under the direction of Oma (Penny) Wendham. Penny taught English and one radio class daily. WKCS aired many live and pre-recorded news, drama, and variety programs, as well as a lunchtime music show during its early years. In addition to the radio speech classes, Fulton High School offered a radio engineering class taught by Mr. Noel Alexander.
In the days of radio’s block programming, the students wrote and produced their own programs. As the industry changed, so did the programming at WKCS. This block programming gradually gave way to the new type of programming with music as its staple.
With the retirement of Penny Wendham in 1963, the radio station and classes became the responsibility of Joanna Huffman. Miss Huffman was a radio student at Fulton, and worked in radio and TV in Knoxville. The radio program also became a part of the Vocational Department at Fulton High School. For the first time, radio broadcast classes were offered throughout the school day. Miss Huffman introduced the “Good Music” format to WKCS. “Good Music” featured a combination of Top-40, adult standards, and country music.
Ron Cassady held the duties of radio broadcast instructor from 1971-74. In 1974 he turned the responsibilities over to another Fulton graduate and local broadcaster, Lynn Davis. Davis switched the music format to a more modern rock sound during his tenure. Lynn held the position until 1976. He returned to WKCS in 2005 to host a series of community affairs programs entitled “Fulton Focus,” in which he interviewed successful Fulton graduates.
The station was originally licensed to serve the community with 310 watts of effective radiated power at the frequency of 91.1 MHz. However, the station was never able to operate at the maximum limits of its power because the Gates transmitter, used from the early 1960’s until 1996, had only 250-watt capability.
In the fall of 1976, local air personality Allen Johnson, known locally and nationally by the professional stage name Dr. Al Adams, took the managerial and teaching position at Fulton High School. Johnson had both a radio and television background as well as management experience. Dr. Al became one of the most loved and respected instructors in the history of the radio program. Johnson trained many successful broadcasters such as Jeff Jarnigan, Randy Miller, Butch Johnson, and Chris Wade. WKCS switched from an Adult Contemporary music format in 1995 to its current Oldies format. In 1998, WKCS moved into its brand new studios located on the 2nd floor of Fulton High School.
In 2004, Al Johnson turned over the reigns to Russell Mayes, one of his former students. Mayes graduated from Fulton High School in 1995, and after graduation worked at radio stations WLIL in Lenoir City and WKZX in Maryville. Mayes hopes to continue training professional broadcasters that will be very attractive in the job market, while striving to make WKCS an attractive listening alternative and an active member of the community. He believes that two major strengths of WKCS are the station’s diverse oldies format that has attracted many new listeners, and the live broadcasts of Fulton High School football and basketball games.
In 1996, the old 250-watt transmitter was replaced with a modern state of the art stereo transmitter with an 1100-watt capability. WKCS began operating 24 hours a day during February 2005, with the installation of a digital automation system. While most other stations have abandoned the Oldies format, WKCS continues to play hits from the last 6 decades. During 2007, WKCS and Knox Co. schools launched a new website for Falcon Radio located at www.wkcsradio.org.
Listeners can now interact with WKCS radio, and listen to all their favorite hits 24-hours a day anywhere in the world!