CHAMPAIGN — WKIO-FM is once again on the air.
The station, which was a mainstay of the Champaign-Urbana air waves from 1978 to 2005, returned to life Tuesday afternoon, occupying the 107.9 FM frequency that was formerly home to WUIL-FM.
The new WKIO plays classic hits from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, said Mike Haile, general manager of WDWS-AM, WHMS-FM and now WKIO.
The station introduced its new format at 4 p.m. Tuesday by starting to play 10,000 songs in a row — without commercial interruption. First up: "Stop! In The Name of Love," the 1965 hit by The Supremes.
Fans of the old WKIO may recognize Haile's name since he was operations manager and on-air personality there before moving to WDWS and WHMS.
Haile said that in rebooting the station, he looked at lots of call letters and discovered that WKIO was not being used.
Those call letters were originally chosen to reflect the "K104" brand that indicated the station's original place on the FM dial — 103.9.
After 1990, WKIO used the "Oldies 92" moniker and played music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Haile estimated that it would take three to four weeks to play 10,000 songs in a row. Although listeners won't hear commercials during that time, they will hear promotions for the station, he said.
Also, during that time, there will be no regular news breaks since the emphasis will be on the new format, he added.
The audience will be encouraged to give feedback and list their favorite songs and artists at the station's website, http://www.1079wkio.com, Haile said.
Listeners can expect to hear Haile a good bit on WKIO during its initial weeks — but he'll also continue to be heard as "Mike in the Morning" on WHMS-FM.
"Working at WKIO was a very positive experience for me," Haile said. "I made so many friends on and off the air. That's where I became known as 'Mike in the Morning.'"
Haile said all on-air personalities from WUIL — which employed a rock format including Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Boston — will continue to have roles at the radio stations, though they won't necessarily be heard on WKIO.
WUIL adopted the rock format in 2010, but Haile said he felt the format "probably had grown as far as it could" and he needed to look at opportunities to take the station to "the next level."
Haile said the target market for WKIO will be the 35- to 64-year-old demographic, though the music may appeal to some listeners outside that age range.
WKIO's format differs somewhat from sister station WHMS, which plays music from a broader range of years — from the 1970s through today.
WKIO is licensed as an Arcola station and has its transmitter near Villa Grove. The signal reaches Champaign, Douglas and surrounding counties, Haile said.
WKIO, WDWS and WHMS are owned and operated by DWS Inc., which in turn is owned by The News-Gazette, Inc.