The company known as Brothers Broadcasting, founded by brothers John and Dr. James Balvich, is well recognized today for the commercial radio stations based in Rensselaer.
It is interesting to note radio broadcasting in Rensselaer began nearly 60 years ago. WRIN was initially found by James Caperelli, several family members, and Bob Becker. It first went on the air September 14, 1963 as a 1,000-watt daytime radio station.
In the early years of WRIN, on-air personality, Bob Becker, who had worked for the Caperallis at a station in Chicago Heights, became known for his show “Sound Off”. Harry McCorkle did the news, while Bob Hayes reported sports, and Wally Laird did Farm news. Tom Jurek did the “Morning Wake-up” from 1973 to 1985 and eventually bought WRIN in 1977.
Other early members of the WRIN staff included Bill Shortz, Ted Hayes, Neil Nussbaum, Bob Vizza, and Russ Martin.
WLQI was put on the air in 1974 by John Felthouse, a broadcast engineer who worked for NBC in Chicago. Mr. Felthouse named his new FM station WJCK. Five years later, he sold WJCK to J.C. Broadcasting.
Local farmer Don Clark was president with son-in-law Tom Brown serving as station manager. Other members of the team at the time were Beth Clark (Ryan), Ron Frederick, who served as news director, and John Felthouse stayed on as engineer.
In 1983, WRIN owners Tom and Rosemary Jurek bought WJCK and changed the call letters of WJCK to WLQI, also known as Lucky Radio. As with many radio stations, the music format has changed through the years for WLQI currently Classic Rock and known as the “Q” and recently played Classic Hits.
Brothers Broadcasting purchased both WRIN and WLQI in June of 1986. The WLQI staff at the time was long-time morning host Mike Riley, Gary Gorman, Bob Burt, who stayed for over 30 years, and part-timer Kyler Laird. WRIN’s crew included Tod Allen, Jerry Boxell and Dave Galt. Wally Laird stayed on as Farm Director for both WRIN and WLQI until his passing in 2010.
John Balvich, in his October presentation to the Jasper County Historical Society, mentioned a few of the early team members that worked for the Brothers Broadcasting. They included the former owner of WIBN, Sid Thompson, former station manager of WJCK, Tom Brown, former News Director Ron Frederick, Robin Valade (now known as Robin Rock on WLIT in Chicago), Tom Bement, Kyle Conrad, former WCFL in Chicago Jock, Barney Pip, Sandy Lowry, Coleen Wood, Mona Ramp, Pat Toben, Sally Snow, and Jeff Gastineau.
Balvich paid tribute to long-time sales manager Connie Graham Luthi, news/sports director Bob Kurtz, and assistant program director Jerry Stiffle. They all spent around 20 years or more with the company.
In 1991, John Balvich bought out his brother’s share of Brothers Broadcasting at that time that included WRIN and WLQI. WIBN 98.3 FM was a 3000-watt station licensed to Earl Park and established by Frank and Frances Hertle of Evansville. They later sold it to Sid Thompson, who moved the frequency to 98.1 and raised the power to 25,000 watts. On August 1, 1995, Brothers bought this station from Sid Thompson and the Hertles.
The studios were first located in the old school house in Earl Park. The school house no longer exits. Sid Thompson moved the studios to Oxford and then rule changes by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) allowed Brothers Broadcasting to move the studios to Rensselaer in the old North Marion School, which is also the home of WRIN and WLQI.
WIBN’s format is currently Classic Rock and is known as “98 Gold.” It had recently been Oldies and before that Today’s Hits and Yesterday’s Favorites.
In 2021, the local staff is still led by John and Arlene Balvich, with assistant general manager and WLQI Morning Show host Steve Touhy, Russ Martin in news, office manager Chrissy Martin, Frank Sprankle does sports, weather and meteorologist Nikki Pietrus, lead part-timer Scott Miller, and in sales are Jeff Hesson, Heather Ames, and GM Johnny Balvich.
Some of the programming over the years included Farm World with Wally Laird, Trading Post, Anybody Home with Captain Stubby, Friday Night Rock with Bob Burt, Paul Harvey News, and Texaco’s Metropolitan Opera. Programs that are still going strong after all of these years include Sunday Night Memories with Russ Martin, The Big Bargain Show, Saturday Morning Sports Showcase, Gospel Country Style with Russ Overton, local church programs, and a lot of News and Ag News.
WRIN received an upgrade in November 2016 when an FM translator was put on the air at 104.5 FM with call letters W283CO. The Translator must simulcast WRIN’s programming and gives a cleaner signal which runs 24 hours a day.
Combined 1560 AM and 104 FM are called Bear Country with a country format. Over the years, WRIN has had many format changes, including Adult Standards, Oldies, Country, and News Talk. It still carries News and Agriculture programming.
When radio began in Rensselaer in 1963, no one imagined that one day the Balvich
stations could be heard all over the world. With the internet, you can now listen to any of the three stations, catch a high school ball game, listen to the news or listen to your local station, which is streaming live wherever you are.
One of the reasons many people listen to the stations is an opportunity to win something.
It is difficult to imagine, but from the time Brothers Broadcasting began in business, their team has given away more than an estimated one million dollars in prizes to its listeners. Included are cash, trips, cars, tickets for the Bulls, White Sox, Bears, and Colts games, Chicago theater tickets, concerts, Indy and Brickyard tickets, Lottery tickets, Jasper County Fair events, thousands of tickets to amusement parks and station freebees.
John mentioned the importance that the station and team members associated with the
stations be involved in the community. Some activities include Little Cousin Jasper, Fairs and
Festivals, Crisis Center Radiothon, St. Augustine School Board, March of Dimes Relay for Life, Miracle Tree, Junior Achievement, Jasper County Youth Center, the Hospital Addition, Parks for People, countless Chamber memberships, organizational memberships including Rotary and more.
At the end of the fall Jasper County Historical Society’s meeting presentation, John and Arlene Balvich mentioned, how thankful they were for the many advertisers who have stayed with them over many years since the beginning of Brothers Broadcasting.
The Jasper County Historical Society would like to thank the Balvich’s for their many years of work and service to the Jasper County community.
Visit the Jasper County Historical Society’s Museum on the first and third Saturdays each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The exhibit of Jasper County Authors: Present and Past continues.
See your favorite author’s picture, his or her story, and the publications. For appointments or questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.