WKZO Microphone & Record Box
Just like WKZO founder and broadcasting pioneer John Fetzer, former WKZO employee Lee Dershem developed an early love for broadcasting and communication. Lee’s enthusiasm and dedication for radio broadcasting continued even after his career at WKZO, when he recently made a special donation to the Museum. In January 2015, Lee donated a WKZO microphone and a record box filled with records from the early WKZO library.
Lee Dershem’s name may sound familiar to many longtime listeners of WKZO, as he worked for the station for 30 years, beginning in 1959. Over the years, he wore many hats, including disc jockey, promotions director, program director, and chief radio announcer. It was said in a 1960 WKZO newsletter that “Dershem’s friendliness has won for him a host of loyal listeners. Young and old alike enjoy Lee’s easy going manner at the mike.”
In his early years at WKZO, he did many remote broadcasts from the WKZO mobile unit, Satellite 590, along with hosting the Saturday Hi-Fi programs. The Hi-Fi dance club was promoted by The Coca-Cola Company. Coke would go to schools and communities looking for ways to encourage constructive youth activities to keep kids out of trouble. The most popular Club events were dances, and Lee was the host of many of these “Coke Hops” in Kalamazoo in the early 1960s.
Lee grew up in Lima, Ohio, and had an early knack for radio announcing and broadcasting. While a sophomore in high school, a local radio station held a contest looking for a teen disc jockey, and Lee won. The prize was a one-hour weekly show on the radio. He spent almost three years on the program staff of WIMA, and by 1958, at the age of 19, Lee was hired at WKZO and moved to Kalamazoo. Here, he quickly became a popular disc jockey and staff announcer. Over the years, he even moved into television and worked for WKZO-TV.
According to Lee, this particular microphone was used in the simulcast studio, which was the largest studio at the station. Rem Wall and the Green Valley Boys sang even sang into it, and some of the morning shows were broadcasted from it.
While the black wooden box doesn’t appear to be much more than a box, when opened, it is seen to contain records from the early record library at WKZO. While Lee was working, he came across the box and records, which he suspects were from the early days of WKZO. He even played some of the records on the radio.
These two items are an important part of WKZO’s continuing history in Kalamazoo and have now found a permanent home at the Museum.