Hank 96.1-FM host Karl Shannon will broadcast his last morning show for the station Sept. 14.
The longtime Lexington radio personality, who has woken up listeners at the area’s three primary country outlets — 98.1-FM The Bull (WBUL), back in the K-93 heyday of WVLK-FM 92.9, and now the traditional country outlet — says the retirement coincides with his 65th birthday, almost.
“Actually, my birthday is on the 17th, but my birthday was on a Monday, and I didn’t want to go in,” Shannon said Tuesday afternoon. “After 3 and 4 a.m. wakeups the last 42 years, I want to sleep in, and I figure September right before my birthday is the perfect time to do it.”
On the air, Shannon is celebrating his last couple weeks with trips down memory lane, including playing archival interviews with artists such as Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw and the faux St. Patrick’s Day parade he once aired when the city had canceled its parade. He’ll also be celebrated Thursday with an event at Momma’s Last Chance Saloon in Nicholasville with music by Greg Austin, George Molton and Hicktown Romeo and tributes from a number of guests.
For Shannon, who, like many radio and TV personalities has been unceremoniously taken off the air a few times in his career, including a prominent 2009 departure from WBUL in a round of layoffs, the chance to retire on his own terms is particularly sweet.
“A lot of times when you leave stations, you don’t get to go out the way you want to go out, and they’re being really good about it,” Shannon said. “It’s always nice when you can do something, do it right and go out the way you want to go.”
Shannon started his broadcast career 47 years ago with stops at legendary stations such as WSM in Nashville, where he also got to be an announcer at the Grand Ole Opry, including announcing bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s last show at the storied venue. He came to Lexington in 1988 as program director at WVLK-FM and had the distinction of having top-rated shows there and at WBUL.
His Lexington memories include emceeing several Rupp Arena shows such as a storied 1992 show when Garth Brooks opened for The Judds and The Judds’ farewell tour in 2000.
“I’ve been able to meet a lot of people and have friendships with a lot of people, and I’ve been really lucky in my career,” Shannon said.
Some of those friends, like Marty Stuart and Vince Gill helped lobby LM Communications management to get Shannon the on-air job at Hank. While he won’t be part of the Lexington radio dawn patrol anymore, listeners will still hear Shannon’s voice from time-to-time. He will continue a freelance career doing voice-over work for clients around the country, including the Nortre Dame football network and Lexington’s WKYT-TV.
As nice as sleeping in sounds though, Shannon knows it’ll take some getting used to.
“I know one day I’m going to panic when I look at the clock and it says 5 o’ clock, and I’m going to freak out and jump out of bed and then realize I don’t have to go to work.”
IF YOU GO
Karl Shannon’s retirement party
What: Music by Greg Austin, George Molton and Hicktown Romeo and tributes from friends and colleagues.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 6. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Momma’s Last Chance Saloon, 2213 Lexington Rd, Nicholasville
Note: Ages 21 and older only