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Longtime WHAS Radio legend Wayne Perkey dies

He was a one-of-a-kind broadcaster, affectionately called "Mr. WHAS Radio." Perkey passed away from COVID-19 complications Sunday morning, his family confirmed.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With a name like Wayne Perkey, who could forget him?

In a brilliant stroke, WHAS radio made him their morning radio drive time man – it’s was Perkey in the Morning.

He joined WHAS radio and television in 1969 and became a mainstay on the air until his retirement in 1999.

Back then, the WHAS radio broadcasters also appeared on WHAS-TV often, usually doing the weather. Perkey and the legendary Milton Metz shared the noon and evening weather duties, days before professional meteorologists.

One time, Perkey was asked to fill-in on Metz’s four-hour long nighttime radio show called “Metz Here.”

In 2017, he told Terry Meiners and Rachel Platt on Great Day Live what happened next.

“Twenty minutes into the program, I said ‘Hello, you’re on Metz Here’ to build up,” he said. Perkey’s regular shift was the brutal, early mornings.

There was one problem, he also loved emceeing Louisville’s big social events. Perkey would collect phone numbers from movers and shakers. When a big business story or news broke, his Rolodex became gold during the morning drive time when everyone was in their cars listening to him. He would get CEO’s of various companies live on the air, confirming the details many reporters would be chasing that day.

Credit: Terry Meiners
Terry Meiners, Melissa Swan and Wayne Perkey during the WHAS Crusade for Children.

Perkey showed up on all of the big events, including the Kentucky Derby. He was “the face and voice” for WHAS radio and it was even displayed on billboards to television ads.

In February, Perkey got COVID-19 and posted a message via Facebook.

“Thanks for all of the good wishes. Day number 13 in COVID isolation. They are taking good care of me. I am so grateful for the good wishes and prayers. These are the times when we are so grateful for friends and family,” he said.

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A month before writing the message, in what would be his final appearance on 84 WHAS radio and his 84th birthday, Perkey told Meiners a remarkable story – he had reconciled with his first wife Jane Ann and was taking care of her.

“Jane Anne was one of the first victims of COVID and I’ve become one of her primary caregivers,” he said. “I really get upset with people who won’t wear a mask, violating their personal privilege to have to put one on. It’s a terrible disease.  

Perkey has five children.

“I just know you are proud Perk with your family,” Meiners said.

Perkey replied, “I have trouble keeping buttons on my shirt Terry. I’m popping them all the time.

Many in the community often wondered how Perkey stayed so positive. It wasn’t an act, and he preferred to look for the good in people.

Credit: Terry Meiners
Former WHAS Radio and Television personalities including Wayne Perkey (2nd far right) join Rachel Platt and Terry Meiners on Great Day Live.

“If he met you, as soon as he shook your hand, you were his friend, and you would have to do an awful lot to lose that designation. And by the way, his name was Perkey. for all the years I worked with him, I can't tell you the number of times the question, because he was in the morning, and he was ridiculously happy and people would say Wayne Perkey, that has to be a stage name, no it was not," former WHAS11 Chief Meteorologist Ken Schulz said.

Because of that, he became one of the most memorable and successful hosts of the WHAS Crusade for Children. He took on the role in 1980 from the retiring Jim Walton.

“When Walton walked out the door he said, ‘well, Perkey, let’s see you do this for 29 years and I ended up doing 30, and you’ve passed me.’ There have only been three emcees in the history of the Crusade,” he explained.

Perkey’s career crossed generations. He became the lifeline of information during major snowstorms and natural disasters. When you lost power, everyone flipped to AM radio and Perkey was there.

He was a Knoxville, Tennessee native who originally studied to be a lawyer. On a whim, he auditioned for a campus radio station announced job while in college and got the job. The rest is history.

Credit: WHAS-TV
Wayne Perkey

After Perkey’s retirement, he never blinked. His love for Louisville remained. He returned every December to a downtown street corner, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. His big heart was on display for all to see.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also shared his condolences on Twitter following the loss of the local radio legend. 

"Wayne Perkey was an icon of Louisville media whose voice was the soundtrack of morning trips to work and school for a generation," he said. "First and foremost, Wayne was an incredibly kind person whose compassion shined through his dedication to the Crusade for Children & many other causes. He will be missed."

Funeral arrangements for Perkey have not been announced.

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