County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Harrison Loses Their Country King Dave Carmine

The Mighty 92-FM Founder Dies at 80


You may not know the name Dave Carr or Dave Carmine, but most Harrison residents know radio Dave, owner of WKKM, the Country King, the long-time local radio station. Harrison lost its radio Dave on Monday, Aug. 8 when he passed away at home at age 80.

Carmine’s WKKM began broadcasting from the Larch Road location in Harrison in March of 1975 as the “King of Kountry Music.”

A 1971 Detroit Free Press article by Charlie Hanna touts Carmine’s voice as similar to Dan Rowan, from the comedy team of Rowan and Martin on the “Laugh-In” television show. Carmine was already using the shortened version of his name for the radio on WEXL in Detroit. Carmine spent over 15 years with WEXL, and was program manager of the Royal Oak station.

The Free Press article made it clear that Carmine’s goal wasn’t just to be an on-air personality. His goal was station management and ownership, and his dream was to have a small market country-western station next to a major market area.

Carmine did just that. He owned over 2,000 country-western albums and 3,500 45 rpm records he began with at WKKM. If I know Carmine, they are still in storage somewhere.

As early as 1969 and before coming to Harrison, Carmine and his family members registered a broadcast station in the Dewitt area under the dba “Carmine Broadcasting Company.”

A first for Harrison, the station here was well received. It was another point of pride for a small tourist town and the station became a regional staple with country music, local news, obituaries, coming events, sports, weather and local business advertising – and even Paul Harvey. His radio signal later also reached to the Reed City area.

From 1975 until 2002 the station was purely country music. In 2002 it was sold to Xavier University who operated under the call letters WVXH. In 2005 it was sold to Cincinnati Public Radio, a classical station. In 2006, it was sold to Coltrace Communications, and they switched to country programming.

Stacy Stocking, mayor of Harrison and manager of Clark- Stocking Funeral Chapel, recalls working with Carmine over the years.

“Dave was always making sure everyone’s obituary was sent in to him for the WKKM radio broadcast each day,” Stocking said. “He always felt it was news that needed mentioned, since many services would go unannounced either by premature listing in the Cleaver or happening after the Cleaver came out.”

Vickie Erskine worked for Carmine in high school as a DJ in 1989-90. Her father Bill Beltz was friends with Carmine in Detroit.

“He was picky, always checking wires and making sure thing were perfect, but our equipment was older,” she said. “He had two turntables and because of age sometimes they would not work and the record would start and stop mid intro.”

Erskine kept in touch with Carmine over the years and confirms his love of visiting McDonalds, the library, and his dogs, several of which were named Penny.

“He was an incredible intellectual and very private, but he opened up once he let you in,” she said.

Glenda Rauch of the Clare County Cleaver was a close friend of Carmine’s. She was saddened Monday to learn of his sudden passing.

“I first met Dave when he came to Harrison to begin the Country King,” Rauch said. “He spent many a Tuesday night having meals with us on press nights. He was unique to say the least. As friends, we shared a love of country music, spicy foods and kraut and dogs. We enjoyed trips to Bay City for car shopping and lunch at Krzysiak's [Polish] House Restaurant. I will miss him lots, and his special sense of humor.”

Though retired, in 2014 Carmine brought back WKKM on 106.5 FM. The non-profit station played an automated playlist of old country favorites, and a few times a week Carmine read on air local news and events pulled from the Clare County Cleaver and local organizations. Although this was a retirement hobby, he took it as seriously as if his station was running in its prime, fact checking dates and times to get things right.

This lower power version of his station could be heard 10-15 miles in any direction from Harrison. You can bet Carmine would drive the perimeter of his broadcast area to make sure one could hear it.

In recent years, Carmine stuck to his regular schedule spending time in his office, visits with his coffee klatch at local restaurants and multiple daily visits to the Harrison District Library. He kept up with FCC news and other radio industry news.

Carmine was a media partner here at the Cleaver, which meant he was the first one in the door on Wednesday mornings and would get free papers for himself and his friends, say hello and see what was going on. He was sure to call us after picking up his papers if he found any mistakes and to get clarifications for his local broadcast. In exchange for mentioning the Cleaver name on air, we ran an ad each week advertising the station.

For a long time to come Carmine’s robust voice will echo in the minds of local residents with a musical crescendo joining in, “WKKM, the Country King.”

At press time no service information was available.


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