Laura Shine was the first voice on WFPK when it changed formats in 1992, and she’s been in love with music her whole life. She’s the host of “Live Lunch” and the afternoon drive, and she’s the station’s assistant program director. Get to know this amazing woman who keeps Louisville rocking.
Tell us about you. Where are you from, and how did you get into radio?
I grew up in the Buechel and Hikes Point areas and graduated from Youth Performing Arts School. I went to University of Louisville, but it took me years and years to graduate because I would finish a semester, work, started a band (Yer Girlfriend) and that became my life. I did that for several years and I would go to school intermittently. I got this idea for creating a radio show, and my bandmates were pressuring me to go for that. It was called “Womanwaves” on WFPL, which had news and jazz at the time. The only radio experience I had was at the University of Louisville’s radio station, and that was a nightmare. I was terrified. I did everything wrong you can do. I played the wrong things and played vinyl on the wrong speed. But I got some really good training. At WFPL’s very first pledge drive, I raised over $1,000 in an hour, which at that time was really good. So they were like, “Yeah, I think we’ll keep her for a little while longer.”
I had the show for about four years, and then in the fifth year, things were starting to change. Public Radio Partnership was starting to develop, which was a merger of the University of Louisville — their classical station was WUOL and our classical station was WFPK. They merged those stations, so that became the new WFPK. The whole idea was to launch an Adult Album Alternative station. Then WUOL became all classical, and WFPL became all news and talk. They asked me to be the morning host for the new station, WFPK. That was on January 8, 1986. We went from Beethoven to Timbuk3. At 6 a.m., you can hear a record scratch and then all of a sudden here’s, “The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.” January 8 is also Elvis Presley’s and David Bowie’s birthdays.
After some salary disputes, I ended up leaving. Then I ended up at another station in Georgetown, KY, at the Baptist college there. I got in trouble a couple of times for saying things that weren’t so savory, and I longed to come back home. After a couple of years, I was able to come back. I then rose to be an assistant program director. I’m also the local music liaison, so all the local music you hear on WFPK comes to me first. We have an incredible local music scene here.
What do you like best about your job?
I love connecting with people on the air and being on the air. And I adore the people I work with. I get to play records all day. If I complain about that, I’m an idiot. I get to interview really interesting people and see lots and lots of live music and get into a lot of shows for free, which is really nice, you know? I try not to ever take that stuff for granted.
What are your favorite local bands?
I love Ben Sollee. The guy is brilliant, and his music really touches me deeply. I love some old-school stuff too like Danny Flanigan and the Rain Chorus. I think they are fantastic! He’s just one of my all-time favorites.
I really love Jecorey Arthur, also known as 1200. He is a hip-hop artist, poet, and spoken-word artist. I think he is absolutely brilliant in the things he’s doing for the West End. There’s a ton of others, but I’ll stop there.
When you’re not working, how do you enjoy spending your free time?
Well I love to read and write. I love to listen to music. I love to play guitar and take my dogs for walks. My dogs — Eddie, Bella and Mowgli — are a huge part of my life. I love to hike and kayak and be in the woods.
What books are you currently reading?
Do you have any favorite vacation destinations?
I love all different kinds of landscapes, but I love being near water or mountains. We went to Boulder last year, and we’re going back again this year. I fell in love with Colorado. I also love California because it has all the landscapes, everything from mountains to oceans and all that sunshine.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever been given?
When people call me and I’m on the air, and they’ll say, “That really made my day, what you just played, or what you did or what you said.” That’s just one of the best feelings in the whole world.
What’s something that most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I stuttered as a kid. I was pretty much non-verbal until about 4 years old. I probably stuttered because I was surrounded by motor mouths who were older than me. I’d had these thoughts, but I couldn’t get them out because everyone was talking over me. My mom recognized that and told everybody, “You have to shut up. If she wants to say something, let her speak.” That was smart on my mom’s part.
Have you had any other jobs that you love as much?
Being a camp counselor at Camp Piomingo. That was just the best experience of my life. I was 11 when I started, and 18 when I left. It was the kids, it was the horses because I worked in the horsemanship program, it was being outdoors and the community. I was never lonely.
What’s your best advice?
I’ve never stayed in a job I didn’t like. Consider how many hours we put into our jobs, and life’s just too damn short. Follow your passion. If you put all your time into doing what you really want, you will be successful eventually, especially if you don’t define success as just how much money you make. Don’t do that. That’s not success, it’s quantity.
With the exception of faith family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Dogs, music and access to nature
Thank you, Laura. And thank you to Gretchen Bell for the fab photos of Laura.
Meet more amazing local women in our FACES archives. Click HERE.