I remember reading a few months ago about a new St. Louis classical music radio station. It said it was supposed to be on the air by late summer. I can't find it on my radio, so I'm wondering if plans fell through. -- J.R., of O'Fallon; S.R., of Mascoutah; Jim Struckel, of Webster Groves, Mo.; et al.
When he was hawking Paul Masson products, actor Orson Welles would say "We will sell no wine before its time" in that deep, resonant voice of his.
Unfortunately for Jim Connett, what's true for a good burgundy is also true for radio stations. Building a station from scratch and getting government approval takes time, and you can't go on the air before you do.
So, the time frame Connett gave me in June proved too rosy, but plans are moving ahead, he assured me. The studio is built, the equipment is being installed and the signal is now being tested. Connett is not where he wanted to be six months ago, but he says the station should be on the air by Valentine's Day.
"My apologies to your readers," said Connett when told of the many inquiries. "Believe me, this is more painful to me than it is to them. This has me up nights. But, listen, I wouldn't have taken this on at the age of 63 to build a radio station from scratch if I didn't believe in this process."
Classical music fans remember Connett as the man who turned out the lights at KFUO-FM for the last time on July 6, 2010, after the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod sold the station to Gateway Creative Broadcasting. Gateway then turned the venerable Classic 99 into Christian contemporary JOY-FM.
But Connett promised himself that if there was anything he could do to offer a new classical signal, he would do it. Now, he is general manager of the Radio Arts Foundation-St. Louis, which is close to bringing the strains of Bach and Vivaldi back to area listeners.
The new studios are at 7711 Carondelet in Clayton, the same place where Connett worked for WRTH and KEZK 25 years ago. The programming will be 24/7 classical -- with a dash of jazz and blues. An added emphasis will be on local arts groups with live performances and programming for youngsters on up.
"We're not going to go off the deep end, but we're going to have a broad spectrum of classical music that people can really enjoy," Connett told me. "We're expanding even what Classic 99 used to do, so that should give you some idea."
Currently, the station is testing its signal at a quarter power, so you can't hear it. After that, Connett will await final FCC approval. His hope now is to be on the air by early February, but he still cannot give out call letters or an FM frequency.
"I'd have to send 007 over to take care of you if I told you," he joked. "I apologize, but I can't do that under the process. It would be presumptive on my part, and the FCC does not like presumptive."
But there is something you can do to track progress. Recently, the Radio Arts Foundation launched a website -- www.rafstl.org -- which will gladly send you news and updates if you fill out a simple form under "Contact Us."
In addition, if you want to keep classical music on the air, you now can donate to the nonprofit station through the website. Like many arts organizations, the Radio Arts Foundation is partnering with Network for Good, which collects and distributes the money for a 3 percent fee, so the group asks you to consider adding an extra 3 percent to your donation to cover the cost.
There was another notable recent development, too. Although KFUO-FM left the regular airwaves, it continues to broadcast through www.classic99.com. In late September, RAF and Classic 99 agreed to share resources.
"We are working together," Connett said "We are receiving their electronic library. Also, we have access to their physical library for anything we need to do to fill in holes. And we will share our programming to make sure that they have access to anything new that we receive."
So, although progress is sometimes painfully slow, Connett says he hopes the end result, like anything made from scratch, will be worth it.
"It's hard and it's complicated, and sometimes the cake falls. But this one's still rising, so we're still here hitting it hard every day."
Why would Ebenezer Scrooge probably have joined a Virginia group called SCROOGE?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: The first man to play Jesse James in the movies probably didn't have to study for the role too hard. It was James' own son -- Jesse James Jr. -- who at the age of 45 starred as the infamous outlaw in the 1921 films "Jesse James Under the Black Flag" and "Jesse James As the Outlaw." In 1899, the younger James had been acquitted of train robbery himself; he went on to pass the Missouri bar exam and open a restaurant in Los Angeles, where he died in 1951 at the age of 75.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org