History - WWNR Radio

History

This page was last revised on Nov. 30, 2013.

WWNR signed on the air Friday, August 9, 1946, at 8 p.m. A special introductory program was scheduled to include congratulatory messages from Gov. Clarence Meadows, Sen. Harley M. Kilgore, Rep. E. H. Hedrick, and Mayor W. A. Burke. The station originally operated with 250 watts on 1450 kHz. Studios and transmitter were originally located at 1516 Harper Road. The station was affiliated with the Mutual Network. A 175-foot tower was originally located next to the studio building.

The original staff included: Zara Jane Smith, program director; Steve Fisher and Eric Paige, announcers; Jim Fair, announcing and programming staff; Harold Kincaid, radio engineer; and Robert D. Buchanan, commercial and local news director; Frank R. Knutti, who formerly managed WORD in Spartanburg, S. C. According to a 1946 newspaper article, the station was equipped with two studios, one with a capacity of 100 persons and the other accommodating 25 persons.

According to a 1971 advertisement, “The NR in its call letters represent the initials of Nick Rahall, Beckley pioneer businessman and the father of the owners–N. Joe, Farris, Deem and Sam. (Deem was killed in a plane crash in 1952.) N. Joe Rahall continues to live in Beckley. Sam and Farris are located at the parent company’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida.” N. Joe Rahall was born in Beckley on March 25, 1913, and died at Deerfield Beach, Florida, on April 1, 1993.

A 1963 newspaper article about WWNR reported that the first managers of WWNR were Frank Knutti, Norman Knight, and Tom Douds.

WWNR apparently was granted a 20 kW FM in the late 1940s but the station was never constructed.

On Nov. 12, 1946, the Charleston Daily Mail reported that Roy Lee Harmon joined the staff of WWNR as city news editor.

On Nov. 25, 1946, Broadcasting magazine reported that H. J. Forbes had resigned as manager of WWNR, effective Nov. 30, and that N. Joe Rahall, president and general manager of Rahall Broadcasting Co., planned to assume complete charge of WWNR.

A QSL card from Dec. 9, 1946, shows Alfred L. Brunelle as Technical Advisor.

On May 26, 1947, Broadcasting magazine reported an application to the FCC to mount the FM antenna on the AM tower.

On Jan. 3, 1949, Broadcasting magazine reported that the FM permit for WWNR-FM was deleted by the FCC.

The 1950 Broadcasting Yearbook shows WWNR on 1450 kHz with 250 watts, and an affiliate of the Mutual network. The licensee was Rahall Broadcasting Co., N. Joe Rahall, President. Other staff were: Tom Douds, General Manager; Don Hays, Program Director; and Estil Wills, Chief Engineer.

A Feb. 20, 1950, QSL card is signed by Chief Engineer Estil Wills. It has the slogan “Your Mutual Friend.”

On May 15, 1950, the FCC granted a frequency change from 1450 to 620 kHz, with a power increase from 250 watts to 1000 watts day, 500 watts at night.

On Apr. 23, 1951, Broadcasting magazine reported: “WWNR Beckley, W. Va., has dedicated new facilities which shifts the station from 1450 kc with 250 w to 620 kc with 1 kw fulltime. Officiating at the ceremonies was N. Joe Rahall, president. The voice of Sen. Harley M. Kilgore (D-W. Va.) was heard in the principal address. Sen. Kilgore could not attend the dedication because of a previous commitment but sent a recorded congratulatory message to Beckley for the event.”

Power was increased to 1000 watts day and 500 watts at night. The lower dial position and higher power output allowed for an increased coverage area. The transmitter site was moved to Cabell at this time, since operation on 620 kHz required a directional antenna system consisting of four towers to be used at night.

In January 1952 Richard Booth became station manager.

In 1952, WWNR applied to operate a TV station on Channel 6. The station proposed 100 kW visual, 50 kW aural, 1280 feet AAT, 503 feet above ground, 14 miles SSW of Beckley atop Indian Grave Mountain at 37 35 30, 81 09 00. (The station may also have applied to operate a TV station on Channel 4 at another time in the 1950s.)

A program schedule in the Beckley Daily News-Digest of Oct. 9, 1952, shows the station signing on at 4:45 a.m. with Hit the Deck, and signing off at 12:30 a.m. The schedule shows Mutual Network programs at night. (An image of the schedule is on the pictures page.)

A January 1953 newspaper shows that WWNR was broadcasting Woodrow Wilson High School basketball games that year.

The 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook shows the following personnel: N. Joe Rahall, president; Richard H. Booth, general manager; Eugene J. Morehouse, commercial manager and sports director; C. Phil Vogel, program director; Shirley D. Walker, program manager; Anthony P. Gonzales, chief engineer; C. P. Vogel Jr. and Dennis Hollandsworth, farm director; Nannie Ellen Tucker, women’s director. [More information about Mr. Morehouse is here.]

The 1971 advertisement has:

Some of the old time shows were Uncle Gene, Women’s Angle, Open Mike, Hillbilly Jamboree, and Polka Time. Many air personalities have appeared on WWNR, but perhaps the most unusual was “Gus” the talking mynah bird who appeared with the morning announcer for almost five years. In the early 50’s WWNR broke the tradition of doing all of its programs from the studio and began broadcasting from everywhere in southern West Virginia. It is believed that WWNR has done more “remote” broadcasts than any station in West Virginia.

The mynah bird was known as “Static,” at least during part of its time on the air. A 1963 newspaper article referred to Static, the talking mynah bird.

A 1960 listing shows N. Joe Rahall, president; R. H. Booth, general and station manager; Margaret A. Jenkins, comm. mgr.,; Paul Harless, sls. rpm. mgr.; Robert B. Harvit, program, publicity dir.; Jack Slygh, chief engineer.

The 1961-62 Broadcasting Yearbook shows the following staff: Anthony P. Gonzales, general manager; Robert Harvit, commercial manager; Frank M. “Bud” Kurtz, program director; Margaret A. Jenkins, program manager; Robert Miller, news director; Jack Slygh, chief engineer.

In the 1960s WWNR was described as one of the most successful small-market stations in the U. S. WWNR had no network affiliation through most of the 1960s, but did join the American Contemporary Radio Network in 1969. (During the weekend of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, WWNR arranged to carry programming of the NBC radio network.)

An advertisement in the Beckley Post-Herald/Raleigh Register on November 14, 1971, on the 25th anniversary of WWNR, shows the NR good guys with the following caption: “The WWNR staff was officially proclaimed ‘The Good Guys’ in 1964 by John Wesley Smith, then mayor of this city. From left to right: Bob Horton, who came to WWNR as music director from Bristol, Virginia, in May of 1965; Dick Callaway who joined the ‘Good Guys’ in September, 1966, as news director; Rod O’Dell who joined the staff in June, 1961, and is now program director; D. S. Goodwin, the Public Service Director for WWNR who started in December 1969; and Phil Vogel who has been with WWNR since January, 1955 and is currently the production manager for WWNR.” The advertisement lists the sales staff as Lyle O. Weagel, Pat Roach, Bob Skaggs, Danny Tilson, and Tom Hicks. The office staff is shown as Sandie Lilly, receptionist; Betsy Hatcher, bookkeeper and office manager; Cathi Lipsinic, traffic director; Fred Persinger, copy director.

In April 1984 the station was purchased by Al Martine.

In 1994 the station was sold to Dynastar Communications Inc., Hugh M. Caperton, president.

In the 1990s the station featured a talk format, with mostly network programming. Southern Communications, owner of WCIR, took over the operation of WWNR in the 1990s (and in about 2001 purchased the station from Dynastar Communications Inc.) Three of the four towers at Cabell were taken down and WWNR switched to non-directional operation at night, with lower power.

In June 2000, WWNR had a talk format, featuring programs such as Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, as well as Cincinnati Reds baseball and CBS News on the hour. A local talk show, the Mid-Morning Monitor, was hosted by Steve O’Brien. Local programming for the station was originated at the facility near the Airport Road Industrial Park which also housed the WCIR studios.

On Nov. 15, 2000, WWNR began transmitting its signal from Crab Orchard, utilizing the same tower as WIWS-1070.

By that time station had begun airing Beckley’s Morning News, a three hour news block from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays, as well as The WWNR News Hour, a 5 p.m. hour update. WWNR was utilizing three anchors and three or four reporters and providing traffic reports from Skyhawk traffic.

On Feb. 6, 2001, the last of the four towers at Cabell – a 305-foot Blaw-Knox tower — was taken down.

On Feb. 22, 2002, daytime power output was increased to 5000 watts, utilizing a Broadcast Electronics AM5E transmitter.

In 2002 the studios of WCIR-FM, WTNJ-FM, WMTD-AM/FM, WAXS-FM, WWNR, and WIWS were moved to 306 South Kanawha Street in Beckley (the old Appalachian Power Company building).

In January 2003, WWNR was programming local news from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., a local talk show hosted by Steve O’Brien from 10 a.m. -12 noon, Dr. Bill O’Brien from 3 p. to 5 p.m., and a local news hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In 2004, Southern Communications Corporation, which had been operating WWNR, took over ownership of the station. The Federal Communications Commission approved the transfer of ownership on January 26, 2004.

On Feb. 11, 2004, WWNR began streaming its locally-originated programming on the Internet from its web site, which is now at http://www.wwnrradio.com/.

In 2010 WWNR was using a 250-watt translator on 101.1 FM. The transmitter site is on Sullivan Hill south of Beckley.