The earliest ancestor of WGH Radio was
WPAB, granted a license by the Radio Division, Bureau of Navigation, United
States Department of Commerce on December 4, 1926. The licensee was
the Radio Corporation of Virginia, who operated the new station for the Park
Avenue Baptist Church in Norfolk. On December 6, 1926, WPAB signed on
the air at 1040 kilocycles with a power of 100 watts. WPAB later
became WRCV and broadcast programming mostly of a religious nature.
January 1927, the Radio Corporation of Virginia put another station on the
air, WSEA, which transmitted on the frequency of 1370 kilocycles
with a power of 500 watts. In April 1927 WSEA began broadcasting from the
brand new Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach but was dark by the middle of 1928,
the Radio Corporation of Virginia having gone bankrupt. WSEA,
however, had one shining moment on June 10, 1927 when Norfolk Mayor S. Heth
Tyler became the first American to extend coast to coast radio
congratulations to aviator Charles Lindbergh after his successful solo
flight from New York to Paris. Lindbergh heard the message on WSEA as he
was passing over the Cape Henry Lighthouse.
Little moved the WSEA allocation to Newport News and changed the call
letters to WNEW (signifying its new city of license, Newport News) on August
8, 1928. Facilities were in the Tidewater Hotel at 2400 Washington
Avenue in Newport News. The studio was on the ground floor, directly
behind the front desk and switchboard for the hotel, and the transmitter and
antenna were on the top floor. Shortly thereafter a new
licensee, Hampton Roads Broadcasting Company, changed the frequency to 1430, and government authorization came through on
October 8, 1928.
The WNEW calls
lasted for only a few weeks, when they were changed to WGH ("World's Greatest
Harbor"). The WGH call letters had originally been assigned to
the first radio station in Alabama, put on the air by The Montgomery Light &
Water Power Company in 1922. It was also among the first 100 radio stations
on the air in the United States. By 1928, however, the station was gone and
the available WGH call letters were requested by Hampton Roads Broadcasting.
An application to the
Federal Radio Commission was approved on
November 19 of that year and the station began identifying itself as "WGH" the next
day. The abandoned WNEW
call letters were later picked up by a Newark, New Jersey radio station on
1130 kilocycles. WNEW became famous as the medium's first successful "Music
and News" formatted station and home of Martin Block's "Make Believe
Ballroom" and Stan Shaw's "Milkman's Matinee."
One of WGH's first
employees was Malvern Powell. Mal was also employed by the National
Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at Langley Research Center in
Hampton. The NACA preceded the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA). Mal was part of a team at Langley that worked
with the world's first wind tunnel that used the principle of variable
density air pressure to test scale model aircraft. The variable
density tunnel was built by the Newport Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. Mal doubled as salesman and announcer in the
early days of WGH and held nearly every position at the station until his
retirement as an account executive in 1969. Mal continued working in sales
part time into the late 1970's.
On November 11,
1928, the frequency of the station was changed again, this time to 1310 kilocycles, with a
power of 100 watts. A few weeks later, on December 20, studios were opened on the
third floor of the Hotel Warwick on West Avenue in Downtown Newport News.
The transmitter and antenna were located on the top of the seven floor
structure, which was the tallest building in the city. In the early
days, WGH began its broadcast day at 6:00 PM and aired a half hour of news,
followed by some recorded music and live local entertainment programs.
In early 1930, Hampton
Roads Broadcasting Corporation was purchased by the Newport News Daily Press
and Times Herald newspapers. E. Elsworth Bishop was named Managing
Director for the station. Programming included frequent dance band
remotes from the Naval Reserve Hall at 29th and Huntington Avenue in Newport
News as well as pavilions at Ocean View and Buckroe Beach.
A studio fire in the
Fall of 1931 necessitated a temporary move and broadcasts originated from
the home of WGH employee Hunter Copeland. This continued until late
September 1931 when studios were completed in the Metropolitan Building on
Washington Avenue. In 1932, auxiliary studios were opened in Norfolk's
A construction permit
was filed with the FCC in 1934 to raise the station's daytime power to 250
In the mid-1930s, the
Norfolk studios were moved to the Banker's Trust Building and moved in 1938
to the Portlock Building. 1938 also saw the opening
of a studio in Portsmouth, in the American National Bank Building.
In 1938, WGH became a
CBS optional affiliate and cleared a limited schedule of CBS Radio Network
the late 1930's, a number of newspapers around the country experimented with
radio delivery of newspapers. It was done by a facsimile (fax) machine that
was placed in a subscriber's home. The newspaper would transmit to the
facsimile machine via a local radio station. Since most stations at the
time stopped their programming at midnight, the transmission would take
place between midnight and 5am. When the facsimile subscriber awakened in the
morning, their newspaper would be waiting in a pile of paper on the floor.
One of the few newspapers involved in this experiment was Hampton Roads
Broadcasting's parent company, The Daily Press, which delivered the faxes
over WGH. The transmissions continued for a short time and were stopped in
1941 when the U.S. entered World War II.
By the late 1930's, a new transmitter building and free-standing tower were constructed
in Newport News at the starting point of Jefferson Avenue alongside the Small Boat Harbor.
In 1939, the station's fulltime power was authorized by the FCC to be
increased to 250
Early radio programming was heavily influenced by musical acts. Disc
jockeys were nearly non-existent, even though the disc jockey's roots were
formed early on when experimenters would play Victrola recordings during
their broadcasts. Recordings played on the radio, however, would be frowned upon
until the late 1940's. Live musicians dominated the WGH schedules on
both local and network broadcasts.
1940, network negotiations with the dominant music licensing agency, ASCAP
(American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers), broke down and
broadcasters formed their own music licensing agency, BMI (Broadcast Music
Incorporated). As BMI signed a group of second-tier songwriters, ASCAP
composers pulled their compositions from the airwaves, leaving only public
domain and BMI selections available for play. Listeners' patience wore thin
after hearing "Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair" and "Little Brown Jug"
over and over. By mid year, the networks and ASCAP reached an agreement.
also saw the relocation of the WGH main studios to the Portlock
Building in Norfolk. Some broadcasts, however, continued to originate
from the Hotel Warwick in Newport News. Another major event in 1940
was a "Mutual" agreement to begin fulltime affiliation with the Mutual Broadcasting
In March 1941 the
dial position of WGH
became 1340 kilocycles following a massive Western Hemisphere frequency shift,
result of treaty agreements among the United States, Canada, Mexico and parts of
the Caribbean. Lower band stations were unchanged, but mid to upper
frequency stations shifted their dial positions by as much as 30 kilocycles.
1942, the American Federation of Musicians, under
the leadership of James Petrillo, became upset about the increasing number of
recordings heard on radio stations around the country. Petrillo argued that whenever a record was
played on the radio, or even in a jukebox, AFM union members received nothing
in return. He commented that if the trend toward recorded music continued, musicians "would be
playing at their own funerals." Petrillo told the major record companies
that unless AFM members received a higher royalty payment to compensate for
their losses, the union would not produce any more records after July 31,
1942. The companies initially refused to pay the increased royalty, and
stockpiled performances and concerts. The strike lasted two years and ended
when the record studios agreed to make payments to a Music Performance Trust Fund
to support live public performances employing musicians. Nevertheless,
up through the 1940s, most radio stations, including WGH, had their own house musicians on the
big radio stations in each market were affiliated with one of the major
networks, the National Broadcasting Company (with its Red and Blue
networks), the Columbia Broadcasting System, or the Mutual Broadcasting
System. Stations without network affiliations ("independents")
were deemed "inferior" and "second-rate."
In 1942, WGH dropped Mutual and joined the NBC-Blue Network, which became
ABC in 1945.
1946, the Hotel Warwick studios were closed and all programming was
originated from the Portlock Building in Norfolk. Chief Announcer for
the station was Harrol Brauer, Jr. The station employed a staff of 19.
1947, the FCC authorized a frequency change to 1310 kilocycles and an
increase in power to 5,000 watts, with a directional antenna array.
WGH-FM debuted, the area's first FM radio station. It would simulcast
the WGH-AM programming for nearly ten years. Transmitter and antenna
were co-located with WGH-AM at the Small Boat Harbor facility in Newport
News. The station's effective radiated power was 74,000 watts and
covered most of Eastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina.
Program and Promotion Director in the early 1950's was Bob McBride.
The General Manager was still E. Elsworth Bishop; the station's Sales
Manager was Eddie Edgar; the on-air music critic was Warner Twyford; and one
of the disc jockeys on the staff was Ambert Dail (later to become General
1953 studios were moved to 739 Boush Street in Norfolk and moved again in
1958 to 711 Boush Street, across from the WTAR Radio-TV complex.
Listeners to WGH on a typical day in 1955 heard such programs as "Don
McNeill's Breakfast Club", "My True Story", "Modern Romances", "Whispering
Streets", "When a Girl Marries", news from Paul Harvey, "1310 Clubtime"
afternoon music and news program) and miscellaneous music and news
programming through the evening hours. By the mid 1950's, however, big time network radio
was ending its run. Many industry leaders felt that the electronic eye
of television had placed the "whammy" on radio and that the medium's days
were numbered. A number of smart radio operators, however, followed the lead of WNEW and began
airing "Music and News" formats. The era of the disc jockey as an
entertainment guru was about to commence. By 1957, WGH was airing
mostly local disc jockey shows, with the records spun by performers such as
Ambert Dail, Lee Alan, and Bob Calvert.
Other than hourly news, "Don McNeill's Breakfast Club" and Herb
Oscar Anderson's midday disc jockey show were the only
ABC network programs left on the schedule.
WGH-FM began airing its own programming for much of the broadcast day.
This was a somewhat unusual concept at the time, since separate programming
on co-owned AM and FM stations did not become mandated by the FCC until 1966. The station's
programming included jazz, easy listening, show tunes and classical music
July 31, 1958, WGH was authorized by the FCC to broadcast with a
non-directional daytime pattern (from the Newport News Small Boat Harbor)
and a directional nighttime pattern (from the Military Road transmitter site
in Hampton). By now, programming was originating from studios
constructed at the Hampton transmitter site.
affiliation with the ABC Radio Network was dropped in late 1958, and in early
1959 Dan Hydrick was named General Manager succeeding Edward Elsworth
Bishop, who had managed the station since 1930. A new era was ushered
in with a switch to "Top-40" programming under the "Color Radio" banner.
Late 1950's performers included Jim Stanley, Jack Fisher, Lou Nelson, Dick Lamb, Jack
Krueger, Frank Drake, Bob
Calvert, Dean Collins (who went on to WPGC in Washington as Dean Griffith
and later to New York as Dean Anthony, one of the WMCA "Good Guys"), Don Owens, Roger Clark, Bob Calvert's alter ego
(and the inspiration for Wolfman Jack) "Baron Bebop", Throckmorton Quiff,
and Gene Creasy. Early newscasters
included Ed Meyer, Dick Kidney, Pete Glazer, Bud Buhler and Art Merrill.
1960, Ambert Dail was named General Manager, having served as Program
Director since 1953. Additional studios and offices were added at the Military Road
transmitter facility in the early 1960s. By now, the station was
broadcasting at 5,000 watts from a non-directional daytime tower at the
Newport News Small Boat Harbor, switching to the three-tower directional
site in Hampton during the evening hours.
on-air performers included George Crawford, Dave Cummins, Bob Calvert, Gene
Loving, Keith James, Dick Lamb, Roger Clark (Program Director until 1967), Glenn "The Turtle" Lewis, Russ Spooner,
Chuck Adams, Don Robertson, Bob Chesson (Production), Jim Lawrence, John Garry
(who was also Program Director from 1967 until 1970, when he left WGH to
program WIST-AM in Charlotte), Larry O'Brien, Tom Scott and J.J.
1965, Raymond B. Bottom, Jr. was named Vice President of Hampton Roads
WGH-FM became a full-time stereo station.
late 1968, the nighttime directional antenna site was relocated to Main
Street/Todds Lane and
Willow Drive in Hampton, near the Newport News-Hampton line. In the
early 1970s, the
Mercury Boulevard towers were dropped to make way for the construction of
Todd Center and new WGH studios and offices.
At about the same time, new showcase studios and offices were constructed in Military
Circle Mall in Norfolk and the 711 Boush Street facility was closed.
By 1972, WGH AM-FM had a staff of nearly 70 employees in brand new studios
and offices in Hampton and Norfolk.
many years, the WGH News Department was honored by the Associated Press as
the Best News Operation in Virginia. For most of the 1960s and well
into the 1970s, Jim Moore was News and Public Affairs Director. The
award-winning news staff included such names as Ed Meyer (former News
Director), Dick Kidney, Eric Aucoin,
Ira Hull, Carlton Shrieves, Pete Glazer, Wayne Combs, Gene Galusha, Jim
Clarke (who secured a taped interview of Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy
plane pilot who had been shot down over Russia), Frank Currier, Allan Pressley, Joe Lowenthal, Michael Rasnick,
Boyd Harrier, Brad Face,
Edwin Carlyle, Darrell Hosack, Christian Walters and Carl Hollander. George Passage, Editorial Director of The
Daily Press, presented his nightly commentary on the air from 1960 into the
early 1970s. The Edward Travis Report was a daily offering on the
schedule at 12:25 PM until Mr. Travis' retirement in 1972.
WGH Sales Department over the years included professionals such as Bill
Walker, Al Nelowet, Margie Nelowet, Kay Foulkes, Howard Jernigan, Jack Whitehead, Betty
Whitley, Bobby Fox, Roger Clark, Lew Matthews, Betty Verell, Jane Lippincott, Judi Sedell,
Richard Winstead, Steve Witt, Gary Romska, Mercer Collins and Roxanne Miller. Earlier, we
mentioned Malvern "Mal" Powell, who earned the distinction of becoming the
first WGH employee to retire, after almost 41 years of service.
In 1970, WGH-FM
became a full-time concert music station. The station was nationally
recognized as a leader in classical music programming, with a library of
over 25,000 albums. The fine arts programming continued until the sale
of WGH AM-FM by Hampton Roads Broadcasting corporation in the 1980s. The late Vianne
Webb was Program Director and joined the station in 1963 as Librarian and,
of a morning classical music program. Chuck Adams was the Operations
Manager and Public Service Director as well as a popular on air host.
He joined WGH AM-FM in 1965. His was also the last voice heard on WGH-FM before new owners CommCor
unceremoniously pulled the plug on the station so
quickly that they interrupted Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D
Major" in mid-track. Other
WGH-FM hosts included Tom Morgan, Art Jones, Dwight
Davis, Rollie Bristol, Inge Fisher White and Raymond Jones.
1970s talent lineup on WGH-AM included such names as George Crawford, J.J. Bowman, Rob
Wayne, Sean Grabowski, Lee Fowler, Scott Christensen, Ron James, Tom Scott, Dale Parsons,
Jim Stewart, Jim Conlee, Jeff Davis, Mike Patrick, Neal Steele, Bill Tucker, Nick O'Neil, Dan O'Brien,
Pat Holliday, Bob Canada, Pat O'Day, Ed Rodriquez, Bill Jordan, Jon St. Jon,
Pat Banks and Phil Beckman.
top-notch engineering staff kept the stations sounding clean and clear.
Chief Engineer Joe Looper, Dave Desler, Ken Stark, Herman Wood, Sam Joyner,
Leo Sulik, Tom Inman
and Dexter Phibbs were a few of the talented and dedicated technicians.
success of WGH AM and FM over the years was built on the hard work and
talent of the people named above, as well as employees such as the
indispensable George Crawford, Jr., Betty Blinco, Wally Hankins, Wheless
Hutton, Mary Ann Jennings, Anita Williams, Helena Holmes, Jack Black, Cheryl
Cook, Irvine Hill, Pam Hart, Ed Ivory,
J. Hunter Todd, Joel Carlson, Phyllis Smith, Sally Marshall, Marie Arnold, Sandy Crawford,
Linda Turner, Bobbie Hand, Sid Oman, and
Production Director Herman King.
In 1983, the stations were sold
to an Ohio company, CommCor, whose management changed the
call letters of both WGH AM and FM to WNSY and instituted a
soft rock format. In 1985 the station was sold to
Susquehanna Broadcasting and the WGH call letters were
restored to both stations. During the late 1980s
WGH-AM aired a simulcast of the WGH-FM Top 40 format.
In 1990, WGH-AM broadcast CNN Radio News during the Gulf
War, with a switch to country in 1991 and then to all sports
in 1992, becoming Virginia's first all sports radio station.
WGH was sold in the
mid-1990s to Barnstable Broadcasting, which also picked up
other stations in the area. One of the stations they
purchased, WCMS, was later sold to Davidson Media.
Barnstable didn't want to lose the WCMS call letters, so
they assigned them to 1310 AM, which became known as ESPN
Radio 1310 WCMS. The WGH call letters remained with
97.3 The Eagle.
In 2005, Max Media purchased
the stations owned by Barnstable Broadcasting and the call
letters WGH were restored to 1310. On October 5, 2009,
WXEZ-FM (94.1) swapped formats with WGH-AM (1310).
WXEZ-FM adopted the sports programming and changed their
call letters to WVSP-FM ("ESPN Radio 94.1"). As a
result of the switch WGH-AM became Gospel formatted "Star
Information for this history came from a number of resources, including
research my wife Ginny and I conducted for the radio special "WNBC-The First
66 Years". The New York Public Library, Library of Congress and the
NBC Archives were invaluable in our research. We were also blessed to
have the cooperation and assistance of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Fred
DeCordova. Individuals such as Peter Kanze and Gene Garnes offered
their collections, as well.
great deal of WGH information came from Internet and FCC research, my
collection of Pulse Ratings books, Bunny McBride (daughter of Bob McBride),
Roger Clark's WGH 50th Anniversary program, and an excellent aural history of the station prepared and voiced by Chuck Adams for
the WGH reunion.