History of WKNA/WKAZ/WQBE, Charleston
At left: The original studios of WKNA on Kanawha Blvd., just east of Capitol St. Offices were on the second floor and the studios and control room, newsroom and record library were on the third floor.
Rep. Joe L. Smith Sr., father of Maj. Joe L. Smith Jr., announced on July 27, 1944, that an application had been made with the FCC for construction of a new radio station in Charleston. Maj. Joe L. Smith Jr. was on duty overseas at the time, and his father was acting as his attorney. The original application requested 1400 kc with 250 watts power. Smith was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying, “If the construction permit is granted, I am authorized to say that the new station will be affiliated with the blue network.” At that time, WCHS was affiliated with CBS and WGKV was affiliated with NBC. The Blue Network later became the ABC radio network.
In March 1946 the application was amended to change the frequency from 1400 to 950 and to change the power from 250 watts to 1000 watts and to specify a directional antenna.
WKNA Charleston signed on the air on 950 kHz at 5:57 p.m. on January 9, 1947.
The 1947 Broadcasting Yearbook shows WKNA with 1000 watts on 950 kHz, licensed to Joe L. Smith, and located at 804 Kanawha Boulevard. The station was an ABC affiliate. Personnel are shown as follows:
Joe L. Smith, Jr., Owner
In 1948, the station was granted a construction permit for an FM station (WKNA-FM) on 97.5 MHz, with 22,000 watts ERP and an antenna height above average terrain of 185 feet.
The 1950 Broadcasting Yearbook shows WKNA on 950 kHz with 5000 watts day and 1000 watts night, DA-2. It shows WKNA-FM on 97.5 MHz with 3600 watts. Personnel are shown as follows:
Joe L. Smith Jr., President
The station became WKAZ on Feb. 16, 1957. The station had been sold to the Kanawha Valley Broadcasting Co., and was co-owned with WSAZ in Charleston. WKAZ became an NBC affiliate.
On May 1, 1964, WKAZ was sold to Bristol Broadcasting Corporation. The station had a top-40 format in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1984 the call letters were changed to WQBE and WQBE-FM.
The following history was provided by WQBE:
The old station WKNA, owned by Joe L. Smith of Beckley went off the air permanently, relinquishing the 950 spot on the dial. It became WKAZ-AM on Feb. 16, 1957 and was owned by the Huntington Publishing Company, which also owned WSAZ Radio and Television. WKAZ was located on the second floor of the Empire Building. After about three years, it was sold to Harley Samuels of Marshfield, Wisconsin. WKAZ-FM came on the air February 19, 1959 at 97.5 mhz with 3,000 watts duplicated service. (FM is now 50 kw power.) In June, 1964, Bristol Broadcasting Co., Inc. purchased the stations; W. L. Nininger, president. Stations were located at 210 Dickinson Street until 1967, when they moved to the penthouse of the Heart O'Town Hotel. In 1982 they moved to 4250 W. Washington Street, where they built a new facility for studios and offices. General Manager Bob Turley has been with the stations since March 31, 1954, when he started 'at the bottom', he says. WKAZ-AM-FM changed call letters to WQBE-AM-FM in 1984, with country and western formats. The AM was the first AM stereo station in Charleston.
In March 1998, Michael L. Blair reported that WQBE-AM had a talk format which includes Dr. Laura and G. Gordon Liddy. It carries a local sports talk show in the evening, which is simulcast on WRVC on Wednesdays under the title "Double Exposure." Blair said that WQBE-FM with its country format is the number one station in Charleston.
The WKAZ call letters resurfaced on a station licensed to Miami, West Virginia, on 107.3 MHz. The station was playing '70s hits from 1995 to 1997 and subsequently switched to an oldies format.
WKNA Radio Recollections, by Ted McKay
But first, a word from our sponsor: These histories of WKNA and WKNA-TV have become works-in-progress for me the past few months. When Jeff first asked me to update the WKNA and WKNA-TV pages I was amazed at how much I remembered; now I realize that too much was forgotten.
These memories are, I suppose, more of a historical narrative than actual history, but perhaps that’s the best kind! That’s how I really learned about The Great War from my father, and the Spanish American War from my grandfather. That’s how I tried to explain World War II to my children and the Korean and Vietnam Wars to myself, and it’s how I tried (without much success) to instill in my children what an awful thing The Great Depression was.
I'm thankful for the help of my friend of over 50 years, Gil Brooks, who helped me fill in some of the blanks during the time I was away from WKNA in 1951 and the short period after I returned to Cincinnati in 1954 before the stations themselves became history.
Ted McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Although WTIP and WCAW had gone on the air a few weeks earlier, WKNA was the first of Charleston’s post World War Two stations to offer truly innovative programming and some degree of competition for WCHS-CBS and WGKV-NBC. [Jeff Miller note: WKNA signed on the air on Jan. 9, 1947, three days before WCAW. WTIP signed on in 1946.]
Joe L. Smith, Jr. who was the owner of WJLS in Beckley, and part-owner of WKWK in Wheeling, decided that WKNA, unlike the other new stations in Charleston, would be staffed by people with considerable broadcast experience. For that reason the station lived up to its advance billing as "Charleston’s Personality Station."
Names that became broadcast legends in Charleston included: Fred Scott who emceed West Virginia USA, a daily quiz about the state, and the program Swap Shop which featured telephone calls from listeners who traded articles over the air. Scott quickly became one of Charleston’s best known air personalities, and although he left the station in the early 1950’s, he remained in Charleston and opened his own record and appliance business. Scott died at a relatively young age, and his widow, Lucille Thorn, later remarried and became one of West Virginia’s first women county magistrate court judges.
Bob Provence was initially an employee of the Ashland Oil Company, and was featured on the evening news with his company as sponsor. Bob became a full time WKNA employee when he was named sports and news director. In 1949 he succeeded Frank Shaffer as program director.
The station was first managed by John T. (Jack) Gelder who had worked for Smith in Beckley and Wheeling. Gelder did such a good job of making inroads into the Charleston radio market that within two years he had been lured away by WCHS!
The man who replaced Gelder as manager was James T. Quirk from Philadelphia. Quirk remained in that position until 1950 when he returned to the Philadelphia Inquirer. As an Army Reserve Colonel, Quirk was placed on active duty during the Korean War and served as Chief Information Officer for General Matthew B. Ridgeway. After the conflict, Quirk returned to civilian life and became publisher of the then fledgling TV Guide, a position he held until his death.
George Gray replaced Quirk as Manager in 1950, and in 1951 Don Hays was brought in as Program Director when Bob Provence moved to Cincinnati and WLWT.
Gil Brooks, who had worked in Florida radio after leaving the WGKV announcing staff, returned to Charleston in 1948 to join WKNA, and remained with the station until the mid 1950’s. Through the years Gil served as announcer, music and news director and finally as program director. After a long career in broadcasting and public relations, Brooks is now retired, but works on a part-time basis for the ten station West Virginia Public Radio network at their main control center in Charleston.
Dean Brooks (no relation to Gil) came to the WKNA announce staff from Wheeling and handled the music library before that job was taken over by Gil. Dean later became a producer at WSAZ’s Charleston TV studio where Gil Brooks served as news director.
Ted McKay joined the staff of WKNA in mid 1949, and with the exception of a brief stint as program director at WMON in Montgomery, remained with WKNA radio and TV until late 1954. Phantom and character voices were the vogue in those days, and Ted had his "Uncle Joe." Joe was Ted’s alter-ego and the mischievous and entertaining character seemed to have a mind of his own! McKay often said he couldn't control what Joe said! The show became so popular that telephone and telegram requests required an extra hand to receive and process.
Another WKNA deejay, Dick Reid, used an off-size tape recorder capstan to create the high-pitched voice of Little Augie, in much the same way that Jon Arthur was doing at about the same time with Big Jon and Sparkie on the ABC show "No School Today" which originated at WSAI in Cincinnati. Reid had joined the station in February, 1951. Previously he had been with WLOG in Logan and WERE in Cleveland.
Other announce staff members included Ed Miller, Jim McDonald and Dave Wiken. Wiken, an accomplished musician, moved to Cincinnati in 1952 after winning a national audition as host of American Airlines "Music Till Dawn" that would premier that year on WLW.
Charles Husson had started at WKNA in the 1940’s as a studio engineer but evolved as an announcer in the early 50’s. Husson left about 1952 and worked for a time at WCAW in Charleston before becoming chief engineer of a station in Gallipolis, Ohio.
Tom Murphy as Slim and his Hound Dog was a WKNA deejay before he became much more popular as D. Denzil on WCHS a few years later.
Vera Betts, Betty Jean Snidow and Joanne Lockwood were among those who served WKNA as "Woman’s Directors."
In February 1952 the first issue of the monthly magazine The 950 News appeared. The publication was edited by Promotion Director Ted McKay, who had returned to the station in late 1951 for that express purpose. The magazine was similar to The 560 News which had been published as a promotional piece for Smith’s Beckley station, WJLS, since the late 1940’s. The first issue shows Joe L. Smith Jr. as President and George J. Gray as Manager. One article profiles deejay Dick Reid, and another news director Gilbert Brooks.
WKNA was an affiliate of the ABC Radio Network, and the July 1952 issue of The 950 News reports that on July 10 Big Jon and Sparkie would make a personal appearance in Charleston, doing four shows at the Kearse Theater. The article states that although this will be the third personal appearance of Big Jon, but "the first time the youngsters will actually be able to SEE Sparkie! Yes, Sparkie will be on the stage, in person, along with Big Jon and Mr. Sampson!"
WKNA lived up to its name as "The Personality Station" with a long list of local remote broadcasts and ABC network events including Ted Mack’s "Original Amateur Hour" and Sammy Kaye’s "Sylvania Sunday Serenade" both of which originated live from Municipal Auditorium.
Fran Allison of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame, known to millions as "Aunt Fanny" on Don McNeill’s ABC Breakfast Club, was brought to the Municipal Auditorium along with an all star cast to promote the local introduction of Aunt Fanny’s Bread, a product of Charleston’s Holsum Bakery.
In 1952 WKNA placed first among all ABC network stations in the "Space Patrol Blood Boosters" contest which promoted blood donations during the Korean War. The contest was underwritten by the Ralston-Purina Company, sponsor of the popular Saturday morning show "Space Patrol." Promotion director Ted McKay won a 1952 Nash station wagon for the station as first prize.
In 1952 The Ashland Oil Company chose WKNA as the flagship station for "The Romance of West Virginia" a quiz show to be broadcast over a state-wide radio network for 13 weeks during the summer. Each week the program originated in a different West Virginia city or town where local celebrities and guests competed with each other for prizes. Dick Reid was emcee and Ted McKay was the announcer. Historical research for the questions was done by the station’s news director Gilbert Brooks, and program director Don Hays was the show’s producer. McKay, as station promotion director, also served as "advance man" for the series, traveling the width and breadth of the state several times over in the summers of 1952 and '53 as the show toured from Bluefield to Weirton and Elkins to Huntington.
Many of the people associated with WKNA in mid 1953 would soon move to Charleston’s first commercial TV station, WKNA-TV, that would go on the air October 12th of that year.
Smith hired Phil Vogel of WGKV as station manager and Gil Brooks became program director when George Gray, Don Hays and Ted McKay started planning for Charleston’s first commercial television station.
See the WKNA-TV page for details.
Recollections of WKAZ by Bill ReedI was an on-air jock at WKAZ while I was attending Morris Harvey College circa 1963. I was around twenty-years-old at the time. Before 'KAZ I also worked at WRDS, a country station in South Charleston, where, as befitting my hyperkinetic personality, I was know as "Bouncin' Bill Reed" (urp); and, covering the format waterfront, at classical WKNA-FM. When I was nine I had a short-lived radio show, "Kiddie’s Karnival," on the old WKNA-AM. But it was x-led after a summer run, and I was the litt'lest has-been at ten.
I was on staff for about six months at 'KAZ before I was offered a position at the Charleston Gazette as a reporter. Since then, I have always worked as a writer in one field or another, and my voice has never darkened the airwaves again. My recollection is that I simply was not a very good radio announcer, just didn't have the gift for punching copy quite right, and really could not ad lib much more than the time and temp. LOL.
Here’s who I remember at 'KAZ: Jim Taylor, Carl Knight, Neil Boggs (news, natch), Gloria Barron (wife of local radio personality Bob Barron) was traffic manager, the night engineer was Doug Browning. But most of all I remember dee-jay Bob Turley. The things I tend to recall from my youth when I go back and double check on them turn out to have been remembered with a fair degree of accuracy And what I remember about Bob is that he was simply and inarguably GREAT! Case closed. The emphasis between records spun was definitely on comedy, and Bob---I recall---was up there with the best of 'em like Stan Freberg, and Bob and Ray. Again, I am pretty sure I am right about this.
Bob was so far out when he was at the peak of his powers that it was, as they say, "too hip for the house," i.e. Charleston. Or pretty much anywhere else for that matter. And so, eventually, Bob moved more and more behind the scenes and became a program director at 'KAZ and was no longer on the air at all. I think that is the way it played out. I have not lived in Charleston for more than thirty years, but I remember it as being a great radio town.
I can still recall the theme song that Bob used at one time: "The Duke" from the Miles Davis/Gil Evans album, "Miles Ahead." For a morning drive time radio show, it simply does not get any hipper than that IMHO.
Then there were all those dozens and dozens of cartridges that he manipulated with extraordinary dexterity to punch in all of these outrageous sound effects, and voices. If you "put me under" I could probably remember a lot more, but one I recall was a clip of Tallulah Bankhead from the "Guest Star" LP series: "Do you have a makeup kit on this ship, darling?" Then Bob would jump back in with an ad-libbed response, then would segue into a commercial, or whatever. I do recall that he was very well-liked and pretty much ruled the place, but was forever getting called into the very nice Don Hays' office (he was the station director) for a mild wrist slapping. Oh, and there was his radio gossip columnist, "Louella O. Louella" and, um. . .like I say, I probably need to be put into a deep sleep before I. . .oh, and there was "Flamin' Mame," a stripper played by Gloria Barron. Sometimes I was given the honor of doing a bit of improv on Bob’s show after I was off-duty, but Gloria and Bob were practically a radio comedy team. All of us were sometimes called into service. Just depended on Bob’s inspiration of the moment. It was all totally off the cuff. For a kid who practically grew up listening to this stuff, it was quite an honor to actually have become a part of wild and wacky radio show.
And there were a fair number of the staff at 'Kaz and other local outlets who weren't so shabby either. To whit: I came across your site while researching WCHS' Hugh McPherson; specifically I am wondering whatever happened to his archives. When he was at his peak at WCHS, he was pretty close to being a national radio personality. A great talent and a very sweet man. When I was in high school, a bunch of us would regularly drop by 'CHS and sit in while Hugh did his late night jazz show. Can you imagine how exciting it was for someone who was practically just out of his Doctor Denton’s to be allowed to do that. Made you feel very important? Again, such a sweet guy. Very gifted. There must be a treasure trove on invaluable material there.
The dee-jay who replaced Hugh at WCHS was a highly worthy successor, Carl Mack (McClung). "Butch", as his friends called him, had a great radio voice (also did a funny and sweet imitation of Hugh) and eventually went to work at WLW in Cincy. The roster of people, like Carl, who began in Charleston, who then went onto succeed in much bigger markets is really quite amazing for such a relatively small town.
My two big inspirations as a kid were the seemingly two diverse talents, Bob Turley and the Gazette’s L.T. Anderson. And I got a chance to work with/for both of them while I was still in my teens and early 20s! Anderson, whom I still read on the net, was someone whom I perceived as being much older than I when I worked for him. Now I am pretty long in the tooth, and LTA is STILL writing (as splendidly as ever BTW). A common misperception of the young being that anyone even a few years older is prrrrractically ancient. And, in fact, Bob Turley also seemed oldddd to me, but was probably only a few years my senior.
And while I'm at it, I wonder if there are any air checks of; Hugh McPherson, Sam 'n' Denzil, Sleepy Jeffers w/ Honey and Sonny the Davis Twins, and. . ..It all comes come rushing back. Like I say. . .A great radio town.
I have specific sense memories of hearing for the first time that new wave of jingles 'KAZ used when it went Top Forty around 1957. I was a student at SJHS and thought, at first hearing, that the new Top Forty format was the most exciting and sophisticated thing I had ever heard. Little did I realize at the time that it was a harbinger of the eventual death of the kind of radio that would support a great talent like Bob Turley. There might have been a radio genius like Bob Turley in nearly every small-to-medium size radio market in the 1950s and 60s, but I somehow doubt it. What I wouldn't give today to hear an air check of that nutty show.
And to think this all started out as what was intended to be a one-paragraph e-mail.
the Daniel Boone Hotel. Miss Allison (Aunt Fanny of Don
McNeill’s Breakfast Club) was in Charleston to introduce Aunt
Fanny’s Bread, a product of Holsom Bakeries.
delegation. (Note the size of Gil’s "portable" tape recorder!)
From the FCC microfiche files, March 31, 1998.
Bob Provence Obituary
Bob Provence, 90, former program director and news/sportscaster at WKNA Radio, died July 30, 2011, in Matthews, N.C. Mr. Provence joined WKNA when it went on the air in 1947 and left the station in 1951 to enter television in Cincinnati. For one year, he also was the public relations director for Elk Refining Company. He was married to the former Rachel Tuckwiller of Lewisburg for more than 60 years. He leaves his wife, three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and a sister, Doris Speggan of Masontown, Pa. A 1942 graduate of WVU, Provence spent 20 years in radio and television and then was vice president of advertising for what is now Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. Local residents may remember his broadcasts of basketball and football of area high school and Morris Harvey teams. During World War II, he served as a captain in Combat Air Intelligence.
Lovell Webb ObituaryFrom the Charleston Daily Mail:
Lovell McKinley Webb, 60, of Charleston, formerly of Gordon, departed this life April 7, 2003, after a long and brave fight with cancer.
He was the son of Maycel Webb and the late Bobbie Webb of Gordon.
Lovell graduated from Van High School in 1961 and attended the Elkins Institute of Technology, Chicago, graduating as a first class engineer. He worked as a radio announcer for WKAZ Radio, Charleston, for 17 years. Lovell was a Ham Radio operator (N8KAZ) since he was a teenager, serving as president of the Kanawha Amateur Radio Club for two terms. Lovell had a love for radio and had made many great friends whom he dearly loved.
Lovell leaves behind to cherish his memory his wife, Jacquelin Rickman Webb, formerly of Dorothy; and their family of pets, which were his close companions and which he called “The Zoo;” brothers and sisters-in-law, Daniel R. and Judy Webb of Gordon, Jackson and Brenda Webb of Wharton, Johnson and Brenda Webb of Ypsilanti, Mich.; sisters and brothers-in-law, Judith and Earl Gunnoe and Nona and David Wilcox, all of Gordon; brother- and sister-in-law, Don and Nita Perry of Campbells Creek; sister-in-law, Peggy Rickman of Katy, Texas; brothers-in-law, Dink Rickman of Speonk, N.Y., Buck Rickman of Toledo, Ohio; several nieces and nephews; and a host of friends.
Service will be 11 a.m. Thursday, April 10, at Handley Funeral Home, Danville, with the Rev. Philip Rowe officiating. Interment will be in Memory Gardens, Madison, although the most important burial was on the 28th day of September 1953, in obedience to the command and in imitation of the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, Lovell McKinley Webb was buried with Him in baptism at Van by his grandfather, the Rev. Marvin Lovell Kuhn.
Friends may call from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.
Bob Turley ObituaryC. R. "Bob" Turley, 73, of Hurricane died August 8, 2006, after a short illness.
Born March 31, 1933, Charles Robert Turley was the son of the late French Lee and Osha Mae Skaggs Turley. He was also preceded in death by his daughter-in-law, Beth Turley, and his granddaughter, Kimberly Alison Turley.
Bob’s distinguished 43-year radio career began in 1954 with the then WGKV radio station, continued with WKAZ and concluded in 1997 with WQBE. For many years, he announced various sporting events with Hurricane area schools and was affectionately known as the "Voice of the Hurricane Redskins." He was a 1950 graduate of South Charleston High School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Morris Harvey College, Charleston, where he was active with various campus activities including the campus newspaper and was a member of the Kappa Sigma Kappa fraternity. He was a dedicated and enthusiastic supporter of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, attending many performances at the Clay Center for the Arts. He had a love for gardening and was an established pilot. Knowing Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, Bob was a lifelong Protestant.
Surviving are his wife, Dorotha Jean "Dot" Turley; his daughter, Robin Michelle Turley of Winfield; his son, Chris Turley and his wife, Lisa, of Cross Lanes; his sister, Janet Sue Pullen and her husband, Wayne, of Spring City, Tenn.; and his grandchildren, Lori Jo Neubert and her husband, Jason, Leslie Anne Turley, Abbigail Michels, Austin Michels, Ethan Turley and Landon Turley. Also surviving are very special family friends, Pam Abston and George and Ruth Matkins.
Memorial service will be 11 a.m. Friday, August 11, at Chapman Funeral Home, 3941 Teays Valley Road, Hurricane, with Jim McGehee officiating. Inurnment will follow at Valley View Memorial Park, Hurricane.
Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home.
Online condolences may be made by visiting www.chapmanfuneralhomes.com.
W. L. ‘Pete’ Nininger Obituary
BRISTOL, Va. - W.L. "Pete" Nininger, of Bristol, Virginia, died Wednesday, October 11, 2006.
He was born in Bristol, Virginia, on Thursday, April 23, 1925 to the late William C. and Elizabeth Wiley Nininger. He served as a Flight Instructor with the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II.
Following the war, he became General Manager of Bristol radio station WFHG. During the 1950s, WFHG changed frequencies in order to become a "full-time" station, broadcasting at night. In the early 1960s, Pete acquired stations in other markets and expanded the young Bristol Broadcasting Company. He acquired AM station WKOY in Bluefield, West Virginia, and WKAZ-AM/FM station in Charleston.
By 1972, Pete had decided to further expand and bought the BBC and stations WKYZ and WKYQ in Paducah, Kentucky. In the late 1970s, he purchased WXBQ in Bristol. In 1981,WKDQ in Evansville, Indiana, was added to the group. In the mid 1990s, when the F.C.C. de-regulated the rules of ownership, Pete expanded further in the radio market. Mr. Nininger’s Bristol Broadcasting Company now owns WXBQ-FM, Super Talk WFHG-FM, WFHG-AM, Electric 94.9 FM, Z-Rock WTZR-FM and WNPC-AM & FM along with stations in Charleston, WV, and Paducah, KY.
Mr. Nininger was a member of and former chairman of the Virginia Highlands Airport Commission and a long time American Saddle Bred Horseman.
Survivors include his wife, Betty N. "Pinky" Nininger; his daughter, Lisa Nininger Hale and her husband, Danny, and their sons, Justin William Nininger Hale and Cameron Daniel Nininger Hale, all of Bristol, Virginia; two step-daughters, Cyndy C. Thomas and her husband, William W. Thomas II, of Bluff City, and Ceil C. Wheeler, her husband, Kenneth M. Wheeler Jr., and their children, Catherine Wheeler and Sallie-Mason Wheeler, all of Keswick, Virginia; a step-son, Craig Callahan, of Bristol, Tennessee; and a sister, Elizabeth "Betsy" Nininger Graham, of Naples, Florida.
The family will receive friends from 11 to 12:45 Saturday, October 14, 2006, at Oakley-Cook Funeral Home. The funeral service will follow at 1 o’clock in the Paul-Cook Memorial Chapel with Rev. Rufus Hurt officiating. The committal service and burial will follow in Glenwood Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Ron Morgan, Joe Godsey, Roger Bouldin, Bill Hagy, Dr. Jacob Haught, Luther Stinette, Dick Wolf and Fred Leonard. Honorary pallbearers will be all employees of Bristol Broadcasting Company and friends and associates, Steve King, Allen Stigall, Rex Hicks, Don Waterman, Russell Cross, Tiffany Cross and Greg and Vickie Morris. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Mr. Nininger may be sent to River’s Way, 889 Stoney Hollow Road, Bluff City, TN 37618; and The Crumley House, 300 Urbana Road, Limestone, TN 37681. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family by visiting www.oakley-cook.com.
Mr. Nininger and his family are in the care of Oakley-Cook Funeral Home, 2223 Volunteer Parkway, Bristol, Tennessee. 423-764-7123
The Second WKNA Radio (98.5)
In 1960, a second WKNA radio station in Charleston—this time FM only—was opened by Joe L. Smith Jr. on 98.5 MHz, at the former WKNA-TV site. The 98.5 MHz frequency had earlier been used by WGKV-FM around 1950.
WKNA was authorized to operate on 98.5 MHz prior to the adoption of the FM table of assignments. It was later grandfathered into the table even though it was substantially short-spaced to WKPT-FM in Kingsport, Tenn., which operated on the same frequency.
WKNA is shown with a start date of June 1, 1960, in the 1961-1962 Broadcasting Yearbook. The Yearbook shows the station licensed to Joe L. Smith Jr., who is listed as President and General Manager, and it shows G. W. Sandefur as the station manager and Harold Dew as chief engineer. The station had an ERP of 2650 watts.
WKNA operated with an automated beautiful music format. It was the first stereo radio station in West Virginia, and engineer Harold Dew recalled in 1998 that it was the eleventh stereo station in the U. S. WKNA used a Gates FM-1B transmitter with a Standard Electronics stereo generator. J. Fred Riley, who joined the station in 1965, writes, "In those days, there were no FM modulation monitors. The first company to market a type-accepted FM modulation monitor was Collins Radio Company and, in 1965, they brought their monitor to Charleston for a live demonstration. WKNA became one of the first stations to transmit a properly aligned stereo signal, thanks to the demonstration of the modulation monitor. Automatic Tape Control delivered an automation system to WKNA in the summer of 1965 and it provided the programming for both WKNA and WBKW through a subscription to a programming service. The sales force was nonexistent until 1966 when a salesman was hired."
In the 1960s the more powerful WBKW in Beckley, which was co-owned with WKNA, operated as a satellite station of WKNA. This system began no later than May 28, 1961, as it is mentioned in a Sunday Gazette-Mail article on that date. WBKW rebroadcast the WKNA programming, inserting its own commercials automatically when WKNA commercials were airing. WBKW received the signal off-air at the WJLS(AM) transmitter site at Gray Flats, near Beckley, using four yagi antennas mounted on telephone poles, and the programming was then relayed to the WBKW transmitter site at Flat Top via a 950 MHz link.
On April 15, 1962, the Sunday Gazette-Mail reported that WKNA would broadcast it first stereo programs today.
WKNA was sold to Perfection Music, Inc., on September 16, 1967, and at about this time the program automation system was moved to Beckley for use by WBKW.
The 1969 Broadcasting Yearbook shows Ray C. Tincher as President, G. W. "Bill" Sandefur as Vice President and General Manager, and Virginia Sandefur as Music Director.
The station went dark in the early 1970s.
On April 17, 1974, the FCC dismissed applications by Nick Ciccarello Jr. for renewal of the license of WKNA and transfer of control of Perfection Music Inc., licensee of WKNA, from Ray C. Tincher to Mr. Ciccarello, and then to Hawey A. Wells Jr. (80%), Hawey A. Wells Sr. (10%), and Margaret S. Wells (10%); deleted station call letters, and declared license forfeit.
WKNA’s license was forfeited on June 6, 1974.
On Aug. 12, 1974, the FCC on its own motion issued a notice proposing deletion of the assignment, saying it would be in the public interest to delete this short-spaced assignment since the license of WKNA was forfeited. This deletion would leave Charleston with four FM assignments and would be consistent with general population criteria, according to the FCC.
On Feb. 19, 1975, the 98.5 assignment to Charleston was deleted. WRVZ Pocatalico (98.7) and WCEF Ripley (98.3) subsequently operated on adjacent frequencies.
J. Fred Riley, who was employed at WKNA in 1965, writes, "Revenues were never very substantial and sometime later the station was sold. The sale of the station was a complicated matter in that the acquiring company forgot to do all the paper work with the commission. And then the station was sold again without paper work. The commission finally caught up on all this and yanked the license later."
WKAZ Elsewhere on the Web
Many more pictures of WKAZ are at Rick Callebs' 95 WKAZ Forever site.
A picture of Kanawha Boulevard showing the WKNA sign is at http://www.mywvhome.com/Kanawhablvd.html.
Some 1970 audio of WKAZ is at http://mywvhome.com/seventies/wkaz.htm