History of WPLH/WWHY/WKSD/WWHY/-
The following article was contributed by Paul W. Urbahns.
WPLH took to the air at 7:30 PM on November 29, 1946, with a formal
grand opening program broadcast live from the Hotel Prichard. The
frequency 1450 was called a 'Local Channel', due to the fact stations
on this frequency was intended to serve only small communities, and
were allowed to operate a full time schedule with a non-directional
maximum power of 250 watts. WSAZ, a full time 1000 watt station, jumped
on the power difference immediately by calling themselves “that
Flem J. Evans, applied for the license and became general
manager of the station and president of the Huntington Broadcasting
Corp. The Formal Opening Broadcast featured the Inco Chorus, directed
by Luther E. Woods; The Melody Kids; the choir of the First Methodist
Church, Linda Brook and Bill Cook, soloists; the Gate City Four
quartet; Pete Pyle and his Mississippi Valley Boys; the East High
School Octet; Rankin’s Hawaiians, and other entertainers along
with various public officials.
Broadcasting a very locally involved schedule from 1105 4th
Avenue, these studios appear to have been state of the art for the
period, though nothing on the grand scale of the “Radio
Center” studios of WCMI. WPLH advertised broadcasting, recording
and transcription services as being available. WPLH is believed to
stand for “Work Play and Live in Huntington” though that
phrase does not appear in any known advertising. Transmitter facilities
were noted as being at West Sixteenth Street and Jackson Avenue. The
broadcast studio would remain at 1105 4th Avenue until 1957.
Flem Evans was former station manager at WSAZ, and put WPLH on
the air as competition. While at WSAZ Evans maintained a very robust
roster of local hillbilly acts, some became nationally known. But the
days of local live radio was drawing to a close. WPLH offered listeners
an occasional live show, such as Margie Shannon or the Echo Valley
Boys, along with a steady diet of transcriptions including programs
such as the “Tennessee Jamboree.”
The staff assembled by Evans for the new venture included
several industry veterans in key positions. That opening staff
included, in addition to General Manger F.J. Evans (15 years
experience); Lee Allen, Sports Director (12 yrs); Jay Caldwell, Program
Director (11 yrs); Claude J. Landry, Commercial Manager (8 yrs); Harold
Arthur, News Director (7yrs); William J. Hansher, Jr. , Chief Engineer
(7 yrs); Tim Collins (real name Albert Villistrigo), Chief Announcer (5
yrs); Marcia Young, Community Editor and Dir of Women’s Programs
The November 1946 sign on date makes WPLH the third radio
station in Huntington, following WSAZ and WCMI. Network affiliation was
very important in those early radio days, much as it is today for
television stations. Affiliation with the Mutual Network allowed the
station to air many nationally popular programs.
WPLH-FM reportedly went on the air in 1947, but an actual date has not been confirmed. The 1950 Broadcasting Yearbook shows WPLH-FM on 102.5 MHz with 41 kw. Very little is known about WPLH-FM at this time.
As the early 1950s rolled on discussion in newspapers and
broadcasters was on the coming of color television. The three
“other” Huntington radio stations all applied to the FCC
for a television license. An unnamed newspaper dated July 24, 1954
announced WPLH permitted to drop its bid for the frequency. Eventually
WCMI and WHTN fought it out to the end with WHTN getting the Channel 13
television license and taking over WCMI’s legendary Radio Center
facility. For more on the glamorous Radio Center see the WCMI history.
The impetus for WPLH to enter the television market may have
been E.A. Marshall who succeeded Flem Evans as President of Huntington
Broadcasting Corp in 1952. Marshall stayed President until the
1954/1955 period and was succeeded by Charles Krause (1956). Struggling
to survive during the late 50s a period when the general public and
listeners/viewers alike were mesmerized by television, WPLH station was
sold to The Tierney Company with James F. McDonald, President in 1958.
McDonald appears to have downsized the staff in an effort to keep the
station profitable and moved studio facilities to a small area on the
second floor of 1046 3rd Avenue.
WPLH was sold in 1960 to the Ohio River Broadcasting
Corporation, headed by Richard H. Hustead. Hustead began his radio
career in Clarksburg, W Va., but came to Huntington from Duluth, Minn.,
where he was part owner of WEBC. To make the station more competitive
in those early days of “Rock and Roll era”, the call
letters were changed to WWHY, and programmed a steady diet of the Top
40 hit records as listed on the station’s weekly “Silver
Dollar Carousel” survey.
WWHY – The “HY” and Mighty
The 1960s turned out to be the most competitive period in Huntington
radio as WWHY had to fight it out for listeners against traditional
WSAZ (Radio and Television); Rock and Rollers (WHTN later WKEE AM/FM);
and WCMI; plus Country formatted WTCR. During the decade WWHY would try
all these formats in direct completion with the other stations, with
varying degrees of success.
On July 10, 1987, the new owners had the station's call letters
changed to WHRD to match the Marshall University sports nickname, the
In July 1991, the Marshall University Foundation, Inc., reached an
agreement to sell this station to Southern Communications Corporation.
The deal was approved by the FCC on August 27, 1991, and the
transaction was consummated on October 23, 1991.
Several photos of the transmitting facility of WHRD are at
In February 1995, Southern Communications Corporation signed a deal to
sell the station to Simmons Broadcasting Company. The deal was
approved by the FCC on April 11, 1995, and the transaction was
consummated on May 20, 1995 and it has transferred several times there
The station was assigned the call letters WRWB by the FCC on September 1, 2008.
In 2009 WRWB had a format of southern gospel and patriotic music. The web site of the station was at
About Nov. 1, 2010, the station began broadcasting on 1200 kHz. Call letters were WNBL.
In 2011 the call reverted to WEMM, with a religious format.
Remembering WWHY-AM Radio in 1963
This article was contributed by Randy Scott in 2009.
After spending two years as the morning drive guy on WKEE,
Huntington’s top-40 rating leader, I was approached by WWHY
General Manager Dick Hustead about being WWHY’s Program Director.
Both were/are daytime stations. ‘KEE had the dominant signal at
800 and the ratings, but what 21 year old could turn down the
opportunity and challenge to program his first radio station? So, for
an extra 10 bucks a week, a whopping $90, I moved down Fourth Street to
the top floor of the Hotel Frederick where WWHY had its studios and
It sounded prestigious — “broadcasting from high
atop the Hotel Frederick from the beautiful penthouse suite.” We
did have the entire top floor but it was smaller than the other floors
of the Frederick (which by the way had a very nice restaurant but who
could afford to eat there on 90 bucks a week). Exiting the elevator put
you in WWHY’s reception area. If you followed around to the left
you could enter both the main studio and production studio. Veering
right from the elevator took you to the air staff lounge, and offices
of the sales staff and GM. By the way, Dick Hustead had a reputation as
being difficult to work for. From personal experience, may I say the
reputation was well deserved.
I was fortunate to already have Jay McKay and Nino Nano (real
name Don Rees) on the staff. Jay did morning drive and 12 to 3; Don did
the 9 to 12 noon and wrote copy. Not certain what direction Jay headed,
but Don came from WCMI in Ashland, Ky. and later returned as that
station’s GM. As the underdog, the “HY Guys” team had
great camaraderie and we got along great. Bill Trowbridge had been the
station’s only known personality but Bill had moved on before I
On the air, we had to make-do with a couple of old, mediocre
jingles; one I recall ran about 60 seconds, longer than some of the
songs we were playing! Our air sound was tight, typical up-tempo DJ
delivery, not saying anything of much substance, but saying it quickly!
Thank God for time, temperature and corny one-liners. I made up the
weekly playlist, a compilation of sales at Davidson’s record shop
and Cashbox magazine. We started a WWHY Top 40 survey (pictures on the WWHY web site).
Of course at that time we all pulled six-day work weeks. I
recall working one Saturday and getting a call from Bobby Bare (RCA
artist whose home was across the river at Ironton, Ohio). He said he
had a copy of his new RCA release and asked if he could bring it over.
An hour later, Bobby stepped off the elevator, we talked on the air,
and he told me I was the first DJ in the country to play Detroit City. Incidentally, Bobby had a huge 1959 hit The All American Boy on Fraternity which was released under the name Bill Parsons.
After only five months, in late ’63 I accepted an offer
to join WCAW, Charleston, as Program Director. I hated leaving
Huntington but, hey, I was now in the lofty $100-a-week category (and
all the records I could eat). I would later learn that WKEE GM Bob
O’Dell had called the GM at WCAW and asked them if they could
“get me out of Huntington.” Such was radio then! What fun.
Recollections of Gene Stephenson
The following is an email from Gene in 2008:
Hi Jeff. I enjoyed reading your article about early radio and
tv in Huntington w.va. The original transmitter for WPLH was in the
basement of Flym Evans’ house on McCoy Road in Huntington. This
is overlooking Ritter Park. The antenna was in his back yard. I was
told this by Lew Rowan who was an engineer there at one time. Also I
was told by Raymond Johnston when I was in trade school that WSAZ was
operated in the back of a radio shop on 8th street between 6 and 7 th
ave in Huntington.
I worked part time for WPLH in 1957 & 1958. During those
times Lew Rowan and Bob Nixon were chief engineers (at different
times). One day they lost a modulation transformer. I was on my way
back from Ashland oil where I had a repair job . I found Bob Nixon at
the transmitter. He told me that they were going to be off the air for
about a week. At that time I was playing with a form of modulation that
didn’t use a big modulation transformer. This was Heising
modulation. In about an hour we had the transmitter back on with about
30% modulation, but they were on the air.
The antenna base current meter on WPLH was and still is 25
feet off the ground. I was paid the great sum of $5.00 per week to walk
out the 250 feet climb up a telephone pole and read the base current
meter and calibrate the remote control reading. Bob Nixon was too out
of shape to do this. The FCC required us to maintain a small boat on a
hoist so that one person could get it in the water when the bottom was
flooded, which was and is still often in wet weather. The drunks on
14th Street would come over to the transmitter site after a rain and
take a stick and push it in the ground till they found a ground wire.
They would then pull up a wire. They were 250 feet long and take it
over to the junk yard and sell it. Several people over the years were
put in jail for this. The ground system had to be replaced several
times. Bob Nixon had a large copper screen placed around the base of
the tower at ground level and then buried it in concrete then hooked up
the ground radials. This just made it a little harder to find an end. I
often wonder just how much ground wire is still there what with all the
Several times I was at WHTN transmitter, but I don’t remember it being water cooled. I just don’t remember.
Again, I really enjoyed reading what you had posted as I have
been around through a lot of it. I listened on a crystal set hooked to
the bed springs to WHTN, WSAZ, and WPLH. I lived in harveytown so the
transmitters were close. I have worked in radio and tv since about
1957. Worked part time for WPLH, then went fulltime at WTCR as
assistant chief engineer and staff announcer and was transferred to
their station in Kinston, NC as Chief engineer and staff announcer. I
then came back to Huntington in May 1960 and started to work at WHTN-TV
and worked there till sometime in I believe 2006. I am Eddy Gene
Stephenson, better known as Gene. Thanks for letting me relive the good
old days of radio and tv.
1963 WWHY music surveys, provided by Paul Urbahns and Randy Scott.
WWHY music survey from Dec. 29, 1963; WWHY DJ cards (photos courtesy of Paul Urbahns)
information about Roger Clay Ashworth is at www.macoi.net/biographies.html
Detail from Dec. 29, 1963, music survey
Ad from 1947 City Directory; ad from 1949 City Directory
The WEMM (formerly WPLH) tower, Nov. 2008; article from Billboard, July 15, 1967. Photos courtesy of
Left: WWHY Recipe Exchange Cookbook, perhaps early 1970s,
an outgrowth of the Recipe Exchange
program that aired about 9:30 a.m. for about 15 mins. Listeners called in and
shared recipes. Right: Ad for WWHY in the cookbook.
Several sound files are here.