WHTN/WKEE, Huntington

Pictures and Audio

Pictures of WHTN/WKEE are on flickr here. Several sound files are here.

A WKEE tribute on YouTube is here.

WHTN radio station began broadcasting in July 1947 as a daytime station on 800 kHz.

The 1947 Broadcasting Yearbook shows:

WHTN. (Construction permit) 800. 1,000-D. Greater Huntington Radio Corp. 1112½ 4th Ave. 6185. Network: .... A. B. Hyman, Pres. Meyer Layman, Vice-Pres. & Gen. Mgr. Arnold Silvert, Prog. Dir. & Prom. Mgr. Harold F. Sturm, Chief Engineer. News Service: INS.
The 1947 yearbook shows WHTN-FM having a conditional grant.

The 1947 West Virginia Blue Book shows WHTN as a 1000-watt daytime station on 800 kHz. It shows that WHTN-FM had a construction permit for 53,000 watts on 1005. MHz.

Apparently later in 1947, WHTN-FM went on the air.

The 1949 West Virginia Blue Book shows WHTN-FM with 53,000 watts on 100.5 MHz.

The 1950 Broadcasting Yearbook shows:

WHTN. 1947. 800. 1000-D. Greater Huntington Radio Corp., 1112½ 4th Ave., 33453. A. B. Hyman, Pres. George Brengel, Gen. Mgr. Arnold Silvert, Cml. Mgr. Dean Sturm, Prog. Dir. Lan Singer, Prod. Mgr. Harold F. Sturm, Chief Engr. Transcription Service: Standard. News Service: UP. Transmitter Make: RCA.

WHTN-FM. 1947. Ch. 263 (B). 100.5mc. 53kw.

The 1956 West Virginia Blue Book shows:

W H T N: 800 KC. 1000 watts, daytime. Mutual Broadcasting System affiliate. Studios: 625 Fourth Avenue. Huntington. Transmitter: Overby Road. Owner: Cowles Broadcasting Company. President: Luther L. Hill. Vice President and General Manager: Robert R. Tincher. Chief Engineer: Harold F. Sturm, Sr. Program Director: George Marshall.

The 1956 and 1957 Blue Books do not show WHTN-FM.

Apparently, the FM station suspended operations in the 1950s, as did many FM's in the United States.

After receiving his B. A. in Journalism at Marshall University, the well-known entertainer Soupy Sales was hired at WHTN, first as a radio script writer and later as a DJ.

The 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook shows:

WHTN. 1947. 800. 1000-D. Greater Huntington Radio Corp. Radio Center. 3-3453. Network: MBS. Rep: Indie. S. J. Hyman, chmn of bd. Fred Weber, president. John S. Phillips, general manager. Curtis Clark, commercial manager. George Marshall, program director, news director. Harold Sturm, chief engineer. Bud Gumm, sports director.

WHTN-FM. Ch. 263 (B). 100.5mc. 53kw.

Apparently in 1959, the radio and television stations were sold, separating ownership from the television station, and at this time the call letters of the radio stations were changed to WKEE and WKEE-FM.

The 1961-62 Broadcasting Yearbook shows:

WKEE (July 1947): 800 kc; 1 kw-D. P. O. Box 2288. Phone Jackson 5-7788. Geyer Broadcasting Co. (acquired station Nov. 19, 1959). Rep: Raymer. Wayne W. Geyer, pres & gen mgr; Robert R. O'Dell, opns mgr; Thomas L. Tiernan, coml mgr; James Robert Martin, prog dir; Raydon R. Thompson, chief engr.

WKEE-FM (July 1947): 100.5 mc; 53 kw. Same address, licensee and staff as WKEE except Robert Shutts, prog dir. Programming separate from am.

Paul Urbahns, who worked at WKEE in 1968-69, recalled recently:

Everything was geared toward the AM which was at 800 KHz. (Radio 80 jingles and all) They fed the same same signal to both AM and FM unless we were running special programming like a ball game on FM that was not carried on AM. There was only one on air room, if FM was running something different it was fed out of the production room. AM was a daytime only where as the FM stayed on until Midnight because of Muzak. Muzak supplied music to area businesses and used special receivers that picked up a sub carrier on WKEE FM. So Muzak paid the evening FM bills. They sold commercial time on the AM and just threw in the FM coverage as a bonus.

The music for Muzak was distributed on large tape reels that ran for about 8 hours. The company provided a schedule of what reels were supposed to play at what time. The music would play for about 13 minutes and then be silent for about 4 minutes. During that 4 minutes the equipment at the station sent out a series of hidden tones to the special receivers in stores. These tones either activated or inactivated the receivers for the next quarter hour of music. Stores could buy full service and play Muzak around the whole hour, or just buy the quarter hours they wanted as I understand it. The tape player had a clock-like device on it so it knew when to trigger the receivers.

Both transmitters were at the same location on a hill overlooking Huntington. Even when I was there (1968-1969) the FM transmitter was mono and water cooled. It was an old monster of a thing, wish I had taken a picture of it. The engineer at the time, Paul Workman, told me there were only two left in use in the United States and whenever a used tube that would fit one was advertised in technical newsletters there were always two bidders, the university and WKEE. I remember I got some extra Christmas money in December 1968 when the remote control system for adjusting the transmitters broke. Luckily school was out so it came at a great time. It was required that we have a person at the transmitter site to take hourly meter readings. So I enlisted the help of another guy I knew in high school that wanted to get into radio. Me and him alternated shifts at the transmitter (days about 6 AM to about 3 or 4, and eves 3 or 4 pm to midnight) for about a week.

The 1969 Broadcasting Yearbook shows:

WKEE July 1947: 800 kc; 5 kw-D. 623 4th Ave. (25724). 525-7788. WKEE Inc. (acq 11-8-65). Net: ABC. Rep: Eastman. Robert R. O'Dell, VP & gen mgr; Karl Meek coml mgr; Jack O'Shea, prog dir; Paul Workman chief engr.

WKEE-FM Nov. 19, 1957: 100.5 mc; 53 kw Ant 560 ft. Dups WKEE 100%.

The 1973 Broadcasting Yearbook shows:

WKEE July 1947: 800 khz; 5 kw-D. 623 4th Ave. (25724). 525-7788. WKEE Inc. (acq 11-8-65). Net: ABC. Rep: Eastman. Robert R. O'Dell, VP & gen mgr; James Eblin, sls mgr; Jimmy Mack, prog dir; Raydon Thompson, chief engr.

WKEE-FM Nov. 19, 1957: 100.5 mhz; 53 kw. Ant 560 ft. Dups WKEE 100%.

For a time in the early 1980s the call letters of the AM station reverted back to WHTN. The WHTN call appears in Broadcasting Yearbook in 1981, 1982, and 1983.

The 1986 Broadcasting Yearbook shows:

WKEE(AM)—July 1947. 800 khz; 5 kw-D, DA. Box 2288 (25724) (304) 525-7788. WKEE Inc. (acq 9-1-79), Group Owner: Capitol Bcstg. Net: ABC/C. Rep: Katz. Format: Adult contemp. James Goodmon, pres. Charles A. Hicks, gen mgr. Joe Johnston, nat sls mgr; Chris Walus, loc sls mgr; Steve Hayes, prog dir; Gary Miller, mus dir; Clint McElroy, news dir.

WKEE-FM—Nov. 19, 1957: 100.5 mHz, 53 kw. Ant 560 ft (CP: 27 kw, Ant 347 ft.) Stereo. Prog sep from AM. Format: Top-40.

In October 1987 the stations were acquired by Adventure II, Inc., Michael Shott, president.

In the 1996 movie Grace of My Heart the radio station has the call letters WKEE.

In 2001, WKEE(AM) changed its call to WVHU and switched from nostalgia to talk format. This call stands for “West Virginia Huntington.”

The web site of WKEE is at http://www.wkee.com. The web site of WVHU is at http://www.800wvhu.com.

Randy Scott Remembers WKEE

The following article was contributed by Randy Scott in 2009.

In the early 1960’s WKEE AM was the dominant Top 40 station in the Tri-State area. Other Top 40 stations at that time included WWHY Huntington, WCMI Ashland, Ky., and WIRO Ironton, O. WSAZ, with its MOR format, was WKEE’s primary ratings and billings competition.

Physically, WKEE’s studios and offices were located in the WHTN-TV building at 623 4th Ave. GM Bob O’Dell was in the large front office along with the bookkeeper, receptionist, and sales staff. Owner Wayne Geyer had a small office, but was only briefly in town three or four times a year from Evansville, Ind. Down the hall from the main office was our copywriter’s office, which also had two Muzak tape decks. Next to this office was our three-room studio suite. Through the only door, you entered the small room where the UPI machine constantly clacked away. Once in the news room, to the right was the door to the main studio. To the left was the door to the production studio and music library. In the main studio was a large window where the dj could look out into the hall.

I arrived in late 1960, pulling both the morning drive and 12 to 3pm shift, and I was also the Music Director. I would compile our play list which was based on input from Cashbox Magazine along with the top 45s sold at Davidson’s Record Shop. We had a large play list (around 80 songs) but our format was heavily weighted first toward the Top Forty, with the rest as ‘KEE Radio “Big Chart Challengers.” Each week I would type and mimeograph our new survey and take copies to Davidson’s for distribution.

Our on-air sound was very tight and bright. For a medium market station, we maintained a rather cosmopolitan sound. Many of our commercials were read live. Prior to WKEE finally getting cart machines in 1961, all of our pre-recorded commercials, jingles, sounders, and stingers were on small tape reels which we played on three Ampex reel-to-reel recorders. We would load up all three tape decks while the record was playing. When the first commercial finished airing we’d start the second Ampex, frantically rewinding the first. Our copy book also included pages of promotional one-liners.

Not having the luxury of a news-person, we ripped and read our own UPI news, attempting to make it palatable to the younger demographics by gimmicking it up with various sounders and, at one point, even reading the datelines in echo. We had those great call letters and used various iterations of them such as “Keeline” news and Keegraphic” weather.

When I arrived, our jingle package was from Pepper-Tanner, but we finally convinced owner, Wayne Geyer, to ante up $1,000 for the Pams “Your Truly” package. It was the same one used at 77WABC in New York. When this hit the air we truly thought we had arrived.

WKEE is a “daytime” station, meaning that in the winter I could not sign on until 7:30 or 7:45, and of course we signed off at sunset. Primary competitor WSAZ is a “full time” station. Their morning guy, who I competed with for ratings, was Pete Stenger, who called his show “Wake up and Sing.” Pete was always number one in the morning except for one, glorious “Hooper” rating book where I actually beat him. Dave Collins did afternoon drive.

The other Huntington AM station was WWHY whose best known jock then was Bill Trowbridge

I would arrive about 30 minutes before morning sign-on. I loaded the two Muzak tape decks, cleared the news wire, and turned the filaments on the transmitter on to let them warm up. I did this by remote control, as our stick and transmitter was on a hill. When it came time to turn on the carrier, if it failed I’d wake up our engineer Don Thompson, who’d grumble and have to drive up the hill to fire it up.

Our full time air staff in 1961 was me (sign-on to 9, 12 to 3, and Music Director), Bob Derenthal (9 till 12 and copywriter) and Bob Martin (3 to sign-off and P.D.) We would simulcast on our FM until sign off at which time FM was “Night Beat” with MOR music. Some of our part timers included Jim Manno, Jim Byard, and Jerry Ashworth.

Bob Derenthal left in late 1961 for New Mexico. He currently lives in California and writes book reviews for Amazon.com. He was replaced by Johnny Thacker, a local Ceredo-Kenova guy who later owned radio stations in Florida. Bob Martin was killed in a plane crash in the mid-60s.

Record hops were in vogue. Every Saturday night I would have a huge crowd at the Ashland Armory. I’d play the records, and we had live music by The Thunderbirds. Another local band of note was Little Archie and the Parliaments.

Our sales manager was Tim Tiernan and salesmen included Karl Meek and Paul Brown.

WKEE had a few wacky promotions during my tenure. One had us mailing packages with transistor radios turned on back to ourselves. The contest required listeners to find U.S. mailboxes that were playing WKEE.

I spent a week in a fallout shelter at Sears in east Huntington and did my shows live from the shelter (picture.)

I was on the air one day when a group of Marshall students called and wanted me to publicize their “Ramp” Festival. I told them I had never heard of ramps so they brought me a plate. Ramps were coming our of my pores for three days.

The first “Miss USA Pageants” were sponsored by WKEE and held in Huntington in 1961, ‘62 & ’63. Jo Ann Odum, a Huntington girl, was Miss USA. (She’s in the picture.)

Some of the retailers who ran spots on WKEE included Wellman-OShea Jewelers, Amsbary-Johnson men’s clothing, B & B market, Big Sandy Furniture, and Davidson’s Record Shop.

Restaurants I remember – Wiggins Barbque and Martin’s Restaurant (located next to the Channel 13 building). I also spent many Saturday nights in ’61 and ’62 at the original Gino’s Pizza location owned by Kenny Grant. Gino’s has numerous locations around West Virginia and Kenny stills run the company from Gino’s Huntington headquarters. There was a drive-in near Marshall that was famous for its chili dogs. The Hotel Frederick had a very nice restaurant.

For movies, it was the Keith-Albee theater.

I left WKEE in 1963 to become Program Director and do PM drive at WWHY, Huntington. A copy of the WWHY survey (picture) includes pictures of the jocks, Jay Mckay, Randy Scott, and Nino Nano (real name: Don Rees.)

I left WWHY in 1964 to be Program Director and do PM drive at WCAW, Charleston. The pictures of me and Dick Clark are from the old WCAW studio in the Kanawha Hotel. The WCAW survey (picture) includes pictures of me and Mike Hammer.

Station Drops Oldies for Talk Radio

This article appeared in the Herald-Dispatch on Jan. 5, 2001.


HUNTINGTON—WKEE 800 AM has changed its format and call letters, temporarily silencing the "golden oldie" sounds of Perry Como, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra in the Tri-State and irritating some local listeners.

Effective Tuesday morning, the station switched to a "news-talk" format and became known as WVHU. The only other station in this market that has a "news-talk" format is WRVC 930 AM.

"Since our acquisition by Clear Channel Communications Inc. became finalized three months ago, the company determined that this area was underserved in the news-talk format," said Bill Cornwell, WVHU’s program director.

No advance announcement was made of the switch, except for the fact that politically conservative radio host/commentator Rush Limbaugh would be moved to the station’s lineup from WRVC.

"This is the equivalent of a department store doing a ‘soft opening,’ " Cornwell said.

Paul Swann, program director of sister station WTCR-AM, which switched from country music to all sports in August, said the nostalgic music—the so-called "stardust format"—hasn’t been thrown away.

"It will be going to another one of our stations, although we can’t say which one or when because of contractual obligations, FCC regulations and certain engineering issues," he said.

"Hopefully, it will be done by the end of next week," added Judy Jennings, the local company’s general manager.

Clear Channel Communications of Huntington, which owns or leases 10 stations in this market, received about 150 telephone calls during the first day and a half after the change from people objecting to it.

"The complaints came from professional offices—doctors and lawyers—and a few older people who love the format," Jennings said. "We’re trying to deal with it the best way we can; this ultimately will be a positive move for all our listeners."

Paul Harvey News and Comment remains on the renamed station, but at different times—8:30 a.m., 11:35 a.m. and 6:55 p.m.

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