History of WJLS, Beckley, West Virginia

PAGE 1 - PAGE 2 - PAGE 3

Here are some (mainly) early personnel of WJLS, Beckley, West Virginia. Contributions to this page are welcome via email. This page was last revised on Oct. 1, 2021.

Enzo Allessandrini was on the original staff as an announcer. He was new to radio at the time. The following is from a 1950 issue of the 560 News:

Enzo Allessandrini, known today to thousands of listeners to the CBS network programs originating in Chicago, as Larry Alexander. Enzo, too, can be counted among the Raleigh County citizens who have succeeded in other places of this nation for he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley in the spring of 1939. He came to work at WJLS shortly after it went on the air and remained through the summer months of 1939, and then entered West Virginia University. The following summer, he spent a few weeks at WJLS, then worked at WCHS in Charleston. From there he went to Atlanta, Georgia, and just before entering the Naval service in the early days of the war he worked at KDKA in Pittsburgh. After the war, he stopped off in Hollywood, attempting to fulfill his life-time ambition to be an actor. Times were hard, and there was a job at WBBM in Chicago, the CBS station in the Windy City, and he took it in 1947. He’s been there ever since as a staff announcer. And more recently, during these summer months, he has been heard on the replacement program “Cloud 9" broadcast on Friday nights. In this program he was a character actor. Today, this product of Beckley is married and has one daughter.

Carmella “Nellie Josephine” Amato (1922-2016) was working as a bookkeeper in 1950.

Merv Amols (1921-2010) was hired as the morning announcer in 1946, when he was released from the Army. He came to Beckley from Boston. He was also music librarian. He emceed a half-hour quiz show called People Know Everything, which was produced and written by Benton Boggs. He later lived in Hartford, Conn., where he worked for Capitol Records in the record promotion department. He retired from Capitol Records in 1991 after 41 years. Music producer Stephen Sossin writes, “I can tell you that he is considered Legendary....the longest living, longest career and greatest record promoter known as the 'Hitman.' Sadly, too many publications on the music business don't even mention this great man. This guy MADE some of the greatest Recording Artists...many STILL going strong to this day. Merv has promoted the Music of the following Artists: Glen Campbell, Poison, Motley Crue, Anne Murray, Great White, the Beatles, Heart, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Segar, Al Martino, The Lettermen, Nat King Cole, Blue Swede, Ashford and Simpson, Simple Minds, The Smithereens, Buck Owens, Bobby Gentry, Eric Johnson, Dr. Hook, Peabo Bryson, Roberta Flack, Les Paul, Margaret Whiting, Stan Kenton, Ferlin Husky, M. C. Hammer, Isaac Hayes, Wayne Newton, The Beach Boys, Tina Turner, Buck Owens, Sonny James, Dean Martin, Helen Reddy, Al Martino. When Natalie Cole’s career was waning in the late 80’s and Capital was seriously thinking of dropping her...it was Merv who suggested she re-do her late father’s hits and the rest is history.”

His obituary, from the Hartford Courant, Aug. 29, 2010:

AMOLS, Mervyn Leland, 89, died in Hartford Hospital surrounded by his family on August 21, 2010, after a short illness. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Sylvia Cohen Amols; daughter Janice Curley and former son-in-law Michael Curley, both of Worcester, MA; daughter Lisa Amols of West Tisbury, MA; daughter Nancy Gingras and her husband Brian of Eastford, CT; and grandchildren Adam Curley, Russell and Rachel Schubert, and Corey and Shay Gingras. Merv was born in San Francisco in 1921 to Jack Amols and Ida Glassman Amols. He grew up in Chicago and Boston and lived in Windsor for the last 50 years. After serving in World War II, Merv started his career in the music business as a morning disc jockey at WJLS in Beckley, West Virginia. In 1950 he joined Capitol Records, and for the next 40 years had a very successful career as a promotion manager for the company. He was with Capitol Records during the most exciting time that the music business has ever seen and was widely considered by his colleagues and peers to be the best promotion man in the business. He promoted the careers of such varied artists as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Bonnie Raitt, Iron Maiden, and Tina Turner. He helped launch the careers of other artists such as Anne Murray, Bob Seger, Nat King Cole, and later, his daughter Natalie Cole, and Wayne Newton. He had an ear for music that was unsurpassed, and radio station program directors throughout New England and New York grew to trust his musical instincts. After his retirement from Capitol Records in 1991, he became an active volunteer. For the next 18 years he gave his time as a news reader at CRIS Radio, Connecticut's Talking Newsstand for the Blind and Print Handicapped. He also volunteered every week as an administrative aide at the Connecticut Supreme Court, and received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2006. Merv was a passionate New York Mets fan and avidly followed every game with his wife, Sylvia. He also looked forward to his Thursday night bowling league every week for forty years until he finally had to give it up just last year. At Merv's request, there are no calling hours or funeral services; however, a celebration of his life will be held in November over the Thanksgiving weekend. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be sent to CRIS Radio, 315 Windsor Avenue, Windsor, CT 06095. Arrangements entrusted to Weinstein Mortuary, Hartford. To sign the guestbook for Merv, please visit online at www. weinsteinmortuary.com.

Charles R. Armentrout (died, 1996, age 79) was commercial manager and program director for WJLS. He is shown in charge of continuity in the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book and is listed as assistant manager in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book. After working at WJLS, he joined the Associated Press as a reporter in Charleston in 1942 and later moved to the Baltimore bureau. He was a press aide to Sen. Chapman Revercomb in the late 1940s before returning to West Virginia to become a reporter and columnist for the Charleston Gazette. He was also a public relations executive and a long-time resident of Arlington, Va. He retired in 1981 as manager of the news department and public information programs of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. He was born and raised in Bluefield and attended Bluefield College before beginning his journalism career in 1935 as an announcer. He also worked as a reporter for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Peter Arnell is shown as the program director in the 1943 Broadcasting Yearbook. He later went to New York.

Roger Ball (1955- ) was program and sales director of WJLS. He was with the station from 1975 to 1980. He had earlier worked at radio stations WKOY, WLOH/WAEY, WKJC, and WHIS in Bluefield and Princeton. After he left WJLS, he moved to Florida and became part owner and vice president of WTTB Vero Beach, WTRS Ocala, and WGAM Dunnellon. In 1991 he entered the ministry full-time, becoming Youth Pastor at Immanuel Church church in Vero Beach, Florida. In 1999 he became the Pastor of the church. Roger fell in love with radio when he was 12. When he was 14, a neighbor built him a radio transmitter and he had his own radio station in the basement of his house. He played records and made announcements on 1085 AM for a two-mile radius around his house.

Bill Barren was in the technical department, went from WJLS to WKWK in Wheeling and later to New York.

William R. Barrett was news and sports director in the 1940s and 1950s. He had been Telegraph Editor at the Beckley Post-Herald before joining WJLS. The 1939 West Virginia Blue Book shows him as a control operator and he is listed as an operator in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book. He left WJLS to become news director of co-owned UHF station WKNA-TV in Charleston. In 1977 he was with the Washington bureau of UPI.

Glenn Lee Bellamy was a control room operator.

Donald Blair, an announcer in the early 1950s, came from Wilkes-Barre. Originally from Brooklyn.

Bill Blake (died, 2009) was heard on the air on WJLS in the 1970s and later became Vice President and General Manager. He had earlier been heard on WKAZ in Charleston. Blake later was part of the morning team at WXBQ in Bristol.

Radio Icon Was Avid John Battle Baseball Fan, Players’ Friend

By The Continuous News Desk

Published: January 11, 2009

He was a radio icon in the Tri-Cities region, but many people in Bristol remember Bill Blake as the announcer for John Battle High School baseball games and a friend to the ballplayers.

“Not only was he a fan, he became part of our team and was like a surrogate father to some of our boys,” said Jimmy King, who coached the team for seven years.

“He was an avid fan of baseball and he became attached to some of the kids his wife (an art teacher at John Battle) had in class,” King said. “He started attending our games and never missed. “

Blake, the leader of the “Morning Air Show” on WXBQ 96.9 from 1992 until his retirement in 2004, died Friday at his home in Abingdon. He is survived by his wife, Thelma Vannoy Blake; his son, William F. Blake II, daughter-in-law Vicki Blake, and grandson William Alan Blake of Plano, Texas; and, his sister Mary Alice Casebolt of Mount Hope, West Virginia.

Per his request, his remains will be cremated and scattered among the towers in the field behind the WXBQ studios. And his family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Bill Blake Scholarship Fund for high school baseball players that will be established at Highland Unions Bank.

During his radio show, Blake created and gave voice to several characters, most notably “Jim Nasium,” which evolved as a local cultural icon.

Blake’s leadership of the morning show consistently earned the highest ratings in the Tri-Cities market and, more than once, he received recognition from Arbitron Radio Ratings and Media Research as the highest-rated country music morning show in the nation.

He also served many years announcing those baseball games.

King said during his tenure as coach, Blake missed only one game, and blamed it on the newspaper, because it had the wrong field listed, after a last-minute change was made.

Blake’s radio career began when he was a teenager working for a small station near Grundy. He attended Bluefield College for a while, but wanted to continue working in radio. In 1962, he teamed with Pete Nininger to bring rock & roll radio to the Tri-Cities on WFHG-AM. Their success earned Blake a 1963 industry award from Billboard Magazine as the “#1 Program Director of the Year.”

In 1967, Blake and Nininger founded a new radio station, WKAZ-AM in Charleston, W.Va., the promotion of which included Blake’s 1968 candidacy for the West Virginia governorship with the slogan, “Put a Swinger in the State House.”

During the next two decades, Blake operated radio stations in West Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. He also served in leadership roles with the Cincinnati Reds Broadcasting Network and national, state, and local broadcasting associations.

In Midland, Texas, in 1987, Blake led a fundraising effort to rebuild a Christian radio station destroyed by arsonists. Ultimately, however, the professional accomplishment he cherished the most was his return to his Bristol origins, his friends said.

Blake married Damascus native Thelma Vannoy in October, 1967. The following September, Blake broadcast the birth of his son, William, live on the radio.

His contributions to community included service as a sergeant and engineer in the Army National Guard of Virginia, membership in hospital and public boards, as a lay minister in the United Methodist Church, and fundraising efforts with numerous charities. He delighted in working with local young people, particularly in the counseling of John S. Battle High School baseball players and in guiding them in preparations to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

King said he’d have study sessions for the players at his house.

“The parents were as close to him as the players, so he was somewhat special,” King said. “You never shook Bill’s hand, you gave him a hug. That’s how he interacted with our players and they just thought the world of him.”

[From tricities.com]

Benton Boone Boggs Jr. (1912-1984) was promotion manager and editor of the 560 News in 1947. Merv Amols says the magazine was Boggs' idea. In the 1950s he joined the staff of the new WDBJ-TV in Roanoke as promotion director. He retired from WDBJ in the late 1970s. He was born Dec. 7, 1912, in West Virginia.

Omar Bowyer Jr. (1926-1999) was a chief engineer for about five years in the 1950s. He was hired as an engineer for WJLS-FM about 1951, at which time he, his wife Rose Etna Bowyer, and their two-year-old son Ron moved into the transmitter building at Huff’s Knob. They lived there for more than nine years. Rose Etna Bowyer recalled in 2001 that they had two more children while living there. When their second child was born in the summer of 1953, the phone was out and she had to yell to the bottom of the hill that she needed help; neighbors took her to the hospital in Beckley. The same neighbors took her to the hospital when their third child was born early Christmas morning in 1955, as Omar and Don Moye were at a Catholic midnight service broadcast. Rose Etna Bowyer recalled in 2001, “Omar was kept very busy working at WJLS AM as Chief Engineer and I was HIRED to run WBKW. I could do that easily since I lived in the transmitter. My function was to get the transmitter on the air, set up and play music. Joe L. Smith loved good music. We played many types of music. But NEVER country. Joe did not like country. They were long playing records and we were able to stack up a pile of them.” Omar left WJLS in March 1959 to become a telescope operator at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. (He later became a technical specialist and purchasing agent there.) His wife continued to operate WBKW until July 1959, when they moved off the mountain. Omar Bowyer was still employed by NRAO at the time of his death on Aug. 17, 1999. He was born in Nuttallburg.

Charles V. Boyd is listed as a salesman in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book.

Dallas Boyd was a personality in the 1950s. He is listed as program director in the 1956 and 1958 Broadcasting yearbooks.

Bill Bradlow was an announcer in 1952 as “Uncle Bill.”

Sarah Graves Braxton, “the blind poetess,” had a Sunday morning program for many years until she retired about 1963. She was a native of Abingdon, Va. She died at age 84 in 1968.

Evelyn Long (Eve) Breck (1907-2002) was news director in the late 1960s. She came to WJLS from the Beckley newspapers, where she had begun work as a reporter in 1957. After retiring from the newspaper in 1972, she spent the next 10 years with the City of Beckley as recorder-treasurer and zoning officer. She was born in Appleton, Wis.

Charles B. Bridge is identified as a WJLS announcer in the Charleston Daily Mail of Mar. 30, 1941.

Robert R. Brown (1922-2008) was an announcer, production director, and sales representative in the 1950s. He is listed as commercial manager in the 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook. He and his wife did the morning show from their home at one time. He later became manager of WOAY-TV Oak Hill. More information about him is on the WOAY-TV page.

Bob Brown (of the '70s) was heard on WJLS in the 1970s. He later did the morning show at WOAY-FM when it was a country station, and worked at WTNJ, WWNR, WKOY, and WCLG in West Virginia and several large stations outside the state. In 1989 he founded Brown Spots, Inc., an audio production company, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He now lives in Heber Springs, Arkansas, and reports he has a digital facility based around Digidesign Pro-Tools, a Macintosh HD recording and editing system. His e-mail address is bb@bobbrown.com and his website is at http://www.bobbrown.com

James O’Doyle Burke. A 1941 Cleveland newspaper reported, “James O’Doyle Burke, formerly with WJLS, Beckley, W. Va., is the fourth member of the WHK-WCLE news staff.”

Robert Burns was commercial manager in 1947.

Bessie Callaway was control room operator during World War II.

Richard C. “Dick” Callaway was employed by WJLS/WBKW in the 1960s. He was announcer for WJLS and Operations Coordinator and Sales Manager for WBKW. Callaway has held numerous positions in broadcasting in West Virginia. He was an announcer and news director for WWNR. He partnered with the West Virginia Educational Braadcasting Authority to establish and operate WVPB in Beckley. He was a morning newscaster for WCHS, was an account excecutive and announcer at WMTD in Hinton, and he owned WWBB in Madison, which he put on the air in 1988. He was also news director of WCIR. In 2012 he was serving as the Mayor of St. Albans.

Mary Cesaratto was a bookkeeper in 1950.

Virginia N. Cooper became manager of WJLS in 1944. She had been with the station since its beginning, as chief bookkeeper. She is listed as general manager in the 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook.

James V. Coste (1914-1996) is listed as an operator in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book. He was from Hinton and later operated his own radio store in Hinton.

James L. Cox was the first program director and commercial manager. He had formerly worked at WHIS and WLAP, Lexington, Ky. The 1939 Broadcasting Yearbook shows him as program director and commercial manager.

James Frederick “Fred” Crews (1928-2018) worked as an engineer at WJLS for about a year prior to January 1951 when he was drafted into the service during the Korean War. He worked primarily at the AM transmitter site, but relieved the engineer at the FM transmitter one night a week. He was raised at Crab Orchard and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1947 and later United Television and Radio Laboratories in Louisville. Fred worked for 40 years at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank.

Franklin Delano “Frank” Crum (1937-2001) was heard on WJLS in the early 1960s. He had been with WRON in Ronceverte in 1957, and with WVOW in Logan in 1958. He worked for WJLS from 1960 to late 1964, although he left briefly in 1963 to work for WSLS in Roanoke. After leaving WJLS, he worked for WOVE in Welch and WKCY in Harrisonburg, Va., and from August 1968 until his retirement he worked for WSIG in Mt. Jackson, Va. Frank was born in Mt. Hope. He was living in New Market, Va., until his death on Jan. 1, 2001.

George Dale is listed as the assistant program director in the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book.

Lee Daugherty (1937-2006) was the morning announcer and program director in the mid-1960s. He is from Clarksburg. His first radio position was with WHAR there. He later was employed by WDTV television in Weston as a newscaster. He also worked at stations in Hurricane, Oak Ridge TN, and Pineville. After leaving WJLS he was employed by WCIR and “Mrs. Daugherty’s little boy Lee” subsequently WAEY in Princeton until his retirement.

His obituary from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Feb. 24, 2006:

PRINCETON - Mr. Earnest Lee Daugherty Jr., of Princeton, died Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006 at the Princeton Community Hospital. Mr. Daugherty was born Feb. 5, 1937 in Clarksburg and was the son of the late Earnest Lee Daugherty Sr. and Florence Etta McCoy Daugherty. Mr. Daugherty was of the Protestant faith. His belief in life was that men should be treated equally, that everyone should be thankful for each new day, and that we should always speak kindly of our fellowman. He always saw the good in everyone and always looked at the positive in each and every situation. Most of all, his desire was to show true love and appreciation for his God, his family and his job. Mr. Daugherty was a veteran of the U.S. Army having served in Paris, France. He was employed briefly as a television newscaster in Weston; this led to his career as a professional radio announcer. He worked at numerous radio stations including ones located in Clarksburg, Beckley, Hurricane, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Pineville and in Princeton. His many, many listeners knew him as “Mrs. Daugherty’s Little Boy Lee.” He retired in 1999 from STAR 95 Radio Station in Princeton where he was deeply admired and truly loved by the staff. He is now on his greatest “Remote.” Survivors: Wife, Jacqueline Daugherty of Princeton; daughter, Leigh Ann Brown and husband Gary; grandson, Travis Austin Brown; step granddaughter, Jessica Brown all of Baltimore, Md.; brother, Jim Pickens and wife Cathy of Akron, Ohio; sisters, Becky Wood and husband Warren, Stephanie Linton and husband Greg all of Baltimore; many close extended family members, friends, co-workers, and very special and dear friends: Suzan, Barbara, Margie and beloved Pet, Wowzer. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006 from the Burns Wornal Chapel of the Memorial Funeral Directory on the Athens Road in Princeton with the Reverend Paul Hall officiating. Burial will follow in the Roselawn Memorial Gardens on the Courthouse Road in Princeton. Close friends may visit with the family from noon until service time on Saturday or by online condolences at www.memorialfd.com. The family of Lee Daugherty is being served by the Memorial Funeral Directory and Cremation Center on the Athens Road in Princeton.

Jack Davis joined the announcing staff in 1951. He is from Wisconsin and had been program director of WBIZ in Eau Claire. “Cousin” Jack Davis hosted Party Line, and “Cousin’s Corner,” a feature heard during the last 15 minutes of Party Line in the early 1950s.

John Dellinger worked at WJLS, mainly on weekends, from 1963 to 1965 while he was a student at Woodrow Wilson High School. He used his real name but often called himself Big Bad John. He did not work in radio afterwards, except as a volunteer at WMUL at Marshall University.

Gary Dent (1936-1982) is listed as sports director in the 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook and program director in a 1960 listing. Earlier, he was heard on WWNR in the late 1950s. He was born in Ronceverte on August 24, 1936. After leaving WJLS he managed several cable TV systems and in 1974 founded Gary A. Dent and Associates, a firm which appraised cable TV systems. He died at age 45 in Texas.

Harold Dew (1922- ) began as an engineer at WJLS in 1941. In a 2010 interview, Harold Dew recalled the following information. Chief Engineer Al Ginkel lived with his wife and daughter in the Maxwell Hill home in which the WJLS AM transmitter was located (in the basement). The original AM transmitter was bought there in the back of cars from Washington and engineers put it together. The first chief engineer, Marion McDowell, lived in the Maxwell Hill home with his wife. If there was heavy snow, Dew would park at Calacino’s to walk to the transmitter site to turn on the transmitter in the morning. He would go on a road behind Turner’s Grocery and it was the last house on the road. Engineers worked in shifts operating the Maxwell Hill transmitter. He once found the transmitter tilted at a 45-degree angle, and discovered that a horse had pulled on the transmission line, which was a solid copper line, and that had caused the transmitter to tilt. Also in the basement of the Maxwell Hill house with the transmitter were a turntable and microphone, and if the announcer was late arriving at the downtown studios, the engineer could originate programming. A microwave link was used to bring programming to the FM transmitter site before a phone line was installed. The decision to switch to a phone line was Smith’s; Dew does not know why that was done. He recalls that when the high voltage transformer in the Federal FM transmitter failed, Smith and Ginkel went to Princeton to buy a transformer that had been used in a diathermy machine to replace it. In a 2010 email, Dew wrote, “I remember Willis Seeman and his wife living on Flat Top. He enjoyed early TV from Pittsburgh.” He also wrote, “On Maxwell Hill I saw the guy wire system light up like a Christmas tree. A snow storm and wind charged each segment of the guy wires and discharged in series to ground. Sound like a firing range. Haven't seen anything like it.” Dew served during World War II, first in the Signal Corps and later in the Army Air Force in the Pacific. He returned to WJLS in 1946. He resigned in the 1940s and was a GE appliance dealer for 15 years. The Doy Radio Shop was named for Dew, Bill Ormandy, and George Yazell. He returned to WJLS about 1961 and was chief engineer for about 5 years. He later worked in KSC communications for 32 years and then retired. Dew was born on Apr. 1, 1922.

James Cecil Dickens (1920-2015), better known as Little Jimmy Dickens, the Grand Ole Opry performer, started his career singing on Sundays on WJLS, hitchhiking to Beckley from his home at Bolt. In a 2007 interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Dickens recalled, “I had a little old $12 guitar and I'd carry it in a pillowcase and I'd hitchhike from Bolt to Beckley to WJLS and I'd go over there and get with some groups that were playing there and worm my way in and they'd let me sing one song maybe a week on the radio.” The obituary of Josie Mae Fischer (1924-2004) has “A major highlight of her life was a radio program in which she sang with Little Jimmy Dickens when WJLS first opened.” Dickens returned to WJLS in 1990 for the ceremony marking the format change in which the country music format was moved from AM to FM.

John Dinter was the WJLS-FM engineer when the FM station signed on in (apparently) early 1947. On May 21, 1948, a Randolph, N. Y., newspaper article reported that Dinter, a former Randolph resident, had just returned from West Virginia where he was employed in the erection of FM stations, and that he has been employed as station supervisor for the new FM radio station of the Rural Radio Network at Wethersfield, N. H.

Sid Doherty was the WJLS chief announcer in the early 1950s. His first job in radio was with WCFC in Beckley, beginning in 1947. He is from New Rochelle, N. Y., and is a graduate of Blessed Sacrament High School in New Rochelle. A newspaper article from 1947 indicated he was working at WCFC in Beckley at that time. The July 1951 560 News reported he was attending Beckley College while working at WJLS. On April 4, 1953, the Beckley Post-Herald reported, “Sidney J. Doherty, Jr., member of the WJLS Production Department for several years as Chief Announcer, has been transferred to the Sales Department as an Account Representative.” Doherty later worked in radio and TV in Philadelphia for many years. He was with WPHL-TV channel 17 in Philadelphia from its 1965 sign-on until about 1985. In 2000 he was working for ABC Sports in New York, although he still lived in the Philadelphia area.

Ted Ellis is listed as an announcer in the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book.

Bert “Uncle Berty” Files worked at WJLS before working at WCAW and WCHS in Charleston. He became manager of WCHS in 1962. He was a native of Brooklyn, N. Y., and also worked at WHUC in Hudson, N. Y.

Wade H. Fleshman was in charge of classical programming, according to the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book.

Howard Flynn. On May 5, 1941, Broadcasting reported, “Howard Flynn, formerly an announcer of WJLS, Beckley, W. Va., has joined KLO, Ogden Utah.” Flynn was the morning news voice at KMPC in Los Angeles from 1953-79. He died October 26, 2011, at the age of 96.

John T. Gelder (1919-1987) started as an announcer at WJLS. The 1940 West Virginia Blue Book lists him as a salesman. He went to WKWK as commercial salesman, then manager of WKNA in Charleston when the station was under construction. In 1948 he became general manager of WCHS in Charleston. He married Elizabeth Stairs of Beckley in 1941. He died in Terre Haute.

Gary George worked as an announcer at WJLS in the late 1960s while he was a student at Woodrow Wilson High School. As a student at Marshall University, he was the student assistant to Sports Information Director Gene Morehouse and also worked at WCMI in Ashland, Ky. Gary was killed in the plane crash that took the lives of the University’s football team.

Al J. Ginkel (died, 1964) was Chief Engineer of WJLS and the Personality Network in the 1940s. He joined WJLS in 1940 as the second Chief Engineer. Ginkel came to WJLS after several years with the radio division of the State Police. He is listed as chief engineer in the 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook. He was born in Littleton, in Wetzel county, and subsequently his family moved to Fairmont, where he grew up. He was educated at Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. Prior to working for the state police he was employed by the C & P Telephone Company and at one time was chief engineer of WMMN in Fairmont. He died on Dec. 20, 1964, at age 59.

Allie Godbey, Hallie Godbey, and Mildred Godbey were sisters who sang on WJLS sometime before 1941, according to Cathy Coffey, daughter of one of the performers. In a 2011 email, she wrote, “They were called ‘Three Lucky Stars.’ My aunt, who is 90 and still kicking, remembered that they were paid 35 cents to sing. (I don't know if that was between the three of them or not). She said they stopped just after Pearl Harbor began. Everyone was going to war.”

Jon Goerss (Big Jon Arthur) came to WJLS directly from radio school and his home in Pittsburgh. He married a woman from Prudence in Fayette County. He joined the staff of WJLS two weeks after it signed on the air in 1939. He left Beckley for Ogdensburg, N. Y., then went to the west coast before moving to WSAI in Cincinnati, where he began doing a children’s show called Big Jon and Sparkie. In 1950 the ABC radio network began carrying the show daily, and also began carrying a two-hour Saturday show Jon did called No School Today. The Saturday show was heard by 12 million listeners weekly on 275 stations; the daily show was carried on 181 stations. The shows were fed from WSAI. In the 1960s, Goerss was working middays at WKRC in Cincinnati. His life story was featured in an episode of the radio show Unshackled.

Dan Wales of KHCB provided the following information on Jon:

Jon Arthur did indeed have a Big Jon and Sparkie program on the ABC radio network for many years. The program was first aired on WSAI Cincinnati in 1948, and was picked up by the network in 1949. It’s length varied, but for many years it was an hour daily feature offered along with a two hour Saturday show called No School Today. This gave a record-setting (and unprecedented) 7 hours a week to Jon as an individual performer. And although Jon often played children’s records on his program, he acted his parts of the program alone. “Sparkie” was an accelerated recording of Big Jon. All of the other characters in the seeming ensemble cast were played by Jon as well. Some of the other characters include: Mayor Plumpfront, Captain Squinty McGinty, Clyde Pillroller (the town drugstore owner), Widow Dilly, Ukie Butcher, Mr. DaVinci (who ran a paint store), etc. The daily program was later shortened to a 30-minute, then a 15 minute program called The Adventures of Big Jon and Sparkie.

Jon moved from Cincinnati to New York and later to Korea where he worked with the Armed Forces Radio. On his return to the U.S., Jon floated from city to city before finally settling in San Francisco. At about this time, he decided to put all of his trust in Jesus Christ. This profoundly changed his life. He ended up working for a very minimal salary for Family Radio, a Christian network based in Oakland. At their KEAR facility, he produced many programs, including a new Big Jon and Sparkie program, which contained new recordings of about 420 of his old scripts.

Jon died of throat cancer February 24, 1982. Shortly before his death, he sold a full set of his redone program tapes (and the rights to full use of those tapes) to KHCB radio in Houston. Family Radio may still have a set of his tapes, but they no longer air them. KHCB still airs the tapes each weekday at 4:30 central time. They feature 3 songs, a 7-11 minute Further Adventure of Big Jon and Sparkie and a 7-12 minute Bible story. The programs were recorded in 1967 and 1968 for the most part. If you are interested, listen to the program (if you have Real Audio) at www.khcb.org where we stream our daily programming.

Anthony Paul “Tony” Gonzales (1930-2001) was in the technical department of WJLS, later with WCFC Beckley, and later in management and ownership of WWNR Beckley and WTNJ Mount Hope. He joined the staff of WWNR in 1952 as a staff engineer, according to a 1971 WWNR advertisement, which indicated he was Vice President and General Manager of WWNR at that time. In the 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook he is listed as chief engineer of WWNR. More information on Gonzales is on the WWNR history page.

Dwaine S. (“D. S.”) Goodwin came to WJLS directly from broadcasting and engineering school in 1969. He moved on to WWNR where he became program director at the age of 22. While at WWNR D. S. was also the voice of WSWP, Channel 9 television. In 1974 he left broadcasting for a career in the electrical equipment business. He is originally from Herndon in Wyoming County and is a graduate of Herndon High School. He now resides in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Clifford Gorsuch (1917-1997), an engineer, was on the original staff. He was also a personality on the air. Gorsuch ran the musical clock program, actually opening up the station every morning as an announcer and then transferring to the Maxwell Hill transmitter site later in the day to work a shift watching the equipment there. He had previously worked for WWSW, Pittsburgh, and WMBS, Uniontown, Pa.

Don Grantham is listed as an announcer in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book. After leaving WJLS he worked for a few months at WCHS in early 1947. He later moved to the West Coast where he opened the Grantham School of Electronics, which became a well-known school for broadcast engineers. Ted McKay, who worked at WTIP and WKNA, described Grantham as a great guitar player, and said that the two used to play and sing together. They lived in the same rooming house in Charleston.

Sue Grieg was a continuity writer in 1950.

Joseph B. Gries was an announcer in the early 1950s. He worked in radio in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pa., after leaving WJLS. Joe Gries was a sports broadcaster for much of his career. He died on July 16, 2018, at age 92.

J. Kent Hackleman is shown as the station manager in the 1958 Broadcasting Yearbook. He later was on the air at KTRH in Houston.

George Haldane was a sales representative in 1950.

Terence M. Harcourt is listed as the program director in the 1945 West Virginia Blue Book.

Mary Ann Harper was continuity writer and women’s editor, joined WJLS in 1953.

George Hartrick became program director in 1947. Born in Marlboro, Massachusetts. Started in radio at WTAM Cleveland. Vocalized on network program “A Story in Song.” For five years he and Graham McNamee broadcast the annual Soap Box Derby from Akron. He also worked for WCOP in Boston and did play-by-play for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves. Before he worked in radio, he had been the Principal of West Monongah High School in Fairmont and Asheville High School in Asheville, N. C.

Lee Hatfield was a control room operator.

A. A. Hill is listed as the custodian in the 1939 and 1940 West Virginia Blue Book.

Charlie Houston was in the technical department, later Chief Engineer for a Lancaster, Ohio station.

Erle Howery came to the WJLS sales department circa 1947-48, following pursuit of a journalism major at Concord College and similar sales employment with the Beckley Newspaper Corporation. Later employed at WLOH (Princeton) and WKOY (Bluefield), he became commercial manager for WYVE (Wytheville, Va.) and general manager of WWYO (Pineville). Returned to military service during the Korean War, he graduated from the Chinese Mandarin division, Army Language School (Monterey, Calif.). After serving as Northern Honshu (Japan) bureau chief for Pacific Stars & Stripes and later moving to the newspaper’s main Tokyo office, he became civilian coordinator for Far East news and information publications, U.S. 8th Army Hq., Camp Zama, Japan. He subsequently joined the editorial department of the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune, and was editor/publisher of the Fremont (Calif.) Times and Modesto (Calif.) Tribune, respectively. Named public relations director for the California School Employees Association in 1967, he retired from that post in 1983 to establish Erle Enterprises, a San Francisco Bay Area media and publications agency. Now 80, he and wife Margaret have formally retired to Copperopolis, Calif. (in that state’s “Gold Country”) where writing and photography remain key elements in his active retirement lifestyle.

Cowboy Jack Hunt, “the one-man jamboree,” was an early performer. His real name was Clyde Arnold Morris.

Dolly Ingram was a control room operator during World War II.

Michael Isaacs (Mike Edwards) was born and raised in Beckley. He began at WJLS doing the 11 p.m. to midnight shift in 1960, at age 14. He worked weekends and sports with Gene Morehouse from 1961 to 1963. He then moved to WWNR until May 1964, doing the 6 p.m. to midnight shift, and then to WVOW in Logan. He entered the Air Force in 1965. He later worked at the transmitter site of WCIR and he returned to WJLS in 1967-68. He moved to California in December 1968 and worked at KSFO, KFRC, KYA, KCBS, and KNBR, all in San Francisco. He still does voice-over work and is a college professor in Broadcast and Electronic Media. He is General Manager of KCEA-FM, a high school station in Atherton, California, which can be heard via shoutcast.com.

Willard S. Jackson was an announcer, later sales manager in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He is shown as the general manager of WKNA in Charleston in the 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook.

Ed Jaeger was an announcer in 1947, previously with WGKV Charleston.

Arnold Jeffers was an announcer who joined the staff in the summer of 1950. He had started his radio career at WTIP in Charleston in the fall of 1949, and early in 1950 he joined the staff of WKNA in Charleston. He is a native of Charleston. He graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School and from WVU in 1949.

Charlie Jennings worked in radio in Florida before coming to WJLS in 1982. After making suggestions for improvements in the programming and marketing, he was made Operations Manager. He held that position until he resigned in June 1995. He recalls that he, Bill O’Brien, and Nancy Smith “deliberated for days, possibly weeks, about flipping the AM & FM. There was a lot of concern about how the religious community would react to having their programming moved from WBKW FM to the AM band. But we knew our audience and the stations’ billing would eventually be affected by FM competitors such as WTNJ if we did not modernize. ... So we decided to make the flip. Bob West had been hired as the PD before the flip. So one night after midnight, Bob, Charley Marlow and myself were tweaking the Optimod processor in preparation for the big flip. The first song played on WJLS FM was Hillbilly Rock by Marty Stewart and I do not remember if it was first spun by Bob or myself.” In the late 1980s Jennings created the WJLS “Big Dawg” mascot. He also gave Dave Willis the nickname “Big Ugly” and affectionately named Nancy Smith “the Big Cheese.” In 2009, Jennings was working for Renda Broadcasting in Jacksonville, Florida, as the General Sales Manager for 99.9 Gator Country and Country Legends 100.7.

Judie and Julie (Jones) were early performers on WJLS and WHIS. They were sisters from Mullens. On Oct. 7, 1944, Billboard reported, “Not long ago two West Virginia lassies, Judie and Julie Jones, made their radio debut on WJLS, a little 250-watt station at Beckley, W. Va. Their harmonizing of folk tunes soon brought recognition, and they moved on to WKRC, Cincinnati. A few months ago they joined the staff of WLS, Chicago, and they have become a popular team on the National Barn Dance. The girls are also heard on the Smile Awhile, Dinner Bell and Merry-Go-Round programs on WLS. In their spare time they turn to songwriting and have turned out several excellent tunes.” They were also known as the Jones Sisters.

Art Kellar joined the WJLS staff in 1949. He was from New York and had worked at Fayetteville, N. C., and at WKWK Wheeling and at WRON in Ronceverte before coming to WJLS.

Herbert Kendrick was general manager from 1942 until 1944.

Cordelia (Cordy) King (1929-2002) was the bookkeeper for many years. She joined WJLS in 1963 and spent 38 years working for the station, longer than any other employee.

Jean King was a control room operator during World War II.

Gordon Crawford Kinney was an announcer at WJLS in the summer of 1940, while attending Marshall University. He joined the Office of War Information in Washington in 1942 in the domestic radio bureau. In 1946 he joined the Advertising Council as head of the radio department. He was elected vice president in 1965. He retired in 1988 after 42 years with the Council. He died at age 70 at his home in White Plains, New York. A 1952 article indicated he was from Hinton.

Jessie Clarence Kinzer (1922-2014) was a control operator in 1947. Kinzer grew up in Oak Hill and Beckley and graduated from WWHS in 1941. He served as a communications specialist in World War II and worked for 35 years for Union Carbide in Texas City, Texas. He died in Texas City, Texas.

Dan Lane was a transmitter operator in 1953.

Bob Larsen (d. 1985) began his radio career at WJLS in 1946. He was born in Chicago. After working at WJLS, he was with WKOW, Madison; WEMP, Milwaukee; WIND, Chicago; and KARZ, Scottsdale.

Rev. Carlos O. Lewis (1931-2016) was heard on WJLS for 25 years during the period when the format was Christian programming.

Dean Lilly worked the Sunday night shift at WJLS briefly in 1960. He writes, “I became interested in radio in 1959 while listening to Ralph Emory each night wile running a paper route for the Charleston Gazette. I hung around WWNR where Bud Kurtz and Phil Vogel took an interest in me and let me practice on tape and then they would point out my mistakes and instruct me on how to improve. When Frank Crum left WVOW in Logan and came to WJLS I replaced him at WVOW (Feb., 1960). This was my first radio job. ... I [also] worked Sundays (6 till midnight) at WJLS. I was able to do this because my Sunday shift at WVOW was 6AM till 2PM and Monday was my day off. At WJLS I had nothing to do because everything was programmed on CBS so, I left after a short while and went to WWNR where I could be on the air from 6 till Midnight. ... I later worked with Frank (Crum) at WOVE in Welch. In August of 1966 I moved back to Logan to work for WLOG. I remained there as the sign on man playing Country Music until Nov 30th, 1985. At that time I moved to Statesville, NC and now work for WPIR a gospel station in Claremont NC.”

John Louther, who had previously worked for WJAC in Johnstown, Pa., and WGKV in Charleston, joined the announcing staff in 1943.

Bob Mahoney was employed by WJLS from August 1968 to October 1970. He was news and sports director, and succeeded Gene Morehouse as the voice of the Flying Eagles when Morehouse left to become sports information director at Marshall University. Bob earlier had worked for WWNR (in 1965), WNRV, WMON, WLOG, and WVOW. After he left WJLS he went to WCIR, where he was program director when WCIR(AM) switched from country music to an oldies format. He later worked for KPRO in Riverside, California (then owned by Dick Clark), and WSEZ and WMAG/WHSL in Greensboro/High Point/Winston Salem, North Carolina. He has lived in Winston-Salem for 23 years. He was born in Beckley in 1945.

Hildred Mahoney was a continuity writer in the early 1950s. She is shown as the Women’s Director in 1952, hosting an interview program called “Interesting People.” Earlier she had worked as a reporter for the Raleigh Register.

H. G. Malcouronne is listed as program director in the 1941 West Virginia Blue Book. On April 28, 1941, Broadcasting reported, “H. G. Malcouronne, announcer of WJLS, Beckley, W. Va., has been made program director of WJLS, succeeding Kathryn Riddick, who resigned to become assistant program director of the WKWK, Wheeling.”

Wayne Manning worked on air at WJLS for a brief stint after the Army in 1961 and again in 1963-64. He writes, “I left Beckley in 1964 and went back into the music business, winding up in Nashville in 1967 and spent several years with the Kitty Wells / Johnny Wright show. Currently co-minister with my wife, Janet, of Unity Church of Auburn, in Auburn California.” Manning is a 1958 graduate of WWHS. E-mail: wayman@calweb.com

Charlie Marlow became chief engineer of WJLS in September 1981. He is a member of SBE (Society of Broadcast Engineers). He is a holder of FCC General Radio Telephone License and Amateur Radio License WB8CNN (Advanced Class). Charlie started working in radio in 1960. His first radio job was at WCEF in Parkersburg. He also worked as transmitter engineer for WTAP-TV Ch. 15 in Parkersburg for about three years. He worked with Tom T. Hall, the country singer, at WSPZ Radio in Spencer in the early 60s. Tom T. Hall was Charlie’s best man at his wedding. Charlie and his wife Amy were married in studio B of WSPZ in Spencer on Oct. 27, 1962. His hobbies are computers, amateur radio, amusement parks, and music. Charlie is a member of the Bethel Free Will Baptist Church at MacArthur. He sings in the church choir and with a church gospel group, the Bethel Gospel Tones. [This entry was taken from the WJLS web site in 2004]

Thomas K. Martin was heard on WJLS in the mid-1960s before joining the staff of WWNR and then becoming manager of WCIR. He died at age 68 in 2002.

Robert McCollum was a control room operator.

Jerry McDevitt was program director in 1946 and 1947. His wife was the bookkeeper for the station.

Norman McDonald became a producer on CBS shows from Hollywood

Marion McDowell (1907-1981) was the first chief engineer of WJLS in 1939. He was from Fairmont, and had previously worked at WMMN. He entered military service when the U. S. entered World War II.

Frank McFoy was listed as a “control-man” in a 560 New from the late 1940s.

Esther T. McManus was listed as program director in the 1944 West Virginia Blue Book.

Darrell Mentz (1945-2021) worked in radio at WMTD in Hinton before coming to WJLS. He started at WJLS as an announcer in 1967, and later became a sales representative. He was the first all night DJ in Beckley radio, in 1972 when WJLS and WBKW began 24-hour operation. He left WJLS to work for WWNR in 1977, and joined the staff of WTNJ when that station began broadcasting in 1980. At WWNR and WTNJ, he was a sales representative and newsman. In 1986 he retired and moved to Ocoee, near Orlando. Darrell was born on April 24, 1945, in Pemberton, W. Va. He died on Sept. 30, 2021. He attended Sophia High School.

James L. Miller (1943-2017) was heard on WJLS in the 1960s. Jim also worked for WMTD in Hinton. He was a retired clerk for CSX Transportation Corporation in Hinton with 33 years of service.

Gene Morehouse (1922-1970) was station manager of WJLS before becoming Sports Information Director for Marshall University in July 1968. He died in the November 1970 plane crash which killed the entire Marshall University football team. He was a native of Newark, New Jersey, and graduated from high school in New York City. He attended Columbia University from 1940 to 1942, leaving at 20 to join the Army Air Corps. In 1946, while a reporter for the New York Daily Fruit Reporter, he married Genevieve Vivlamore. Morehouse came to Beckley in 1949 when he was hired by WWNR and sports and news director. He broadcast the state high school basketball tournaments starting in 1952. In the 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook Eugene J. Morehouse is listed as commercial manager and sports director of WWNR. In 1957 he left Beckley to become General Manager for Rahall-owned WFEA in Manchester, N. H. He returned to Beckley in 1959 to become station manager of WJLS. He was the voice of the Flying Eagles for 16 years. He was named West Virginia’s outstanding sportscaster in 1963 and 1965. His son Keith Morehouse became a sports reporter for WOWK-TV in Huntington.

Donald C. Moye (1920-1999) was chief engineer in the 1950s. He was born in Franklin County, N. C., and moved to Beckley at age 7. He was a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School and West Virginia Tech. He was employed by WOAY-TV as chief engineer after working for WJLS.

David Mullens had a poetry program in the early days.

C. H. Murphey Jr. was the first commercial manager. He formerly worked for WHIS.

Barnes Nash (1915-1983) was the first voice heard on WJLS. He was on the original staff as chief announcer and is listed as the program director in the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book. He was later program director of WHIS, Bluefield, later retired in Washington D. C. area. Before joining WJLS, he worked for WHIS and WOPI Bristol. He died in Florida in July 1983.

V. Z. Neal is listed as the bookkeeper in the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book and as auditor in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book.

Duane Nelson was started his radio career in Beckley. He later became chief announcer at WBBM Chicago and was heard on CBS as Bill Duane. He subsequently had a television program in Chicago.

John Novak was in the technical department, later went to WKNA in Charleston.

Bill O'Brien. The following bio is taken from the WJLS website:

Bill returned to WJLS thirty years ago after beginning his radio career in Huntington. He has held virtually every job (except engineering) from Program Director to Sports Director to Morning Host to Sales Manager. The “Voice Of The Flying Eagles” since 1969, Bill has broadcast games everywhere from New York’s Madison Square Garden to The Omni in Atlanta. He has announced football and basketball state tournaments on radio and TV in five different years. He hosts the popular talk show Out Your Way and has interviewed over 3000 guests since it began in 1970. Bill is this year’s co chair of The United Way Campaign and serves on several civic boards & committees.

Bill served a two year term as President of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association and was honored as the state’s Broadcaster Of The Year in 1994.

He and his lovely wife Lynn fulfilled a career dream last year when they purchased WJLS AM & FM. Obviously, Bill has a great fondness for the Big Dawg and its huge audience in southern West Virginia!

Inez O'Brien hosted the WJLS talk show Out Your Way beginning in 1970 and also was continuity director for the station. She began her radio career in the early 1960s hosting The Woman’s Angle on WWNR. In 1962 she interviewed Eleanor Roosevelt, who was campaigning in Beckley. She served as executive director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross for 23 years. She died at age 86 in 2007. Her sons, Bill and Steve O'Brien, also are broadcasters in Beckley.

John Eagan O'Reilley worked at WJLS in 1940-1942. He used the name Jay O'Reilly at WJLS. He was later heard as John or Jack O'Reilley on Mutual programs originating at WOR.

Marvin Pack (on air name: Lee Marvin) started at WJLS in 1968 as the evening announcer playing easy listening music. He began a Sunday night program on WJLS(AM), Lee Marvin and His Gospel Music, from 9 p.m. to midnight. Subsequently, the FM station, then WBKW, switched to a Christian format using the slogan Christian Witness Radio, and he was heard on that station. Marvin later became an original member of the Crossmen Quartet and went in business for himself. He left Beckley in 1989, moving to Ocala, Fla., eventually working for the school board as a tech. In a 2009 email, he wrote that after 16 years in that job, he was preparing to retire.

Fred Passmore worked on for WJLS-WBKW for six years. He started as part-time announcer on WBKW in 1984, and after one week was full-time in the position of copywriter for both the AM and FM. After about a year of that, he moved by request to the staff of the gospel side, WBKW, as afternoon announcer on the Sounds of Praise program. He stayed with WBKW till 1990. During his time there, he served as Production Director and Promotions Director. He also began the idea of the yearly October Heavenly Harvest festivals held in conjunction with the local mall during that time. He left in 1990 to accept a position as editor of the Truths That Transform radio show by Dr. D. James Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale. In 1996 he accepted a position in his home state of Georgia as the producer for the radio programs of The Sower, Dr. Michael Guido. In 2007 he was still there after 12 years. He also operates Sheep Laughs Records, a recording studio for Christian comedy, out of his home.

Frank J. “Jack” Pevora (1916-2000) was chief announcer in the 1940s and 1950s. He was born at Maynard, Ohio. He worked at WKWK in Wheeling before joining WJLS in 1943. Merv Amols recalls that Jack was impeccably dressed in a suit every day and had a “network voice.” He died Nov. 20, 2000, in Wheeling.

Sam Raborn was a singer and humorist who was heard at 8:45 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily on WJLS in 1952.

Kathryn Reddick is listed as the program director in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book. Kathryn Riddick is described as program manager of WJLS in Broadcasting magazine on May 12, 1941, although it reported she had recently moved to WKWK in Wheeling.

Larry Richmond worked as an announcer/board operator at WBKW-FM from 1973-76 ... and again in 1985-86. He also worked in various capacities at WJLS-AM, including board operator, automation coordinator, news, production director, and program director. While at WJLS, he also conceived and developed a fund-raising vehicle for the station called “The Famous 56ers” who played charity basketball games around southern West Virginia to help groups raise money. In 1987, Larry began working at WRJZ-AM in Knoxville, Tennessee, serving as an announcer, board operator, production director, program director, operations manager, and as of 2002, was still there serving in various capacities. You can email Larry at eldeearr@hotmail.com.

Homer W. Riffe was listed as an operator in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book.

J. Fred Riley was Maintenance Director of WJLS and WBKW in 1966. He earlier was Chief Engineer of co-owned WKNA in Charleston. He is now manager of high-power programs for Continental Electronics Corporation in Dallas. His ham call is W8OY and his e-mail address is jfriley@airmail.net

Henry Robeson was in the technical department, later with WOSU at Ohio State University.

Robert Rush was a continuity writer in 1950.

William Sandefur is listed as general manager of WBKW (the FM call) in the 1961-62 Broadcasting Yearbook.

Hugh Sanders was an announcer in 1947. He earlier had worked for WOR and WNEW in New York and WING in Dayton. He produced Elsa Maxwell’s Party Line at WOR-Mutual. He was born in E. St. Louis.

Willis Seaman was in the technical department, operated the FM transmitter at Flat Top.

John Sellards worked at WJLS as a teenager in the mid-1980s and then again briefly in 1989, and again in 1993. Around 1995, using his home recording studio and some jingles he retrieved from the trash at WJLS, he made a recording designed to sound like an aircheck for his friend to play while driving in his 1962 Impala. He used the name Ray Ford. The “aircheck” has been widely duplicated and offered on Ebay, where it has been listed as an aircheck from Sept. 9, 1960, even though it is not an actual aircheck.

Tom Shafer was an announcer who joined the WJLS staff in August 1950, after having worked in Johnston, Pa. His home town is Greensburg, Pa.

Jim Shott, Jr. is listed as a control operator in the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book.

Side Saddle Sue (real name: Polly Jo McCulloch Masters) was a popular personality in 1948-1949. Her son John Masters reported in 2008 that she was still living, age 84. For a period in the 1970s through 1990s she wrote a weekly editorial for the Roe Jan Independent in New York state called “One Side to Everything.”

James V. Sims was on the original staff as an engineer. He later worked an evening shift as an announcer, doing the first poetry program on the air. Jim was a perfectionist for this; he hand-picked the organ melodies, then turned all the lights out in the studios save one small reading lamp, and read poetry in the last remaining broadcast scheduled each day. Prior to his announcing shift, he pulled a transmitter trick. He had formerly worked for WEW, St. Louis, WCBS Springfield, Ill., and KICA, Clovis, N. M.

Dick Slade was later with WBBM and then a Chicago advertising agency.

Jackson Slygh (1924-1983) was an engineer for WJLS sometime before he joined the staff of WKNA radio and TV in Charleston in 1951. He spent most of his career, however, with WWNR. He was born at Grover Hill, Ohio, on July 13, 1924.

Hulett Carlson Smith (1918- ), brother of WJLS founder Joe L. Smith Jr., was named station manager in 1941 when his brother entered military service. Hulett served in this capacity until 1942 when he entered the Navy. Hulett C. Smith was elected Governor of West Virginia in 1964.

Jim Smith was heard on WJLS in the mid-1960s. His obituary follows:

James Earl Smith, 72, of Philippi, formerly of Charleston, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, December 10, 2014, in Charleston, after a long illness.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Randall Malcolm and Fern Virginia "Peach" Smith.

He is survived by his loving wife Carol Jo Brown Smith of Philippi; daughter Jeannie Bess and her husband David of St. Albans; Son Gregg Smith and his wife Anita of Charleston; Brother Randall Smith and his wife Agnes of Charleston; Grandchildren Justin Smith of Charleston, Josh Bess of Houston, PA, Christina Smith of South Charleston, and Amanda Smith of Charleston; and Great-grandchildren Easton Bess and Ellie Smith.

He graduated from Charleston High School in 1960. He had a 20+ year-career in radio and TV broadcasting which began at WKNA radio in Charleston. Other stations where he was employed included WJLS radio in Beckley; WHIS TV in Bluefield; WBRG radio in Bowling Green, Ohio; WCAW radio in Charleston; WKSJ radio in Mobile, AL; and WTIP radio in Charleston. His broadcasting career ended in the 1980s, when he began his career as an electronics technician. He was employed by Appalachian Electronics in Charleston and Hibbs Radio Communications in Philippi, where he retired after 22 years of service. During the 1970s and 80s, he was an active Amateur Radio operator with call sign WD8BLE. He was Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Barbour County Emergency Squad.

The funeral service will be at 12:00pm, Saturday, December 13 at Chapman Funeral Home, 409 Sixth Avenue, St. Albans, with Rev. David Moutz and Rev. David Bess officiating. Burial will follow at Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens in Cross Lanes.

The family will receive friends before the service, from 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to Hubbard Hospice House in Charleston, or the Barbour County Emergency Squad.

Joe L. Smith, Jr. (1915-1985) was the principal owner until his death, although the licensee at times was Smith, Radio Station WJLS, or Personality Stations Inc. Smith’s father, Joe L. Smith Sr. (1880-1962), for whom the station was named, was a Mayor of Beckley and a member of Congress. In 1941, during World War II, Joe L. Smith Jr. was sent to Europe. His brother Hulett, who later became Governor of West Virginia, managed the station until he entered the military the following year. From 1944 to 1957, Virginia Cooper managed the station. Smith also operated UHF TV station WKNA-TV in Charleston WV and WKNA(FM), the first FM stereo station in West Virginia. (This station was a separate station from the earlier WKNA AM/FM/TV.)

The following obituary appeared in the Beckley newspapers of Feb. 27, 1985:

Joe L. Smith, 69, Dies

Joe L. Smith Jr., 69, owner of the company which operates the radio station WJLS, died Tuesday after a long illness.

Smith was born in Beckley Aug. 15, 1915, the son of Joe L. and Christine Carlson Smith.

He was the brother of former West Virginia Governor Hulett C. Smith.

He attended Virginia Military Institute and West Virginia University from which he graduated with a degree in political science in 1935.

Smith was the owner of Joe L. Smith Jr., Inc., which also operates WKNA, Charleston and WBKW-FM, Beckley and Biggs Johnston Withrow, a commercial printing firm. He established Beckley’s first radio station in 1939.

Smith was vice president and a member of the Board of Beckley National Bank, vice president and secretary of Lewis Chevrolet Co. Inc., president of First Beckley Corporation and vice president of the Home Insurance Agency, all of Beckley.

In World War II Smith was a reserve Lieutenant, Infantry and served more than four years. Much of that time was overseas with Gen. Omar N. Bradley. He was decorated with the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and both the Belgian and French Croiz de Guerre. He held many campaign ribbons.

An active radio enthusiast, Smith held a commercial first class radio telephone operators license and an amateur extra class operators license. He was a member of the Quarter Century Wireless Association, an organization of operators with more than 25 years of licensed experience, and the Armed Forces Communications Electronic Association.

Smith was a Presbyterian, belonged to the American Legion, 12th Army Group Association, Moose, Elks, Black Knight Country Club, Charleston Press Club, Broadcast Pioneers and Sigma Nu.

He served on the board of directors of the Beckley Chamber of Commerce and as Chairman of the Raleigh County Community Chest. He is past West Virginia State Chairman for the Crusade for Freedom and twice served as president of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association.

A Democrat, Smith lived in Beckley all his life. He was married to the former Nancy Richards of Beckley. They had one son, Joe III and reside at Glade Springs in Daniels.

Visitation will be at the Melton Mortuary tonight from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The funeral will be Thursday at 11 a.m. in the Beckley Presbyterian Church.

Nancy Richards Smith was the widow of Joe L. Smith Jr. After her husband's death, Nancy became President of Joe L. Smith, Inc. and BJW Printing and Office Supply. She was also the manager of WJLS and WBKW radio stations. She died on Sept. 19, 2020.

Billie Sowards was a control room operator during World War II.

Ray Spencer was in the technical department, came to WJLS from Parkersburg, later moved to Morgantown. The 1939 West Virginia Blue Book lists Ray S. Spence as a transmitting operator.

Mike Stein was on the WJLS news staff in 1955-56. In 1972 he became news manager for the ABC Network’s American Entertainment Radio Network.

Alan Stone was listed as news director in the 1961-62 Broadcasting Yearbook.

Dave Teague was an announcer in the late 1940s. He was from New York and later worked for Bell Sound Studios producing commercials.

Alphon Tedder did a gospel music show, the Gospel Train, while a student at Woodrow Wilson High School, in 1952.

Dave Teig is pictured at the microphone in the November 1949 560 News and described as “the youngest member of the announcing staff.”

Robert Louis Thompson was listed as a continuity writer in a 560 News from the late 1940s. He was born in Huntington on Dec. 30, 1920, and attended public schools in Richmond, Va., and was a graduate of Marshall College.

Frank Thornton, an announcer, joined WJLS in 1952, formerly a dance band musician.

Esther Tiller (or Tiler) is listed as stenographer in the 1939 West Virginia Blue Book.

Santa Tipane was traffic manager in 1950.

Anna Torres. Her obituary, from the Register-Herald on June 29, 2020.

Anna Torres, age 60, passed away after a long battle with cancer. She is now with the Lord. Born on July 24, 1959, she was the daughter of the late Clarence James Ewing and Peggy Ewing. She studied in communications and began her career at WJLS AM. She then went on to work on air at WCIR , as radio personality Anne Kelly. She had currently been working at Beckley Newspapers as the Classified Account Executive. She fought very hard for over a year to defeat cancer. She was tough and a real go getter, never giving up. She amazed those around her with her tenacity and strength. She never sat around crying about her cancer, she fought with everything in her. She was a wonderful and loving sister, aunt and friend. She was king, loving and generous to everyone she knew. She lost her beloved husband Alfred, over seven years ago and she is now reunited with him again in heaven. She will be very horribly missed in a way that words cannot explain. She was a firm believer and follower of Jesus Christ, although she never found a home church. She leaves behind a sister, Frances Jones, three nieces; Kathryn Tomlin (Ethan), Sara Jones (Samuel) and Laura Jones. Anna was like a mother to them and loved them very deeply. She was the best sister a person could ask for. We are all thankful to have shared our lives together. She was truly a blessing. Also left behind are other family members, beloved coworkers, neighbors and friends. Funeral services will be held at 11 AM on Friday, July 3, 2020 at Rose and Quesenberry Peace Chapel, Beckley, WV. Burial will take place at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens in Prosperity, WV. Family and friends will serve as pallbearers. Friends may visit with the family on Thursday, July 2, 2020 from 6 PM until 8 PM at the funeral home. Private online condolences and other expressions of sympathy may be directed to the family via our website at www.roseandquesenberry.net. Arrangements are by Rose and Quesenberry Funeral Homes, 1901 South Kanawha Street, Beckley, WV.

Harry Traynham was listed as the custodian in a 560 News from the late 1940s. His real name was Hansford Traynham.

Gemala May Underwood was a control room operator during World War II.

Phil Vogel (1916-1975) joined the staff as program director in 1943. He was employed by WWNR for a much longer period, and information about him can be found on the WWNR page.

Lyle O. Weagel (1936- ) was employed as a salesman by WJLS for three years. He was born in Montana and came to Beckley in 1960 and worked for a short period as a cameraman at WOAY television. He then went to WJLS, and subsequently was with WWNR for nine and a half years, including seven years as sales manager. After leaving WWNR, he became sales manager at Tyler Mountain Memorial Gardens near St. Albans.

Jack Welch is listed as an announcer in the 1940 West Virginia Blue Book.

Joe Weidensal was heard on WJLS in the mid-60s, using the air name Slim Jim.

Greg White worked at WJLS from 1988 until 1997. Greg started as the midnight-6am announcer on WJLS AM, which at that time was a country format. He worked in all areas of the building over his 9 year career, including copywriting, news, on-air shifts (everything from morning drive to evenings and everything in between). Worked as color commentator and later play-by-play announcer for Shady Spring High School sports. Greg served in the Air National Guard, and in 1997 went to work for them full time, yet continued to serve as the play-by-play announcer for Shady Spring until 2003. Greg currently still works for the Air National Guard full time, and works part time as a play by play announcer for high school sports for WCHS in Charleston. He also returns to the WJLS airwaves annually during the broadcasts of the Mountain State Coal Classic Basketball Tournament.

Howard C. Williams is shown as the chief engineer in a 1960 listing.

Estel H. Wills (1915-1990) was a control operator. Joined WJLS in 1940. Later Chief Engineer of WWNR, Beckley. He was born Jan. 4, 1915, in Raleigh County, the son of Mr. and Mrs. H. P. Wills of Beckley. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1933. He died on Dec. 13, 1990. [A 1997 obituary of a woman describes her husband as William Willse, “a radio announcer at WJLS and WWNR from 1946 to 1948.” This is presumably the same person, with perhaps an incorrect spelling.]

George Yazell (1920-2001) was Chief Engineer of WJLS before leaving to become a Field Service Engineer for Gates Radio Co. Yazell started his radio career in 1939 at WBTH in Williamson and shortly thereafter became engineer of WBRW in Welch. In 1946, he became Chief Engineer of WCFC, Beckley’s first FM station, when it signed on the air. A 1956 directory shows he was General Manager of WHAW in Weston. In the 1980s, while working as a consulting engineer in Florida, he developed a technique which he claimed would allow radio stations in the AM band to broadcast with quality comparable to FM stations. He was born in Maysville, Kentucky. His last residence was Lakeland, Florida. He died on Dec. 18, 2001.

Return to front page