July 11, 1957, the Storer Broadcasting Company, owners of
WWVA radio, celebrated a 30th anniversary of the founding company by George
B Storer and J.
In January 1958, a PULSE survey revealed WWVA to be ". . . first in every time period from 6.AM to midnight, 7 days a week, in the entire 46 county Tri-State area." These surveys, taken periodically, are an important and accurate barometer of the popularity of all radio stations in a given area and a significant indication of the habits of the listening public. Only one month later, on February 26, 1958, WWVA received further prestigious recognition when the Wheeling Advertising Club bestowed 5 awards upon the station.
May 10, 1956 was a very special anniversary, a Saturday that drew capacity crowds to the Virginia Theatre to share in the occasion of the Jamboree's 25th birthday. Tickets were 90 cents for adults, 50 cents for children. Hardrock Gunter was Jamboree emcee and 30 minutes of the show was heard across the nation that night over the CBS network. The Jamboree could proudly lay claim to some rather impressive figures gathered in 25 years of performances. 1300 shows had been given before more than 2 million people and West Virginia Governor Cecil Underwood was one of many well-known figures who bestowed praise on the Jamboree as" . . . the most imitated show if its kind in the country . . . an American institution and a listening habit."
This milestone celebration was followed on October 25, 1958 by the Harvest Home Festival that drew over 3,000 to the Capitol Theatre for the one night performance. Hawkshaw Hawkins was special guest star along with a cast of over 50 Jamboree feature performers.
Between 1958 and 1962, as the years rolled along from one decade to another, WWVA and the Jamboree maintained their usual high standards of broadcasting and entertaining keeping pace with public taste and desires in radio and country music entertainment.
1962 proved to be an eventful year at the Friendly Voice 1170 station. A change in ownership took place when Storer Broadcasting Company sold WWVA to Basic Communications, Inc., a firm founded by Emil Mogul, owner of a successful New York advertising agency. At the time, BCI, formed in 1960, also owned WYDE in Birmingham, Alabama and WAKE in Atlanta, Georgia.
With the acquisition of WWVA by the new owners, no immediate format changes were made in daily programming. All across the country however, faint stirrings of the 'modern country' sound were beginning to be felt and shift toward a more 'uptown' style was emerging. Mr. Mogel, relying on his keen business foresight and acute ability to interpret the trends, soon sensed this almost imperceptible shift taking place an took positive steps to investigate this burgeoning prestige and popularity which would soon overtake and re-shape the world of country music.
Meanwhile, in the Virginia Theatre, the Jamboree continued to enjoy a surging popularity with both radio listeners and visiting fans. All the while, however, an unseen "player" was lurking in the wings, a questionable character known as 'PROGRESS', and its appearance spelled doom for the historic 54 year old theatre that had been home for the Jamboree since 1946. The Virginia was doomed for demolition and the Jamboree would be forces to seek a new location.
Thus it was, that on a hot Saturday night in mid-July 1962, the old Virginia Theatre curtain fell for one final time on the Jamboree show, bringing to an end a truly memorable period in Jamboree history. The following week, the Jamboree show opened at the Rex Theatre, only a few blocks from the Virginia. On October 25, 1962, WWVA moved from the CBS to the ABC radio network, bringing to listeners such well-known radio stars as Don McNeil, Dick Van Dyke and news commentator Paul Harvey, who highlighted the occasion with a live broadcast from the WWVA studios.
Between 1962 and 1965, while the Jamboree labored to accommodate the crowds in the uncomfortable small Rex Theatre, a vital and significant analysis of the WWVA Radio programming format was being conducted by BCI and its corporate head, Emil Mogul. Careful analysis and interpretations of the growing movement within the music industry, indicated a complete change in format at WWVA was imperative to insure continued success in their highly competitive field. Thus, the decision was made. WWVA would become and "all modern country station" and this move, coupled with the enormous, legendary popularity of the Jamboree, would unite the two in an unprecedented country music promotion and provide all-round exposure in a rapidly growing segment of the music industry which would soon sweep the country.
On November 8,1965, WWVA went on the air with its new 24 hour all modern country music sound and in an unbelievably short time, ratings zoomed straight to the top. During these 3 years of contemplative transition at WWVA, the Jamboree, housed in the Rex Theatre, turned away crowds every week, unable to accommodate them in the much too- small theatre. A new home was desperately needed, and eventually found. In January 1966, the Jamboree packed up and moved across the Ohio River to the Wheeling Island Exhibition Hall where it opened on the 15th of January with a big Buck Owens benefit performance Jamboree for the Heart Association. It was a whopping success and netted over $7,500 for the Heart Fund. With trends in country music starting to shift from the traditional toward the modern, the Jamboree began to present nationally known country artists each week as an added feature to the regular Jamboree talent line-up. Many super stars, such as Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Bill Anderson, Cal Smith and Porter Wagoner sang before Jamboree audiences in the huge Jamboree Hall (formerly known as the Wheeling Island Exhibition Mall) during the late 60's.
The passing of years was effecting changes in both country music and the Jamboree itself and that uptown beat and modern country sound that had been rumbling in the background since the Rex Theatre days, was beginning to make itself more loudly heard by now. Country music in general was becoming more strongly involved in a transition and, WWVA and the Jamboree were now firmly established as exemplary trendsetters in this exploding country music metamorphosis.
As WWVA & the Jamboree moved along into the 5th decade in the Golden Anniversary countdown, its growth and expansion into diversified areas of the radio and entertainment field was beginning to take shape.... And that shape was being molded around the mushrooming popularity of country music that was suddenly sweeping the country.
Between 1966 and 1969 saw a more uptown, sophisticated, popularity acceptable image begin to settle over the once-twangy, homespun American music folks had long referred to as "Hill-Billy" music.
Under the guidance of Emil Mogel, a concerted effort was made to augment and build the WWVA staff with top-notch, experienced radio personnel; people like J. Ross Felton of Fairmont West Virginia, who joined the WWVA executive staff in 1965.
Over on Wheeling Island, in the Jamboree Hall, overflow crowds lined up every Saturday night to bask in the sight and sounds of the Jamboree stars and special guests who belted out the new 'Modern country' sound. While through the week, 24 hours every day, the WWVA "Big Country", with its new all country format, successfully rounded the modern country image.
The huge, barn-like Jamboree Hall that housed the weekly show was not acoustically suited for broadcasting and was also inadequate in meeting the needs for audience comfort and viewing. Broadcasting studios and offices, on the 10th floor of the Hawley Building, were no longer able to accommodate the rapidly expanding equipment and staff of WWVA radio and the need was urgent to consolidate and enlarge the WWVA country music complex.
The perfect solution to these pressing business problems was met in September 1969when Basic Communications, Inc., purchased the Capitol Theatre building and adjacent premises conveniently located on Main Street in downtown Wheeling. Plans were made for transforming the entire location into a multi-purpose unit that would house the Jamboree show, WWVA broadcasting studios and business and executive offices. The Capitol Theatre building property also offered the advantage of being large enough to allow room for future growth needs and expansion of WWVA and its facilities.
Over a cold December weekend in 1969, all WWVA and Jamboree personnel tackled the immense job of moving the broadcasting facilities and all offices from upstairs in the Hawley Building, down in to the spacious new premises now ready for occupancy.
While this transfer of WWV property and equipment was taking place it was quite necessary that WWVA maintain its regular broadcasting hours without interruption, a responsibility that was capably handled by veteran studio & transmitter engineers Bill McGlumphy and Fred Gardini. Installation of the new downstairs studios and broadcasting equipment was under their expert supervision.
From the top floor of the Hawley Building, the WWVA country music sound continued to go out over the air, until that very last moment, and then . . . Fred Gardini cut the wires in the old studio that had been home for WWVA since May 1931.
It was literally "off with the old; on with the new," and so expertly had the technical transfer work been handled that the WWVA voice, now emanating from it's new, modern studios, pulsated across the air without so much as an audible pause.
Out in St. Clairsville, at the WWVA transmitter site, a new Gates 50,000 watt transmitterhad been installed, replacing the one that had been in service since October 8, 1942, an improvement that gave WWVA better sound quality.
On December 6, 1969, the Jamboree played a final performance in the Jamboree Hall on Wheeling Island. One week later, on a chilly December 13th, with thousands of loyal fans on hand to share the memorable moment, the Jamboree climaxed 36 years of Saturday night broadcasting with a sentimental and triumphant return to the Capitol Theatre. The theatre renamed the Capitol Music Hall, is the largest and most beautiful theatre in the state of West Virginia.
Under the white arc: of a giant searchlight sweeping the night sky, fans and celebrities alike reveled in the dazzling evening of song and laughter, memories and ceremonies, tinkling ice, tempting food, country music and fluttering ribbons that climaxed this truly comparable event in WWVA and Jamboree history.
With Golden scissors in hand, Wheeling Mayor William Rogers snipped the ribbon marking the official opening of the Capitol Music Hall and to Emil Mogel, who had the courage and foresight to transform vision into reality, he presented a great golden key . . . the key to the city of Wheeling.
More than 4,000 fans streamed through the door for the Jamboree while invited guests enjoyed a cocktail hour and open house in the sparkling new station facilities. Orchestra and balcony were filled o capacity for a show that featured Bill Anderson, Jan Howard, Connie Smith, Nat Stuckey, Jimmy Gately, and The Po Boys. Lee Seevers, Doc and Chickie Williams, Karen McKenzie, The Blue Ridge Quartet, Mary Lou Turner, Junior Norman, Kay Kemmer, Jimmy Stephens, David Rogers and Gus Thomas.
It was, undeniably, a night of mixed emotions. It had been 43 years to the very day, since John Stroebel's little 50 watt, home-based radio station had gone on the air, an anniversary that added poignant significance to this momentous occasion at which a crossroads in time had been reached. A golden era had ended; a new decade, a new country music age was now at hand.
Country music and the Jamboree continued as the mainstay in radio programming and live shows, but a new chapter in total entertainment was now at hand, one that would bring the best of Broadway road shows, concerts, plays, musicals, comedies, etc., to theatre-goers of Wheeling and the Ohio Valley.
1926 - 1934 | 1935
- 1949 | 1950
- 1958 | 1959 - 1969
| 1970 - 1976
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