W R O N AM, the first radio station in Greenbrier County,
officially went on the air at noon on Friday, May 7, 1947 at 1400 kHz with an output of
250 watts. William "Bill" Blake III.was the station's founder and manager. Other
employees at the time included Phyllis Hutchinson, receptionist; Eileen Houchins,
secretary and director of women's programs; Arch Holstein, program director; Art Keller,
newscaster; Jimmy Peters, control operator and Eva Judy, continuity writer. The station
was located upstairs in the Grand Theatre building on main street in downtown Ronceverte.
Blake's dream of a radio station for Ronceverte had finally
Prior to serving with the 11th airborne paratroopers during
WW II, Blake had worked as a reporter for several newspapers around West Virginia. His
last job before going into the service was with W H I S AM in Bluefield. That's where he
became hooked on radio and the idea that led to W R O N was planted.
The arrival of W R O N was a big event in Ronceverte and
surrounding communities in eastern Greenbrier county. Blake allowed local people to share
their talents (or lack thereof) over the airwaves with their friends and neighbors. A
Saturday night jamboree was organized and aired live from the Clifford Armory in
Ronceverte and, for a while, was shared with other stations around West Virginia via the
"Hillbilly Network." Other programming included pre-recorded music, news, sports
and local high school football. TV was just getting started, so W R O N also broadcast
soap operas and radio dramas like 'The Green Hornet,' 'The Invisible Man' and "Jack
Armstrong, All American Boy' as well as several comedy programs from The Mutual
Broadcasting System. There were also regular remote broadcasts from the Old White Club at
the Greenbrier Hotel featuring the Populaires. In order to have programming to accommodate
as many listeners as possible, W R O N aired a wide variety of music over the first 25 or
30 years. there was everything from country and bluegrass, religious, rock and roll and
even 'Dinner Music' each weekday evening from 6 until 7 p.m.
During the 40's and 50's, even small town radio stations
were important to country music stars of the time. W R O N was visited by many including
Bill Monroe and his bluegrass band, Tex Ritter, Grandpa Jones and Homer and Jethro. They
would stop by and do interviews to promote their latest recording or an upcoming show in
the area. Game show announcer Johnny Olsen, who bought a home in the area, would also stop
by on occasion to visit with the staff.
In 1952 or 53, W R O N moved it's studios and office to a
more spacious building just across US 219 from the State Fair of West Virginia in Fairlea.
In 1961 the station received permission from the FCC to increase it's output power from
250 to 1000 watts during the day and was later permitted to operate at 1000 watts at all
A number of former W R O N employees have moved on to bigger
and better careers over the years. Most notable is probably Tom T. Hall who worked at the
station as an announcer in the early 60's. Hall enjoyed writing songs and would spend
hours at the station after his air shift writing and playing his guitar. One song Hall
wrote while he lived in this area was 'Harper Valley PTA' which was recorded by an unknown
Jeanie C. Riley a few years later.The song became a huge country and pop hit. Hall moved
on to a recording career as well becoming a major country music artist from the late 60's
through the 70's with hits like "More About John Henry,' 'The Ballad of Forty
Dollars,' 'I Remember the Year That Clayton Delaney Died' and 'Old Dogs and Children and
Watermelon Wine.' Hall's knack for telling a story in song quickly earned him the nickname
'The Storyteller' which is also the name of his autobiography. Tom T. Hall is still
writing hit songs today.
W R O N remained the only radio station in Greenbrier county
until 1971 when W S L W-AM, a daytime only station, went on the air in White Sulphur
Springs. More stations soon followed including W R R L-AM and W R R L-FM (now W R L B) in
Rainelle, W Y K M-AM in Rupert, W K C J-FM in Lewisburg and W R O N-FM in Ronceverte.
W R O N-FM went on the air for the first time at 8 am,
December 6, 1983 with a beautiful music format. The Class A station had an output of 452
watts on 97.7 MHz from a tower 800 feet above average terrain on Muddy Creek Mountain. The
station was then upgraded to 1000 watts in May of 1991.In order to get a "city
grade" into downtown Ronceverte, translator station W252AD was added to the W R O
N-AM tower located just northeast of the city. W R O N-FM was an automated station with
music on reel-to-reel tape machines and commercials and announcements on tape cartridges
loaded into 3 SMC carousels that loaded the right carts (hopefully) for each commercial
break. Music tapes had to be changed several times each day and this was done by the W R O
N-AM staff. This system was far from perfect but it served the station well for the next
In 1995, we started the move toward computerized
operations. Vinyl records and recording tape are out and audio workstations and
digital storage and distribution of audio are in. Programming is now delivered
by satellite feed and we use the Internet every day to send and receive radio
ads and short form programs. The technology changes constantly and, eventually,
we'll be able to deliver CD quality audio from our studios to your radio
In August of 2004, WRON-AM changed to an "All
Talk" format featuring some of the best talk shows available.
Click here to see our current program schedule.
On October 1, 1997, Michael J. Kidd purchased the stations from Elaine B. Pugh, who had operated the
stations for 11 years. Mike has been with the company since 1970.
|Below are some photos from our history that we would
like to share with you. We would also like to hear from you if you have
any memories of the early days of WRON. We know that there are a lot of
former employees out there and we would like to hear from you to find out
where you are and what you've been doing since you worked here. We are
interested in old photos connected to the station if you have any that
have been scanned into .jpg files. To contact us or to forward photo
files, simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from some of you!
band to appear on the Greenbrier Valley Jamboree in 1947 was Bill Stone and the Greenbrier
Ramblers (left) who provided entertainment for Greenbrier Valley residents for many
years. Members of the group appearing in this 1947 photo include (from left) Patsy
Jean, Billy Ray Lackie, Warren Parker, Bill Stone, Lewis Holcomb, Carl Howard and one
unidentified member. (Photo courtesy of Bill Stone)
|Another group that appeared on WRON was the Mottesheard
family pictured at right. They are, from left to right: Oscar Hoover on
Bass; Bill Mottesheard; John Mottesheard; Ruth Humphreys Mottesheard,
Bill's wife; Georgia Humphreys Mottesheard, sister to Ruth, also married
to Charlie Mottesheard, brother to Bill and John. This photo was provided
to us by Cora Sue Linton, Waynesboro, VA.
||WRON founder Bill Blake, pictured
at left during the early days of WRON, told us during a 1987 interview that he had to do a
little of everything at the station. He was DJ, announcer newsman, manager, salesman and,
sometimes, even station engineer. That's one thing that hasn't changed much in the last 50
years, especially around smaller market stations where staff members are routinely called
upon to do a variety of jobs. To hear that 1987 interview with Bill Blake, click
|The photo, at right, pictures the WRON staff in
December, 1994. They are (back row from left) Mike Kidd, Duke Stallings, Danny Hutchens,
Larry Drennen, Larry Carver and Bill Mauzy. The ladies in front are (from left) Elaine
Pugh, Grace Boxwell, Kathy Allen and TC Johnston. Part time employees at the time, but not
pictured, were John Sark and Chuck Harper.