That first test broadcast was of a local bluegrass trio led by future station manager Raymond Jordan. they performed Turkey in the straw and some other standards. the test broadcast was clear for some 7 miles, not bad for 20 watts. The operation moved to 106 West Church Avenue in some converted space in Mr. Richardson's office. They moved from there to the Thurman and Boone Company then in 1929 to the Shenandoah Life Insurance building. That same year they joined the Columbia Broadcasting System. They crept up to 500 watts, then by 1934 1,000 watts. By 1936 they had topped out at 5,000 watts. In 1936 they began building their own studios on 124 West Kirk Avenue. In 1941, the station moved to its current 960 KHz. In 1955 they started WDBJ-TV.
If anything WDBJ developed a greater historical significance than WTAR. Lester Scruggs of Flatt and Scruggs made his radio debut on WDBJ in Roanoke, VA in 1939. Charlie Poole played her in 1930 with the Carolina Ramblers. Roy hall played here. So did Leonard Moody from the Sons of the Mountaineers. Then local groups like the Texas Troubadours, the Blueridge Fox Chasers, McCray Family, the Roanoke Jug Band, the N&W String Band, the Charlie Scott Harmonizers, The Floyd County Ramblers. When you read it from the printed page it seems like everyone played here.
WDBJ-AM and WDBJ-TV were sold to different buyers. The TV station went for 8.2 million and retained it's WDBJ calls. The AM stick became WFIR-AM standing for "First In Roanoke". They abandoned their long-standing country format for soft AC and eventually became News Talk. WFIR is still on air today. While they do carry craptastic programs like Rush and Hannity, much of the day is still help by local talent. It's as if they still remember a January 1944 Billboard article about them and new upstart WSLS...
"...Naturally, WSLS in the same town, feeling itself competitive with WDBJ, has also announced a series of live half-hour dramas under the direction of Francis Ballard. Station reps give the lead to WDBJ in bringing back live stuff to the Roanoke area, but neither WSLS or WDBJ will give the nod to the other in who's first. And it really doesn't matter, since live stuff on the air, no matter who is first, is what radio needs locally—and nationally. "