Wednesday, May 16, 2012

WHRV to WAAM


The WHRV we know today resides in the Norfolk Metro. But those calls didn't originate in that market. They only showed up in 1990. In Hampton Roads, VA 89.6 MHz debuted with the call sign WTGM.It was changed to WHRO in 1978 following the purchase of the station by the Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association. Today it's part of a network, with 3 HD channels and seven other stations: WHRE, WHRX, WHRF, WHRG, WHRO, WHRJ and WHRL. They have become heritage calls in their second home. But the call sign started out in Michigan.

The original 1600 WHRV-AM signed on in Ann Arbor, MI (a suburb of Detroit)  in 1948 owned by the Huron Valley Broadcasters.  It was a full-service radio station, and ABC affiliate, running blocks of varied programming throughout the day.  In October of that year Billboard claimed that WHRV-AM was the first full time AM station in the county, which is probably true. It's first manager was James Hopkins, formerly affiliated with WJBK-AM, and an ill-fated Detroit Muzak franchise. They don't mention that on 1600 AM  few listeners had radios that could even tune in the station!  The AM band was only expanded in 1946.

It's best known DJ today would probably be Ollie McLaughlin [pictured above], a black rhythm & blues DJ in the early 1950s. He became a Detroit record producer, and you can find his name on a number of Chess and Atlantic 45s from that era. Before that he was cutting his own records under the Karen, Carla and Moira record labels right out of his basement. A mid-1950s Chet Baker LP described Ollie as the only Jazz DJ in the area. McLaughlin is best known for discovering Del Shannon, Barbara Lewis and later producing for Deon Jackson.Jackson's first local single was cut in 1962. WHRV-AM was sold in 1963 and changed its calls to WAAM-AM.

It's also interesting to note that from 1957 to 1965 the station engineer was Red Ellis, an accomplished Bluegrass musician, a singer who played both guitar, mandolin. After graduating from the Draughon School of Radio and Television in Little Rock in 1955 he moved to Ypsilanti to wok for Ford. Two years later he took the job at WHRV, becoming a DJ only a little later. Through his program he met fiddler Jimmy Williams, and started performing and recording together and with the Huron Valley Boys... often recording at the station. They cut 32 sides of fine bluegrass and gospel on Starday records. In 1961 Jimmy left to go into evangelism, Red stuck with the Huron Valley Boys, but moved to 1480 WYSI-AM in Ypsilanti in 1965. He later worked at 102.9 WOIA-FM / 1290 WOIB AM, now respectively WWWW-FM and WLBY-AM. More here.

Another notable was the lesser-known overnight disc jockey, Sleepyhead Ted aka Ted Johnson. His overnight program had some real fans. He moved to WXYZ-AM in Detroit in 1951 and then to 910 WFDF-AM in Flint, and later to 600 WTAC-AM.  Later in his career he ran WDLZ and became and VP/GM at WTRX. Ted died in 2011. More here.

Before all this the WHRV calls lived, albeit informally, at Harvard on their carrier current radio station from about 1942 to 1949. The calls stood for Harvard Radio Voice. They began using the WHRB calls in 1951 when they came under the ownership of the Harvard Radio Broadcasting Co. The very real WHRB signed on in 1957. More here and here.  But from 1963 to 1990 there was no WHRV anywhere.