Sunday, April 3, 2011

Local Radio Makes A Second Try On The Eastern Shore

When Salisbury's WSMD ceased operation in 1929 after about a year on the air Pocomoke and other Eastern Shore areas were without a local radio service until 1937 when WSAL signed on from a studio on East Main Street in Salisbury, beyond the post office, in a store space next to Gordy Drug Company.

Violet Killiam of Hebron was a popular local performer on WSAL. She won a local talent contest broadcast live from the stage of the New Theater in Salisbury and was given her own 15-minute weekly radio program. She was known as the Kate Smith of the Eastern Shore. Other talent heard on WSAL included the station's staff musician, well known Eastern Shore performer "Billy Heaton" (William Heaton Whitworth), who hosted "Uncle Billy And The Kiddie Hour; the Hurdle family of Berlin who were known as The Southern Hillbillies; Tex Rose And His Lone Star Ranchers; and Kid Smith And The Sisters. WSAL listeners could tune in to "The Shadow" on Sundays at 530PM.

As a teenager Willis Conover, who later became an icon in jazz broadcasting, had his first job in radio working part-time as an announcer and writer at WSAL while attending college. Later in his career he was the producer for many years of The Voice Of America's world renowned jazz programming, and was also known in the jazz world for his large collection of tapes and documents.

WSAL appeared to be fulfilling its' obligation to serve the local broadcast area, however behind the scenes the Federal Communications Commission had serious concerns regarding legalities involving the station's ownership. It ordered WSAL permanently off the air in April of 1940.

On Friday, September 13th, 1940, WBOC went on the air from "Radio Park" just north of Salisbury on Route 13. A few other stations dotted the Delmarva Peninsula later in the 1940's and still more in the 1950's and radio on Delmarva was here to stay.

In September of 1954 the FCC was reviewing two applications for radio in Pocomoke City. One was for a station at 1290 on the AM dial and the other was for a station at 540. A large tower was visible on the east side of Pocomoke and there was talk that a radio station was to be built on that property off of Stockton Road. Details of what transpired are not clear; the station never came to be but the base for a tower as well as a building for a transmitter still exist there. WDVM at 540 went on the air in August of 1955 from facilities west of town.

In the late 1960's there was increasing interest in FM but most car radios weren't equipped to receive it. WBOC-FM sold FM converters that attached to AM car radios. Some of the first Eastern Shore FM stations were WBOC-FM (call letters later WQHQ "Q105") Salisbury-Ocean City, Choppy Layton's WKHI "100 KHI" in Ocean City, WICO-FM in Salisbury, and WSEA in Georgetown, Delaware. The public's interest in FM stereo set the course for the arrival of many more FM stations on the Eastern Shore in the years to come.

Contributed by Terry Kleger of Salisbury.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am aware of the building and tower base just off Stockton Road but did not know that it was never used. Thanks for the info, Terry!