Beginning November 1st, 1969, WDBJ became known as “WFIR,” an acronym for the radio station’s position as the area’s pioneering broadcaster, “First In Roanoke.”
The radio station’s music during the 60’s and 70’s moved away from country, and edged a little closer to the popular “light rock” music you can still hear today. Elvis Presley, the Mamas and the Papas, Anne Murray, Elton John, and even a little disco like Donna Summer were popular on 960 during these years. Because the station was perceived as the “adult” music station, DJ’s still played a lot of big band music and traditional oldies. This was a time of dramatic change for WFIR in other ways besides musically.
Just a year or so after WFIR changed hands, it moved to perhaps its most appropriate location, Towers Mall, still host of the station’s towers. It was in April of 1970 that WFIR took over the space next to the current Katie’s Ice Cream where the mall management office is now located.
In 1977, WFIR was purchased by the “Voice of the Washington Redskins,” Jim Gibbons, and the sound of the radio station began to change forever. That same month, listeners began hearing more news and sports reports. WFIR was becoming a full-service radio station with a mix of local news, national commentary by CBS legends like Charles Kuralt, and easy listening music to fill in the spaces.
In August 1979, Larry King made his debut on WFIR as a syndicated overnight talk show host on the erstwhile Mutual Radio Network. He joined iconic financial advisor Bruce Williams as one of WFIR’s first two talk shows, although the conversion to an all news/talk format did not take place for another ten years.
In 1985, the year Back to the Future took over movie theatres, and Phil Collins’ “No Jacket Required” sat on top of the record charts, there were two important staff changes. Longtime station DJ Bill Bratton was promoted to program director; Bratton is principally credited with changing WFIR to its current format. And a New England native named Bob Clark joined Ted Rogers in the morning as WFIR Sports Director. Bob started as a DJ on a New Hampshire radio station in 1962. Hired just weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis, he also saw two Kennedys and Martin Luther King assassinated during his first few years on the radio. In his more than 20 years at WFIR, Bob has been a DJ, morning show host, afternoon show host, and sports personality. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have one daughter who works in television news in South Carolina.
In the spring of 1988, the staff moved once more, making their home on Hounds Chase Lane next to the Kabuki restaurant. Almost exactly one year later, WFIR took two giant steps towards becoming the station you hear today.
WFIR became one of the earliest affiliates of the Rush Limbaugh show on March 13, 1989. At that time, Rush broadcast from 12:00 – 2:00 PM. Rush would visit Roanoke and broadcast from the Hounds Chase studios just a year or two later. One week after becoming a Rush Limbaugh affiliate, on Monday morning, March 20, listeners turned on 960 AM to hear an all news/talk radio station. The lineup that morning was:
5 AM Ted Rogers
Today WFIR is still the Roanoke Valley’s only local news station.
Notably, on September 11th, 2001, at approximately 9:20 AM, WFIR began nearly 30 straight hours of wall-to-wall news coverage of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. All commercials were cancelled and “normal” programming did not resume until noon the following day. Some WFIR staff worked 35 straight hours.
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