According to the 1960 Broadcasting Yearbook, the original construction permit for WKBA was held WYTI Inc. and the call letters were to be WODI. Roanoke Vinton Radio (owned by Stuart W. Epperson) purchased the construction pemit from Les Williams on October 10, 1960 and on October 9, 1961 went on the air with 1,000 watts with a Country - Gospel & Religious format.
Over the years Cliff Davis, Cousin Zeke, Frankie Lois, Buddy Mark (Ben Peyton), Don McGraw, Marvin Parsons, Bo Wiley, Jerry Walker, and Sonny Wright (Sonny Wagoner) were added to the staff.
In 1966 the power was increased to 10,000 watts, Because 1550 is a clear channel frequiency a two-tower directional antenna system had to be used to protect CBC radio in Windsor, Canada.
Pictured above was the top 15 songs played on WKBA - Ben Peyton, program director was able to get a jingle company out of Dallas to record the "KB Cowboy" jingles. Click here to listen.
Therl "Cousin Zeke" Leonard
To his WKBA Listeners he was "Cousin Zeke". His radio career started in 1945. Zeke was stationed with the Air Force in Burma, in Southeast Asia, and was invited to host a show. His Stateside musical career in Bristol, Virginia in 1947 on WCYB radio's "Farm and Fun Time" and the "Thrift Supply Company Show". He was the bass player in a band with Curly King and the Tennessee Hilltoppers. In 1948 he began his broadcasting career at WMEV in Marion and in 1954 "Cousin Zeke" was named Disk Jockey U.S.A. In 1964 Zeke came to Roanoke to work at "Country Music Radio" - WHYE and at WPXI as it's interim manager. Zeke's heart was always in Country, Bluegrass and Gospel music and in 1968 made the move to WKBA. His musical friends sounded like a "Who's - Who" of country music which included Loretta Lynn, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, The Wilburn Brothers, Tom T. Hall, Merle Haggard, Stanley Brothers, and the Clinch Mountain Boys, just to mention a few. Pictured below "Cousin Zeke" with then Mayor Ralph Smith, helping celebrate his 57th year in broadcasting.
For 63 years, Cousin Zeke filled the airwaves with country and bluegrass gospel, along with a folksy charm that won listeners up and down the spine of Southwest Virginia. His was an old-time radio voice with a soft twang and an easy chuckle. And it was only in failing health that Cousin Zeke retired from his 4 p.m. slot on May 7th, 2008. Cousin Zeke passed away on May 19, 2008. He was 83.
Over the years, WKBA worked with local promoters to bring the top country stars to the valley. Most of the shows were held in the American theater. Pictured below is George Jones, with his backup band the "Jones Boys", singing "The Race is On".
In 1982 David Moran, a longtime fixture in broadcasting, purchased WKBA. Moran's Tinker Creek Broadcasters also operates WKPA in Lynchburg.
WKBA is one of America's oldest continuous ministry broadcasters. The Ministry Station is actually three powerful stations in one, with simultaneous broadcasting from Roanoke, Virginia at 1550 AM, Lynchburg, Virginia at 1390 AM, and on the world wide web at wkbaradio.com. The Broadcast equipment is top of the line which includes a solid state Nautel 10 KW transmitter and Google Radio Automation. (pictured below)
Click on image to return to the home page