WSAY

WSAY

WSAY went on the air in 1983 after Atlanta businessman George Buck, Jr. purchased WUEZ and changed the format to "Big Band". The studios were located at 709 Bowman Avenue in Salem, VA. The transmitter was located on Twelve O'clock Knob Road and operated with 5,000 watts of power.

The playlist was supplied by the owner who recorded the tunes on large reel to reel tapes. The tapes were then played on the air alternating with music from Mr. Buck's Audiophile record label.

The main control room was constructed by Tom Crockett who was the station engineer. The station had been broadcasting for about a year when the transmitter was hit by lightning. It was so damaged that a new "state of the art" Transmitter was installed. This station was capable of broadcasting in stereo. Tom with the assistance of Mark Thomas had the station back on the air within two weeks but it wasn't broadcasting in stereo. The reason was there were five different AM Stereo systems being proposed to the FCC, and the FCC struggled with the decision of which one to choose as the single standard for AM Stereo broadcasting. It wasn't until 1986 that a standard was chosen and by then WSAY no longer was on the air.

Staff Members

On location at the Texas Tavern - Mary Francis & Mark Thomas

Earl Fry - General Manager - Earl became GM shortly after the station went on the air. He had worked in radio for 10 years, including being sales manager at Bluefield Broadcasting and operations manager for two other stations.

Bruce Roberts - News Director and Air Personality - Bruce came to Salem from Christiansburg and was a Virginia Tech graduate and interned at WUEZ and was hired for the "morning drive" slot. He also performed the duties of copywriting and production.

Mark Thomas (Portzer) - Production Manager and Air Personality - Mark came from Pennsylvania and was hired as an air personality in 1983. Previously he did a weekend air shift at WROV and for a short time held positions at both stations. He also was in charge of producing commercials and public service announcements. Mark Thomas' air shift was from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. In radio terminology this is referred as the "housewives shift". On Sunday evenings Mark hosted the only "polka party" in the south. Other duties at WSAY were to help with engineering duties. In 1984, Mark left WSAY and moved across town to WFIR.


 
Mark Thomas Audio

James Norman - Operations Manager and Air Personality - James Norman came to WSAY almost immediately after it went on the air. He started his radio career at WROV several years earlier and operated his mobile DJ business "Annie Haul". He was best known for his on air phrase "coffee breakin' with James Norman". James was the "afternoon drive" announcer until 1984 when he left WSAY.

Mary Francis - Traffic Manager and Air Personality - Mary Francis came from Maryland and attended Mary Washington College. In 1984 when James Norman moved-on, Mary Francis was offered the "afternoon drive" slot. She was the daughter of Buz Emick, who served the Botetourt area for many years.

Other personalities included part time announcers Ann Martin, Dave Massey, Bill Bailey, and Bill Pegram.

Special programming included "Lunchtime with the Stars", "The Swinging Sides" and "The Sunday Night Polka Party". WSAY billed itself as "Your Station of the Stars". In 1985 WSAY was sold to Norfolk broadcaster L. E. Willis who changed the format to paid religious programming and In 1987 the station was sold to Irvin Ward and the format was changed to gospel and inspirational music.

March 22, 1990 WTOY- 910 khz, changed it's format to business and financial news, leaving the Roanoke Valley without an urban station. By April WSAY had picked up the WTOY call letters and the urban format.

Special thanks to Mark Portzer for supplying information for this page.