|Broadcast area||Central Virginia|
|Branding||NewsRadio 1140 WRVA|
|Slogan||Richmond's News, Weather & Traffic|
|Translator(s)||96.1 W241AP (Midlothian)|
|First air date||1925|
|Power||50,000 watts day and night|
|Callsign meaning||W Richmond VirginiA|
|Affiliations||ABC News Radio, Westwood One, TheBlaze Network|
(CBS Radio East, LLC)
|Sister stations||W241AP, W253BI, WBTJ, WRNL, WRVQ, WRXL, WTVR-FM|
Established in 1925, WRVA is one of Virginia's oldest Broadcasting operations and its most powerful AM radio station. WRVA is authorized to broadcast with 50,000 watts as a Clear-channel station from its base of operations near the Virginia State Capitol. For much of its history, WRVA billed itself as the "Voice of Virginia."
Although three-letter call letters were still available when the station was started, "WRVA" was chosen since (W) R VA was short for Richmond, VA. WRVA was launched at 9:00 p.m. on November 2, 1925. Known initially as "Edgeworth Radio", it was owned by Larus and Brother Company, a tobacco company operating as the "House of Edgeworth." The radio station was originally put on the air as a public service 2 nights per week.
The early WRVA facilities were a small studio in a corner of a warehouse on Richmond's Tobacco Row using a tower mounted on the roof of the building. It soon became a vital and profitable business enterprise.
By 1930, WRVA was on-the-air 7 days a week, 24 hours daily, with broadcasting power increased to 50,000 watts.
In 1935, WRVA built a new transmitter in Mechanicsville, a small community located northeast of Richmond in Hanover County. The new tower for the antenna at this location was the first all-wood self-supporting radio tower in North America. Field tests conducted later indicated that the new tower produced "a 400% increase in dependable night-time service area and a three-fold increase in the daytime area."
However, it was only a short time before a much larger facility was to be placed on-line. WRVA's 1939-era transmitter building in Varina east of Richmond is listed as a National Historic Site. It is a two-story colonial style brick building which was a kit-building. It originally contained a 1929 Western Electric transmitter, which was a "walk-through" model. The broadcast signal was transmitted from two large steel twin towers.
In the late 1940s, WRVA's facilities extended beyond Richmond. An ad in a 1947 issue of the trade magazine "Broadcasting" proclaimed "Studios in Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia." (Richmond and Norfolk are nearly 100 miles apart.) The same ad noted that WRVA was "Virginia's only 50,000 watt radio station." An FM presence was established in Norfolk June 6, 1948, when WRVC began broadcasting there on 102.5 MHz, "airing shows of CBS, duplicating parts of the WRVA schedule and originating some of its own programs."
In 1961, the "Western" transmitter, as it came to be known by the WRVA staff, was replaced with an RCA BTA-50H Ampliphase after serving for more than 30 years but was kept as a back-up transmitter. It was powered-up and used at least once a week to keep it in operational condition for another 20 years.
In the early 1980s, the Western Electric transmitter was removed and replaced with a 50,000 watt Continental. The Ampliphase was then made the back-up. In the 1990s, the Ampliphase was then replaced by a newer Harris Electric transmitter and the Continental was made as the back-up. During the 1970s, WRVQ installed its transmitters in the building.
WRVA is well known for its 24-hour broadcasts on the clear channel frequency at 1140 kHz, with a 50,000 watt non-directional signal, intended to reach rural areas. At night (when the AM signals travel farther), WRVA can be heard throughout the Eastern and Central U.S. and Canada.
From 1946-1957, the station carried The Old Dominion Barn Dance, a popular live country music program.
Two of WRVA's more popular personalities were fictional characters. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the studio was located across Capitol Square from the Virginia State Capitol in the Hotel Richmond, WRVA's Capitol Squirrel imparted wisdom and tossed an occasional snowball at lawmakers and local government using a voice created by speeding up the recording in manner later made famous by David Seville and his "Alvin and the Chipmunks" characters. In the 1970s, the Millard the Mallard character carried on dialogue with announcers during the morning rush hour traffic reports.
One of WRVA's better known real-life personalities was long-time host Alden Aaroe. His Christmas "WRVA Salvation Army Shoe Fund" provided thousands of shoes annually for needy children. Although Aaroe died in 1993, the program he headed has continued, having raised over $5.6 million in its history. Virginia Commonwealth University and Aaroe's family honor the memory of Alden Aaroe with a scholarship in his name for broadcast journalism students.
Because of AM radio signal reach, nighttime hosts enjoyed a listenership at considerable distances such as the former head of the Virginia Chapter of the NAACP, host Jack Gravely, whose evening show was heard hundreds of miles away well into neighboring states overnight. An overnight country music program headed by "Big John" Trimble targeted truckers in the 1970s, again taking advantage of the large nighttime coverage area of the clear channel station. Broadcasting from a remote studio located at Jarrell's Truck Stop in Doswell, Virginia, the show ran for eighteen years. It made Big John into a national radio personality.
In 1974, the WRVA traffic helicopter lost a tail rotor at a low altitude and crashed into a house on West 31st Street in South Richmond, killing WRVA reporter Howard Bloom, the pilot, and a small child eating dinner with his family.
The Virginia News Network (VNN) was founded in 1977 when Charlottesville Broadcasting Corporation began distributing newscasts to a handful of affiliates via telephone line from its flagship station, WINA (AM) in Charlottesville. VNN headquarters were relocated to WRVA's signature headquarters building in Richmond about 6 years later.
In the early 1990s, WRVA turned over its traffic reporting functions to Metro Traffic but in 2002 began doing its own reports again when the Clear Channel Richmond stations formed its "Total Traffic" division with local personality Scott Stevens in charge. Not only does Total Traffic do reports for WRVA, it also files reports for the other stations in the Clear Channel Richmond Group, and just recently started feeding traffic reports to other cities outside Richmond as well. Stevens died of a heart attack in September, 2003.
The owners later added WRVA-FM at 94.5 MHz and WRVA-TV, broadcasting on television channel 12 beginning in 1956. After simulcasting with WRVA during the early years of FM radio, in the 1970s, WRVA-FM became WRVQ, and was one of Richmond's first FM stations to switch to a top-40 hit music format.
In 1968, the television station was sold to Jefferson Pilot Broadcasting, owner of WBT, WBT-FM, and WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, and its call sign was changed to WWBT (Raycom Media has since purchased the television station).
The radio stations went through several owners after Larus and Brother, including Southern Broadcasting, Harte-Hanks, Edens Broadcasting and Force II Communications, LP, before they were purchased in 1992 by Clear Channel Communications, now known as iHeartMedia.
In November 2004, a station using the call sign WRVA-FM began serving the Raleigh-Durham market of North Carolina at 100.7 MHz. It was able to have those call letters without complaint because that station is also owned by iHeartMedia. This station became WRDU in 2013.
On November 1, 2017, iHeartMedia announced that WRVA, along with all of their sister stations in Richmond and Chattanooga, will be sold to Entercom due to that company's merger with CBS Radio. The sale was completed on December 19, 2017.
WRVA is the subject of a major exhibit at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Featured are historical documents, sound files, print artifacts, and such local interest items as the shoes of the late announcer Alden Aaroe, who founded an annual program that has raised over $5.6 million to provide shoes for needy children over a 36-year period.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January 2011)
WRVA currently has two locally produced programs in its weekday lineup, which are heard during morning and afternoon drive time: Richmond's Morning News with John Reid from 5:30 to 9 a.m. and Jeff Katz from 3 to 6 p.m. The remainder of the weekday schedule consists of syndicated talk programs from the Premiere Networks wing of iHeartMedia: The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis, and Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. Late mornings also feature the Glenn Beck Program from TheBlaze Network and late evenings feature Mark Levin from the Westwood One Network.
Weekend programming includes the locally originated programs The Lee Brother's Saturday Show and Home Improvement with Richard McKann. Weekend syndicated programs include two technology shows The Kim Komando Show and The Tech Guy with Leo Laporte, the religious shows God is Just a Prayer Away, The International Gospel Hour, and The Lutheran Hour, and an assortment of other shows and Paid Programming.The Bill Cunningham Show airs on Sunday nights.
On May 5, 2014 WRVA began simulcasting on FM translator W253BI 98.5 Glen Allen, Virginia (via WTVR-FM's HD2 subchannel). The simulcast ended on July 23, 2015 to make way for an HD-fed country station, Big 98.5