As the voices of Beecher Hyde and Chris Watkins struck the airwaves Tuesday morning, it marked the 60th anniversary of WBSA FM 93.5, AM 1300 radio’s first broadcast.
WBSA first came on the air Oct. 1, 1959, as WAVC. Albert Vearl Cicero, of Birmingham, and Ken Sparks, of Albertville, were the station’s owners, and the format was “top 40 rock and easy listening.”
Two years later, the station was purchased by Glenn Cornelius and L.D. Bentley, of Oneonta, and the call letters were changed to WBSA. In 1982, the format was changed to focus on Southern Gospel music when purchased by Lawrence Kennamer, of Scottsboro, and Bill Huber, of Rainsville. It was the first station in northeast Alabama with a “total Christian” format.
The Rev. Roger Watkins, who owns the station today, bought WBSA in 1995. The station is the only FCC licensed station in the City of Boaz.
Boaz Mayor David Dyar read a proclamation during Tuesday’s 8 a.m. broadcast, surrounded by several community members, to recognize and celebrate the radio station’s history.
“WBSA is well-known for call and tell, Bible trivia and lots of fun and laughter on a daily basis,” Dyar stated. “WBSA also touches a lot of lives that are homebound and lonely. Now therefore, I, David Dyar, mayor of the City of Boaz, Alabama, do hereby recognize WBSA radio station on their 60-year anniversary and the contributions the station and staff make to our community.”
Radio personalities of WBSA include Chris Watkins, James Cornelius and the legendary Hyde.
Hyde, 88, has worked more than 31 years with WBSA over the span of his radio career. He said it’s been a wonderful time filled with many unforgettable memories.
“Because of my career in radio, I got a chance to go to the Grand Ole Opry in ‘63 as a guest announcer Friday night and Saturday night,” Hyde recalled. “I was married on the radio station in ‘55, and then in 2003 I got to ride my horse in the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, California. That was a big milestone. I won DJ of the Year in 2005 — I believe it was — then DJ USA in ‘63 when I was on the Opry. Those memories still hang close.”
He remembers meeting several people thanks to his radio career, including former Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, former Kentucky head basketball coach Adolf Rupp and Rodman Rockefeller — one of the “richest men in the world.”
“His daddy was former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller,” he said. “He was a class act to me. I was scared to death in my early days of radio, and he knew I was nervous. I told him, ‘I never interviewed a vice president’s son before, but I’ve interviewed people at the Grand Ole Opry.’ He looked at me and smiled and said, ‘Well son, let’s just sit down and talk a while.’ And just like that, I was [comfortable].”
At the time, Rockefeller owned the company that owned Arbor Acres, Hyde said. He said he got to interview him while he stayed the night in Boaz.
Dale Morton, owner of Dale’s BBQ in Boaz, said he’ll never forget the first time he was a guest on Hyde’s morning show.
“One of the very first times he had me over here for a interview, we had it planned – we swapped tables and I interviewed him,” Morton laughed. “I thought I was going to trip him up, you know. I asked him, ‘Tell me about your very first date.’ He knew her name, what kind of car they went in, where they went, how much he spent — everything like that I tried to trip him up on, he remembered everything. What a memory right there.”
Several past employees, including Judy Brown, stopped in to reminisce on the station’s fondest memories and help celebrate its 60th anniversary. She said working at WBSA was unlike any other place she’s ever been, and having many listeners, which were more like family, was an added bonus.
“Being able to talk to all the people,” Brown said. “You get to know quite a few, and there would even be some who stopped into visit … They just thought of you like they’ve known you all of your life.”