By JOHN DOWNS, SR.
During the festive holiday season, families usually enjoy a number of mouthwatering and memorable meals together. Treasured family recipes, specially prepared for everyone to enjoy, are lavishly served along with the standard mealtime fare, and without a doubt, mom and dad, brother and sister, and Uncle Joe always leave the table more than contented. Old memories are shared and new ones are created.
That type of unforgettable experience happens everyday to the listeners of WFOS, located at 88.7 on the FM radio dial. The station is operated by Chesapeake Public Schools and offers high school students the opportunity to learn the finer points of radio broadcasting. Additionally, the station lineup includes a number of professional on-air personalities who host daily shows featuring the classics, the blues, country, classic rock and roll, and old time radio programs. Listeners are regularly treated to a virtual smorgasbord of diverse programming including old favorites, well known standards, hourly news and weather, and a few surprises. Regardless of one’s tastes, WFOS has features to satisfy even the most discriminating listening palate.
WFOS is one of the nation’s oldest public school radio stations. It signed on the air in May of 1955 at the old Oscar Smith High School in the city’s South Norfolk area and has been broadcasting continually since. Richie Babb is the Supervisor of Media and Libraries for Chesapeake Public Schools. WFOS is under his direct purview, and he is himself a former graduate of the radio program. “I started at WFOS in the 9th grade”, says the 1984 Great Bridge High School graduate, “It’s amazing the opportunities WFOS has presented me. Obviously, my professional career with Chesapeake Public Schools really began at WFOS. To give you an idea of the opportunities that sometimes arise for students of the program, as a student reporter, I once got the assignment to cover an international summit in
Williamsburg with many world leaders including an interview with then Secretary of State George Schultz. But that was nothing compared to the three students from WFOS who got to meet the king of rock and roll Elvis Presley in 1956. A picture of that meeting still hangs in a place of honor at the studio.”
Babb holds a Master’s degree in Education and has served as a sportscaster, disc jockey, and political analyst in addition to his administrative duties. “The station is exclusive to Chesapeake and offers so much in the way of diverse programming,” Babb shares, “Sadly, there are still many residents who are unaware of what a treasure we have at WFOS and how much fun it is to listen in.”
Brian Roughton is one of the professional on-air personalities at WFOS. His career includes stints at talk radio powerhouse WNIS-AM and also at country music legend WCMS. He hosts the popular Blues Traffic Jam program heard daily from 3 pm to 7 pm. As with most radio announcers, Brian has a catchy moniker. His regular listeners know him as Brian “The Mountain” Roughton and they call in from literally around the world. “We stream WFOS over the internet and have listeners everywhere,” Brian remarks, “I have a regular caller from Great Britain who is a big blues fan. The greatest joy in broadcasting is when you get to know your fans personally. WFOS is one of the few radio stations in the area that encourages its listeners to call in and make a request. Our mission here really is community based, and we do everything we can to promote Chesapeake, especially in the areas of music and community events.” Brian has frequent in-studio guests to promote local musicians and community happenings.
Early morning listeners to WFOS have a choice of genres when tuning in. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 am to 9 am, light classics and baroque selections are played on Morning Overture. In the same time slot on Monday and Friday, Big Band takes the stage with The Swing Club. Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow, Jack Benny and scores of popular radio comedies and dramas air daily at 9 am, and oldies but goodies and beach music from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s fill the air until 3 pm.
After listeners get their fill of the blues, Back in the Day airs until 10 pm featuring hits of the 70′s and 80′s. One of the unusual programming features at WFOS is the early morning slot, 4 am to 8 am, hosted by Sonny Hill who plays the best of classic country music. Sonny’s fans can call in and request a special favorite from the golden age of country and western.
Weekends are especially fun times at WFOS. Larry Williams, the local guru of beach music and doo-wop, offers Larry’s Beach Party and Doo-Wop and More from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturdays. “The phone lines stay jammed with requests,” Larry says with a big grin, “I’ve got the best fans in the world, and we have a ball.”
Early morning Saturdays at 5 am offer The Jazz Scene with Jake Longwell featuring classic and contemporary jazz from the 1920′s to the present. At 6 am public service programming is the order of the day featuring interviews with community movers and shakers.
Cecile Davis is without a doubt the senior member of the WFOS radio staff. She is 85 years old and hosts the Saturday Classics program. Mrs. Davis’ association with WFOS began in 1962 when she applied for admission to the student program. “I really hadn’t noticed that the program was intended for high school students,” she remembers with a smile, “In any event, I did finish the program and have been a part of WFOS since.” As a transplanted New Yorker, her mellow voice introduces Beethoven and Brahms. “I retired to Chesapeake for the moderate climate and the beauty of the city,” Davis recalls. In addition to her love of classical music, she is a Psychiatric Social Worker and regularly volunteers her services with a local crisis and suicide hotline.
The Saturday evening programming at WFOS winds down with Discurio, which features rare and unusual classical recording from the station humongous classical music library and The Operaphile showcasing music from the extensive opera collection of Bill Russell.
Whether it’s Beethoven or the Beach Boys, John Lennon or the Lennon Sisters, Pucinni or Pearl Jam, they are all waiting to entertain you at WFOS-FM 88.7.
All you have to do is tune in and let the memories begin!
A detailed programming schedule, which is subject to change, is available on-line at the Chesapeake Public Schools Website. Information and music requests are available at (757) 547-1036.