It was late in the year in 1932 when WWVA Radio Managing Director
George W. Smith called a meeting with Program Director Howard Donahoe
and Paul J. Miller. The purpose of the meeting: to program something special
for the 5,000-watt station's listeners on Saturday nights.
Out of the meeting came a unanimous choice: a light, spontaneous,
after-midnight program of entertainment which would be called "The WWVA Jamboree".
The new program began on January 7, 1933, from the WWVA studios;
and master of ceremonies Paul J. Miller began receivng letters from listeners
and, included entertainers like
- Snap and Sparky
- Wandering Minstrel Elmer Crowe
- Fred Craddock's Happy Five
- Felix Adams (an announcer who was a whiz on harmonica)
- Paul Miller
- Willard Spoon
- George Kanute
- Jimmy Lively and Eddie Barr
- Sherlock and Tommy
- the Tweedy Brothers
- Fred Craddock
WWVA Original Jamboree Cast Photo
First row: Smokey Pleacher, Hiram Hayseed, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Sunflower, Jimmy Hutchinson,
Wilma Lee, Big Slim, Little Shirley, Stoney Cooper, Cy Sneezeweed, Chick Stripling.
Second rowPaul Myers, Melvin Ritchie, Red Belcher, Chuck Henderson, Monty Blake,
Budge Mayse, Galen Ritchie, Fudge Mayse, Curley Reynolds, Bill Carver, Jiggs Lemsley,
Third RowDoc Williams, Bonnie Baldwin, Marion Martin, Millie Wayne,
Cy Williams, Chickie Williams, Joe Barker.
From that first show held in the WWVA studios, the show captured
the audience's attention and soon, the show had to move. On April 1, 1933,
the WWVA Jamboree made its first move to the Capitol Theatre. An admission
charge of 25 cents was charged to help defray the cost of renting the theatre
for the show. In fact, they advertised it as the 'Greatest Show on the Air for a Quarter."
The crowd was said to be 3,266 for that first show with another thousand
having to be turned away.
The first of the WWVA Jamboree shows were held in Wheeling's Capitol
Theatre and continued there right up to February 10, 1934. A change
in theatre management caused a change in the Jamboree's venue to
the Victoria Theatre. However, only two performances were held at
the Victoria Theatre as larger seating capacity to handle the crowds
was necessary. From there, the show moved to Wheeling's Virginia
Theatre for two years. Then, in February 1936, the Jamboree moved
back to the Capitol Theatre. From there, the show moved to the Wheeling
Market Auditorium where they say an air of 'peanut-chewing, pop-drinking informality'
was the rule of the day. The show was discontinued due to gasoline rationing
on December 15, 1942. The WWVA Jamboree's in-person audience drew from folks
from many places well beyond Wheeling. Jamboree personal appearances
resumed on July 13, 1946 and the shows resumed again from the Virginia
The WWVA Jamboree also had its share of traveling troupes of artists who
would go to outlying cities and towns to perform for audiences. For WWVA,
these were called "Goodwill Tours". One WWVA album mentions that these
tours would travel as far as 500 miles away to reach their audiences.
Like the WLS National Barn Dance, the WWVA Jamboree had music that
one might readily associate with 'hillbilly' or 'country' music back
then. As such, WWVA had its own such person in the name of Vivian Miller,
who was the Jamboree organist. They attributed the Jamboree theme song
to her and they mentioned that the words to the tune were believed to
be the work of Elmer Crowe and Howard Donahoe.
Now here's the Jamoree to greet you
In the good old-fashioned way
We'll do our best to please you
And hope that you'll feel gay
We are more than glad to see you
And hope you'll be care free
So laugh an dsmile with us awhile
On the Midnight Jamboree