Capitol Broadcasting Company was formed in 1937 for the purpose of applying for a 250-watt AM radio station in Raleigh.
With encouragement from his son Frank, an attorney at the fledging Federal Communications Commission (FCC), A.J. Fletcher and four other original CBC stockholders applied for a license to run an AM radio station in the state capital.
Not only did Frank Fletcher urge his father to get into radio, he came up with the station’s call letters that would proudly claim the identity of North Carolina’s capital city – WRAL, as in RALeigh.
The FCC granted CBC the license on July 28, 1938, and on March 22, 1939, WRAL-AM went on the air from studios at 130 South Salisbury Street in Raleigh. The station’s transmitter was located east of town on the East Davie Street Extension (later known as South Bart Street).
WRAL-AM started as an independent broadcast outlet, but it joined the Mutual Broadcasting System in September of 1939. In 1942, A.J. Fletcher’s oldest son Fred was named WRAL-AM’s General Manager.
WRAL-AM’s early programming was a mix of live and network material. “Tuning in with Fletcher”, gospel shows and pioneering programs for the African-American community all enjoyed regular programming slots.
“Tempus Fugit” began on WRAL-AM around 1940 when Fred Fletcher – tired of having to fill in for morning announcers who failed to show up – took over the morning announcing shift at the station. Fletcher entertained listeners with a variety of regular features, news, weather, music and fun. He also created special call-in segments like “Lost and Found” and “Trading Post” where listeners would swap items in an on-air exchange program.
The best-known segment on Tempus Fugit was the reading of a fairy tale each morning. The idea came about in late 1941 to entice children to listen to the show in hopes of luring their parents to the radio as well.
Fred Fletcher read the fairy tales live, doing all the different voices and sound effects himself. Within months, ratings went up and by 1945 Tempus Fugit was beating the NBC World News on WPTF-AM. Fletcher’s local fame skyrocketed and from that point on he was known to listeners as “The Fairy Tale Man.”
Bill Currie was hired as the first News Director at WRAL-AM, but he was better known for his sportscasting abilities. Currie delivered colorful game descriptions with a biting wit and engaging style. He later became the radio voice of the UNC Tar Heels, and when a Sports Illustrated article dubbed him “The Mouth of the South,” a legend was born.
WRAL-AM’s other legendary sports announcer was Ray Reeve, who gained statewide fame during a storied radio and television career. Reeve’s distinct play-by-play style and raspy voice endeared him to thousands of sports fans. He became best known as the first voice of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball after the league was formed in the early 50s. Many sports historians credit the early growth of the league in part to Reeve’s compelling basketball broadcasts.
WRAL-AM went through a series of leadership changes in later years. In 1956 Bill Currie was named Station Manager, replacing Fred Fletcher, who moved to television as the President and General Manager of WRAL-TV. In 1959 Currie was appointed Director of Radio for CBC. He left the company in 1962, and Marion “Tommy” Tucker became Director of Radio.
In 1964 the station joined the ABC radio network. In 1965, Capitol Broadcasting sold WRAL-AM to focus more attention on developing WRAL-FM.