604. WKLA Radio

Ludington, MI


Ludington’s first radio station began broadcasting in 1926 under the ownership of Grant Ashbacker, oldest son of local retailer Karl L. Ashbacker. The studio was located on the third floor of what is now known as the City Center Building at the southeast corner of Ludington Avenue and James Street. The younger Ashbacker moved his station, WKBZ to Muskegon in 1934. 

Commercial radio went live in Ludington again on October 8, 1944, this time owned by Karl L. Ashbacker with the call letters of WKLA taken from his initials. In addition to his local business interests, Ashbacker had earlier joined other community leaders in purchasing the Ludington Mariners minor league baseball as a founding director of the Ludington Baseball Association in 1913.

After occupying a couple of locations in downtown Ludington, the radio office and studio occupied a new structure which is still extant here on east Ludington Avenue. 

Ray Plank purchased the station from Ashbacker and initiated his management in March 1950 which he continued until his death in 1977. During his long tenure, WKLA assumed a major role in news, sports and entertainment broadcasting.

When Saginaw business man Arthur Braggs took over management of the Paradise Club in Idlewild, an African-American resort community 40 miles east of Ludington, it became a major entertainment venue in West Michigan. 

Braggs worked with WKLA, an ABC affiliate, to broadcast his Idlewild Review programs every Saturday night to a national listening audience. One of WKLA’s broadcasters, Tommy Roy, served as the host of these shows and after Labor Day, when summer visitors left Idlewild, Roy took the Idlewild Review troupe on tour. Tommy Roy later had a distinguished career hosting his own radio program in New York City and represented major entertainment stars the likes of Sammy Davis Junior and Dinah Washington.

In 2012, WKLA was purchased and merged with Synergy Media.