TN Radio Hall of Fame

2015 Inductees to the 
Tennessee Radio Hall Of Fame
 
Banquet Opening Video Montage       
In Memoriam Video Montage 

Legendary Station

 

       WLAC’s first broadcast took place on November 24, 1926. The call letters were chosen to contain an acronym for the first owner of the station, the Life and Casualty Insurance Company of Tennessee. In 1928, it became Nashville's CBS Radio affiliate.The early years of the station featured, as most big-city stations of that time, network programming, local news, studio-orchestra musical features (accompanied by an in-studio pipe organ), farm reports, and some educational programming. When country music began to gain popularity in the late 1940s, WLAC added early-morning and Saturday-afternoon country music shows. Otherwise, the station placed emphasis on general full-service programs. In 1942, the station boosted its power to 50,000 watts in a directional pattern, becoming the second 50,000-watt station in Tennessee. Its nighttime signal regularly reaches parts of 28 states, three Canadian provinces, the Caribbean and South America. 
            
By the late 1940s, WLAC would achieve a distinctive notoriety of its own as a nighttime station for half the nation. Gradually phasing in artists like Amos Milburn, Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino to supplement the big-band artists of the era such as Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, WLAC nighttime announcers Gene Nobles, "John R." (John Richbourg), Herman Grizzard, and Bill "Hossman" Allen presided over the development of what became "rhythm-and-blues" music. Unknown to most listeners of that time, all four disc jockeys were in fact middle-aged Caucasians, not African-Americans, as their Southern, gravelly, drawling voices and frequent use of colloquialisms most familiar to their audience suggested. Richbourg and Allen are credited for helping start or boost the careers of artists including James Brown, Ray Charles, B. B. King, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson and Aretha Franklin; Nobles championed the likes of Little Richard and others.
           Other than the famous late-night shows, WLAC followed a fairly conventional news/features course in the daytime until the early 1970s, when the station was sold to Billboard Magazine and a Top 40 format was adopted. The station recruited young Spider Harrison, a native New Yorker,  from WTLC-FM/Indianapolis. Harrison steered the nighttime format into a blend of soul and rock in an attempt to target an entire new generation of young night-time listeners throughout the country. Spider Harrision is also an inductee in this year's ceremony.               
          
With another change in ownership, this time to Sudbrink Broadcastring, WLAC changed formats to news and talk in 1980, making it one of the first stations in the Southern U.S. to adopt that format exclusively. WLAC continued as a News/Talk station under subsequent owners Price Communications and Clear Channel (now iHeart Media). Through the 1980s, WLAC’s daytime programming featured local daytime hosts such as Teddy Bart, Ruth Ann Leach and Les Jameson and sports programming with hosts including Bob Bell and Charlie McAlexander. 
          
For many years, WLAC switched from news and talk at 8 p.m. Central Time (when the clear-channel signal settled into place) to an all-religion format. The nighttime line-up included mostly paid religious programs, with the news/talk format resuming at daybreak. 
          
Today, WLAC features a format of local and syndicated conservative talk hosts, local and national news and sports.

       

See the entire 2015 Legacy
Inductee Video Package HERE

 2015 Legacy Inductees  (Posthumous)
See the 2015 Legacy Inductee Video Package

 

Bill Barry

    William O. Barry’s first "real radio job" was in 1947 at WGNS in Murfreesboro. He attended NBC's broadcast school in Chicago, where he met Nashvillian Bill Baird. In 1957, the two purchased WSOK-FM 105.9 from Cal Young  - at that time, Nashville's only FM station – and operated it as WFMB until selling it to Life & Casualty Insurance Company in 1965, when the call letters were changed to WLAC-FM, and the station moved to the observation deck of the L & C Tower.
    Barry was always involved in radio engineering. He worked with the FCC in the 50's to develop a frequency allocation plan that made possible most of Tennessee's FM channels. On April 12, 1971 he signed WAMB on as a daytimer playing big band music, with 250 watts at 1190 AM. It didn't take long for Bill to get a power increase to 5,000 watts with a slight frequency shift to 1170. Then he got approval to go to 1160 with 25,000 watts daytime and 1,000 watts night, then to a full 50 kilowatts of daytime power.
    Over the years, Bill Barry was instrumental in the founding of the Nashville Public Library’s WPLN-FM, Nashville's 100kw WZEZ-FM (now Mix 92.9) as well as FM and AM stations in Lebanon, Murfreesboro, Springfield and other mid state communities. In 1994 the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters gave Bill the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor the TAB bestows on a broadcaster. He was honored with the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame's "Lifetime Achievement Award" in 2012. Bill was active in broadcasting until his final breath when he passed away September 16, 2013.

Lowell Blanchard

    Lowell Blanchard was born in Palmer, Illinois on November 5, 1910 and entered the University of Illinois in 1928.
   
He received his first radio broadcasting experience as a student announcer and served as master of ceremonies and public address announcer at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago.Blanchard worked at radio stations in Indiana, Iowa and Michigan and then moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where he hosted and wrote for Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round on WNOX. Merry-Go-Round was extremely popular and was a launching pad for the careers of Roy Acuff, Archie Campbell, Kitty Wells, Chet Atkins, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, Pee Wee King, Martha Carson, Don Gibson, and the Louvin Brothers. Blanchard also hosted WNOX's early morning program Musical Clock Show. Both live radio programs continued until the early 60s.
    He was active in his community and served as city councilman for a time. Blanchard died on February 19, 1968. An honorary Merry-Go-Round was held in his memory at Knoxville's Civic Auditorium a couple of weeks after Blanchard's death and the stars of country music came out to honor him, including Roy Acuff, Kitty Wells, Grandpa Jones, Don Gibson, Skeeter Davis and many others.
    Blanchard was inducted into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1977.

Bobby Denton

    Bobby Denton got his start behind the mic as a PA announcer at the Smoky Mountain Raceway in the 1950s when the regular was a no-show. He served as NASCAR announcer at Alabama's Talladega Speedway for 16 years.
    After 9 months at WSKT radio in South Knoxville, WIVK offered the young DJ a job in 1961. He spun rock-n-roll music until WIVK went country three years later. He moved to Jacksonville, FL. for 14 months
before returning to WIVK. For the next 36 years Bobby worked to build WIVK as one of the leading mid-market country radio stations in the US, working his way up to PD, then VP and then General Manager. Until 2001 and Citadel Broadcasting's buyout, WIVK won four Country Music Association Awards for Radio Station of the Year along with multiple other awards and accolades under Bobby's direction.
    Some of his
achievements include membership in the Knoxville Advertising Federation Hall of Fame, the East HS Alumni Association Hall of Fame, Special Recognition in the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame and the UT Benefactor's Society. He received other community and professional awards too numerous to mention.
    Bobby planned to be present May 3 for the induction of WIVK as the 2014 Legendary Station by the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame, but he died April 9 at the age of 73 after a short battle with cancer. In addition to his radio career, Bobby was known to fans of UT football as the public address announcer at Neyland Stadium for 48 years.

Jill Green

    Jill Green, a second generation broadcaster, began her radio career in the 1960s at WKDA in the old Stahlman Building in downtown Nashville, where she learned all facets of the business from the front desk and as a traffic coordinator.
    In 1976, she became a member of a two-person staff at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, covering every aspect of the industry, including regulatory, legal and political ground. She became known to TAB members as a trusted source of answers. She managed the association’s Public Education Program (Non-Commercial sustaining Announcements) which was TAB’s primary revenue source, getting airtime across the state for charities such as the American Red Cross, the Kidney Foundation, Operation Smile, Waterworks, National Guard and Coast Guard recruitment.
    She managed the association’s educational, scholarship and internship opportunities for university students; tourist development and grass roots lobbying. She saw that training was provided for managers, news personnel, advertising executives and engineers, in order to make stations more efficient and more valuable to their communities.
    Jill Green started at TAB as a secretary, but left as a true manager of government relations, public relations and association matters, promoting broadcasting in the best interests of the public and the state’s licensees. Over almost 35 years of
service to Tennessee’s broadcasters, she made definitive and lasting contributions to the broadcasting profession.

John McDonald

    John McDonald was hailed by Broadcasting Magazine as “America’s best known Farm Director” for his work at WSM from the late 40s through the 60s.
   
Listeners became familiar with him through his early morning farm report, his work on the Waking Crew and his role as host of the extremely popular Noontime Neighbors broadcast.
    He was in such demand as a commercial spokesman that he commanded a 3 dollar talent fee
each time one of his recorded commercials aired.
    John testified before Congress on several agricultural issues and was founder and first President of the National Association of Radio and Television Farm Broadcasters.

Nat D. Williams

    Nathaniel Dowd Williams was known far and wide as, simply, “Nat. D.” He was born right on Memphis’s famed Beale Street and after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Tennessee State University in Nashville he returned to Memphis and in 1930 took a teaching job at Booker T. Washington High School in South Memphis.
    In 1948, when the new WDIA radio station was about to go under, there seemed no need for a sixth radio station playing formats similar to the city’s other five stations, its owners seized upon the idea of appealing to the city’s African-American listeners. Nat D., a well-known public figure in the black community, was selected as their first African American disc jockey.
    He often recalled that first broadcast of “Tan Town Jamboree” when the white engineer signaled to him that the microphone was open, and Nat’s mind went suddenly blank. He let out a belly laugh to relieve the tension, and that laugh became Nat’s signature. Memphis responded strongly both for and against the sound of blackness on the radio.
    But Nat and WDIA were undeterred, with Nat soon broadcasting in the morning and afternoon and teaching school in between. WDIA hired other hosts, and by the summer of 1949 it became the first station in the United States with an entire cast of black disc jockeys.
    Nat D. held down his afternoon show - never missing a shift - until he retired from the air following a stroke in 1972. Williams died October 27, 1983 in his hometown of Memphis, eight days after his 77th birthday.

 2015 Career Inductees
 


See Keith Bilbrey's Induction
Video Tribute HERE

Keith Bilbrey

Personallity, WHUB/Cookeville, WSM-AM & FM and The Grand Ole Opry/Nashville, now Host of “Classic Country Today” on 175 stations in syndication and “Music City Roots” on WHPY/Nashville.


See Johnny Dark/Dude Walker's
Induction Video Tribute HERE

 

Johnny Dark A.K.A. Dude Walker

Personality, WMPS/Memphis, WTUP/Tupelo, KWOC/Poplar Bluff, MO, WAKY/Louisville, WDXB/Chattanooga, CHUM/Toronto, WMAQ/WJJD/Chicago and KIX106/Memphis.

See Spider Harrison's Induction
Video Tribute HERE

 

Spider Harrison

Personality, WCWP/Brookville, NY, WWRL/Woodside Queens, NY, WTLC-FM/Indianapolis, WLAC/Nashville, KGFJ/KJLH/KYPA/Los Angeles, KSPA/Ontario and KTIE/ Riverside-San Bernardino. Host of syndicated radio shows “Billboard Magazine Soul Countdown,” & “'What Ever Happened To…” Heard middays on Hippie Radio 94.5/Nashville.


See Stacey Mott's Induction
Video Tribute HERE

 

Stacey Mott

Personality, Station Manager, WHUB AM & FM/Cookeville for 47 years. Received TAB’s Distinguished Service Award.

See Jack Parnell's Induction
Video Tribute HERE

 

Jack Parnell

Announcer, PD, Narrator, Voice-over Artist, WKBJ/Milan, WDXI/Jackson, WHBQ/Memphis, WMC/Memphis, William B. Tanner Co., still active as freelance voice.


See Al Voecks' Induction
Video Tribute  HERE

Al Voecks

Announcer, Newscaster, PD, Began career in Sioux City, IA, WSM AM/FM/TV/Nashville, “House Foundation” on WSIX-AM/FM/Nashville, AP Tennessee Broadcaster of the Year, CMA Large Market Personality of the Year with the House Foundation, Co-host of Tennessee Crossroads, WNPT-TV/Nashville.

       


See John Young's Induction
Video Tribute  HERE

 

John Young

Announcer, Newsman, Music Director, PD, WGNS/Murfreesboro, WLAC/Nashville, WMAK/Nashville, KILT/Houston, WSM & SM95/Nashville, Z93/Atlanta, Billboard Air Personality of the Year, Multiple Clio Award winner, Voice-over Artist TBS/TNT/Atlanta and TV and radio stations across the country.

 


Copyright: The Tennessee Radio Hall Of Fame.  Founded by John Long.  Organized by Lee Dorman.

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