WLAC RADIO - Founded in 1926, located at Dickerson Pike Highway 11 / 31W, Nashville radio station WLAC is one of the top-ranked AM stations in its
home city and among the best known in the South. Billboard Broadcasting Corporation is its owner, having purchased it from the Life and Casualty Insurance Company in 1978.
station serves a population of about 486,000 and is on the air 24 hours every day. A network affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), WLAC-AM today broadcasts primarily all-talk programming.
From the mid-1940s through the early 1970s, however, WLAC radio was known widely for its rhythm and blues programming. It became known as "blues radio" as its nighttime disc jockeys (such like further owner of Sun Records, Sam
Phillips) almost exclusively played black music - blues, rhythm and blues, and soul.
While the station 50,000 watts of power brought listeners from most parts of the
country, the majority of the audience listened from the South. Many were blacks, and the disc jockeys catered to their preferences, at the same time influencing the musical tastes of the region, the nation, and both white and black artists whose music - rock
and roll - would eventually dominate the popular music world.
In the mid-1940s Gene Nobles began playing black music when requested by students at Tennessee State and
Fisk universities. Randy Wood, who owned an appliance store in Gallatin, Tennessee, then decided to try selling by radio the records he had hoped in vain to sell to his store customers. On February 17, 1947 Nobles advertised records by Eddy Arnold, Nat King
Cole, Johnny Mercer, and Ella Mae Morse, and Randy's Record Mart soon became the largest mail-order record store in the world. Radio station WLAC flourished, luring advertisers as well as listeners.
The station's most popular feature during this era was disc jockey John Richbourg and his 1:00 to 3:00 a.m. blues show. He became known as "John R" and the "granddaddy of soul". Because he promoted their music and often was
the first to play their records or to prerelease a record to test the market, he became a favorite of the black artists. If he liked a record that was not immediately popular, he played it persistently until it became a hit. Such was the case with Otis Redding's
"These Arms Of Mine", an example of Richbourg's assertion that he and his WLAC radio colleagues did not just play hits - "We made hits". Richbourg broadcast his last show on WLAC radio on August 1, 1973 and died in 1986.
On WLAC's blues disc jockeys, Bill "Hoss" Allen was the only one still with the station after rock and roll pushed rhythm and blues out of the programming. He broadcast a late-night, black gospel show in the
mid-1980s, when the station had turned otherwise to an all talk format.
Remembered for its music, its disc jockeys, and its advertisements for sponsors such as Red Top
Baby Chicks ("50 percent guaranteed to be alive at the time of delivery"), White Rose Petroleum Jelly, and Royal Crown Hair Dressing, the blues era at radio station WLAC entertained a generation of listeners who probably numbered between 8 and 12 million at
its peak. Although programs like "Garden Gate", featuring "The Old Dirt Dobber" Tom Williams, and a talk show conducted by Nashville media personality Ruth Ann Leach have been very successful, WLAC radio made its biggest impact during the years when the catch
phrase "This is John R. comin' at ya from way sown in Dixie" could regularly be heard.
DECEMBER 24, 1951 MONDAY
Decca released Ernest Tubb's ''Missing In Action''.
Hank Williams is released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville 11
days after having fusion surgery.
DECEMBER 25, 1951 TUSDAY
Merle Haggard spends
Christmas in the Bakersfield Juvenile Hall for truancy. His mother shows up during the day with a holiday gift, a Martin guitar. Haggard runs away during the early part of 1952, and ends up in a reformatory in Whittier, California.
DECEMBER 26, 1951 WEDNESDAY
Neil Young's family sets out from Toronto for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, spending five months
in the sun while the six-year-old recovers from polio.
DECEMBER 28, 1951 FRIDAY
Husky, using the alias Terry Preston, holds his first recording session for Capitol, a business relationship that lasts for more than two decades.
DECEMBER 29, 1951 SATURDAY
Audrey Williams moves out of the house after, she says Hank Williams attacked her.
Pop singer Yvonne
Elliman is born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Best known for singing ''If Can't Have You'' for the ''Saturday Night Fever'' soundtrack, she also back up Eric Clapton on his minor country hit ''Lay Down Sally''.
DECEMBER 30, 1951 SUNDAY
''The Roy Rogers Show'' debuts on NBC. The series features Rogers, wife Dale Evans and sidekick Pat Brady, plus
the couple horses, Trigger and Buttermilk, and dog Bullet. Rogers and Evans sign each episode with their theme song, ''Happy Trails''.
Hank Williams is forced to cancel
shows in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore after back surgery. Audrey Williams still performs at the shows, but as she leaves the house with her thing, Hank shoots four shots at her.
31, 1951 MONDAY
Aurosmith bass player Tom Hamilton is born in Colorado Springs. The group scores a pop hit with ''I Don't Want To Miss a Thing'' in 1988. Mark Chesnutt
turns it into a country success just a few months later.