The call letters WSM have a unique spot in American broadcasting. Going on the air on this date in 1925, the station has been an important supporter of varied performers such as Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams, and Carrie Underwood. Though the station is known as the “Home of the Grand Ole Opry,” it has only programmed country music exclusively since 1979. For many years, it was a pop station, and featured live shows featuring such artists as Dinah Shore and Francis Craig, who recorded his 1947 classic “Near You” at the WSM studios.
Still, the station is best known for bringing the sounds of country and mountain music to the world through the legendary Grand Ole Opry radio show. Originally called The WSM Barn Dance, the program was renamed by program director George D. Hay a couple of years later. Hay was referring to the fact that the show was preceded by a program containing opera music. Going on the air to introduce the show, Hay stated, “For the past hour, you have been listening to Grand Opera. Now we will present the Grand Ole Opry!”
The name stuck, and over the years many artists—country or otherwise—have played the stages of the radio show. One of the more interesting performances came in March 1968, when the Byrds took to the stage performing “Hickory Wind.” James Brown appeared on the show before, and there was a truck driver named Elvis Presley who debuted on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium in 1954, but was told by then-manager Jim Denny to “go back to driving a truck.”
Though that piece of advice turned out to be wrong, many of radio’s finest voices have passed through the airwaves of the station. In addition to Hay, the station has employed broadcasters such as T. Tommy Cutrer, Pat Sajak (Wheel Of Fortune), Keith Bilbrey, as well as current CMA nominee Eddie Stubbs. The station also boasts the only two broadcasters that have merited induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame: Grant Turner and Ralph Emery.
Whether covering news events like D-Day, showcasing the first on-air performances of songs such as “Lovesick Blues” and “Crazy,” all the way to a mixture of classic country and Americana, the station has carved out a unique spot on the airwaves. Happy Birthday, WSM. Here’s to 85 more years.
Fuente: LimeWire Music Blog