WGNS RADIO - Celebrating 71 Years of History

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A young engineer, Glenn Snoddy, keeps everything just right for a clear signal from WGNS.

Through the magic of radio, let's go back 71-years. It was a cold, dark night with a chill in the air. Despite the late hour, the Murfreesboro square was alive with action.

As the New Year of 1947 approached, the 8,000 souls in rural Rutherford County were eagerly awaiting something new and exciting.

Word is that on the night of December 31, 1946, throughout the county people were tuning their radio dials. At 10:00 o'clock the static suddenly vanished and a strong new signal appeared. WGNS rang in the New Year of 1947. A popular song of the late 40's included the music goes round and round and comes out here.

(Top Photo) Glenn Snoddy, a talented young engineer tweaks the controls that are in racks of equipment and makes everything come out clearly! Snoddy went on to become a leader in the Nashville music industry where he engineered hits by Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash. In 1968 he opened Nashville's Woodland Studios where Linda Rondstadt, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Jr., Eddie Rabbit, Neil Young, Don Gibson and numerous others recorded.

In the early days of radio there were no miniature transistors or solid-state circuits. Large tubes that generated much heat caused all of the equipment to be large and complex. With the innovation of transistors and miniaturization, equipment in today's radio studios is much smaller, more dependable and reproduces sound with perfect life-like fidelity.

WGNS has been a trainig ground for broadcasters. In fact, Carl P. Mayfield and John Young both cut their teeth on the 1450 airwaves. So did Nashville radio entrepreneur and engineering genius Bill Barry.

Click here for an original article about WGNS signing onto the airwaves in 1947. This article is from The Rutherford Courier.

Sports was big "Then" and "Now" - Just like today, local sports was extremely popular on the brand new WGNS back in 1947.



(Photo ABOVE ID, L-R) WGNS Sportscaster Ray Duffy, Color by Hollis Harris, while Harris' mother watches in the Central High gym.

In 1947, WGNS' first Sports Director Ray Duffey along with color from Hollis Harris dramatically increased the size of the crowds who could hear the games from Central High's gym.

Duffey's thick Boston accent made him a real stand out on the radio. But his love for the people of Murfreesboro, won his place in the hearts of local residents. Ray did the games for many years on the Good Neighbor Station. Ray became so popular that he became the first Director of the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department.

His sidekick, Hollis Harris, who did "color", was already with city parks. In fact, he was the first and only employee in 1947. Hollis started "Movies Under The Stars".

In addition to high school sports, WGNS was the voice of Middle Tennessee State College. No, not the Blue Raider Network--in 1947 it was only WGNS.

Now, Middle Tennessee State University has grown to have this state's largest undergraduate enrollment, and WGNS serves as the flagship of the mighty Blue Raider Network.

Through the efforts of such greats as Monte Hale, Dick Palmer, Jeff Jordan, and now Bryan Barret--the Good Neighbor sports tradition continues. And of course, since 1981 WGNS continues to be your Atlanta Braves station.

The December 31, 1946 DNJ ran this article:

Murfreesboro's new radio station WGNS, operating at 1450 on the dial goes into operation tonight with a special local program and a New Year's program via the Mutual Broadcasting System, it was announced today by Cecil Elrod, Jr. general manager and Bill Pepper, station manager.

At 10 o'clock a special review of popular music will be presented in a thirty minute program at 10:00 o'clock an introductory program entitled "This is WGNS" will be heard at which time information will be given concerning the radio station, the personnel and a brief outline of the programs which will be offered for the pleasure of the listening public.

New Years Greetings from Times Square will be heard from some of the nations outstanding personalities, Mr. Pepper said. At 11 o'clock and continuing until 3 a.m. the "Good Neighbor Station" as WGNS is designated, will present a dancing party with music furnished by the nations leading dance bands.

A feature of the New Year's Day program, Mr. Pepper continued, will be the broadcast of the Cotton Bowl game at Dallas, which will begin at 1 o'clock to the followed by the Shriners' benefit East - West game at 3:45 p.m.

The broadcast this evening will mark the beginning of a 30-day test period as authorized by the Federal Communications Commission, it was understood, at the end of which time, a formal opening of WGNS will be held.

Listen and Learn More Below:

CLICK HERE to hear WGNS in the earlier years.
CLICK HERE to hear how WGNS has taken you to the game, THEN and NOW.
CLICK HERE to visit Easter Sunday, 2001--a dark day for WGNS, but the sun did come out.

Ownership Time-Line

WGNS was started by a family and is still family owned and operated.

1947-1960

The Cecil Elrod family built WGNS and operated the station from the mezzanine of their French Shoppe on the east side of the Murfreesboro square. The Elrods owned and operated the Good Neighbor Station for 13-years.

1960-1979

Bill Vogel owned and operated WGNS starting in 1960. That same year, the Elrod's built the two-story structure at 306 South Church Street as the studio for the radio station. They leased space to Vogel for WGNS and moved the station from the square to a modern new home. Monte Hale, Sr. moved to Murfreesboro from McMinnville to partner with Vogel as Regional Broadcasting Company for 19-years.

1979-1984

In 1984 new owners, rumored to be close with Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton, purchased the station and operated it as the Davidson Corporation for 5-years. In the latter part of the governor's career when he was being blasted by the media, he quipped I'm going to start a GOOD NEWS STATION. Interesting that each of those words started with GNS.

1984-Present

Then Bart Walker and Ray Kalil partnered in purchasing WGNS in 1984 and returned the station to hometown ownership and operation. Walker was in his late 30s and had grown-up in the broadcast and marketing fields in Murfreesboro, Nashville and Woodbury.

Walker, whose family roots were deep in Murfreesboro, involved his entire family in the business. Later they purchased Kalil's share along with the building that was still owned by the Elrod's.

Surprising even to Walker, their family continues into the 34th year with WGNS. Barts' son Scott Walker is greatly expanding the Good Neighbor feeling with the programs and actions of the Good Neighbor Station.



(Photo ID, L-R) Bart at age 14 at Nashville's WFMB, age 21 at WLAC-FM, and now at WGNS.

WGNS Facts

WGNS continues to broadcast on AM 1450, but in March, 2007 WGNS put its hometown focused broadcasts on FM 100.5 and FM 101.9. When you add to that this internet site, there are four places to connect with Murfreesboro through your Good Neighbor Station...that's what the G N S stands for in our call-sign.




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