Small Town Radio Station

December 28, 2015 in Editorials

Small Town Radio Station Celebrates Big Time Anniversary

At 6 am on Wednesday, November 16, 1955, an announcer at WHLP AM radio station broadcast a new radio station ID and the National Anthem. The studio was on the Centerville square. WHLP had 1000 watts of power, reaching listeners in Hickman, Lewis and Perry counties.

Sixty years later, at 6 am on Monday, November 16, 2015, Station Manager Mickey Bunn at WNKX FM radio station broadcast a vintage radio station ID and the National Anthem. The studio was on the Centerville square. WNKX has 6000 watts of power, reaching listeners in 14 counties as well as the world, through live streaming on the internet. A five and a half hour live broadcast from the Chamber of Commerce building was the celebration of a small town radio station and the people and the community who have kept it going for 60 years.

Steve Turner, who owns the station and has worked there for 54 years, interviewed special guests who reminisced about their radio experiences. Darin Cochran recalled that his father, Carl Cochran, and his quartet sang live in the WHLP studio in 1965. Darin worked as a DJ at the station as a teenager. Currently, Darin is singing on the radio as a member of The Grinders Switch Ensemble during the LIVE Grinder’s Switch Hour every Saturday morning.

Dave Lynn told Steve he began as a DJ on WHLP in 1960 and helped build the present studio on highway 50 in 1963. There was an upright piano in the studio for live music and, when the studio was moved to highway 50, Bill Gray carried the piano down the stairs with it balanced on his back!

Steve and Teresa Gregory met while both were DJs at WHLP in 1979. Steve worked several years as an announcer, program and news director and helped Turner with many live remotes. During the broadcast, Gregory returned to Turner several old WHLP bumper stickers that he “borrowed” when he left the station. Today, Steve is Chairman of the St. Thomas Hickman Hospital board.

Colleen Spears of Hohenwald was the first female disc jockey at WHLP in 1956. She had a great sense of humor, describing a man she once met by saying “God forgot to put pretty anywhere on his face”. Colleen is a young 80 years old now and is proud that she is “still on the green side of the grass”!

Nick Archer, Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame archivist, talked about the importance of preserving the history of a station that has stayed true to its hometown roots. He said there are few stations that still exist to serve the community; most have been sold to corporations who change to satellite formats and have no local influence. Nick asked for a turntable, old pictures and an audio and video copy of the anniversary program which will be displayed in the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame. Check out pictures of the anniversary celebration on www.countrykix96.com and our Facebook page. Tune into the LIVE Grinder’s Switch Hour every Saturday at 10am.

by Wanda Turner, Centerville

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