Radio in the 50’s and 60’s was king. Nashville had only three TV stations and they went off the air at Midnight. Most kids slept with a transistor radio under their pillow and local DJ’s were part of the family.
The following material was submitted by G.K. (Sunny) Goller. He hopes to add to this information with your help. If you have corrections/additions add them in the Message Board. We are also needing pictures and memorabilia from early Nashville Radio.
In 1969, Johnny Walker did one of the first, if not the first, AOR type programs in Nashville. It seems as though it was late summer 1969, when I heard Walker play Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. Other artists and tunes Walker played on his AOR program were Crosby, Stills and Nash’s,”Suite Judy Blue Eyes,” old Cream cuts and Rolling Stones songs.
I remember the show had some loyal following such as myself. Since I was 15 at this time, I was wildly enthusiastic. I told other friends about this cool, new radio show that played deeper into rock albums and a harder genre type of rock n roll.
As I remember, the show did not last long, but it was shortly after this when Scott Shannon, who I think is now a DJ up in the DC area, created the power hour, which also was a stab at AOR type programming. Shannon always signed off his program with “Cherish” by the Association (which was not an AOR type song), but it was Shannon’s sign off song.
Then after running a MOR and goldies format, WKDA launched Album Oriented Rock (AOR) in March 1970. BK Saddler and Syd Young both were gracious enough to-mail me some information on early air celebrities of the early WKDA FM. Don Sullivan, Chuck Mccartney, Mac Allan and Bob Cole were already doing the goldies format when the AOR format was brought in. Carl P. Mayfield came in later that same year I think.
Other WKDA FM jocks that came in shortly after this were Dave Walton, Jim Escue and Hunter Harvey. I also remember two midnight jocks in the summer of 1971. One was named Jim Baton. Baton played music that is now called: Heavy Metal.” He played Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Bloodrock, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and other early heavy rocking bands. My friends and I wore the guy out with requests. He usually played the songs also.
Another jock that I remember, but do not remember the guy’s name was Don Dixons or something such as that. The same deal with Dixon. He usually played some very weird tunes after midnight. That was fine with a bunch of long haired young rocking hippy wannabe types. I also learned that Ron Huntsman might have been one of the early program directors.
It was great radio for certain. AOR was still fairly new in these days. Playlists were much deeper than they are today
In the fall of 1971, WKDA FM 103.3 changed their format from AOR to an AOR hybrid. An AOR hybrid is actually a top 40 station that makes some attempt to reach out to AOL listeners. Make no mistake about, the big and friendly WKDA FM, which had been a bastion to Nashville’s counter culture, had sold out! The new WKDA FM was now playing Helen Ready’s “I am woman.” No true AOR station would have touched that. It was top 40 pop music.
WKDA FM did make some effort to reach out to the AOR crowd late at nights, real late. Too late for people that work to enjoy this genre. But I would listen on the weekends. They would play a hit song by the Rollin’s Stones followed by whatever was on the top 40 playlists at that time. No, it was not very good AOR programming in my opinion.
And for several years, WKDA FM was into this kind of AOR-hybrid radio. Then Clark Rogers came along in 72 or 73 and began programing cool tune again after midnight. No top 40 stuff. Rogers played album cuts again of the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane and the great bands.
But WKDA FM prodded in …