Memories of Nashville Rock Radio

Memories of Nashville Rock Radio

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 the seventies with a “hit oriented” mode for most of their daytime programming.

Several stations made an attempt to bring a better brand of AOR back to Nashville. These stations were usually low wattage stations that had very little chances of getting decent ratings.

One such station was WHTV in Hendersonville and again this station would only do AOR after 7 PM at night. Bill Berlin, a veteran from the old WMAK days, was the host. Bill Berlin played bands such as John Nittzinger. I remember hearing Berlin play Baby, you could put yo brain on razorblade and it would look like a BB rolling down a 7 lane highway. LOL

Berlin also did live remotes from the old Mickey Finns club on Gallatin Rd. Mickey Finns was a hippy hangout in East Nashville. WHVT FM, then brought in another old time radio DJ in Captain Midnight.

WHVT FM had a poor signal and was probably only heard in Northeast Nashville. I doubt AOR fans in West Nashville could even hear the station.

Anyway, they went belly-up when they became 92Q. Yet, another top 40 station, probably the first top 40 station to take their top 40 product to the new FM frontier. When 92 Q started playing “Jive talking” by the Bee Gees, I stopped listening.

So there we young, frustrated with Nashville radio hippy wannabes were without the music format that we loved. That is until Rock 106 came along in 1978.

KDF had gotten some better, but they were still way too hit oriented to be a full blown AOR station.

When 103.3 WKDA made the decision to go after a broader base of listeners with their AOR/hybrid format, Nashville really did not have a full blown AOR format. In 1978, WLAC FM, which had been running a middle of the road format (MOR), changed to Album oriented rock (AOR).

The Original Rock 106 lineup of DJs as memory serves were:

Nick Harris, Dick Kent (the radio veteran from WMAK, Hunter Harvey did overnights and there were others.

Then Rock 106 got Jim Carney (Mobey), Dave Walton and Jimmy the K (weekends) from WKDF FM to boost up their AOR lineup. Then they added Lisa Richard’s to do drive time. Lisa Richard’s later went to 93.3 WMMR FM the AOR giant in Philly.

Rock 106 put heavy emphasis on bands and tunes that rocked with a harder edge. Rock 106 played deep into albums also. You could hear “How many more times” by Zeppelin or “Train Train” by Blackfoot. They were famous for their block party weekends that would feature blocks of rock from some of the best hard rocking bands of that era. The Who, Led Zep, ACDC, Ted Nugent, Pink Floyd and so on.

According to what I heard at that time and from past memories, it appeared that Rock 106 made such a dent in KDF’s ratings that KDF was forced to bulk up their hit oriented playlist with harder rocking songs and deeper cuts. But after only two glorious years, Rock 106 changed back to MOR. Mobey said that there was no way in hell he’d play elevator music. So Mobey and Lisa Richard’s left for bigger markets. Walton and Hunter Harvey stayed on playing Perry Como records. I never really understood the change in the format. Rock 106 was beating KDF in the arbitron ratings books.

I called Hunter Harvey while he was playing some boring Montavani record and asked what prompted the change. Hunter told me that the ratings were doing well enough to continue on, but the new owners hated Hard rock radio. It was simple as that. Bunch of OLE stuff shirts decided to pull the plug on AOR. Again Nashville was without AOR.

KDF went back to hit oriented AOR. Instead of continuing the Rock 106 brand of AOR, KDF went back to playing Pop songs such as “Crocodile rock” by Elton John. It would only get worse at KDF when they started playing Cindy Lauper records.

Relief finally came when Mr. Bill brought a more true AOR sound to KDF. 96 Rock in Atlanta snapped him up though, which left us in the clutches of another unimaginative program director at KDF. So KDF continued to pass off Eurhythmics songs as AOR. One of the KDF jocks, Jessie Lang, even joked how Ted Nugent fans were quickly going bald by pulling out their hair at this wimpy, boring radio.

Anyway, Fox 104.5 and Rebel 100.1 would once again try and get Nashville rock listeners to grow up from top 40 hit radio.

I remember WRVU. Do you remember a jock named Isaac Stone? We used to listen to this guy when his show was on. It seems as if Stone did a show on Fri evenings. No top 40 stuff. Just good OLE hippy FM rock radio.

I remember WRVU FM also promoted a series of great rock shows for a while, but as somewhat of a joke, they would say on the spots: Shhhssh, do not tell KDA FM listeners.

I know that torked off some of the staff at WKDA FM. They were playing “Helen Ready by this time so why would they want to promote a rock show.

I listened to WRVU off and on up to the early eighties. Their battles among the air staff were legendary. You had a group up there that played B-52s and another group that played Led Zep. The B-52 crowd won out!

Also, 1991-1995 were great years at KDF also. Kid Redd was the program director during these great years. WKDF was playing great tunes from Bands such as Metallica, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana while not forgetting the legends of rock such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and many others.

Some of the KDF jocks from this golden great era were:

Mornings: Carl P Mayfield 1990

Ian Case: 1990-1993

The Freaking Brothers 1993-1995 (These guys were one of the funniest radio shows around in my opinion and they were local)

Big Dave and the Dook (Mike Donnegan) They did an excellent locally produced morning morning show also. Beth Donahue was also one of the cast members for a time also. Good stuff this team was.

Shannon: 1988-1993

Joe Elvis: Early nineties to 96 or 97 as I recall.Sherry Sexton 1993- right up to the point KDF went to a country format as I recall) Sexton did the 7-midnight shift mostly B. Derrick (Late eighties to mid nineties) B derrick did overnights. Spent a few nights chatting radio with him also

DJ’s and Program Directors

During the years, I spoke many times with Hunter Harvey, Clark Rogers, Dave Walton, Kid Redd, Joe Elvis and many many others. Another friend of mine was friends with late night jock, Michael Marquis from The Rock @ 105.9. I used to chat with Patty Murray at KDF also. She used to tell me that she hated the stuff they forced her to play.

I spoke with Sid Young and Buddy Sadler via e-mails. Both of these men were a part of the WKDA FM days. BK Sadler did news and did a Sat night DJ show the first few months. Both supplied me with some names and some history.

I heard that Bill Hall was also a news-weather person and fill-in DJ at WKDA FM in 1970. Hard to see our beloved and long time weather guy playing Led Zeppelin records, but he was there in those glory days.

It is amazing how smooth many of these jocks from the glory days of AM top 40 slid right into FM AOR. Bob Cole (WKDA), Bill Berlin, Captain Midnight and some others.

The original air staff was:

Morning show: Not sure, but Mac Allan might have been the first morning man since he was the morning man before the format change took place
Midday: Don Sullivan. I seem to remember that Don Sullivan might have been from Kingston Springs, Tennessee.
Midday: Chuck McCartney
Buddy also told me that a man by the name of Chuck McCartney did afternoon drive time, but I know from my past memory that Chuck McCartney did evenings from 1971-72. Now, he might have done afternoons in March 1970, but I am just not sure

Evenings was Bob Cole: This I know for certain. The only time I could listen was in the early evenings. I remember Bob Cole saying: “Radio free Nashville”
Midnights: Not sure.

So what I have on WKDA FM (AOR)in March 1970 is this:
Morning show: Mac Allen 6 AM-10 AM 1970-71????????
Midday’s: Don Sullivan 10 AM -3 PM 1970
Afternoons: Chuck McCartney 3 PM -7 PM 1970
Bob Cole- 7PM-Midnight 1970

Weekend guy:
Jim Baton 1970-71 Baton did mostly late night shifts. Baton might have been a student at Vandy during this time since I used to hear him on WRVU FM.
In 1971 WKDA added Hunter Harvey. Hunter Harvey did 7PM-Midnight in 1971. He came on board in late spring of 71 as I recall and departed in mid summer of the same year.

Don Dixon did midnight’s in spring and summer of 1971. Not sure about the first name, but I remember his last name was Dixon.

Morning show in 71: Not known
Midday’s in 71: Not known
Drive time: 3-7 Woody Morgan. later Jim Eskew
Hunter Harvey 7-midnight
Don or Dan dixon midnights-6 AM

Weekends were Jim Baton, Steve Schaffer and a guy named John Haggard, who I read was also a big wig in the Nashville music business.

Then in the fall of 71:
Morning show: Not known
Midday’s: 10-3 Jim Eskew
Late afternoon 3-7 Ron Huntsman
evenings 7-midnight: Chuck Mcartney
Midnight’s: Dave Walton

1972 Clark Rodgers would take over on midnights. Dave Walton moved to evenings

Mac Allen 1970-71
Don Sullivan 1970
Bob Cole 1970
Carl P Mayfield 1970-1990
Chuck Mccartney 1970-1972
Hunter Harvey 1971
Run Huntsman 1971-1976 or 77
Dave Walton 1971-1975 or 76.

Clark Rodgers 1972-1976 (Rodgers worked midnights and was well known and loved by his fans as a jock that ventued away from strict playlists

Jenny Fox 1972- unknown. Fox might have been the first female news reporters at KDA FM

Jim Batton: 1970-1973 (worked weekends for a time, mostly late nights) Baton might have worked at Vandy’s WRVU as well. I once heard him doing a show there.

Don Dixon 1971 (Was the overnight guy in the spring of and summer of 1971. Left when the swiitch to AOR/Hybrid was made.

Steve Scaffer 1971-72 (did many shifts. Mostly afternoons and evenings. A weekend jock

Jim Carney 7-midnights (Mobey) 1977-1979 Mobey lefy for Rock 106 in 1979 and remained at Rock 106 until the fall of 1980

Gina Louge 1978-79 midnight to six

Others that came along:

Patty Murray 1981-1987
David Hall: 1979-1988 0r 89
Cy Young 1982
Joe Elvis 1988-1996
Kidd Redd 1982=1996

Mr. Bill was the program director at KDF from 1984-1987 as I recall. He brought back the Album rock heroes. While he was at KDF, KDF sounded good again. They’d play: Break on through the other side by The Doors, Dreams by The Allman Brothers and so on and so forth.


Needing more information on WMAK’s AM1300 early days.

Submitted by Mae Ambrose