WKDA-WKDF Radio Timeline

phil ponders wkda drawingJanuary 5, 1947- WKDA takes to the airwaves as Nashville’s fourth radio station (behind WSM, WLAC, and WSIX). The station is owned by veteran broadcaster Thomas B. Baker and Nashville businessman Alvin G. Beaman. The station signs on the air with only 250 watts at the FCC assignment at 1240 kilocycles. The studios are located at Fourth Avenue North and Union Street in downtown Nashville. The station occupies the top floor of the old American National Bank Building (later First American Bank). The station’s 340-foot tower is located at Second Avenue South and Peabody Street. The first staff is announced as: Larry Munson, Sports Director; Jim Reppert; Jim McKinney; Frank Seifert; and Glenn Walker.

1948- Alfred G. Kenngott, Jr. Comes to WKDA as staff announcer from WDEF in Chattanooga. Sports Director Larry Munson has infamous miscue while doing play-by-play of Nashville Vols baseball game with New Orleans. He is suspended from the local airwaves indefinitely.

1951- Kenngott was named WKDA Program Director by General Manager Thomas B. Baker, Jr.

May 3, 1954- WKDA was sold by Baker and Beaman to John Kluge and Associates of Washington, D.C. for $312,500. Baker and Beaman sold the station so they could become stockholders in WLAC TV. The sale resulted from an FCC ruling against cross ownership at that time. It is also announced that Harvey Glascock of station WWDC in Washington, D.C. will come to Nashville to serve as the station’s general manager.

1958- Jack Stapp comes to WKDA after several years at WSM. Stapp becomes Vice President and General Manager at WKDA. Stapp , along with Buddy Killen, had also established Tree Music in 1953.

June 16, 1958- Radio station rivals WKDA and WMAK tie up Nashville traffic for 20 minutes on Church Street at Fourth Avenue. The traffic jam brings angry response from Police Chief D.E. Hosse, who told officials at both stations “never to pull a trick” like that again. Reportedly, WKDA had a costumed Purple People Eater (named for the popular song), who was tossing money and balloons to the crowd gathered below the Noel Hotel. The Purple People Eater was perched some 400 feet above the street level at the base of the large “Noel Hotel” sign atop the structure. WMAK tried to top the WKDA stunt with a banner waving airplane, which reportedly flew just above the tops of downtown buildings bearing gifts of candy and records. Officials at both stations pledged to never repeat such an incident.

March 21, 1959-WKDA changes hands again. This time John Kluge, Chairman of Metropolitan Broadcasting in New York sells to a group consisting of: Singing Star Pat Boone; Jack Stapp; and Townsend Investment Company of New York. The sale price was announced at approximately $1 million.

1960- A major renovation is completed at the First American Bank Building. Another floor was added to the structure, and WKDA studios were relocated from the 7th floor to the 8th floor.

April 17, 1964- WKDA DJ Charlie Brown is forced to halt a publicity promotion to set a new world record for staying awake and on-the-air. When he was placed on a hospital stretcher and taken to St. Thomas Hospital, he had been awake and broadcasting over WKDA for more than 124 straight hours. Brown missed the world record, which was set at 227 hours and 44 minutes. WKDA patrons said they began to notice Brown’s fatugue, including slurred speach, as he got into his final hours of the promotion.

1965- WKDA quietly purchases WNFO-FM, an unsuccessful station broadcasting at 103.3 on the FM dial. The station had FCC approval for 20,000 watts. New owners begin a project of progam planning and major equipment purchases. The station is silenced while the unpublicized project is in progress. WNFO-FM had been the third FM station in Nashville (behind WSM-FM and WLAC-FM). Meanwhile, the WKDA “Good Guys” continue to dominate the Nashville radio scene. The air-staff consists of: Doc Holliday; Dick Buckley (Richard B. Huckaba); Bill Berlin; Bill Craig; Ray Lynn; and the infamous Captain Midnight (Roger Schutt).

March 20, 1965- Jack Stapp announces that he is resigning as president and general manager at WKDA to devote fulltime to his other business ventures: Tree Publishing and Dial Records. Stapp, who colleagues called a genius in the areas of sales and marketing, was credited with taking WKDA to new heights of success during his tenure.

May 6, 1965- Charles F. (Smokey) Walker is named new President and General Manager at WKDA-AM and WNFO-FM. Walker has been at WKDA since 1950. Moving into Walker’s previous position as Program Director is Dick Buckley (Richard B. Huckaba), who had hosted the Dick Buckley Show on WKDA since 1958.

May 1966- WKDA and WNFO are sold to the Chatham Corporation out of Chicago. The terms of the sale are not known. Chatham Corp. reportedly has some 4700 stockholders and owns another radio station in the Dallas- Fort Worth area of Texas.

June 1966- WKDA studios are moved from the First American Bank Building, where they have been located since the station took to the airwaves back in 1947, to the top floor, the 12th floor, of the Stahlman Building at Third Avenue and Union Street in downtown Nashville. The historic Stahlman Building had been built in 1906 and opened to the public in 1907. It was one of the city’s first skyscrapers. The historic 12th floor of the Stahlman Building had previously housed the Nashville office of the National Weather Service from March 25, 1909 until July 6, 1948. After that, the local weather service office relocated to their airport headquarters at Berry Field.

December 1966- WNFO-FM returns to the Nashville airwaves as WKDA-FM. It broadcasts 20,000 watts in stereo at 103.3 on the dial. The station’s transmitter is located atop the Stahlman Building, new home to the WKDA AM-FM studios. Everett Larson is the Chief Engineer at WKDA AM-FM. The station spent $50,000 on new equipment to automate broadcasting on the FM station. This new equipment consists of: seven tape machines for music; two machines for the time; and two machines for commercials and public service announcements. The first Program Director of WKDA-FM is Dick Buckley (Richard B. Huckaba).

April 20, 1967- Chatham Corporation, owners of WKDA AM-FM, purchase the Stahlman Building from a New York business syndicate for $1.6 million. Immediately, plans are announced for renovation work at the historic building. It was during the implementation phase of this improvement plan that the large neon lights were placed atop the Stahlman Building. These lights featured the station call letters: “WKDA.” Then, when lights blinked at intervals, they revealed: “AM-FM.” This sign became a fixture of the Nashville skyline- and was quite a grand sight from the east side of the city looking into the downtown area.

September 6, 1967- Sadly, it was announced that WKDA AM-FM President and General Manager, Charles F. (Smokey) Walker, had been killed in a motorcycle accident. According to press reports, Walker was taking his 10-year old daughter, Michelle, for a ride when the motorcycle left the roadway and struck a tree. Walker was killed instantly as a result of a broken neck. His daughter escaped without injury. Walker had first came to WKDA as an engineer in 1950. He had headed up the station’s operations since May of 1965.

October 18, 1967- It was announced that Richard B. Huckaba (Dick Buckley) would succeed the late Smokey Walker as WKDA General Manager. It was also announced that Doc Holliday would serve as the new Program Director at WKDA; Bill Craig was named Music Director.

1968- WKDA-AM is named Station Of The Year in Nashville for the second straight year. This award was presented by the Radio and TV Council of Middle Tennessee. The top TV station award went to WSM-TV.

March 24, 1968- Bob Cole, 27-year old native of Brooklyn, New York, is featured in a special newspaper piece in The Nashville Tennessean as the newest WKDA Good Guy. Cole worked the shift from noon until 4 pm.Cole’s career in broadcasting began as a messenger boy for an Italian language radio station in his hometown of Brooklyn. He had also worked at stations in New Mexico, Florida, and Missouri.

January 1, 1970- Bob Cole becomes the first underground rock jock in Nashville as he begins a regular progressive rock show on WKDA-FM. The show was featured nightly from 10 pm to 5 am. Cole’s show was a stark contrast to the automated elevator-type music that had been featured on the station since it went on the air in December of 1966. However, a huge fan base developed quickly for this underground format- and it became an instant hit! It also became an instant hit with advertisers trying to reach the teen market. One of the first to commit was Coca-Cola.

February 23, 1970- Shock waves are sent flying through the Nashville radio community when it was announced that WKDA-AM, which had dominated Top 40 radio in Nashville for many years, was switching its format to country music. In making the announcement, WKDA General Manager Al Greenfield stressed the need for a 24-hour station to play the “very modern Nashville sound.” Up until this time, WSM was not committed to a full-time country format; and WENO radio, the only other country station in town, signed off every night at midnight. It was also announced that WKDA-FM would be formatting the station with the recently-introduced underground rock music. These major changes were set to take effect by late March.

1971- The Stahlman Building is sold to Metro Government. Metro Mayor Beverly Briley praises the building as “one of the real downtown landmarks.” The 12th floor continues to be the studio home to WKDA AM-FM, but Metro announces plans to house some departments there.

October 31, 1971- It was announced that construction had begun to build a new 500-foot tower for WKDA AM-FM. The tower was being constructed on the same site where the original 340-foot tower was built in latter part of 1946.

March 5, 1972- WKDA-FM announced that it was turning up the power. The station was going from 20,000 watts in mono to 100,000 watts in two and four-channel stereo. WKDA-FM Program Director Ron Huntsman announced that this plan had been in the making for the past two years. Huntsman said the listening area would now be extended as far east as Cookeville; north past and including Bowling Green, Kentucky; south to Pulaski; and west to Waverly. It was also announced that WKDA’s first four-channel stereo broadcast was set for 10 pm, March 6th.

July 18, 1972- James B. Ragan Jr. was appointed Vice President and General Sales Manager at WKDA AM-FM. Jim Ragan was a 19-year veteran in the broadcsting business. He replaced Al Greenfield. It was also announced that Joe Lawless would serve as Program Director at WKDA-AM.

1974- Bob Witkin came to WKDA AM-FM as News Director. He replaced Buddy Sadler, who had left Nashville to accept a news position at KIKK in Houston (Sadler would later return to Nashville and work at WSM). The News Department consisted of: Steve Dickert, who had came to the station in 1972; Ernie Keller, a veteran broadcaster who had spent many years at WSM and WSIX (both Radio and TV); Paul Allen; and Hudson Alexander, who had just joined the news team as a special assignment reporter covering the Metro Police Beat and the summer elections for governor and other offices. When Witkin arrived at the station, one of the first improvements he made was to separate news on the AM and FM stations. Prior to that time, the station’s news had been simulcast.

March 4, 1976- Reports are confirmed that WKDA AM-FM has been sold by Chatham Corporation in Chicago to Dick Broadcasting of Knoxville. The reported sale price is listed at $1.3 million. The principal stockholder in Dick Broadcasting was Jim Dick, who owned WIVK AM-FM in Knoxville.

September 5, 1976- James A. Dick, President of Dick Broadcasting, announces the appointment of Les Acree as new Program Director at WKDA-AM. Acree had previously served as Music Director at WMC in Memphis. Acree is to assume new duties at the station September 13th.

December 19, 1976- It is announced that WKDA-FM has changed its call letters to WKDF. In making the announcement, Program Director Jack Crawford explained that station owners wanted each station to have a distinct and separate identity.

January 2, 1977- WKDA-AM announces its news affiliation with CBS Radio. This comes from Mike Hammond, News Director who came from WIVK in Knoxville to replace Bob Witkin.

May 26, 1978- Construction work began on a new studio for WKDA and WKDF at their tower site at Second Avenue South and Peabody Streets. Plans for the new complex are revealed to be 6,000 square feet. They include: new control rooms; production rooms; office space; and plans to renovate the existing transmitter building. George Hale served as Chief Engineer at WKDA and WKDF at this time. It was announced that C.A. Gardner and Co. of Nashville was the General Contractor for the work.

September 8, 1978- Vic Rumore was named new General Manager of WKDA and WKDF. He was a former part-owner of WKGN Radio in Knoxville. He succeeded Bill Hays, who left the station to enter private business. Shortly after Rumore arrives, other Knoxville radio people are brought to the station: Allen Sneed came to become Program Director at WKDF; Gina Logue came to work Midnight to 6 am on WKDF; and Dave Elrod came to assist with production and promotions at WKDF.

November 1978- The studios of WKDA and WKDF are moved from the top floor of the Stahlman Building, where they had been since 1966, to their tower site on Rutledge Hill at Second Avenue South and Peabody Streets.

1979- Mike Beck is brought over from Knoxville to serve as Program Director at WKDA. He replaces Dale Turner, who has left to accept a position at WSAI in Cincinnati. This marked the decline of WKDA, which eventually was relegated to being a radio outlet for CNN News in Nashville. Eventually, WKDA was sold out and was later used by Teddy Bart and Karlin Evans for their Rountable Radio Show. Today, WKDA and the 1240 frequency assignment have been split up. The 1240 frequency is the property of WNSG Radio in Nashville, which programs a sort of Urban Gospel format. Meanwhile, the WKDA call letters now reside in Lebannon, Tennessee at a station located at 900 on the AM dial. It has been rumored that owners of the WKDA call letters plan to petition the FCC to return those old traditional call letters back to Nashville.

April 1, 1999-WKDF made a major format change, from rock to country. It was ironic, to many, that this change came about on “April Fool’s Day.” But this was no joke! It became known, in the early years of their country reign, as Music City 103. This sent shock waves throughout Nashville’s rock listening audience, which had been tuning into the station for almost 30 years. It was truly the end of an era in Nashville radio history!!

2006-Many things have changed as the years have rolled by. The legendary 1240 WKDA, the former home of the Good Guys, is gone forever; many of the famous names who have shared the microphone at WKDA are gone, too; the Stahlman Building has recently been transformed from an office complex to use as apartments and townhouse units; the neon lights atop the Stahlman Building no longer proclaim “WKDA,” and then blink to reveal “AM-FM.” They are now fixed with “WKDF” shining brightly over East Nashville. They’re an especially grand sight for the fans gathering at LP Field, the home of the Tennessee Titans, Nashville’s NFL franschise. Today, WKDF is still broadcasting country music at 103.3 on the FM dial. And they are still in the same studios where they moved in late 1978…at the original WKDA tower site on Rutledge Hill, at Second Avenue South and Peabody Street. That site is about the only thing that has stood the test of time. It was placed in service, from day one, back in 1947!

stday stnight