The StoriesThis WeekPast Stories  Quest for Sound.Audio ArtifactsCollaboratorsScrapbookYour TurnResourcesTalk On  NPR  Lost and Found Sound
Pan American Blues Radio Stories from Nashville
WSM Radio - The Birth of The Grand Ole Opry - DeFord Bailey "The Harmonica Wizard"

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson) with Laura Folger Mixed by Jim McKee at Earwax Productions, San Francisco


Jud Collins, 1930s radio announcer at WSM , Nashville TN. Mr. Collins broadcast the live sound of the Pan American Special on it's daily run through Nashville. Photograph by Sandra Wong Geroux

  • Listen in RealAudio: 28.8 or G2 flavors.
  • More about musician DeFord Bailey.
  • More about the Hatch Show Print.
  • Read a discography of music related to this feature.
  • Read a listing of collaborators and resources.
  • Back to main story page.

    WSM and WLS:
    Giants of Early Radio

    WSM radio in Nashville began broadcasting on October 8, 1925. Owned by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, the station's call letters reflected its owner's motto: "We Shield Millions." The 50-thousand-watt "Air Castle of the South," with its Grand Ole Opry, is inseparable from the history of country music, and from the history of radio.

  • Listen to station-ID jingles from WSM:
    Selection 1 | Selection 2

    "WSM did a number of remote broadcasts during World War II," says Professor Charles Wolfe of Middle Tennessee State University. "George Patton perfected his tank tactics in middle Tennessee, and they went out and interviewed him about it."

    "They also sent a crew down to Atlanta for the premiere of 'Gone with the Wind.' You can hear the WSM announcer standing in the lobby as the film was shown for the very first time, and as he is announcing, you can hear the theme music of 'Gone with the Wind' as the curtain comes down; you can hear the audience applauding. And then as various people come out he interviews them. It's just really an amazing piece of Americana."

  • Listen to excerpts of WSM's remote from the Atlanta premiere of 'Gone with the Wind,' December 15, 1939.

    In 1924, another station was making already making history. WLS, owned by the Sears-Roebuck and Company ("World's Largest Store") broadcast out of Chicago. Its 50-thousand-watt signal carried such popular programs such as the National Barn Dance -- the longest-running and most popular country-and-western program after the Grand Ole Opry.

  • Visit Scott Childer's Online History of WLS

    Group PhotoThe cast of WSM Grand Ole Opry, with Bailey on left behind the WSM Grand Ole Opry sign. Courtesy of David Morton

    You need the free RealAudio player to listen to audio files.

    Copyright 2000 The Kitchen Sisters