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Produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva
with Valerie Velardi
  • Listen to the whole story with RealAudio in 14.4 or 28.8 flavors.
  • Listen to Part 2 in G2 SureStream.
  • Read and Listen to Part 1 of the WHER story.
  • See a listing of credits and a discography from this very special feature.
  • Read letters of response to the WHER feature.

    Peggy Sternberger, one of the first women to report on proffessional sports, covering the USA Golf Championship, Merion GC, June 1971.Photo courtesy of Peggy Vaughan
    Web Exclusives:

  • Listen as Becky Phillips recreates her radio show from the 1950s with the music that helped define the era - Real Audio - 14.4 or 28.8 flavors.
  • Read, Listen and See more from the WHER reunion in Memphis. Includes a special Real Video segment.
  • View the WHER Photo Gallery.
  • More on WHER with Jaqueline Hall and Peter Guaralnick.

    Our story of WHER, the nation's first all-girl radio continues.

    From 1955 through 1971, a team of women ran the station; they worked in almost every position from on-air disc jockey to copywriter to sales manager. Dottie Abbott was WHER's first manager, a pioneering position for a woman in those years. But when she left, a man named Charlie Sullivan, a former wrestling announcer, replaced her.

    There was a womanly spin to the station. The décor was feminine, with pink and white silk walls adorned with lipstick and mirrors. On-air subject was filled with lush romatic music. The DJ's favored Sinatra, Ferrante and Tiecher, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormme , Henry Mancini, Percy Faith, Eddy Arnold, The 5th Dimension and Ray Coniff... News and weather were featured at the top of the hour and a daily call in talk show, "Hollywood Highlights" and celebrity interviews.

    It was on the talk show, "Open Mike" that Marge Thrasher announced the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. That was a memorable moment for the women of WHER.

    Donna Barlett: "I remember standing at the news machine and watching the news tap out that Martin Luther King had just been shot. Marge was on the air and I took her the paper and I could not talk and tell her what I had in my hands...I couldn't talk."

    Marge Thrasher hosted a call-in program the day MLK was assassinated.
    Marge Thrasher: "He was killed in the late afternoon. I was on the air. And they chose 'Open Mike' because of a big listening audience to pay respects. I can remember reading the prepared statement. Then played a Mahalia Jackson hymn. Then I said, 'Now we'll take calls.' I said, 'Good afternoon, this is Open Mike.' And it was a lady and she said, 'Are you a nigger or a nigger lover?' and hung up the phone. And I thought 'what?' I was stunned. Charlie Sullivan was stunned. We had nothing on the air, I mean this is dead silence. And I got up and walked out."

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    Copyright © 1999 The Kitchen Sisters