(Editor’s note from Frank Caperton): No one who is a bigger fan of WGNS Radio than me. I moved to Murfreesboro in 1984 and instantly fell for the sounds of the 50’s and 60’s coming from 1450AM. I learned how WGNS Radio contributes to the sense of community we’ve all worked so hard to maintain in Rutherford County. Happy 70th birthday to WGNS Radio!
WGNSRadio.com, December 31, 2016
There’s something magic about radio, and there’s something special about ringing-in the New Year. 70-years ago Murfreesboro joined the big cities when its very own radio station came on the air. A few hours before midnight, at 10:00PM Central Time, December 31, 1946, the Good Neighbor Station was born.
Over the past 70-years WGNS took you to Murfreesboro’s town square to hear to excitement of General Douglas MacArthur visit Murfreesboro. The Good Neighbor Station (GNS) placed you in the middle of some of the most exciting high school, college and major league games that were ever played.
Murfreesboro was a much smaller place back then. In fact, there were about 10,000 people who lived in the ‘Boro in 1947. Now, census data shows that this city’s population doubles about every 20-years. Almost 127,000 residents live within the city limits now, and that makes Murfreesboro the 13th fastest growing cities in the nation with a population over 50,000.
When WGNS came on the air, our studio was at the radio tower. There was a two-story block building about 300-feet from the huge radio tower. The land is now a wetland, but it was farmland back then. In fact, cattle grazed around the 328-foot tower.
About a year later, the station moved to the mezzanine of Cecil Elrod’s French Shoppe on the east side of the square.
In 1960 a two-story building at 306 South Church Street was built specifically for WGNS. That is still where the station is located.
Bill Barry (pictured below) was one of the first air personalities on the station. He went on to build several powerful radio stations in Nashville, Lebanon and his engineering skills brought radio to many Middle Tennessee cities.
Barry also gave current WGNS owner Bart Walker his first job in radio at 105.9 FM in Nashville. Barry continued to be a Good Neighbor friend and came to the aide of WGNS many times over the decades.
The studio was small, but excitement was huge as musicians lined-up in the driveway awaiting their time to go on-the-air. Cecil Elrod put the station on, and within that first-year the studio was moved to the mezzanine of the family’s French Shop on the Murfreesboro square. That’s where the Guidance Center is now located. It remained there until 1960, when Bill Vogel and Monte Hale purchased the station. A new two-story building on South Church Street was constructed to be the station’s new home. A group of Nashville investors purchased WGNS in the 70s, and local ownership returned in 1984. Bart Walker commented, “That was a dream come true for me, and you never know how long a dream can last.
The Elrod’s owned WGNS for 13-years, Vogel and Hale were here for 15, the Nashville group tallied 9-years and with the New Year, The Walker family have owned the station for almost 34-years with the Good Neighbor Station of its 70-years.
If you haven’t figured it out, that’s what the G N S in the call sign means.
Although the original tower was destroyed by a twister on Easter Sunday, 2001, a new stronger, state-of-the-art tower was rebuilt in the same location. The new tower is the same height of the original: 328-feet.
WGNS pledges to continue being your radio station, and to offer local programming to serve Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.
Always feel free to give suggestions, send us items for our local events calendar or share any of your feelings. Send it to [email protected]. Better yet, come by the Good Neighbor Station at your convenience. We’d like to meet you in person.