Nearing the 89th anniversary of Chattanooga’s first radio station, Chattanooga Downtown Rotary Club members celebrated the city’s broadcasting history with two special guests at their weekly meeting. WRCB news anchor David Carroll and WDEF radio and TV personality Luther Masingill shared stories of broadcasters past and present.
The club is observing its centennial year by spotlighting various aspects of the city’s history. Mr. Carroll, author of “Chattanooga Radio and Television,” began his presentation with a salute to Norman Thomas and Earl Winger, co-owners of the Chattanooga Radio Company.
On April 13, 1925, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Winger put WDOD-AM on the air. For the first four years, WDOD ran a very limited broadcast schedule of 90 minutes a day, three nights a week. The station later hired entertainers like George Gobel, Archie Campbell and John Totten to provide music and comedy on its “Noonday Frolic” show.
In the 1930s, Mr. Carroll said WDOD hired its first morning disc jockey, Chuck Simpson, whose cheery chatter was a daily “must-listen” for thousands of Chattanooogans, including a young man named Luther Masingill. “Luther” began his radio career while he was a senior at Central High School in December 1940, and still works at WDEF today. Mr. Carroll introduced him to the club as the city’s only member of the National Radio Hall of Fame, and he received a rousing ovation. Luther shared stories of working with the late Buddy Houts, who often played practical jokes on the radio host.
Mr. Carroll also saluted local media personalities including Marcia Kling, Bob Johnson, Cindy Sexton and Earl Freudenberg, as well as the late MaryEllen Locher, Mort Lloyd, John Gray and Harry Thornton. He noted that April 25 will be the 60thanniversary of Chattanooga’s first TV station (WDEF), and described how Jim Nabors got his show business start while working at Channel 3 in the late 1950s.
Mr. Carroll’s book is available at ChattanoogaRadioTV.com.