Earl Freudenberg: Remembering The WDOD Radio Playhouse

Thursday, April 22, 2021 - by Earl Freudenberg
WDOD Radio Playhouse. This old photo is signed by Archie Campbell in the lower right-hand corner.
WDOD Radio Playhouse. This old photo is signed by Archie Campbell in the lower right-hand corner.

Most readers have never heard of the WDOD radio playhouse, and I must confess all I know is what the ole timers remember. 

In an interview, WDOD Co-Owner Earl Winger told me they missed out by not continuing with the playhouse.  Winger said Chattanooga could have been like Nashville.  The playhouse was located in the old Capital Theater building on Market between 5th and 6th streets.  Winger said he brought Gaylord McPherson to Chattanooga from WHO in Des Moines to help produce the show.  Winger said he got a lot of talent, some for several years, others for guests performances. 

The playhouse was broadcast live over the CBS radio network around noon.  According to Mr. Winger, it lasted for about two years.  Winger wasn't sure of the years, but he said some time in the 40s.  The Gospel group, the Swanee River Boys started at the playhouse. They sang Gospel - Western songs. 

Group owner Buford Abner said he met his wife here and they got married.  He said he spent his honeymoon at the Read House.  

Think about it, a live show from Chattanooga every day, and that would have been fun.  As for names, Archie Campbell, George Goebel, Homer and Jethro, and I know Don Gibson did several performances.  Winger said some of the talent would go back and forth between Chattanooga and WNOX's Midday Merry-Go-Round in Knoxville, then on to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry.  Winger said the legendary Arch McDonald worked in Chattanooga for a short time. 

I asked Winger why he stopped the show. He responded that a live show needed full time attention and “he had other things going outside radio.”  Winger was partner in a soft drink company and had financial interest in Clemons Brothers furniture.  The late Frank McDonald with the Dismembered Tennesseans said he attended many of the radio playhouse shows and that had an influence on his starting his famous bluegrass group.  

WDOD AM would have been 96 years old on April 13th had they still been on the air.


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