Radio Veterans Swap War Stories At Annual Get-Together

  • Sunday, December 10, 2023
  • Earl Freudenberg

What is Veterans of Radio Wars? VRW men and women represent thousands of hours of news and entertainment programming on radio over the decades, primarily in the Chattanooga area.

Most broadcasters around these parts have heard of the group that started 33 years ago. There’s really no membership; broadcasters just get together, break bread and share radio war stories.

TV News Anchor David Carroll started in radio in South Pittsburg, Tn. 50 years ago and organizes the event. Mr. Carroll is one of the founding broadcasters; he remembers it this way:

“This large gathering had humble beginnings. David Carroll, Bob Boyer, the late Garry Mac, and the late Ed Buice were among the first few guys who got together once a year to compare notes about life after radio. They had one thing in common. They had all worked in the WGOW/KZ-106 stations on Pineville Road.

The early meetings were at diverse locations. Porker's, which has since gone out of business. The Loft, which has also closed. Mom's Italian Villa is also out of business. Meetings were also held at a bowling alley on Ringgold Road, which is now closed. More recently, the group has met at Rib and Loin in Hixson and Wally's in East Ridge, both of which closed this year. There appears to be a common thread here.

The group soon established several enduring traditions. The most memorable involves Luther Masingill, who always got a standing ovation when he entered the room, followed by a medley of his favorite jokes which kept getting funnier year after year.

The group of current and former on-air personalities have since welcomed musicians, radio station owners, managers, and salespeople. Some politicians have attended in an obvious effort to improve their reputation. On one occasion, a politician arrived early, and seeing a handful of attendees, he immediately announced he would buy everybody’s lunch. What he didn’t know was radio guys arrive late, and about 60 people eventually showed up. For some reason, he no longer attends.

The group has also hosted radio folks from other markets that are unable to establish a VRW of their own, including Atlanta and Nashville. It is not uncommon for former Chattanooga radio personalities to drive several hours to attend, from as far away as Florida.”

Thanks to Mr. Carroll, the first WSKZ (KZ 106) announcer, the group continues to meet in December and enjoy a meal. This year’s luncheon was held at the Chattanooga Masonic Center.

Mr. Carroll went on to say, “Through it all, they tell their old 'radio war' stories and laugh. It is a shared bond of love, friendship and respect. Despite the recent deaths of several longtime members (including Garry Mac, Ed Buice, Kevin West, Tom Phillips, Rick Zeisig and Tim Cunningham just in the past few months), everyone agrees this annual gathering is a tradition that should continue for years to come.”

Those attending remember the year Bob Thurgaland, better known on the air as “Chickamauga Charlie, attended a VRW luncheon. (WGOW and WDXB). Mr. Thurgaland has since retired in Florida and was unable to attend this year, but his radio war stories go far beyond Chattanooga. He always sends holiday greetings to the group and friends.

This year’s special guests included retired WDEF TV program director Doris Ellis and Hamilton County Criminal Court Clerk Vince Dean.

During Mrs. Ellis' employment at WDEF she worked side by side with radio broadcasters Luther Masingill, Jolly Cholly Chuck Krause, Jack Hatcher and Jerry Lingerfelt.

Mr. Dean worked closely with the media in the 1980’s when he served as Chattanooga Police Department information officer.

Retired TV news anchorman Bill Mitchell was welcomed to this year's luncheon. He has an extensive background in radio and shared many stories especially about some country music artists.

A VRW luncheon wouldn’t be complete without retired City Court Judge Russell Bean. He’s a special friend to the broadcasting community and always adds a few comments about the “great defender on radio.” Judge Bean is an honorary member of this group and we consider him one of us.

Also attending this year’s luncheon was Douglas Combs and Melissa McDonald from Nashville. Between the two, there’s 100 years of experience. They’ve been married most of their broadcasting career and remain active in the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame.

A few years ago Cleveland, Tn. Mayor Tom Rowland was special guest. He spent nearly a life on the radio and has many radio war stories of his own. Five Points museum in Cleveland has preserved many of Mr. Rowland’s radio memories.

Former TV personality Jed Mescon is the newest radio announcer joining the group. Jed will be making memories on Talk Radio every morning and we can’t wait until next year to hear some of his stories.

Mr. Carroll worked closely with former radio salesman Marty Von Schaaf in arranging this year’s meeting place. Those attending say “thank you Marty and David for the very nice accommodations.”

Broadcasters in other markets say they have nothing like a Veterans of Radio Wars group; a brotherhood known almost exclusively to the Chattanooga market.

We are all thankful for the memories left by Luther Masingill, Garry Mac, Tommy Jett and others who made the Christmas season something extra special for all of us on the air, both current and retired.

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