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650 WSM / Nashville

Pat Sajak, “Radio 65” WSM Nashville | June 23, 1975

“Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak started his career as many Television people did, in radio.

Actually, aside from the fact that this is Pat Sajak like most of you have never heard before, this is also a side of WSM that MOST of our listeners have also never heard. Many of you probably know that there was a period of time that WSM had a split format, a Pop format during the day, and Country all night. If you’ve never heard that pop format, it was quite good, so good, in fact, you really won’t quite believe your ears.

Listen now, courtesy of one who left the WSM family in 2007. Thanks so much to Contributor Jack Shell. Jack wrote to us shortly after sending this in 2008:

Sad thing is that station has gone from the Air Castle of the South to the Little House on the Prairie employing only seven full time staffers. I resigned a year ago as production director, but it was a nice time. The Sajak aircheck is a treasure.

About 10 years ago, WSM was in the fight of its life when then owner Citadel was considering dropping the Country format and taking the station All Sports. It seemed so important at the time, but now WSM is owned by Opryland and it’s Country legacy is all but assured for many years to come. Or so it seems. The Opry is on every Saturday night and Eddie Stubbs is still there. You can even listen in stereo these days online and through WSM’s custom smartphone and tablet app, available from the Google Store or the iTunes store!

Y’all just listen to the aircheck now and enjoy, because its great and belongs to the ages!

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28 Comments


  1. Wow! It is so great to hear this aircheck. I grew up in central New Jersey, and I clearly remember listening to the Grand Ole Opry with my parents as it crackled in over WSM. sure, 66 WNBC was interfering with it the whole time, but it was still clear enough to hear. We also used to listen to the Saturday Night Jamboree over WWVA out of Wheeling, West Virginia. I remember we took a long vacation in the Summer of 1976, and one of the places we visited was Nashville. I was so looking forward to being able to hear WSM during the day and was actually disappointed to learn that they played pop music during the day. Where I lived in New Jersey I could hear top 40 giants like WABC and WFIL whwenever I wanted, but hearing a good country station was a different story. WHN was buried by KYW out of Philadelphia where I lived so I was really looking forward to hearing some good country from WSM. it’s cool to hear now what WSM’s pop format sounded like back then, because I think I actually changed the station once I heard pop coming out of WSM back in 1976. What did I know..I was only seven years old at the time. 🙂

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    • It’s also great to hear Dan Miller giving station identification at the end of this piece. What a terrific guy he was. Nashville and the Mid-South will miss him tremendously.

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      • Dan Miller was Pat Sajak’s sidekick on his short-lived 1989 CBS-TV late-night show.

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    • MGD4Ever, I can relate to what you’re saying about WHN. Anybody who is familiar with my many posts at airchexx.com knows that WHN was my all-time favorite radio station. I’ve lived in West Virginia all my life, but lived for trips to NYC to hear WHN.

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    • What you said about WHN struck a chord with me, and I felt compelled to reply as soon as I read it. WHN was ONLY my favorite radio station of all time. I’ve lived in West Virginia my whole life, but lived for trips to NYC, where listening to WHN made it all worthwhile. KYW did bury WHN: in fact you couldn’t get WHN till somewhere in New Jersey. BTW, I’m 52, so you and I are nearly the same age.

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  2. Steve West…Thank You ! My very Best friend
    in Saratoga, N.Y. is a “Die Hard” Wheel of Fortune fan…so, I just “shared” this aircheck w/ him ! He’ll Love it !

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  3. The “WSM Sales Presentation” “aircheck” from two years earlier that is featured on this website has airchecks of a different pop daypart than is on this aircheck. That aircheck was when its daytime pop format was Middle of the Road; this aircheck features an Adult Contemporary (soft rock) format; Pat Sajak is featured on both. (My guess is that WSM flipped its daytime format from MOR to AC earlier in 1975 if neither ’74 or late ’73. (Four years after this aircheck, 65 WSM went to a country format full-time.

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    • David, you are correct. The WSM Sales Presentation aircheck is from 1973, and WSM was decidedly MUCH more middle of the road, and noticeably softer, geared to a much older audience. This aircheck is not true AC, in the sense that “Adult Contemporary” as a format did not exist in 1975, they simply called it a POP station. If you listen closely to the Pat Sajak one liners and the pace of WSM, you’ll hear a station that’s just a tiny notch less than a true Top 40.

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    • The WSM Sales Presentation demo (from just before its daytime pop format’s flip from traditional MOR to Pop Adult or Contemporary MOR or whatever Adult Contemporary was called at the time) is, for some reason, no longer on this website.

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      • Funny you should just now notice that. The WSM Sales Demo went away a few years ago when I cleaned out all the postings made in Real Audio format which the site hasn’t used in about 10 years. I’ll dig it out from the masters one of these days and re-issue it

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    • “…if neither ’74 nor circa late ’73,” that is.

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  4. Growing up in Middle Tennessee, I remember very well WSM’s “chicken 40″(but still pretty cool) daytime format. This was the station my mom listened to, and every morning I would eat breakfast while listening to Ted Johnson, and ride home from school enjoying Pat Sajak’s quick wit. Sajak was way funnier on the radio, (and doing the weather on WSM-TV) than he is on Wheel of Fortune. I’m curious as to what happened to Ted Johnson, the likeable morning man with the great voice. There was also a guy named J.Patrick Lux who was really good. Where are they now? Maybe somebody out there knows.

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  5. I worked with Pat at AFVN, Armed Forces Vietnam Network in Saigon. That was probably 1969. Hard to remember cause I did two tours while Pat did one. I was the allnight guy and he was the morning guy.

    I went to visit him at WSM in 75. Another buddy from Saigon, Tony Lyons also worked at WSM then, on before Pat.

    The processing really makes Pat sounds good.

    Last I heard, Pat owns two stations, one an AM in Annapolis, Maryland.

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  6. “Y’all just listen to the aircheck now and enjoy, because it’s great and it belongs to the ages.”

    WOWWwww! If *that’s* not Southern hospitality, then **what is**? (And I’m from New Jersey!)

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  7. And you’re right: this aircheck of WSM’s Pop Adult (soft rock hits n/k/a Adult Contemporary) daytime format of the mid- and late Seventies (mid-Seventies in this case) IS great and DOES belong to the ages-Pat Sajak or no Pat Sajak.

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  8. I like others travelled to Nashville with my parents in the mid 70s and was surprised at the daytime format. Split formats were popular back then. Of course WSM was never really a ” country” station full time until the late 70s early 80s. Radio in the 20s thru 60s was always a hodgepodge of styles and day parts. All driven by sponsor demands of course. I just visited WSM last week. Sat in with Bill Cody and Charlie. Lets hope “The Legend” continues in whatever form it can. Country Mudic Foundation or the Hall of Fame should scoop it up before its too late

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    • Cles,

      When I worked in Memphis radio I used to wonder how long it would take before 650 changes its legendary format. If it were up to me it would be NEVER, it WSM would be purchased by the Country Music Association or someone similar and made into a permanent museum, as if it were not for the Opry, its likely that Country music wouldn’t ever have evolved into what it did. WSM is key to Country Music’s history, and should be preserved at ALL COST. Unfortunately, I’ve not the money or the influence to ever make that happen. But like you, I would feel a profound sense of loss if WSM were to turn from Country music and do something else.

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      • As a kid growing up in Arkansas, 500 miles away, I listened to the Grand Ol’ Opry on WSM with my dad on Friday and Saturday night. The signal was kind of scratchy and would fade out and fade in. As I got a little older, say 14 or so, I found another Nashville station, WLAC with its R&B.

        Also, once in 75, when I lived in San Antonio, I caught one break with Pat Sajak on WSM and it was pretty clear. But then it was gone. That was the only time I ever caught WSM in SA.

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    • Not flI read that WADO New York City, upon new owners having bought same and changed its call letters (from WOV), switched from a split African-American (mostly R&B)/Italian(-language) format (days/nights, respectively) to Top 40 during the day, Italian at night, jazz and R&B (separate dayparts) in overnights. In the early Sixties, due at least partially to competition from four and later three full-time Top-40 rock ‘n’ roll stations, WADO gradually reintroduced black and Italian programming and introduced Spanish programming (especially since buying a station with which it had heretofore had a time-share with the station) and then gradually switched to Spanish, becoming primarily so in 1963. WADO is now entirely in Spanish.

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      • I meant, “Not only were split formats common decades ago, but, also, I read that WADO New York City…”.

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      • Oh–that call-letter change to WADO and format change to Top 40 days/Italian, R&B, and jazz nights took place in 1959.

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  9. I can tell the voice is Pat Sajak’s, though it’s much different today, which, of course stands to reason after almost 40 years. Trivia time: WSM stands for “We Shield Millions”, owing to the fact that it was first owned by an insurance company.

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  10. Wow! I turned 13 on this date. I wish I could say I remember it.

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    • Aardvark, you and I are about the same age. I’d turned 12 on June 10, 1975. I’ve always lived in west Virginia, so I can get WSM only at night.

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  11. Ted Johnson owns and runs WNSR in Franklin, TN.

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  12. Point of order: WSM has never been owned by Citadel. It has had only 3 owners: The original owner who put it on the air in 1925 National Life and Accident Insurance Company of Nashville, which was bought in the early 1980’s by American General Insurance of Houston, and shortly afterward WSM-AM, FM Nashville Network and Opryland USA and Hotel were sold to Gaylord. Gaylord still owns it. For a short while Citadel had a sales management arrangement with Gaylord, but not ownership. I joined WSM-AM as a parttimer in October of 1975, and soon was filling in for Pat Sajak and the other daytime pop jocks, but NEVER the nighttime country jocks. A magical time, a great owner, wonderful people and a top-notch technical facility.

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    • You are absolutely correct my friend.

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      • I recently heard an interview of a man whose I can’t recall who wrote a book about the late Sam Phillips of Sun Records. He said that when WSM retired its original transmitter in 1961, Sam bought it feeling it was a piece of history. The author said that the Phillips family has never been able to find someplace such as a museum to take the transmitter because of its size.

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