Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
Did I mention we had a very busy schedule during last September’s Radio Show in Nashville? There’s lots to see in the Music City, and we were fortunate to have lots of good friends there who wanted to show it all to us.
We didn’t even have to go far to see some of the neatest facilities in town: it was just a few blocks uphill from the Radio Show at the Omni hotel to the hilltop broadcast facility that was recently reborn as the “NASH Campus,” home to Cumulus’ national country music brand in all its various incarnations.
This building has a long radio history, having been home to local Nashville stations WKDF (103.3) and WGFX (104.5) before being gutted and completely rebuilt a couple of years ago to become the origination point for several nationally-syndicated shows.
Hang a left off the lobby and the first window you’ll see looks into the studio of “NASH Nights Live,” where we find host Shawn Parr at work.
The Cumulus crew took a lot of pride in crafting some neat custom touches into this facility, and this studio includes furniture with legs made from actual guitar necks, complete with colorful LED lighting.
There’s another studio complex down the hall that’s used for video interviews with the many country artists who come through these studios – and between them, a hallway leads back to the studio and control room used by one of the biggest stars in the NASH universe, Kix Brooks.
“Kickin’ It wih Kix” and “American Country Countdown” come from a big corner room that’s set up to look more like a living room than a studio. It’s outfitted with comfy leather seating, lots of guitars, memorabilia from Brooks’ career, including his collection of Western sculptures, and a well-stocked bar in the corner, making for a pleasant spot where Kix can have relaxed chats with the country stars who drop by.
The hallway leading back from Brooks’ studio runs past several production rooms and offices to the lunchroom, which looks out back at the NASH basketball court. (Those hoops are indeed pretty low – but that’s to keep loose balls from getting out to the neighboring streets!)
The center of the studio complex belongs to what used to be “America’s Morning Show” and is now “Ty, Kelly and Chuck,” and that’s Ty Bentli and Chuck Wicks you see finishing up the last bits of their show before heading out for the day. This studio was designed for a live audience and for video, too – control rooms on either side of the studio handle both audio and video production for not only the live radio show but also all the video segments they’re constantly feeding to social media.
(And we send our best wishes to the show’s crew, especially Chuck Wicks, as they recover from a recent car crash in which Wicks suffered head injuries.)
The far side of the building is mostly offices, including the space where Cumulus had housed the staff for the NASH magazine it was publishing.
There’s an extremely comfortable green room on the far corner, boasting a huge Victorian sofa that’s been the topic of much conversation in the building – and from there we circle back around to the front lobby.
But there’s something else happening at this facility, too – out back, the old WKDF tower is still used as an auxiliary transmitter site for Cumulus-owned WKDF and WGFX, as well as by WKDF’s former AM sister station. Long known as WKDA, the AM signal on 1240 now does Spanish as WNVL, using a folded dipole antenna strung on the side of the FM tower. (We’ll catch up to it again in a bit, and in next week’s episode we’ll see where the local Cumulus studios are now to be found.)
The NASH shows aren’t the only prominent syndicated offerings from Nashville: south of town in suburban Brentwood, a big office park is home to financial adviser Dave Ramsey and his wildly successful radio and TV ventures.
Stop by when Dave’s on the air, and you can watch through a lobby window as he doles out financial tough love and common sense to his nationwide audience – or, if you’re Site of the Week, you can step inside and check out his Axia control room setting and his narrow studio lined with his books and awards.
Across the lobby from the studio is a store where you can buy those books (and, on Fridays, get on a headset mic and go live with Dave as you proclaim yourself to be debt-free). But this building is just part of the Ramsey empire: out back, there’s yet another big industrial building where Ramsey’s books and educational programs are produced and sold – as well as a big meeting room, a second radio studio and the video production facility where the TV end of Ramsey’s shows is put together.
There’s lots of local radio to be seen in Nashville, too, including the headquarters of Bud Walters’ regional Cromwell group. This two-story building east of downtown Nashville has offices on the first floor and studios upstairs for Bud’s local signals here.
Sports, under the brand of “The Game,” is at the core of the cluster: WPRT (102.5) has its live “Jared and the GM” show underway, and that’s former Titans GM Floyd Reese on the air during our afternoon visit. In addition to “The Game,” there’s also “The Game 2,” translator W235BW (94.9), which runs a second sports-talk schedule fed from the HD3 of sister station WBUZ (102.9).
WBUZ’s main format is active rock, and its studio is right around the corner from the WPRT studio and control room. Cromwell also has two more formats in town: gospel “Light” is heard on W271AB (102.1) and the HD2 of WPRT, while “Classic Hits 93.3” is heard on WQZQ (830) and translator W227DC (93.3).
(Those three big translator signals, 93.3, 94.9 and 102.1, all come from the WSMV tower site that we showed you last week; Pegram-licensed 102.5 and LaVergne-licensed 102.9 both have sites in outlying areas, northwest and south-southeast of Nashville respectively.)
Another small cluster, TBLC Media, owns two of the Spanish-language AMs in town, and we get a quick late-night visit to their studios south of downtown near the Nashville zoo. WNVL (1240) is regional Mexican “Activa,” while sister station WMDB (880) is “La Ranchera,” operating from studios on the second floor of a little industrial building off Nolensville Pike.
How about some big AM? In addition to the obvious one (and yes, we’ll see WSM in our final installment of our Nashville recap in two weeks), Nashville is represented in the 50,000-watt ranks by iHeart’s WLAC (1510), once the pride and joy of the Life And Casualty insurance company that gave this signal its call letters.
WLAC’s three-tower array (non-directional from the one big tower by day, DA at night using all three) sits on Old Hickory Boulevard due north of downtown, just west of I-65. Inside, a Harris 3DX50 and DX50 now power the WLAC talk format; outside, custom brass light fixtures on either side of the front door are a reminder of the days when Life and Casualty used their flagship station as a potent advertisement of the company’s services.
In next week’s installment, we’ll see the WLAC studios and its neighbors on Music Row, plus a shortwave installation and more…
Thanks to Troy Pennington at Cumulus, Matt Alan at the Dave Ramsey Show and WNVL/WMDB, Holly Misslin and Ted Randall at Cromwell and the staff of WLAC for the tours!
The 2018 Tower Site Calendar is just about to go to press, and you can pre-order it now at a discounted price!
Sure, we have a few months of 2017 pictures left to enjoy, but who says you can’t admire more than one tower at a time?
To get a sneak peek of the photos we’re featuring next year, go to our store to place your order. Be the first on your block to show off the 2018 Tower Site Calendar! You can buy the standard calendar or the signed and numbered limited edition. The calendar will be on sale at a lower price until it’s off the press, so you still have time to save some money.
And don’t miss a big batch of Nashville IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Even more Nashville!