Some History of WSM, Nashville

Richard L. White provided the following early information on WSM, consulting the Nashville Tennessean, Nashville Banner, and National Life and Accident Insurance Company archives over a period of 20 years.

The first broadcast of the WSM Barn Dance only featured an 80 year old fiddler by the name of Uncle Jimmy Thompson, a Civil War veteran, and lasted one hour. This was due to the fact that that hour needed to be filled by a vacancy that came up from 8 - 9 pm, and the telegrams poured in for his fiddling. The WSM Barn Dance did not become a slated regular show until December of 1925, although there was always fiddling in that time slot until January. Dr. Humphrey Bate was the second performer on the program, appearing for his first time on December 12. On Saturday night, January 2, 1926, the WSM Barn Dance began to be a loosely formatted live program with a two-three hour show, depending on other programming.

WSM went dark on December 4, 1926 and did not come back on the air again until January 8, 1927, as the transmitter was being replaced during that entire period. Telegrams poured in to WSM on Saturday night with the last broadcast on 1000 watts and even more telegrams came in to WSM on January 8 with the new 5000-watt transmitter. WSM was broadcasting on Monday-Wednesday-Saturday and alternating Sunday nights in the first year as they shared the same broadcast location with WOAN out of Lawrenceburg, TN. They broadcast on 1060 AM until 1929, and then they were moved by the FCC to 650 AM as one of the newly assigned clear channels.

October 5, 1925 - first broadcast of WSM

November 28, 1925 - first broadcast of what was to become the WSM Barn Dance 8 - 9 pm

December 4, 1926 - WSM goes off the air for a month to replace 100 watt transmitter with 5000 watt transmitter.

January 8, 1927 - WSM returns to the airwaves with 5000 watts

December 10, 1927 - WSM Barn Dance renamed Grand Ole Opry

Summer of 1929 - WSM is assigned a new frequency of 650 AM and a clear channel designation form the FCC

November 10, 1932 - WSM is inaugurated as a 50,000 watt station with new transmitter and Blaw-Knox antenna located in Brentwood, 9 miles south of downtown Nashville.

The following was transcribed by Xen Scott from the microfiche files in Room 239 at the FCC, May 17, 1994.


10/5/25 - Granted auth. (by telegram) to broadcast on 282.8 meters.

10/26/25 - Date first licensed. They were granted 1060kc, 1kw, unlimited. The station was licensed to Nashville, TN. The licensee was The National Life and Accident Insurance Co. The license number was 1880.

4/21/27 - Vol. mod. of lic. to change the name of the licensee to The National Life and Accident Insurance Co., Inc.

6/1/27 - Granted 940kc, 2kw, unlimited, but the grant was canceled.

6/15/27 - Granted 880kc, 5kw, unlimited.

11/16/27 - Granted 890kc, 5kw.

11/1/28 - Reallocated to 650kc with 5kw. Also vol. mod. of lic. to change the name of the licensee to The National Life and Accident Insurance Co.

11/17/31 - Granted 650kc, 50kw LP.

8/12/32 - Granted 650kc, 50kw, unlimited.

6/24/36 - Applied for a C.P. for 650kc, 500kw. Dismissed without prejudice 6/16/42.

12/8/37 - Granted Special Experimental Authorization to operate a facsimile station from 12 midnight to 6am, for the period expiring 2/1/38. There were extensions to 2/1/41.

3/24/41 - Under NARBA, they remained on 650kc with 50kw.

9/30/46 - Vol. assignment of lic. to WSM, Inc.

5/18/61 - Granted auth. to conduct special Conelrad tests using FSK with deviation not to exceed 50 cycles.

10/20/62 - Applied for a C.P. to increase power to 750kw and install a new transmitter (Continental 322-A). Requested waiver of sections 1.354, 3.21(a)(1), and 3.24(g) of rules. Application denied 11/21/62.

11/21/68 - Vol. transfer of control of lic. corp. to NLT Corp.

11/26/80 - Vol. transfer of control of lic. corp. from NLT Corp. (a Delaware Corp.) to NLT Corp. (a Tennessee Corp.).