Friday, March 9, 2012

WMOX Radio - 66 Years 'on the air'

     March 8th, 1946, WMOX Radio was born and Meridian’s second radio station broadcasted it’s first radio signals on 1240 kc and it has been going strong, evolving, adapting and overcoming new technologies ever since. Today she turns 66. First owned by Birney Imes and broadcasting 250 watts of AM power, WMOX began it’s life as a news station with live music, and essentially, that's the format now. Through the years, formats included Swing and Big Band, Standards, Rock and Roll, Country, Sports, Talk and more. Birney owned a chain of seven radio stations and operated out of Columbus, MS. He purchased the former YMCA building located at the corner of 9th Street and 23rd Avenue on the legendary block occupied by the Hamasa Temple Theater and it became known as 'The WMOX Building.' We call it the 'TOK building now.
The Pasture

    My father, Eddie Smith, moved to Meridian in 1961, and he worked for radio station 'MOX. He also started a big family, raising 6 children. I'm right smack in the middle, with two older sisters, an older brother and two younger brothers. Later, late sixties, Eddie was given the GM position, which meant he still sold advertising, but was allowed to call on any business he wanted to call on. I think the good change came when he bought WMOX in 1989 and moved it to it’s current location on Hwy 11/80. It was then he finally had the freedom to do exactly what he had wanted to do since he started the morning shows in the 60s. Now, he could talk about what he wanted, who he wanted and when he wanted. It was then that the callers were finally given a real voice and taken seriously. My father started Talk Radio. He had been developing his unique style of radio since the mid sixties. A lot of people thought it was weird, yet those same people and many others felt compelled to listen. The format was simple: Put a couple of people who mastered the art of conversation, or not, together and let them talk about whatever interested them. With Eddie’s commitment to public service, this often meant using airtime to promote events around the community. Guests would come in to tout the latest fund-raiser or let everyone know about Gospel Quartet coming to sing at a local church. 

    My mother, Jane Smith was dedicated to local events and charities and Jane’s show, 'Time Out For Jane,' was just one more extension of her dedication. From 1980 to 1994, her Monday-Friday, 10a - 11a show featured Jane hosting and interviewing guests from various walks of life. Mother promoted causes like The Cancer Society, March of Dimes, church functions, or whatever interested her. Several generations of children have grown up in this town listening to Jane read their “Letters To Santa” on the radio and praying that Santa was tuning in! For many years, Eddie and Jane tag-teamed elections with Jane reporting remotely on “Election Returns” from the courthouse downtown. Mom blazed the trail for women in Meridian radio... and WMOX and Daddy would not have been the same without her....not even close.

    Co-hosts of this revolutionary radio included Mike Denton, Steve Holland, Susan Akin, Sidney Covington, Annie Oakley, Holly Thomas, Ginger Grissom Stevens, and the irrepressible, and my close friend, Bill Whitworth. Eddie and 'Billy Frank...' There has never been a funnier duo on local radio and there never will be. By the way, this is a partial list of co-hosts. I have to mention the talent on WMOX today; Dumpster Dog, Al Brown, Scott Gray, Ellie Massey, Kelly Corey, Jim Myrick, Laurie Martin, Leigh Anne Whittle, Daniel Self, The Wizard, Dr Jim Leggette, Jason Armstrong, and Trey Long (see below) guest hosts like Dr John McEachin, Computer Guru Paul Tarver of Quality PC and Tarver Consultants . Eddie made it his goal to let listeners call in and give their opinion for two simple reasons; 1) Listeners could give their own opinion about whatever was being discussed, to be sure, an opinion that would have otherwise gone unheard, and 2) It would make the show completely unpredictable.

Eddie and Jayne Mansfield

    'Big Papa' was a master who made design look accidental. It took me way too long figure that one out. The 'Big 10' doesn't use call screeners we've never used a delay, a drop... that button to push when someone says a bad word on the air. I used to think he liked to live on the edge, but now I believe, now I know, he was watching the money. He had to.

'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.' - 
U.S. Constitution: First Amendment / Amendment Text

    I seriously doubt Eddie Smith, my Dad, ever read those words. But, he lived it every day, and more importantly, he knew who gave it to us, who protected it, and he knew without question that we will lose it if we don't apply it. Happy Birthday WMOX! And, hey Big Papa, everybody still says thanks.

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1st John 3:17 Segment - every Monday 7:15a

1 comment:

  1. Does anyone remember a local band called The Good Time Band? Probably in the mid 1940's. Band members were Charlie, Wilson and Lucy Rowell and Monroe Mazingo and Clifton McElheney. They played live on WMOX. Our friend Lucy Rowell(94 years old) is needing information on this.