Biographical Non-Fiction posted May 26, 2023 Chapters: -1- 

The Pioneer Broadcasting Station Of The World

A chapter in the book We Shield Millions

We Shield Millions - Part 1

by Brett Matthew West

(This will be a multi-part expose that provides the backstory of how the Grand Ole Opry, the home of Country music, came into existence.)


..."For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry."... - George Dewey Hay

It's a story as old as time. Well, at least almost 98 years in the making anyway. November 28, 1925 to be precise. Thanks to a Radio Personality named George Dewey Hay, and the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. Oh, and a 1000 watt radio station called WSM (We Shield Millions), one of the biggest radio stations in the South.

The story probably began even before that venture occurred. Merriam-Webster defined genealogy as an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms. I am not quite sure if the word genealogy is the adequate phraseology in this situation. Allow me to explain.

Let's go back to 1920, and what is recognized by most sources, as the beginning of licensed commercial radio, the 50,000 watt, clear channel, KDKA Radio in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The oldest surviving radio station in the nation. KDKA can be heard in West Virginia, Ohio, New York, and Maryland during the day. At night, the majority of the Eastern United States receives their transmissions.

Known as the Pioneer Broadcasting Station of the World, KDKA's first broadcast occurred on November 2, 1920 with the Warren G. Harding-James M. Cox Presidential election. This was the first election after the end of World War One, the first election after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment that gave women the right to vote, and the world's first regularly scheduled radio broadcast.

Interestingly enough, KDKA was the offshoot of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, of East Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, to expand the business's commercial operations in the radio industry and connect communications with its branches in Newark, New Jersey, Cleveland, Ohio, and Springfield, Massachusetts.

Licensed by the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Navigation, who regulated radio stations of the time, KDKA Radio is credited with creating the modern radio studio design. They broadcasted live concerts by Westinghouse employees from a local auditorium. In so doing, the microphones used for the concerts echoed from the walls and caused severe distractions. They then tried moving the performers outside to eliminate the echoes.

This successful, they pitched a tent on the roof of their building. Unfortunately, the tent was blown down in a storm. The company moved the performers inside and used the tent material on the walls to deaden the echoes. This useful noise-absorbing material, that they called monk's cloth, was burlap. These are the reasons why the walls of Modern Day radio station studios are lined.

Some sources checked cite the Department of Commerce issued the first broadcasting license on September 15, 1921 to WBZ Radio in Springfield, Massachusetts. They were the first radio outlet to state the station would be used exclusively for broadcasting and transmitted on 360 meters. As designated by the Department of Commerce on December 1, 1921, this became the standard "Entertainment" wavelength. The Department of Commerce listed KDKA as the fourth radio station in the United States.

Regardless of which radio station was actually created first, and there remains several controversies surrounding this topic, within four years of the establishment of KDKA Radio, 555 other stations popped up around the United States. How did they attract listeners? By one of the oldest traditions in the book...mixing music and commerce. Specifically, traveling medicine shows became abundantly popular, a tactic instrumental in the formation of the Grand Ole Opry.

As I progress through this expose the dots will all be connected from the founding of KDKA Radio to the establishment of the Grand Ole Opry. I invite you to tag along as I present this information about my all-time favorite pastime, Country music, a topic I could easily talk, and write volumes about, endlessly.

(Next time I will detail a little bit about one of the most bizaare traveling medicine shows ever and how they fit into the progression chain that led to the creation of the Grand Ole Opry.)

Do You Know how to play this?, by avmurray, selected to complement my expose.

Part 2 stars "Doctor," (and I use that term extremely loosely) John Romulus Brinkley and his infamous implanting of goat testicles into males.

If that topic offends you then you may choose to wait until Part 3 is posted to continue following this expose.

However, the way I have the different parts of this expose arranged each one of them blends into the next part.
Pays 10 points and 67 member cents.

Artwork by avmurray at

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© Copyright 2023. Brett Matthew West All rights reserved.
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