Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BAM BAM BAM

740 WMSP-AM, like many heritage stations, went through various incarnations over the last half century. they've only been WMSP since 1995. They first went live in 1953 as WBAM-AM, the station broadcast country music. In their heyday they were what's called a blow torch. They operated at 50,000 watts.

The original owner, the Brennan family (aka Deep South Broadcasting) sold out to Colonial Broadcasting. they flipped calls the following year to WLWI-AM. Then they applied to cut the juice to 10,000 watts. It was a big step down. Today they run sports talk under the WMSP calls. I really see that sale to Colonial as their fall from greatness. They diminished in both market significance and actual measurable ERP. On September 15, 2009 the building the original studio was located in was demolished.

In the era of their ascendancy 740 WBAM-AM, was known as "The Big Bam." In 1965 they had to petition the FCC to stop a power increase by 730 WKTG-AM in Thomasville, GA.  Being on the first adjacent, a power increase from 1,000 watts to 5,000 is concerning. The FCC didn't claim that it would cause no interference, only that it would cause "trivial" interference. The Brennan family didn't agree and when they were denied them the right to appeal, they sued. They sued the FCC, not WKTG. The court granted them the appeal that the FCC had denied them. More here.  They then lost that appeal at the FCC. Not very sporting. It was just salt in the wound that WKTG was a country station, and in that lost overage they were a direct competitor.

In February of 1973, Billboard published an article titled "WBAM goes 100% Country." PD Cyril Brennan, informed Billboard that previously they had been playing country before 7:00 AM then popular music after. This was the tail end of their Top-40 era. They were a late comer to country music. Cyril was PD even as late as 1979, Mrs.Frances was GM. He models the new format after WYDE-AM in Birmingham. (It's interesting to note that the Brennan family also owned WAPE in Jacksonville, FL and the Vulcan tower company.)

The lasting legacy of the Big Bam is in Country Music.  This is best exemplified by The Deep South Jamboree. It aired saturday Nights beginning in about 1954, when they were still just country music part-time, they launched the Jamboree.  It was hosted by Shorty Sullivan. If you care to look him up, his backing band was The Green Valley Boys. In Montgomery in that era Shorty was big business. He MC'd shows that drew over 10,00 people. Pat Boone, Tex Ritter, Eddie Hill and many others. The earliest reference to Shorty and WBAM I can find is from early 1954. He guested on Fred Wamble's Country & Western show. The relationship is unclear but Wamble was still at BAM in 1957, so my assumption is that Shorty was more of a co-host and bandleader. More here.

He was on WVOK-AM in Birmingham as late as 1952.  before that is uncertain but there was a Fred U. Wamble on KGVO-AM in Missoula Montana in 1942. It's an uncommon name, it might be him.  Fred also was signed to MGM in 1956 and cut at least one single "Let's Don't Wait/ Since My True Love Said Goodbye" shortly thereafter.  The last we've heard from him was in 1966.  Fred Wamble was elected President of the Hank Williams Memorial Assoc. 740 AM in Montgomery is an ESPN affiliate today.WKTG changed calls half a dozen times and is now WSTT-AM airing Gospel music.