It’s finally time again to add another couple of stations to this site’s Radio page. As it so happens, both of these are a bit on the twangy side of the music spectrum. However, as one might expect from most of my previous selections, neither are a typical country music outlet and the second would probably bristle at that classification.
There are many radio stations in North America that call themselves “legend” or “legendary” in their tag lines. In most cases, this is somewhat true but almost always only on a local basis. An even higher percentage of these “legends” are a shell of their former selves and living merely on the reputation of their once esteemed call letters. While I could easily list several stations that have had a huge influence, there is one that stands alone in how it changed the face of America — WSM.
Back in the day when listening to radio stations from far away was something everybody did and not just the niche hobby of DXing it is today, WSM blanketed two-thrids of the United States and half of the populated area of Canada anytime after sunset. From its studios in Nashville, Tennessee, it exposed millions of people to a rich music and culture that had, up until then, been mostly confined to the hollows and farms of the poorest areas of the southeast. Whether one likes what has become of country music or WSM’s signature program, the Grand Ole Opry which has been running continuously since 1925, just remember that many things came from this that probably would not have otherwise happened including bluegrass, rock & roll, and the general seeking out of other then-niche musical styles.
These days, WSM-AM is a “classic country” station but does so without simply resting on its laurels. Unlike other stations claiming that format, WSM’s playlist is wide in years, deep in selection, and they don’t discriminate against bluegrass, rebels, or borderline rock. The disk jockeys are well-informed and certainly carry on the friendly-sounding tradition that many such stations had in the past. Over the air, WSM-AM is the last “clear channel” (small “c”, not the evil company of the same name) that still broadcasts music; all of the others now have a “news/talk” format (a.k.a. conservative blowhard programming).
WSM-AM was originally owned by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. Their slogan, “We shield millions,” is how WSM got its call letters. The station is now owned and programmed by Gaylord Entertainment Company, the same group that now owns the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium which was the Opry’s previous, traditional home, and many other entities.
If the mood strikes to hear some good, genuine, all-American music, one can’t go wrong by spending a few hours with WSM.
The second station I’m recommending today is a true rarity to add to my list for two reasons. First, it will be only the third fitting station I have found worthy of linking that runs the wonderful Americana music format. Second, it is an online-only station. While I try to focus solely on over-the-air stations to encourage people to not give up on such an “old fashioned” medium and support the remaining stations that stand out from the crowd, sometimes, something is too good to not present to my readers.
Having just discovered it a couple of weeks ago, I do not know much about Radio Vagabond. I did discover upon doing a little research tonight before making this post that it is located in Denver, Colorado. This is a very key element in this case as whoever is running Radio Vagabond must have been heavily influenced by the two spectacular Americana stations that used to broadcast in that city earlier in the 2000s.
Because I don’t know much more about Radio Vagabond, please allow me to quote from the station’s homepage as I think this says it very well and far better than I can.
Musicians don’t like labels. That’s why “Americana” music is as good a label as any to catagorize this station. Americana music incorporates the best in country, alt-country, folk, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly and alt-rock. One doesn’t even have to be from America to be considered “Americana”. This is great music, most of it under-exposed. I hope you enjoy listening to Radio Vagabond as much as I enjoy programming it!